Annapolis studio teaches the art of mindfulness in ‘Zentangle’ class


Kathy Dennin-Meagher opens a recent Zentangle class at her Annapolis studio by letting her students know that despite appearances, the drawing technique is not doodling: The method requires a mindful and purposeful approach. Zentangle calls on students to use shapes and lines to create complicated drawings.

Last year, Dennin-Meagher, who owns Raye of Light Art Studio, started offering Zentangle, which focuses on “creating pattern designs and mindfulness so that you do not think of anything else,” according to her studio’s website.

In the studio, the students throw on aprons before taking a seat at the three tables. Dennin-Meagher keeps her classes small — only six people at a time.

A couple of her students were not new faces for Dennin-Meagher because they’ve taken a number of classes that her studio offers, like watercolors and pop art. Many of her students are working adults looking for a break and something a little more creative. One student, a 57-year-old from Bowie, has gone to at least 10 classes.

“It is my creative outlet,” Laima Kuring says. “I work in IT and it is very structured and mundane sometimes. This is a way to have an outlet that is something completely different than what I do on a day-to-day basis.”

For the class, the students need two different ink pens to create thin or thicker lines.

Dennin-Meagher holds up a clipboard with an example of a heron she drew with circles and triangles and lines that fill the outline of the animal. In combination, the design creates a complicated drawing that only took specific shapes and deliberate use of white space.

Once Dennin-Meagher lets the class know of the many types of shapes they could use to fill in the space of the animal outlines for herons or horseshoe crabs, she calls out for her speaker to play a playlist that fits the mood: “Upbeat Instrumental Music Background Happy Energetic Pleasing.”

The six participants turn back to their drawings and start to practice on sheets of white paper for design ideas before going for the final drawing.

One participant, Carla Petruccy of Severna Park, has brought her 14-year-old daughter because she likes general crafts and she knew her daughter loves drawing, she says. Now with the task at hand, Petruccy admits that she feels stressed.

“It’s all new to me. I’m just looking at it and trying to figure out how to divide it up and then fill it in,” she says.

Dennin-Meagher hears and comes over for guidance. She reminds Petruccy that the designs are all simple so she could focus on straight lines, half circles or even figure eights to fill out the spaces. As Dennin-Meagher helps Petruccy, Laci Petruccy goes straight to a free-hand sketch of a heron.

“We did [zentangle] in school. I don’t really mind it,” Laci says. “It just took forever. … It was time-consuming and that kind of annoyed me.”

On this night, Laci draws with ease. Carla reviews the design templates that show how one could turn circles or dots into a repeated design.

Others approach their drawing with help from the templates on the tables as well.

Kuring calls herself a “cookbook artist” as she reviews the other design templates she could use for her own work.

“I am looking at which ones I like and how they fit into the space,” she says, adding that her husband, Norman Kuring, is the doodler in the family. Norman relies on his doodling experience to experiment with his horseshoe crab design.

“Despite what she said, I don’t have a clue on what I’m doing,” he says with a laugh.

Still, it is not about the skill, Dennis-Meagher says. People tend to not do art because they feel like they are not an artist, she says.

“I say that is OK because no one who walks in here is, but you can be creative and that’s the difference.”