How To: From “Doodles” to “Drawings”

For doodlers, asking the question “what do I draw?” is quite a bit easier when intuition is in control. It can seem effortless to scribble on a post-it note while on the phone, but then difficult to draw in a sketchbook at your desk. Of course, intimidation may play a role in this, but sometimes it’s because we’re just thinking  too hard. Once we identify what it is we like to draw, it’s much easier to choose what to draw. If you like to doodle circles, translate them into bubbles, wheels, cookies, or records. You can turn swirls into ribbons, tentacles, or roses. Maybe you’re prone to making zig-zags, which could be altered into monster teeth, lightning bolts, stitching, or heart monitor lines! Most of us can freely create shapes without much detail, but by just adding dots, lines, and shadows, doodles will transform into drawings!

Once you understand what it is that you like to draw, you just have to decide what designs speak to you. If you prefer the feminine things in life, roses might be the way to go; if weird is more your style, then you may want to draw tentacles instead! Don’t try to create that which you don’t find to be within your aesthetic. You shouldn’t draw it just because it should be there: art isn’t about should be, it’s about can be.You can do whatever you want to, because it is your art! If you don’t like the look of a smeared, dark sky, it is totally okay to make lighting strike the ground on a clear day; if you feel confident drawing wheels but are baffled by the anatomy of a car, let it roll alone down an empty road.

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Antler’d Octopus AJP

The photo above is one of my art journal pages. It incorporates all of my favorite doodle shapes: the circle, the swirl, and the zig-zag. I started with a large circle and then added swirls protruding from the shape. Next, I doodled hard zig-zags entering from the top of the page and less angular zig-zags entering from the bottom of the page. My shapes began to inspire me; with some acrylic paint and a little quirky thinking, I created an octopus resting in the seaweed beneath a cluster of anchors. I know that oceans are often depicted as blue—and that octopi don’t have antlers—but it’s my art and I am making creative decisions!

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Examples of Circles, Swirls, and Zig-Zags on Art Journal Pages

The next time you’re listening to music, reading the news, or chatting with a friend, try to have some paper and a pen within reach. You could keep post-it notes in your purse, or get fancy and buy the small Moleskine sketchbook that will fit in a shirt pocket (I’ve seen it done) for an artist-esque approach. A short golf pencil is a perfect sketching tool and it takes up almost no space!  If you keep things small, it’s much easier to doodle on the go! You’ll discover what shapes come easily for you when you have the freedom to doodle, but you need to have the equipment to do it!

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Doodle Kit Made From DVD Case

A simple way to keep your doodle supplies on hand is to throw a writing utensil and some paper in an old DVD box. The slim, flat profile of this case will easily fit in laptop bags and purses, as well as stack with bedside books. For my Doodle Kit, I made my own sketchbook by stapling several pieces of Bristol paper together, and gluing the first page to the inside of a blank greeting card. I made sure to let the back of the staples face me so that I can fix them if bending occurs during the process of ripping the paper away.

Let me know what you’re doodling, and where. I’d love to hear what shapes inspire you!

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