Once Upon a Doodle….

Before I kick off today’s post, just want to let you all know that this is not part of my ongoing Navrasa Series, of which  I’ve covered seven emotions till now and still have two more to go. But, that’s work in progress, as I am yet to put down these two rasas onto my canvas, so, I’ll get back to them as and when I complete their respective artworks. Till then, here’s something fun. Hope you enjoy it!!

Remember those cartoon versions of your teachers and friends you would absent mindedly sketch in school when you were bored in class? And the caricatures of your favorite TV stars or comic book heroes that you would squiggle out while chatting idly on the phone with your BFF? Well, guess what! You are still doing these things as you drift off in the middle of a meeting in office or even when you have nothing better to do at home!!

This compelling urge to put pen to paper as a grown up, or scribble with a crayon on a wall as a child is what we call “Doodling.”

So what is a doodle? It is an unfocused drawing made when a person’s attention is otherwise occupied. Doodles are simple drawings that can have concrete representational meaning or may just be abstract shapes. It’s the easiest thing to do and easy on the common media, such as paper, pen and pencil.

Doodling is mostly associated with kids, especially toddlers as their hand–eye coordination and mental faculties are not advanced enough to ensure their coloring attempts stay within the lines of their drawings. But, that doesn’t mean adults don’t doodle.  In their case, it is generally done casually or out of sheer boredom.

Doodle Art is abstract art, may or may not have concrete meaning or definitive shape and structure, but it looks unique and interesting. It sometimes even expresses it creator’s emotions which makes it an extremely profound and intense activity with its very own trademarks.

Doodle art can also involve the use of repeated patterns to decorate a drawing or image. There are many other versions of doodling such as Line Weaving, Repeat Pattern Art, Neo Pop Realism and Zentangles.

So, are doodling and drawing the same?

The answer is – No.

A drawing is defined as a picture or diagram made with marks and lines. Drawing is a work of visual art — the result of a productive process — whereas doodling is not. Drawing is the result of focused thinking and attentive observation. Drawing is meaningful. It communicates something, whether form, space, likeness, action, or ideas.

Doodling, on the other hand is aimless. A doodle is created with the sole objective of keeping a person occupied. It doesn’t need to be a meaningful, accurate drawing that depicts or conveys something. A doodle is simply a mark or series of marks that can be playful, geometric, linear, shaded, etc., etc. Anyone can doodle. It requires no talent, skill or special training.

Doodling is like daydreaming when we let our imagination run wild and let it come alive on a piece of paper whereas drawing is an organized activity which is preceded by observation, studying and analysis of the subject, so as to align our mind and body in a particular direction.

Doodle art is a fun way of expressing yourself. But it’s often underrated as an art form. Combining child-like doodles with expressive illustrations can create some beautiful and eye-catching designs. Doodling can support drawing. Doodling, in a way can be used as a warm-up session, loosening the body to engage in the drawing to come.

Who invented doodling?

Nobody knows exactly who invented doodling, but it was probably started by the cave men in the Stone Age. So cave drawings, technically, falls into the category of doodling. It is believed that they would crush beetles or anything else that created a pigment and used their fingers as their “pencil” or “brush” to paint onto the walls of caves.

One of the oldest abstract markings has been discovered in Indonesia. The zigzag marking carved by our earliest ancestors is said to be over 500,000 years old according to archaeologists. The scribble on a shell is the first evidence that man ever drew, paving the way for epoch tales and triumphs to be detailed in drawings in caves across the globe.

Prehistoric men made chicken-like etchings on cave walls to communicate and tell a story (or as some may argue, to perform rituals). Besides their fingers, cavemen also used stones and sticks to draw abstract patterns, human hands, and wild animals. Some such drawings were found in France and Spain. Around 3200 B.C., the drawings advanced from cave walls to clay tablets. Some rescued tablets from the Mesopotamian societies were said to have the same random images on the edges and sides of the clay pieces. Soon, in Africa as well, massive doodles of animals started to appear.

