To “doodle” is simply the art of scribbling figures, designs, and abstract art while preoccupied or perhaps just being “absent-minded”. The decision to doodle typically is not thought out beforehand, but just happens when you are occupied doing something else. Many people, young and old, doodle while working on homework, talking on the telephone, at a meeting, trying to figure out something totally unrelated to the “doodling”, or because they may be bored. However, doodling may be much more than mindless drawing on a piece of paper or even on the condensation on a window while inside a car or house. Doodling can be done on any surface and with any medium such as pencils, charcoal, crayons, and ink.
Doodling appears to allow a person’s subconscious to work and the brain to concentrate as it works on complex matters while, at the same time, the person appears to be lost in thought or not paying attention to what is going on around him or her. Doodling can be an expression of another underlying symptom such as anxiety or stress, while others doodle simply for the fun of it. Some people doodle the same thing every time, such as drawing a giraffe, dragons, skulls, ornate and complicated designs, and abstract art including symbolism and expressionism. For many people, the art of doodling has been considered very beautiful and, in fact, doodling has been designated as one type of art form.
Doodling lets your subconscious drive your imagination. Drawing pictures or other designs is usually done silently and using words, which are left-brained and logical, is not necessary. For most people, the right side of the brain encourages creative thoughts through verbal means.
Sergio Aragones’ doodled and sold many of his now famous tiny doodle creations for the margins of the MAD magazine. Many thought they could doodle just as well since Aragones’ doodles appeared to be simple. Instead, his doodles were very complicated in spite of their seemingly simplicity.
For some, doodling may have important scientific, mathematical, and medical problems solved due to scratching out doodles on a scrap of paper. Stanislaw Ulam, a mathematician, discovered the Ulam spiral (a simple method of graphing the prime numbers that reveals a pattern of diagonal lines) while doodling.
Doodling also comes into play with handwriting analysis and in the study of graphology where graphologists can determine character and even analyze personalities. Using the three P’s, “pressure, placement, and practice”, reveals deeper insights into a person’s personality or the emotions they are expressing. Shading and drawing lines under certain parts of the doodle are also things they look for.
It has been documented that John Keats liked to doodle flowers in his medical notebooks. Ralph Waldo Emerson doodled elaborate scrolls and decorations all over his composition books while he was a student at Harvard University. George Washington doodled and one of his most famous is a checkerboard type frame around a paper he wrote entitled, “Memorial Verses“. Ronald Reagan doodled all the time, drawing doodles of western figures, animals, and other people.
Other famous doodlers include the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, Richard Pryor, John F. Kennedy, and Patrick Steward. Add to the list people like Richard Nixon, Elton John, and Leonardo de Vinci, who filled notebooks of sketches and other doodling while looking for interesting objects to paint, especially faces.
The term doodle is also defined as someone who is a fool or simpleton. British soldiers, before the Revolutionary War, used to sing “Yankee Doodle” as a way of making fun of our early American ancestors by alluding to them as being foolish.
Doodling has led to successful careers and important discoveries. Therefore, if you catch yourself doodling, perhaps you should save them. For that matter, practice doodling on purpose and see what happens. One day, you could be famous for doodling on a napkin or your child’s homework.
Doodling your way to Success, by Dr. Sharon L. Bender, July 2006