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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Zentangle helped artist overcome grief

Jennifer Larue

Everyone knows how detrimental stress can be to the body and soul. So often we forget to stop and smell the roses.

Loretta West has a “pill” for that. It’s called Zentangle. First, she’ll ask you to take a seat and relax and appreciate simply being in the moment. Then she’ll ask you to plant your feet firmly on the ground, take a deep breath and have no expectations as she hands you a pencil. After an hour or so of soft prompting by West, a lovely drawing appears, even if you’ve never drawn before.

It’s a repetitive, soothing and intuitive process. Studies have shown that coloring or doodling is very similar to meditation.

“I have noticed many positive changes in myself since I started practicing Zentangle,” she said. “I use it as a warm-up tool and that has helped me expand my creative muscle and approach things more directly. I also find that I rarely become annoyed or angry with myself or others. I have been more at peace within myself and am more patient.”

West, 53, was born and raised in northern Canada where she spent hours practicing art with how-to-draw books. In her early teens, West took oil painting lessons from her aunt. She studied art and other subjects at Grand Prairie Regional College in Alberta and tthe University of Calgary but joined the workforce before earning a degree. For many years, she worked as a private investigator, fine-tuning her observational skills, always expressing her findings in an array of media, including textile and paint. She began showing her work in 2001.

About 10 years ago, West moved to the Spokane area from Massachusetts to be closer to her parents in Canada. She became a permanent resident of the U.S. five years ago. Since moving to the area, her creativity blossomed and she began exhibiting her work steadily in Washington and Idaho while expanding her repertoire at workshops and classes. She eventually began teaching art through Dale Chihuly’s foundation Seniors Making Art. “Over the years I have tried on many artistic hats and feel the most content while learning and teaching,” she said.

West’s father died about 18 months ago and, although she continued to teach, her own artistic endeavors became muddled. “The fountain had dried up,” she said, “But I knew I needed to create to help me through the grief. I was feeling very ‘black and white’ at the time, and then I found Zentangle.”

She got on a waiting list for Zentangle training in Providence, R.I. When she didn’t hear from them, she called. “Just before I called, someone had canceled. The woman on the line agreed with me; it was fate.” Now, West is a certified Zentangle teacher and she is painting again, creating flowing and intuitive works.

“I have learned to embrace the uncertainty and even to chuckle at the absurdity of life sometimes,” she said, “The uncertainty is where I really find I do my best work, as creating grounds me and brings me back to where I find inner peace.”

The Verve is a weekly feature celebrating the arts. If you know an artist, dancer, actor, musician, photographer, band or singer, contact correspondent Jennifer LaRue by email at