Moving the clock further in time, during the 15th century, due to the inefficiency of having to dip the quill in ink constantly, doodling was not a very convenient activity to indulge in. However, with the invention of the fountain pen in the 16th Century, things changed. This gave doodling a small boost, but not much. However, the Renaissance was right around the corner and during this period, innovators, inventors, even Leonardo Da Vinci, doodled with pens during times of stress and pressure. Even the Queen of Prussia doodled in 1795.

In 1875, the pencil had just been perfected by an inventor by attaching wooden handles around the “lead” (which has since been replaced with graphite due to the poisonous effects of lead). But pencils were expensive, and rural students couldn’t afford them due to the expensive wood handles. Then there was a twist during World War 2. England outlawed all pencils because “its lead and wood could and should be used for war efforts instead”. So people came up with a simple yet effective solution – replace the wood with cheap, red cedar. This made pencils much more affordable and England no longer outlawed them. To this day, our pencils are still made from red cedar. So pencils helped take doodling to a new level and thereafter there was no stopping people from creating doodles in the name of art.

Evolution of Doodling

Some of history’s most influential people were doodlers, and you’d be surprised at how many goofy stick figures decorate the margins of famous historical manuscripts.

The word doodle first appeared in the early 17th century to mean a fool or simpleton. It may have been derived from the German word Dudeltopf or Dudeldop, meaning simpleton or noodle (literally “nightcap”).It is the origin of the early 18th century verb to doodle, meaning “to swindle or to make a fool of”. The modern meaning emerged as a term for a politician who was doing nothing in office at the expense of his constituents. That led to the more generalized verb “to doodle”, which means to do nothing.

Doodles have been found in medieval manuscripts, as well as in the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci and on the margins of manuscripts written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings are iconic. His bizarre mechanical inventions, life drawings of fetus in the womb and cross sections of animal skeletons are showcased in many museums across the world.

The increasing preoccupation in the 20th century with manifestations of the unconscious and the desire to interpret them both as art forms and as clues to the nature of personality have led to considerable interest in doodles. The Surrealist method of automatic drawing was used by Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, and André Masson, and Jackson Pollock, an Abstract Expressionist, who did a series of drawings that were used as an element in his psychoanalysis.

In the final courtroom scene of the 1936 film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, the main character explains the concept of “doodling” to a judge unfamiliar with the word, saying that “People draw the most idiotic pictures when they’re thinking.” The character, who has travelled from a fictional town in Vermont, describes the word doodler as being “a name we made up back home” for people who make “foolish designs” on paper when their mind is on something else.

Alexander Pushkin’s notebooks are celebrated for their superabundance of marginal doodles, which include sketches of friends’ profiles, hands, and feet. These notebooks are regarded as a work of art in their own right. Full editions of Pushkin’s doodles have been undertaken on several occasions. Some of Pushkin’s doodles were animated by Andrei Khrzhanovsky and Yuriy Norshteyn in the 1987 film My Favorite Time.

Another big boost for doodling came along in 1998 with the first Google Doodle for the Burning Man Festival. This increased the popularity of doodling dramatically. Then future studies about how doodling improves the brain just helped even more!

Other notable literary doodlers have included: Samuel Beckett, the poet and physician John Keats, who doodled in the margins of his medical notes, Sylvia Plath and the Nobel laureate (in literature, 1913) poet Rabindranath Tagore, who made numerous doodles in his manuscript.

Mathematician Stanislaw Ulam developed the Ulam spiral for visualization of prime numbers while doodling during a boring presentation at a mathematics conference.

Many American Presidents, including Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, have been known to doodle during meetings. Notable doodlers also include some legendary authors.

Ralph Steadman’s splattered illustrations and ink splotted doodles have frequently splashed across the pages of newspapers, magazines and famous authors for over 80 years. His provocative cartoons and often grotesque illustrations were brought to life beyond the precise technical drawing that occupied his professional career in The Royal Air force. Hopping across the pond to the US, Steadman experimented with the satirical and provocative illustrations that he is renowned for. His creative process often began with a blot of ink on a white page, and later combined acrylic and oil paint, etching and silk screen to create an abundance of lines and layered marks. He treated unintended marks as an opportunity to take his work in a different direction, the true ethos behind the doodle.

