Pick up a pen

Many of us do it mind­lessly, but there’s a move to­ward tak­ing doo­dling se­ri­ously

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - FRONT PAGE -

BEN Bass is a long­time com­puter pro­gram­mer and avid doo­dler. In el­e­men­tary school, he doo­dled Sec­ond World War air­planes, and doo­dled throughout high school and col­lege. Then doo­dling got away from him. “Par­ent­ing and a full-time job kind of drains the doo­dle out of you,” Bass ex­plains.

Bass thanks a te­dious work meet­ing 18 years ago for bring­ing him back to doo­dling. Bored out of his mind, the Affton, Mo., res­i­dent started tap­ping a pen on his notepad, mak­ing tiny ink dots on the pa­per. Even­tu­ally, the spots started to look like some­thing — a horse’s head — and Bass’ doo­dling days re­turned with a vengeance.

To­day, he doo­dles in his per­sonal pointil­lism when­ever he’s sit­ting with his hands free.

“It lets me fo­cus my en­er­gies. It lets my mind re­set,” says Bass, 49. “Those are the two main ben­e­fits of it.”

School­child­ren and adults doo­dle for the same rea­sons: out of bore­dom, to fo­cus, to re­lease pent-up en­ergy. Doo­dling is a play­ful way for artists to tap their imag­i­na­tions.

For novices, classes are avail­able on­line via crafters’ blogs and at some small arts and crafts shops.

“It’s a good way to ger­mi­nate ideas,” says Deb Dou­glas, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of art his­tory at St. Louis Univer­sity.

Dou­glas was fea­tured this sum­mer in Booze Doo­dle, a se­ries in the St. Louis culi­nary mag­a­zine Feast. Lo­cal artists are asked to doo­dle with a Sharpie on a cock­tail nap­kin at an area res­tau­rant. First they’re handed a cock­tail to “stir the cre­ative juices,” ac­cord­ing to the mag­a­zine’s web­site.

Dou­glas doo­dled some flo­ral and seashell pat­terns she’d been work­ing into a paint­ing, she says. On her own, she doo­dles when she feels stuck ar­tis­ti­cally.

“Doo­dling is of­ten a way for me to make lists es­thet­i­cally,” she says. What is doo­dling, and what isn’t it? Dou­glas says there’s a fine line be­tween doo­dling and sketch­ing. Doo­dling in­volves pulling ideas out of one’s imag­i­na­tion or draw­ing what one sees, whereas sketch­ing is more pur­pose­ful.

Pam Ker­avuori, 67, an ab­stract pain­ter in Fair­fax Sta­tion, Va., says both sketch­ing and doo­dling in­volve carv­ing space with lines, but doo­dling is more care­free.

“I think doo­dling has be­come a pop­u­lar thing, be­cause it’s fun,” says Ker­avuori. “It doesn’t have some big, ul­te­rior mo­tive. And yet, it’s prac­ticed.”

She teaches a Doo­dle Ink class on how to styl­ize hand­writ­ing with doo­dling.

Dou­glas ques­tions why any­one would need to be taught how to doo­dle. “Then you’re doo­dling some­one else’s ideas,” she says.

But Ker­avuori says her doo­dle let­ter­ing class is pop­u­lar with scrap­book­ers and painters like her­self who want to im­prove their pen­man­ship with­out the rigours of cal­lig­ra­phy.

“The ob­vi­ous rule is that it takes prac­tice. The rest of it is with­out rules,” says Ker­avuori, who blogs about her doo­dles at Pamela Jane’s Stu­dio. “You can do what you wish, as your imag­i­na­tion guides you.”

That is the joy of doo­dling: There’s no pres­sure to con­form or per­form. It’s pri­vate un­til you want to share your doo­dles with oth­ers.

Stephanie Ack­er­man, 43, who teaches doo­dling classes on her blog, Home­grown Hos­pi­tal­ity, says adults need help let­ting go of their fear of fail­ure — even when doo­dling.

“When it’s a child, it’s no prob­lem,” she says. “When it’s an adult, it’s an arm wres­tle. You have to re­train your brain.”

Ack­er­man, of Ran­cho Santa Mar­garita, Calif., teaches a few ba­sic con­cepts — about let­ter­ing, shad­ing, em­bel­lish­ing and colour­ing — then sets students loose to ex­per­i­ment.

“You can’t teach doo­dling, but you can teach the tech­niques,” she says. “The doo­dle part of it is free-form. That’s where you have to prac­tice re­lax­ing your mind and let­ting it flow.”

For the new doo­dler, Ker­avuori sug­gests in­vest­ing in a wa­ter­proof ink pen and un­tex­tured pa­per.

A new book, Fill in the Blank (Quirk Books), by artists and graphic de­sign­ers Elodie Chail­lous and Vahram Mu­ratyan, is full of visual and writ­ten prompts for tap­ping in­ner cre­ativ­ity.

“Most peo­ple are re­ally scared by a blank sheet of pa­per,” says David Bor­genicht, pub­lisher of Quirk Books. “This is hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent start­ing places to let your pen­cil or mark­ers do the work.”

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