We all have doodled while waiting through a tedious recording on the phone, or in a long meeting. It’s possible we’ve covered pages of our notebooks in indecipherable scratchs and designs, and then looked back to wonder what we must have been thinking, or not thinking about — at the time. Turns out, you’ve been participating in what is called now Zen doodling.
Kids do it naturally. We do it when we’re bored or trying to pass the time. Whether it happens in the condensation on a glass, a journal dedicated to the purpose of recording your marks, or the margins of your notebook or meeting handouts, you’re doodling. People are lining up to teach you the benefits of those little scribbles, and even how to do them.
Bookstores and online retailers like Amazon now sell dozens of titles aimed at the instruction of the technique of doodling, everything from basic how-to guides aimed at children to journals with prompts for adults. A quick search of the term “doodle” produced over 2,500 hits for books alone.Flickr groups dedicated to doodle art are popping up, and any online image search will turn up pages of detailed doodle masterpieces, sometimes referred to simply as “tangles”.
Rupert Kirby, on his website Doodle Art, says that doodling is “certainly very useful in helping to maintain an inner calm, and perhaps relax a bit.” When you look at his art, you can easily lose yourself in the intricate details of otherwise simple shapes and freeform lines. “It’s quite a fluid thing,” says Kirby, “no rights or wrongs.”
Kirby’s philosophy about doodling is relaxed and informal. His first rule is, “Start with a never-ending loop. Take a line for a walk.”
“I’m not aware of programs that teach doodling but I have certainly taught my way of doodling to pupils in music classes, says Kirby. “I think the important thing is to explore different ways of doing things and then assimilate the things that work for you into your style.”
Jennifer Zuorro Van Pelt, owner and president ofThe Stamp Addict, is no stranger to the many rewards afforded by art. She’s got a masters degree in counseling from the University of Arkansas, and knows firsthand how art can transform people. She teaches classes that show participants how to bring the art of doodles into their creative lives. Her preferred method of doodling involves teaching specific patterns called “Zentangles” and then using these patterns in freeform doodles and designs.
Zentangle is one program that teaches people how to use certain named patterns and designs and incorporate them into their own artwork. This is then incorporated into scrapbook designs and other art applications.
While doodling is generally defined as a freeform drawing or scribble done absentmindedly or without a clear pattern in mind, Zentagles are considered deliberate and, therefore, not necessarily comparable. Roberts explains the philosophy behind the art form on the official site. “By taking Zentangle’s inspiration to make each stroke deliberate, you understand how those apparently small and insignificant ‘strokes’ of our moment-to-moment lives contribute to your life’s pattern.”
Roberto Montanez, in his blog Psychobits, says that some theorists, “including Freud and Jung, think that doodling is an act where the individual is conscious, but the meaning of the drawings is unconscious. Alfred Adler suggested that we tend to seek symmetry and doodles meet that need. Other psychologists suggest that doodles are a manifestation of an unconscious or emotional state.”
Whether people do it for meditation, reflection, inspiration or recreation, doodling isn’t just being scribbled on scrap paper, to be tossed away. It’s a lucrative business for some; for others, it’s the newest, oldest way to create something beautiful, and much more enduring than your lunch napkin.