Digital Doodles

The conventional doodle drawing is changing. As technology makes our lives bigger, better, faster, stronger, it seems even the doodle is keeping up with the times as artwork makes the digital jump.

Google Doodles

Since the first doodle went live in 1998, Google has invited guest artists and illustrators to join their doodle team on over 2,000 homepages across the world. 

Celebrating anniversaries, visionaries, famous artist and the pioneers, their inspirational doodle-a-day ethos brings an element of joy to our daily Google search. From interactive games to detailed drawings, the range of doodles is endless fun. Running an annual competition across the world, they invite everyone to get thinking the doodle way and create their own digital artwork.

The endless possibilities for digital drawing have taken artists and illustrators to new realms of doodling.

Snap Chat

Sharing his adventures in 10 second bites of hilarious scribbles, artist Shaun McBride has taken his snaps to new levels, with his imaginative photos of his day-to-day life with his alter ego Shonduras.

From back-to-back snap sequences to a creative short film, Shaun has transformed Snap Chat into a platform where creativity and artwork can thrive.

What does one doodle?

Different people doodle different things, and even the same person will doodle different things depending on his or her mood. Besides cartoon characters and caricatures, doodling can also be of imaginary fantasy characters, mythical creatures, landscapes, geometric shapes and patterns, textures, banners with slogans, etc. Other commonly doodled subjects are – People, Faces, Flowers, Squares, cubes and checkerboards, Bricks, Arrows, Flying animals, Houses, Ladders and stairs, Names and initials, Squiggles and zigzags, Transportation vehicles, Stars, Spider webs, etc.

The Benefits of a Daily Doodle

Here are some benefits of doodling:

1. It stops your brain from slipping into its default state

When your brain has nothing to do, it goes into a default mode, enabling it sit and wait for the next task without using up too much energy. This default mode is active when you are daydreaming or replaying memories in your head. Doodling keeps people from falling into that default state and daydreaming. It keeps them at just the right level of arousal where they are able to attend to the information while drawing away. Doodling helps people concentrate and listen when the subjects can get rather boring.

2. It can improve your memory

Sometimes instead of daydreaming, what you need is for your brain to disengage but to still be paying attention to outside stimuli. That is where doodling might come in handy. Doodling has been scientifically proven to improve the retention of information as well as focus and concentration on the task at hand.

3. It can make you more creative

Doodling can be used to communicate, to reason, to engage, and to learn. You can use your doodles to clarify your ideas for your colleagues or clients, to help guide them and engage them through your reasoning for a design or idea, as well as to help yourself learn new techniques and to discover new ideas. It can help you come up with specific ideas to solve whatever problems you might be stuck on. Doodling can also help generate and refine ideas that you have already had as well as help with the negative aspects of creativity.

4.It is a stress buster

Whenever you are frustrated, anxious, or depressed, it can be difficult to convey those feelings in words. If are unable to find the right words, consider sketching out what you feel instead.

5. It is cheap and fun

Doodle art work and creativity is a means which is cheap and fun. It does not require special paper such as canvas. It’s entirely up to the artist when it comes to the equipment and doodling style in terms of his or her budget, convenience and signature style.

Doodling has a drawback too….

If the task you are supposed to be concentrating on is visual then doodling might not be the best thing to be doing. Multitasking using the same modality, vision, is too much for your brain to handle, and it has to prioritize one over the other. So, basically, doodle, except when you’re supposed to be watching something else. Otherwise there are almost no downsides to a bit of doodling.

Present day Doodle Artists

The popularity of Doodle art is growing day by day due to its abstract and unique characteristics. Now doodle art style has been widely in use as an element in graphic design, in mobile advertising, TV, etc. By using elements of doodle art, the messages conveyed in the work seem more friendly, relaxed, and humane.

Here are some global artists who do doodle art:

There are some awesome Doodle Artists in India as well, who will inspire you to try your hands on doodling yourself. Here are some Indian “Doodlers” who depict almost every kind of subject through their illustrations –

1. The Filmy Owl – Angel Bedi has made her way to success through her amazing doodles, eventually coming out with customized merchandise with her doodle art on it.

