The Art of Deliberate Doodling

To think, or not to think. Is that the question? I will claim that through doodling, you can do both. Even simultaneously!

A doodle is a drawing made while a person’s attention is otherwise occupied. Doodles are simple drawings that can have concrete representational meaning or may just be composed of random and abstract lines, generally without ever lifting the drawing device from the paper, in which case it is usually called a “scribble”.

Definition from Wikipedia 

I guess most people have made some doodles during their lifetime, like on a napkin, a notepad, in the papers or in the margins of their school notebook. Probably it was done “while your attention was otherwise occupied” as Wikipedia defines it. For example while talking on the phone, sitting in a meeting or listening to a teacher. For me it’s difficult not to doodle and scribble when I have a pen in my hand and a sheet of paper under it. It goes automatically. In school and education I found that my scribbles actually made me remember things better. Looking over my doodles later I could recall what the teacher had talked about during the different parts of the doodle. Doodles in connection to memory is an interesting topic, but here I will focus on how doodles are an important part of my creative work.

The way I work with doodles is probably a step further from the common definition. The main difference being that I deliberately sit down to doodle. Then the randomness and absentmindedness doesn’t come that easy. I will write about how and why I use doodling as a creative method and as a relaxing exercise, and the connection between these and my creative flow. I hope you will find it useful and maybe explore “the art of deliberate doodling”!

LETTINg go – not to think

There are several problems you might face when you’re doing creative work. A common one is the difficulty of getting started. You might not have an idea. You might find it difficult to choose a style, technique or tool to work with. That blank page is staring right back at you! There is A LOT of ways to face these problems, and I think creatives find their own preferred methods. Doodling can be one of them.

The foremost trick of doodling is letting go. If you’re having a doodle-session, my advice is to use a sketchbook or type of paper that 1) you like and 2) works with your chosen tool, BUT 3) isn’t your finest materials. If you are using very expensive stuff, this can be a hindrance to you “letting go”, because you will be afraid to waste quality materials. Several times I have readied paper to make watercolour illustrations, but instead ended up doodling on them because I did’t have a sketch or any ideas (ex.1). I’ve allowed myself do this when the paper has not been of great quality anyway.

Test different paper and tool combinations while you are doodling, and maybe you’ll find something that really works for you. My favourite doodle-tool is a Pilot G-TEC-C4 pen, and I especially like to use it on soft sketch paper.

When you have that blank page in front of you; don’t think! Let your hand and whichever tool you are using do the work. Sometimes I find this difficult. We always have some activity going on “up there” don’t we? 😀 I have developed a sort of “start-up-kit” for these occasions. It consists of a range of hand movements, that in my case often lead to drawings of organic plantlike things (ex.2). Maybe you have something like that too? If not, try to find some shapes, lines or movements that comes natural to you, and start there if you’re stuck. Don’t let your start-up-kit be anything too specific though, because that might limit the doodle-process.

What is most important about “not thinking”, is not thinking about any results, aesthetics or where you want your creations to end up. The doodles should lead you, instead of you leading the doodles. If that makes sense?

Example (1) doodles with watercolours and pigment liner pens.

to think

If you find it difficult letting go, if your mind is blocked or too controlling, it can be helpful to find distractions. Something like podcasts, conversation or TV. Then you might think and not think simultaneously. You’re thinking about the information from the podcast, and not thinking about what you are drawing.

BUT! This can lessen the potential of doodling. Because I believe that within the process of doodling lies the potential of thinking productive thoughts, that are in different ways useful to your creative work. Thoughts that will help you build creativity, rather than bring it down. Thoughts that will get you into a creative flow.

A kind of Meditation

These are examples of productive thinking (for me):

  • Observation of what is unfolding on the paper
  • Reflecting on what is unfolding on the paper (but not judging)
  • Experiences with past and present creative works
  • Discoveries, ideas and how I can use them (f.ex. drawing techniques)
  • Things that are going on in my life that are connected to my creative work
  • Things that are going on in my life in general

During a doodle process I might think of a lot of different things. Also feelings and thoughts that are connected to daily life, not just creativity related. My productive thoughts then takes the role of the podcast, through being a distraction from critical or inhibiting thoughts. I let my thoughts run freely alongside the doodling and keep an open mind to things that occur. This is kind of like meditation. Sometimes I find it can help me divert my thoughts and feel relaxed, and other times it can help me focus and organize thoughts (be it creative/non-creative/productive/inhibiting).

Going with the flow

Creatives often talk about “flow” and how they are chasing those moments or periods of creative flow.

In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time.

Definition from Wikipedia

Doodling on a regular basis makes it easier for me to get into a flow. Because doodling helps me get ideas, discover different ways to draw, explore different techniques, reflect on how I work, make sense of thoughts and feelings, to relax (etc.), this definitely affects and potentially fuels a flow state.

Even if I am right in the middle of a period of flow, I might take a break from more serious creative work to have a doodle-session. For me this has a positive effect on keeping that flow going.

Example (4) of a “relax-doodle”
Example (4.1) – the yellow lines are showing the lines that were there before I started doodling.

The doodle above (ex.4) is from my sketchbook. The yellow lines in (ex.4.1) show what I had drawn at an earlier time, but then given up and moved on. When I went back I was in a creative flow. It was easier to let my thoughts run freely and just DO IT! This is a typical relax-doodle for me, where I purposely want to feel relaxed or diverted. In comparison the doodles in (ex. 1 and 2) are more typical exploration-doodles, where I’m trying to get into a creative mood or searching for ideas etc.

don’t dawdle – doodle!

