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Doodle art is a form of freestyle drawing that increases creativity and spontaneity. Here’s how to start doodling and how to keep it consistent and fun.

You are attending a meeting or a lecture, you’re having a long conversation over the phone or, you’re on a Skype call. Do you find yourself scribbling some drawings in the margin of your notebook or on a piece of paper? not necessarily because you’re bored but because it makes you more focused on listening!

This is called “doodle” and has nothing to do with creating detailed and beautiful drawings. Doodle is also known as absent-minded scribbles because the doodler (the individual that makes it) is usually preoccupied with other activities and has almost no awareness of what is going on the paper.

In this article, I explain the process of doodling as a form of free drawing that increases your creativity and spontaneity. I’ll also give an opener recipe with clear examples of how to actually make your first doodle art.

Doodle is like freestyle rap

Doodle has a dual purpose of “experiencing” and “expressing”. You are experiencing a moment of relaxation while you’re visually expressing your thoughts.

What is happening actually is that doodling makes your mind more free and relaxed, it opens up the channel of creativity.

Doodle is basically anything your mind can visually conceive! Any form, any shape, any pattern! Any exploration of a single shape becomes your creative doodle map.

To better explain what doodle is I would like to make an analogy. I believe that doodle art is extremely similar to improvisational music such as freestyle rap.

Let me explain why I say this!

First off, the word “freestyle” means making something on the spot. Creating “free of any style”. And that’s powerful because it implies “no boundaries”.

Doodle and freestyle rap, both, are an improvisation act with or without certain technical tools, with no particular subject or structure, with no particular size or length either.

It’s about grasping inspiration from random objects around or, just random words that pop into your head.

The difference is:

  • Doodle means improvisational drawing.
  • Rap means improvisational rhyming.

However, both are a creative act of creation through spontaneity.

doodle map of random objects illustrating the connection between freestyle drawing and freestyle music

Doodle and the brain sciences

People spent daily a significant portion in absent-minded mode also known as a form of “off-task thoughts” or, “mind-wandering“. From a science standpoint, the brain’s activity called mind-wandering has a double effect, a positive and negative one.

The negative interpretation is, mind-wandering can be a less desired activity associated with learning, especially when trying to assimilate new information. If during the lecture time the student spends too much time in mind-wandering, he/she is then considered to have a short span of attention or a lack of focus.

However, mind-wandering associated with self-expression activities such as drawing is considered to be positive. Visual self-expression (drawing and coloring) helps with attention and improves the mind’s health.

Let me explain this.

When making a free drawing, the brain goes into the Alpha wave frequencies. There are five main types of brain waves and Alpha waves are in the middle of the spectrum. By the way, brain waves are measured in frequency, which is cycles per second, or hertz (Hz), and they range from very slow (0.5 – 4 Hz) to very fast (35 Hz). Alpha waves fit between 8 – 12 Hz.

In Alpha frequencies where free-drawing expression takes place, the brain isn’t totally at rest, and it’s neither trying to tackle anything that requires concentration or stress. At this point, the brain is relaxed and unwind.

In fact, doodling seems to evoke more brain activation than coloring for example or any kind of focused-drawing activity which may come with boundaries or limitations (art-making conditions).

Just 15-20 min of doodling can make individuals perceive themselves as having better ideas and more capable of solving problems.

Likewise, art-making activates the reward system of the brain. It evokes a sense of pleasure and therefore free drawing increases the level of relaxation, creativity, and spontaneity.

doodle map with random shapes and forms illustrating basic principles of doodling

Three rules of doodle

Even though doodle is a free-form of drawing it may still have some kind of rules.

However, the rules are not in terms of limitations or boundaries, they are just acting as guidelines to better understand and practice the freestyle expression through drawing.

Therefore, here are three guidelines for making doodle art.

schematic showing the 3 rules of doodling

Rule nr 1. Basic drawing, 2D forms, and 3D shapes.

I wrote previously about the Fundamentals of Visual Art as the basic needs of an artist that creates a visual message. In that article, I present six-level fundamentals that apply to the extent of any art.

However, the Fundamentals of Doodle are just a small fraction of the fundamentals of drawing in general.

With doodle … all you need to know is about: shape, volume, and proportion. Just enough about the feeling of the dimensional space and how we perceive it on a paper or on screen.

Rule nr 2. Do not erase anything, just keep the flow.

I recommend using an ink pen or a marker, completely ignoring the need for a pencil and eraser.

