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.”

Will the real watercolor brush please stand out?

Why is it so hard to find a good watercolor brush?

It might be because every brush manufacture makes what they call a “watercolor” brush. In the madness to determine what really is a good tool, I have simplified what to look for when purchasing one.

BRISTLES: First, try if you can to sample (yes touch) a sable, camel, or squirrel hair brush, no matter what label they are under. Choosing a truly old-school watercolor brush should come down to what it’s made of. Sable has an auburn color, unless it’s marked “white sable”. Squirrel hair is black. These brushes are soft and pliable and do not spring back into shape when you run your finger over the top of their bristles. You want a soft brush for swooshing on washes that won’t fight stiffly to do so.  You want a brush that you will waltz with as you paint with watercolor.

You will find that there are brushes that mimic the look of theses brushes, but are not made with natural fibers. They are the same shape and size, but made out of synthetic materials. It’s the rose by any other name scenario. Often they are not solely intended for watercolor painting. They list multi-media, including acrylic, watercolor, and even oils.

We like natural hair watercolor brushes because of the retention: how much water they can absorb. Synthetic brushes do not soak up the water and often the water rolls right off the brush.


The second thing to look for in selecting your brush is absorption. We like to suggest purchasing no smaller than a size 8 pointed brush. You want a brush that can hold a lot of water and release it only when you put it to paper. Our personal favorite brush is a pointed tip size 12. It can handle everything from applying a wash to handling fine details, as long as you take care of it.


There are many watercolor brush shapes to choose from that can also trip you up when making your brush selection. Like so many other occasions in art, when you are first starting out, the saying “less is more” really sums it up. We find that the extremes, like a size zero brush or a 10/12 , can get you from wet on wet washes to fine details and can even help with masking your paper.

After that, it basically comes down to practice and making that brush feel like part of your hand. It will be second nature and just like any other brushes you use often, (hair, tooth, blusher) you will come to rely on it and favorite it over all others.


Drawing on Confidence

People often back down quickly when asked to draw. This intimidation always surprises me, since the same is not true when asked to paint. Maybe it is because we have held a paint brush to paint some trim in our house or put varnish over a picnic table. Maybe it is the difference in large motor skills and small motor skills. But either way, drawing is not something we chase after. As soon as required art credit is acquired in school, we stop drawing. So it became obvious that we should offer a drawing class to middle-school girls. After all, this is the age of drawing doodles on everything and everywhere!

Girls with Graphite emerged this past fall as a drawing class that taught drawing and catered to the interests of the 11 to 14 year-old girls. We watched as these young ladies learned not only how to draw, but how to speak out. We taught critique skills and positive feedback, and the girls mirrored this behavior. The group grew in confidence, which was a delight to see.  Now we are thinking that if it worked with these girls, it might also help install that confidence in adults! If we truly believe that it’s never too late to learn, then why not, right?

Creativity, Collaboration, Confidence, Cultural Awareness, and Critical Thinking are all gained through art education according to It is amazing that confidence comes from trying art, according to the article, “Why is Art Education Important in the 21st Century“.

These are great skills at any age gained from the art process. Our Girls with Graphite 2 will start up again in March for those same young ladies who took in the fall. We plan on offering a mini-course in drawing in April. Make sure you follow us on social media so you don’t miss the opportunity to take a drawing class in the spring!