  • Find some favourite (not too expensive) tools and materials that you like
  • Develop your own “start-up-kit”
  • Let the doodles lead you
  • If you need it, use thought distractors (podcasts etc.) while you are training your “doodle-reflex”
  • Find a balance between thinking and not thinking
  • Make room for productive thoughts (whatever those are for you)
  • Try doodling while you are in a state of flow and see how that works for you

Happy Sunday everyone!

Thoughts on sketchbooks

I finished a sketchbook today. It’s a Moleskine sketchbook that I started in the beginning of 2017. First of all, that makes me think I draw too little. But I try to throw away that thought, because it’s not productive anyway. Instead, I think it more interesting to reflect on my relationship to sketchbooks and how I use them.

Sketchbooks in general are like treasuries. I like to think of them as Gringotts Wizarding Bank, only the kept treasures are ideas. Some are kept safe in their vaults for poorer creative times, some are forgotten and when found again they can be polished to shine, and some are best left locked away in the deepest dungeons garded by firebreathing dragons.

I have filled out a few sketchbooks during the last 12 years. They are standing on a shelf beside my work space. Most of them are different from each other, with different formats, binding and paper. To change between different kinds of sketchbooks is something I really enjoy. I think it affects how I relate to them, and following, what I draw or write in them. In addition the variation gives an even stronger feeling of a start on a new journey.

For me a new sketchbook is really exciting, but also a bit scary. The look of a sketchbook affects my expectations. A really nice looking sketchbook makes me feel that the contet should reflect the qualities of the book, and that I shouldn’t use it for trivial notes and stupid doodles. The scariest part is the first page. I see a tendency in several of my sketchbooks that I make greater effort in the start, and then I fall back in the same procedure as always.

Some years back I realised that I didn’t really sketch a lot in my sketchbooks. Instead of drawing the ideas I got, I tended to write them down. Why I’m like this, I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just too lazy? The sketchbooks were also used as notebooks with to-do-lists, lecture notes, plans and everything random. In other words, most of them don’t look very nice! They are far from the beautiful sketchbooks that you see artists posting on Instagram. On the other hand, there is a positive side of this way of using (or misusing, if you like) sketchbooks. The books become a bit like time machines. If I like I can go through them and look back at what was happening in my life at different points. Sometimes I can see parallels between what was going on in my daily life and my ideas and doodles. In other words, the sketchbooks become a documentation of my life, that might be interesting for me on a personal or conceptual level, but not so interesting aesthetically.

I like the Gringotts metaphor as a general illustration of how sketchbooks work as idea banks. But I think I have a better metaphor for my own sketchbooks, that also captures the visual part of them. First I thought, they are like junk yards! But then I found that a little bit too harsh, and I moved to thinking of an Antique shop. That sounded a bit too organized again, but maybe something in between? Then I remembered the thrift store just down the street from where I live in Bergen. It’s messy, with it’s own logic both organized and disorganized, and there’s a lot of crap with the occasional gem here and there. So there you have it!

Picture from an «organized» part of the thrift store. Last time I was there most things were just piled in heaps all over, with small paths between.

The sketchbook I now finished marks a small shift in my sketchy story. This was my first fancy Moleskine sketchbook, and I got it from Geir Moen (who I worked for as a part of the practice period in my visual communication bachelor). I thought of the rest of the world making a big deal out of Moleskine, and I thought I could use the book to test myself and set a goal to have it contain mostly drawings. And I have managed it! And there is not one single to-do-list in it! Now, this does not mean I have totally changed my «sketchbook misuse» or how I work with my idea process. I just figured that I need to  use two sketchbooks. This has really worked for me. I have one «no pressure»-sketchbook to misuse as much as I like, and one «doodle & draw»-sketchbook (not too much pressure here either). To mark the end, I think it fitting to show the beginning, and here was my first drawing in the now finished Moleskine.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a new sketchbook. I’ve been glancing at it and caressing it from time to time, contemplating what I should expect from it, and myself. I think it will be an even bigger challenge than the Moleskine, because of its format and thickness. It’s quadratic, 25x25cm and 2,5cm thick, so it’s probably going to last for a while. I think I am going to allow more text and scribbling, but the right kind. Wish me luck!

From blog to portfolio

Hello everyone!

My website has undergone a little make-over lately, and it’s main feature is now my Portfolio. Check it out if you like! Now and then I will probably make some blog posts too.

These days I’m trying to get started with my illustration work. So we’ll see how that goes. I am open for projects and assignments.

You can also follow me on Instagram @lizonmoon. As I pointed out in my last instagram-post, it will from now on only contain my illustration work. My interest of food is now documented on a different account @gulo_gulo__


IPad workshop

My room at night The Cave You fucking apple National Gallery


Last week:

Ipad workshop at school. We got introduced to drawing programmes such as Brushes, Art Rage and Procreation, and also Bamboo Paper. Bamboo Paper works nice as a sketchbook, and I liked Procreation for more advanced drawing (even though I haven’t reached the advanced part).

The first picture is part of my room. We were given the task to draw/”paint” in the dark to capture light an shadow, which you can’t do in the same way when painting on a canvas(or similar), because you need light.  The second picture is a sketch for an idea I’m working on for my application to art schools.

All in all i think Ipad seems like a fine tool for an artist. When I’m rich I’ll buy one! Probably I’ll buy an Ipad before I’ll buy a smartphone.