Why? Because “erasing” means “correcting mistakes” and this is the mind’s manifestation of fear-based thinking. Remember that you want your mind to be “free”, free of any influence.

Doodling it’s not about how “good” your drawing looks. Because you don’t compare it with anything else! You just let your thoughts come the way they come and you keep on going!

It’s like …

You don’t even try to control your drawing-action in any way. That’s why Rule nr 3 is not an easy rule after all.

Rule nr 3. Don’t think about it! You can’t think of what you’re doing next.

This is a tough one … Doodle is not like chess when you think ten moves ahead and you anticipate different scenarios. Doodle is spontaneous, coming from the top of the head.

The mind will constantly try to get you to make some effort, to look back or to anticipate the next drawing, to compare, to analyze or to correct. Don’t do that, don’t let your mind fool you.

Let go of the mind and be inspired in the present moment. You’ll find yourself making effortless actions as a norm.

Why doodling?

I hope by now you understand that you really don’t need to be an artist to doodle! Anyone can doodle!

Doodle represents a visualization of your thoughts and thoughts are unique to each one of us because they are related to personal experiences.

So here are some of the good reasons why you should doodle, non-artist or artist.

  1. Doodle is a powerful tool for improving visual thinking.
  2. Doodle is a form of communication of a personal idea.
  3. Doodle is not outcome-focused since it’s not predictable, that’s why it is completely stress-free.
  4. Doodle can be like a meditation practice because it relaxes the mind and this is scientifically proven.
  5. Doodle increases creativity and spontaneity because you just leave your mind wandering without any limitations.
  6. Doodle makes you imagine the same thing but in different ways.
  7. Doodle makes you visually express your thoughts, emotions, fears or aspirations.
  8. Doodle doesn’t require drawing skills.

How to doodle? Opener recipe. Exercises 1, 2 and 3.

Below I’ve listed a few ideas that can assist you in gaining a creative perspective on creating doodles.

If you never doodled or, if you find mind-wandering hard to tackle, here is what I suggest.

First and foremost, keep in mind that Your Brain will fill in the page if you let it

Step 1. Make a list of random objects. Organize the objects in 3 categories:

  • cylinder-shaped objects: pen, rope, bottle, tree
  • sphere-shape objects: light bulb, earth globe, teapot, ball
  • cube-shape objects: book, dice, traveling trolley, storage box

Step 2. Make another list with social activities and associate them with random moods or feelings. For example:

  • coffee break: coffee cup, hot espresso, energy, feeling inspired
  • sunny day: walking on the beach, hot, feeling calm and peaceful

Step 3. Pick one object from each category and make it into a doodle-map; at the end of the exercise, there will be 3 doodle maps. Think of the objects you choose only in terms of shapes and size, not colors and not even texture.

Step 4. Don’t stare at a blank page if you feel you are already slightly stressed. Take 2-3 minutes and browse Google Images or Pinterest; look for how that particular object looks in different variations and environments.

Step 5. Pick up your marker and start to doodle. I advise you to use a thick-marker because the thicker the stroke will be, less visual details you’ll need to add. If you’re using a pen or thin liner, then you’ll find yourself that your drawings look somehow “empty” and you’ll become too focused on adding visual details to it. Personally I use my IPad since I’m quite comfortable with it.

Step 6. Stay about 10 min per each doodle map and see where it goes. Remember that there are no mistakes and no corrections. Just thoughts on paper.

Step 7. Every time you feel “blank” of any visual imagery, start to doodle how you feel when you do social activities that relax you. Draw emotions instead of objects.

Step 8. So, how is it in the end? Do you feel like you’ve improved your creativity and your spontaneity? That’s just in about 40 min. Imagine you do this on a regular basis, where will you be in 1 year from now?


Give it a try, see how it feels, how it relaxes you and you become more spontaneous 🙂

I believe that everyone should doodle, everyone should explore, express or explain ideas through the visual form of communication which is drawing. If you are a beginner then don’t even bother to use colors. Black and white are just good enough!

As I was saying, doodle is a free form of unpredictable drawing, that’s why it is completely stress-free. You can’t judge doodle art because any form, any shape, any pattern becomes a doodle-map of your thoughts.

Indeed a professional artist possesses more advanced drawing skills but nevertheless, artist and non-artist, you can still doodle at your own level of creativity and spontaneity.

Feel free to share your doodles with me!

Cristina Zoica Dumitru

I teach digital art courses online and on-location. My mission is to challenge students to reach their maximum potential for creativity and authenticity.

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