My mother doodled all the time. — she made little geometric designs on napkins, scratch paper, letters… once she even doodled in ballpoint pen all the way around my father’s good drafting tape (on the EDGES, not the main part — she ruined the whole roll) I took the heat for that one – mom wasn’t home when he found it and “she knew better,” so I was obviously lying. Well, yes, she did, but it didn’t stop her. and I didn’t, at that time, doodle at all.
Why not? Doodling was hard for me. I’d ask Mom or friends how they did it, “Just turn off your brain and move your pen” was the answer. But I couldn’t seem to achieve both of those things at the same time, although I am perfectly capable of doing either at once (and I’m capable of turning off my brain and dancing!). What I realized much later is that the “turning off your brain part isn’t really necessary – what they really meant was “make your brain get out of the way for a while.”
Doodling, like rough drafts of writing, requires you to turn off the inner critic that says to you “but you’re not accomplishing anything. That’s not REALLY art!”
Well, no, it’s not. It’s the building blocks of the practice of art, however. Think of it as a brainstorming activity – it doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to be finished, it just has to BE.
I have a few rules I set myself when I doodle geometrically. They were very effective in getting me started on geometric doodling.
- Start with a small iconographic image in one corner. I use flags, flowerpots, a smiley face, hearts, a stylized cat, anything I can quickly churn out.
- Draw a diagonal line from that image across the page in some way.
- Add a ribbon over the middle of the page. The image is sacred, but I’ll cross any other lines with the ribbon.
- Start filling in spaces with random patterns. I played roleplaying games for years, so sometimes I’ll role a polyhedral die to decide what to put where. Things I often use, set up for rolling two six sided die are (when you roll a number, fill the space with the description:
- Repeat the last step until all the spaces are filled or you are bored out of your mind. (Or it looks cool to you and you want to stop!)
These are the first doodles I taught myself to do in high school.
- Take your pencil and draw a squiggle. It actually works better if you don’t actually look at the page while you’re scribbling.
- Open your eyes and look at what you have scrawled. Stare at it until you see something in it — like looking for cloud shapes in the sky.
- Darken the outline of whatever you see. Instant (sort of) doodle!
- Or, draw your squiggle large and use the list of geometric fillers to fill in the spaces.
- Expand your horizons and try different combinations when doodling. Pretty soon you will be doodling with the best of them! And sometimes, those doodles can inspire embroidery!