2. Neha Doodles – Giving us a reality check, her quirky, funny and generic doodle memes connect us to our everyday lives. She’s got it all covered from women empowerment doodles to the daily drama of life.

3. Metrodoodle

Doodling is not just about creating art on paper but a majority of artists also doodle through virtual mediums creating some fascinating doodles. The Metrodoodle also works on the same lines – creating some super cool doodles around the everyday metro life.

4. Delhidoodler08

Sadhika Gupta aka Delhi Doodler creates some beautiful, lively and interesting doodles with soothing watercolors and amazing calligraphy. She places her doodles in front of real-life backgrounds giving it some more life.

5. Doodle-O-Bong

Be it Mother’s Day, a special occasion or inspirational quotes, this one has got it all. She’s got her creativity on point with her artsy doodles.

6. Doodles by Mansha

Doodles by Mansha centers around illustrations, doodles and making people smile through her beautiful content. Her artistic doodles are filled with colorful imagery giving out positive vibes. She paints her thoughts down through beautiful calligraphy and vibrant colours.

7. Doodleodrama

Mounica Tata’s innovative and amazingly inspiring doodles convey a message and have a streak of maturity in them.

8. Abhinav Kafare

Abhinav Kafare doesn’t limit his art to doodles but has so much more to contribute and express his art through amazing graffiti as well. One can easily sense the maturity and essence of reality in his art which.

9. The Bombay Doodler

Speaking his heart out through his super-creative doodles, The Bombay Doodler has created some awe-inspiring and expressive artworks.. He can create it all from flowery doodles to mature inspiring work.

10. Trshdoodle

Trisha Gupta just started with her creative journey of creating some quirky doodles, which includes some super cool ones she created for Dunkin Doughnuts. She uses her creativity to make the best of the content to surprise her viewers. 

My Experiments with Doodling

Doodling is super fun and de-stressing. It is something each and every one of us would have done at some point in our lives, without even realizing it. In my opinion, doodle art encompasses all that art should be – creativity at its best without being tied down by rules.

I have recently come across such inspiring and creative doodle art that I find myself being drawn towards it more and more and have been inspired to try it out myself. And you know what? I found it’s so much fun that I look forward to it every day! In fact, I am almost addicted to it!! Here are some of my creations which were not only a great learning experiences for me, but also helped me evolve as an artist as I eased into the world of doodle art.

While creating these artworks, I have tried to explore various styles of doodling with an attempt to incorporate conventional as well as contemporary motifs in combination with other mediums or techniques of art. I have also tried doodling on various surfaces, that is, different types of paper. I will be talking about all this further down along this post.

Some of these artworks fit into the gamut of pure doodle art and don’t express anything in particular, while others have an underlying theme or message. In other words, some are meaningless and some hold meaning! Either ways, I consider them all as doodles.

The Hepburn Doodle – This one is inspired by the great Hollywood diva of the yesteryears, Audrey Hepburn. I decided to try and reinterpret this well known illustration of the starlet through the techniques of doodling. Not only have I rendered my version with various lines, marks and patterns characteristic of doodle art, I have also experimented with the surface, by using hand-made paper. On hindsight, this was a mistake as hand-made paper is not suited for pens and markers, thereby causing blotting and bleeding of colors at certain places. So keep this is mind when you are selecting your surface you intend to doodle on. Having realized this in time, I have rendered the background with pencil colors, which thankfully worked better.

The Hepburn Doodle

The Monroe Doodle – Like the Hepburn Doodle, this is also a rendition of yet another Hollywood diva, one that we all are familiar with, namely Marilyn Monroe. Once again, I have used a well know visual, that is the famous “flying skirt” image from a photo shoot for the film “The Seven Year Itch.” This time around, I was luckier even though the surface was hand-made paper. No blotting or bleeding…Phew! What a relief!! The yellow glow around the figure has been imparted by pencil colors.

