Recently I found some of my old doodles that I’d done on odd bits of cartridge paper. From a young age I used to doodle all the time. In front of the TV, when sick in bed, in school books, on scrap paper, in magazines, then later in sketch books, in a doctor’s waiting room. They tended to be random doodles and had nothing to do with my more developed artwork. Usually of figures, animals, insects, pixies, fairy tale characters. Just silly little things. Amongst my rediscovered drawings there was also a coloured illustration that was developed from the little pixie doodles. I stuck them all into a visual diary so that they won’t get lost or accidentally thrown out.
Throughout history people have doodled on different surfaces. Apparently people did them on the edges of clay tablets in antiquity and who knows what can be found on the odd Egyptian papyrus. Probably doodling became more common with the availability of paper, given that the earlier vellum, made from animal hides, was expensive and took a lot of effort to produce. You don’t see many doodles on the pages of medieval manuscripts.
Often we discount little flights of fantasy like doodles, but they are a good way of getting ideas for a poem, a story, a larger work of art or illustrations. I’d forgotten what fun you could have with a pen just aimlessly drawing. I think I will put a sketchbook and pens in our family room out of the reach of the dogs so that I can doodle when I’m watching TV like I used to. As long as it is not a foreign film with subtitles, then I won’t get too distracted.
Recent studies have discovered that doodling can aid memory and concentration. Colouring books for adults have similar benefits and are very popular, but creating you own imagery is so much better. You are not restricted by boundaries and can go all over the page wherever you like. Even if you don’t think that you can draw anyone can doodle. It could be patterns, little cartoons, or stick figures. The whole point of doodling is to make a mark of some kind in a free manner. You could start in the middle of the page, at the top or the bottom. There aren’t any rules.
You can also use paint on canvas and just play around with the paint in a figurative or non-figurative manner. This is just doodling on a larger scale and is a good way to stop getting precious about your work. I did a painting like this not so long ago. On a 30 x 30 inch canvas placed flat of the floor, I swirled around the paint with a brush or dripped it off a wooden chopstick. This is not my normal way of working and it was fun be free and spontaneous. I found it totally involving and the painting just evolved. I still had to use my head and stopped before the paint became muddy and ended up with a painting I would be happy to hang on the wall.
Not everyone has a spare canvas lying around but if you want to use real paint without going to too much expense, you could use masonite board (a thin fibre board) as a surface. I know there is suitable painting software for a tablet or a computer but it’s a more tactile experience working with real paint where you can create actual textures. It’s also messier like a lot of things in life. I had to cover the floor with plastic before I started and still managed to get it on my shoes but they were old ones. The dogs also wanted to help and nearly put their noses in the painting. Many animals seem to like doodling with paint (chimpanzees, elephants).
Doodling can be an end in itself. Some artist’s have taken doodling to a whole new level, from pages in sketchbooks to huge artworks. Here is a link to some great examples.
Doodling is a form of drawing that can be done anywhere and anytime. From now on I will remember to doodle. When I’m on the phone, watching TV or when I just want the feel of a pen in my hand. It’s good to remember that all art starts from making a mark.