Exercise 2: Doodling

“Lay some large sheets of paper and a sketchbook on a table.  Have pencils, pens, ballpoints, charcoal and felt tips readily to hand. Free your mind and make as many possible marks as your hand will let you. Don’t attempt to draw anything in particular.”

Charcoal swirls

Doodling was harder than I expected it to be.  Embarking on this exercise, I realised I’ve never been a great doodler.  Not since childhood, certainly. This caused me to ponder why that might have been, and I think it’s that I longed to draw ‘properly’ so much, that I just hadn’t wanted to do anything that might have highlighted how far from that aim I really was.  Sad, now I think about it. So, I was trepidatious about getting stuck into some large-scale doodling.  I opted for an “in for a penny, in for a pound” approach though, and began my first doodle on a sheet of A1 cartridge paper. A few broad sweeps of hard pastel and I was off.  It seemed likely to me that pastels and charcoal would be the materials most suited to working on a large scale, as fine detail isn’t really their forte. I did enjoy being able to manoeuvre them more freely than I had earlier in my sketchbook.

Charcoal and hard pastel doodles

Having loosened up a bit, I moved to my sketchbook and started incorporating graphite pencils, colour pencils, rollerball pens and felt tips.

Coloured pencil, ballpoints, felt tips, graphite pencil

Trying to stick to the remit of not drawing anything in particular was tougher than it sounded.  I found myself judging every mark, even though I knew that was precisely the kind of thinking this exercise would be intended to discourage.  Distractions kept coming, which didn’t ease the process, but eventually I settled into it a little more.

“Now think of a subject such as water, flowers, buildings, patterns of light or a dream. Allow the subject to influence the marks you are making, but don’t try to turn your marks into a definable image.”

Felt tip doodles

Loosely visualising water and flowers, I doodled the picture shown above, using felt tips.  Having done this, I caught myself thinking that to doodle meant filling a page completely – perhaps because that’s what I’d done as a child.  So, I thought I’d see how it felt to leave it like this, with more space as part of it.  That seemed to prompt my self-critical voice too.  Not doing it ‘right’.  Hmm.

Ballpoint, coloured pencil & graphite doodles

For my final doodle, I thought of buildings.  No building in particular, just structures.  I began with a long slim column with what could be two windows in it.  From there, the ‘step’ line emerged, with what could be some sort of door arrangement below it.  Not sure where the exclamation mark came from.  I think it might have started as a door knocker.  On either side of this structure I made marks loosely suggestive of trees, foliage and water.

Having approached this exercise thinking it wouldn’t do much for me, I left it thinking that it would be one worth returning to, possibly quite frequently.  I do have a tendency to rigidity in my drawing, which I would like to change.  Doodling could be one way of doing that.  Maybe it would be useful as a warm-up exercise before starting larger projects.  I’d be curious to try it in different ways, too – eyes closed?  Listening to and being influenced by music? Doodling on another picture?  There are many possibilities.

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