Doodling With A Purpose 001

Anyone Can Draw. If a person has enough hand/eye coordination to write their name, then they have more than enough to draw. This course is less about learning how to draw than it is about making drawing part of a daily practice and learning to love to draw. 

Most people’s goal when taking a drawing class is to move beyond drawing symbols, and into drawing things that look “realistic”. Making marks and drawing what we THINK things look like is actually a solid step towards exploring what they actually DO look like. Let’s grab some paper and a pen and start Doodling With a Purpose.

Lesson 1- Wagon Wheels and caterpillars

1. Start with a series of lines… |||||||||||||||||…etc

I remember when I was first looking at pay rates for interior illustrations for role playing games, thinking “How can anyone draw fast enough for this to be worth their time?” It turns out that even something as simple as drawing a series of lines in a row, takes some thought and effort at first. Think about a star baseball player for a second though. I will never be a baseball star, but that’s because I don’t love the game. I don’t play the game. When that baseball star was a kid, they did a lot of mindless throwing and catching…everything. All that messing around with a glove on one hand and something to throw in the other, they were building muscle memory to make the “work” of playing seem easy. 

Exercise like this, as simple as they seem, will eventually allow us to do this without thinking about it. We’ll make marks confidently and quickly.

2. Next, let’s draw some stars…*******…etc

Maybe we can experiment a little with the length of the lines. Then try seperating the lines. It gets harder to do…more difficult to keep them even and lined up the less connected they are, doesn’t it? Just like we were building muscle memory with the little lines, we’re building patience, control, and muscle memory with these stars. And just like with the lines, this will eventually become mindless while we’re thinking about other things. 

3.Next, let’s draw some circles. Don’t get in a hurry. The size doesn’t really matter, but let’s shoot for somewhere between a nickle and a half-dollar. Add a circle in the center of those circles. Actually, you know what? It doesn’t even have to be in the center. Let’s try that too. while you’re drawing your circles, look at where the pen is going rather than where it is. This will help get clean flowing lines that look confident and sure of themselves, rather than wiggly, trembling things that aren’t sure what they want to do with themselves. These are all things you can do while you’re waiting on hold with the cable company.

4. Next, We’re going to draw lines radiating from the outside circle towards that inner one. The goal is to have all the lines remain perpendicular to the outside edge and to go straight to the middle. Like the spokes of a wheel. It’s okay if they’re not perfect.

Not all of our sketches need to go on the refrigerator.

5. A variation of the same exercise is to draw some caterpillars. start with an irregular shape like a cooked spaghetti noodle tossed on the counter, and draw lines radiating out from it all along the outer edge. Try alternating the length of the lines. Or the width of them. Or the space between them. What details does this doodle need to become a caterpillar?

Many doodles pull from our universal symbol language rather than from our observational visual vocabulary. People who are good at Pictionary aren’t necessarily better drawers. They’re better symbol makers.  I love seeing the difference between what we think a thing looks like and what it actually does look like. 

While we’re drawing lets go ahead and try a couple of more variations. An amoeba…a light bulb…Let’s allow our minds to wonder for a minute and just have fun.

Pulling it all together.

There is a point to all these doodles. A purpose and a reason this is out first exercise. The three largest and most versatile building blocks for image making are line, shape, and tone. Pretty much no matter where we start (usually I want to start with line and then move on to shape), students want to jump into shading. Expressing tone to find form and make their drawing look real. Make it good.

Your drawings are already good! I love your work!

Using tone and shading is how we make a drawing look three-dimensional, or real. And like it or not, that’s what we’ve been taught to think a “good” drawer draws. This is the basic building block of shading spheres and light source….which is the basic building block of everything else. As we doodle and begin to bring these ideas together we’ll begin to add more layers of complexity but every drawing begins with this simple shell of line, shape and tone. 

Until next time, Take care and be good

Your friend,


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