The Monroe Doodle

Girl Power – I did this when Women’s Day was just around the corner. It is a totally spontaneous and impulsive rendition of as well as my tribute to femininity. Being an Indian, nothing for me epitomizes the strength of a woman better than Goddess Durga herself. Hence, I have doodled out a modernistic version of Her, thereby symbolizing the determination and grit of the women of today, tomorrow and for all times to come. I have used gel pens as a medium for this artwork and the surface of choice is black cardstock. A minimalistic illustration, but with a strong message.  

Girl Power

Health is wealth – According to Hindu mythology, Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth, prosperity and fortune and an embodiment of beauty as well. She is depicted in Indian art as an elegantly dressed, prosperity-showering golden-colored woman seated or standing on a lotus pedestal, with four hands, which represent the goals of human life.I have used this very iconographic image of Lakshmi to depict the greatest wealth for us all – our health. With the help of various elements of doodle art, I have stylized her form, along with that of the lotus and the surrounding water pool. Each of her hands shows how every body part is equally important for our overall health and there is no bigger fortune that a healthy body, mind and soul.

Health is Wealth

Touching Lives through Welfare – Depicting social welfare through art was a big challenge for me.  So, I decided to combine drawing as well as doodling to produce an abstract composition which portrays specific welfare organizations in my region. Each arm represent one such organization and together, hand in hand, they all work  in tandem towards one common goal – welfare of the under privileged. I have used geometrical shapes and patterns as doodle motifs in a multiple color palette to create this artwork.

Touching Lives through Welfare

Doodle Sub – If there’s one subject that has fascinated me as much as dragons, it is, the mighty submarine. I have dedicated an entire post to them in the past, which gives a detailed account of two of my original artworks of these invincible war machines (refer to posts dated July 27, 2019 and August 3, 2019). Yet again, I found these underwater giants calling out to me, but this time I wanted to render them differently. So I thought to myself, why not try doodling? I have used almost every element and motif of doodling to adorn the submarine, the underwater seascape as well as the aquatic flora in this stylized piece.

Doodle Sub

The Steel Shark – I decided to take my obsession for submarines to the next level by combining doodling and digital art. In this artwork, I have personified the submarine as a shark which truly epitomizes its stealth and menacing power. I rendered this personified version with prismacolor pencils, whereas the underwater seascape has been rendered digitally. Where’s the doodle you ask? In the lines of the rising waves of course!

The Steel Shark

Guardians of the Sea – And the saga of the submarine continues…only this time, it’s the entire fleet! This artwork depicts them all making their way underwater, prowling through the deepest abyss of the ocean. Once again, I have incorporated most of the marks, lines, scribbles and patterns  that are inherent to doodle art, with an attempt to impart individualistic character to the cresting waves, the surging underwater currents and the submarines respectively.

Guardians of the Sea

So are you feeling inspired enough to incorporate doodling into your art? Well, what are you waiting for?! Pick up your pens and pencils and doodle away!! But do share your explorations and experiences with me in the comments section below. Happy Doodling!!

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. While there may be copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, I have only made it available with the sole effort to stimulate creative progress and artistic enrichment. Some images may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. I have also used these links for reference purposes and collection of data; therefore I give full credit to the respective web pages. Most of the data in this post is based on my personal experiences and opinions and I am not responsible for any material that is found in the links at the end of this post.

Sources and Photo Credits –









8 thoughts on “Once Upon a Doodle….

  1. An amazing write up!! i never would have realised the history and depth of doodling. i bsolutely loved your doodles, each one of them told a great story and i especially loved the doodles of the submarines!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What an interesting and thorough look at the world of doodles with lovely artwork as well. Who knows, maybe doodling is the secret to overcoming my writer’s block… Thanks for the great piece!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! This is all new to me.
    Learnt a lot about doodling, its history and about different doodlers.
    Your doodles are great Neha , and even though you have tried to simplify it, I am not sure I have the guts to tread on this path and produce great stuff like The Manroe doodle, or Girl Power or the Submarine ones.
    I think I will stick to abstract lines.
    Maybe one day you will put them down as great doodles. Hope so.
    Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

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