by Luke Harold


Wyndmoor resident Terri O’Donnell faces the everyday pressures of being a wife and the mother of a teenager.

“We tend to have really busy lives,” she said, “because we run households and shuffle kids around.”

In October, she discovered the art of Zentangle, which involves drawing patterns on a tile. It was developed by two artists, Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts, as a therapeutic way to cope with stress, anger, or even addiction, among many other applications.

“I took a class and I was really intrigued,” said O’Donnell, 50.

She has little background in art besides drawing in the margins of notebooks and coloring in coloring books as a child, but discovered several benefits of Zentangle.

“It helps you get more energy, more focused, more relaxed.”

She soon began practicing the art every night. Her husband, a self-employed business consultant, also took up Zentangle on more of a casual basis. Her experience with the art made her want to help others realize how they can use it to cope with pressures they face.

She received her certification from Thomas and Roberts to teach Zentangle, and O’Donnell will begin a class at the Center for Enrichment on April 6.

CORRECTION:  The classes will be held Wednesday, April 20, 10 a.m. to noon, and Wednesday, April 27, 7 to 9 p.m., at the Center on the Hill…The Place for Active Adults, in the Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church, 8855 Germantown Ave. For more information, call O’Donnell at 215-470-9123, or email

The class is tentatively scheduled for the first Wednesday of each month, and O’Donnell said she hopes to help her students use Zentangle to achieve the meditative affects it has had on her.

“When people see it they go, ‘Wow, this is really cool,’” she said. Many works of Zentangle look intricately drawn, but its emphasis on making one-micron pen stroke at a time makes it learnable for anyone.

The extent of O’Donnell’s background in art came when she worked as a self-employed adviser, helping people put together scrapbooks with photographs of their memories. She still doesn’t consider herself an artist, but she was able to cultivate her Zentangle skills and wants to help her students realize it is a skill that they too can acquire.

“Some people see it and are like, ‘I can’t do this,’” she said. But it is an art, she noted, that is actually “not intimidating.”

O’Donnell said everyday things, such as patterns on ceiling tiles, become recognizable as Zentangle patterns to someone who has been practicing the art long enough.

Some of her works have been on display in Starbucks on Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill since Tuesday.

With her busy schedule, O’Donnell said she has found another of Zentangle’s many benefits: fighting insomnia.

“It’s a great sleep builder,” she said. “You get lost in just doing the same theme.”

O’Donnell is not sure what to expect in terms of attendance for the first class, but said she hopes for about 20 people.

“I want to have an ongoing workshop where people will do this on a monthly basis,” she said, adding that a first-time practitioner of Zentangle needs only one class to learn the skills necessary to begin producing artwork.