Sketchbook No.1: Zentangle Animal

Essential Question(s):

1. What is abstract art?

2. What is pattern and how can I use pattern to create an abstract animal?

3. How do artists produce value with pen and ink?

 Mastery Objective(s): The student will…

1. demonstrate their understanding of value and abstraction by using the Elements of Art and the Principle of Design, pattern, to create an abstract animal with pen and ink.

abstract art 

ab·stract art/ab-strakt/

Artworks that stress the importance of the elements of art and principles of design rather than the subject matter. Abstract artists select and then exaggerate or simplify the subject matter suggested by the world around them.



The repetition of elements or combinations of elements in a recognizable organization.


a. must use the whole sketchbook page (8×11), if your sketchbook is a different size…smaller: do a 2 page spread with the spirals running in the middle, it looks cool; or draw 2 different animals on 2 separate pages…larger: draw an inset of approximately 8×11 and draw in it with a nice white border around your sketch.

b. must have at least a range of 3-5 values = CONTRAST

c. must show abstraction: simplifying the animal and breaking it up into shapes

d. must break-up the positive space within the animal to use at least 10 different zentangles. (however, the more the better!)

Step No.1:

Take a picture of an animal! Try to take your own picture, if possible!

Remember – If you use a photograph from the internet, like below, that the photograph is another artist’s work. If you copy it – it is plagiarism. So be sure that you alter it at least 80% from the original. STEAL IDEAS rather than COPY them!

REQUIRED: Realistic Photographic Reference (25 points)

Whether you are using your own photograph or another artist’s photograph, you will need to submit photo.

I will be looking at the image when I grade the sketchbook as part of the requirements!

Step No.2:

Classwork Exercise: Practice Zentangles!

Take one page in your sketchbook and trace 5 circles overlapping. You should have at least 10 different spaces for zentangles – OR – take one to two pages in your sketchbook and draw 10 circles.

In the circles choose different zentangles to practice for your animal. Where the circles overlap and a new space is formed, draw a different zentangle – OR – draw a different zentangle in each circle.  This pre-sketchbook technique practice or classwork exercise can be completed in pencil or sharpie.

Here are two videos from ‘Sollomio‘ to get you started:

If you need examples of zentangles, check out my Pinterest board – art: zentangles.


If you want a challenge; try this instead!zentangle-skbk

Step No.3:

Draw your animal!

Draw a light, sketch of an animal with only line. Focus on the outside edges and the separation of areas within the animal. You are simplifying the animal from your photographic reference. Fill your sketchbook page as much as possible. Graphite will be best – you can go over it in pen later.

If there are not enough separations of the positive space within the animal, then you may have to come up with some divisions of your own. Think about the natural divisions of space within the animal’s shape. There needs to be clear separations.

The example of the elephant above is the better of the two.

When you have it the way you want it, you can go over the graphite with your permanent pen/marker. Allow it to dry and erase the all of the pencil completely.

Step No.4:

Fill the spaces with your favorite zentangles!

Begin to fill the spaces in the animal with zentangles (patterns using the elements of art). Hint: If a part of the animal’s body is in the distance or behind another part of the body, it needs to be a lighter value. Objects that are farther away become lighter, duller, and less focused in the distance. So if a part of the animal’s body is close to the viewer, it needs to be darker!

Value with pen & ink is different than value with pencil! If you want a design to be lighter, then the lines or shapes need to be thinner and farther apart. Also, the mark with the pen should be faster because the longer you hold the pen at one spot, the more ink that soaks into the paper! If you want a design to be darker, then the lines or shapes need to be thicker and closer together!



Note – these are random examples that I found off of the internet, they do not necessarily represent all the requirements for this sketchbook assignment!

Best TOOLS for the job?

I will provide you with a Sharpie to use during class, however, for outside of class with sketchbook assignments you probably need to invest in some of your own materials. If that is not an option – remember – there is open studio after-school.

Materials for this assignment:

  1. Sketchbook
  2. Pencil
  3. Permanent Pen/Marker in BLACK

You have a few options for the permanent pen/marker…

Good (A): SHARPIESsharpie-marker-types

These are good – they do have a tendency to bleed if you hold the point in one area too long. Opt for the bottom type, ‘ultra fine’, rather than ‘fine’.



These are better for student-quality work because they do not bleed like the ‘ultra fine and fine’ points do.


These are best for artist-quality work because they are archival, come in a wider range of points, and do not bleed or smudge. The points allow for an easier way to achieve different line quality and value range.


They are slightly more expensive than Sharpies, however, if you are going to A.C. Moore or Michael’s there are always coupons available via apps or online.

Have fun creating your Zentangle Animal!

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