Geometric versus Organic Doodling
In the “How to doodle” post way back when, I examined how I doodle around geometrically, creating geometric designs, subdivided and filled with yet more shapes. That method can be done using dice for inspiration.
My organic doodling is less structured – take a scribble – any scribble – on paper or digitally and then expand on it.
How to Doodle
- Scribble. I often use pencil for this. The key when making it is to truly scribble — don’t think and don’t try to make anything. In fact, scribble a bunch of these randomly on the page without looking. I like to keep a stack of pre-scribbled doodles to work with whenever the mood strikes, or several pages of them in my current studio journal.
First Doodle Step
- Now, pretend you’re a kid again, lying on your back on a hill watching clouds. What do you see? Each scribble is a cloud.
- At this point I like to use a brush tip pen to delineate what I see. The brush tip makes it easier to make some of the lines stronger and more obvious. You can get the same result with a different color of pen, or a pen over pencil, or whatever works for you. Remember – you don’t have to use all of the scribble – you can make multiple pictures out of the same scribble, or combine more than one scribble into one picture.
Finished and titled doodles. Click to enlarge.
There are no rules in doodling – and it’s about playing, not “real” art.
My drawing skills have always been spotty. I can turn out a lovely piece of realistic work one day, and then anything I create touching pencil or pen to paper will be utter uselessness for a week. It has, if I’m honest, always been this way. It was enough so that when I was trying to get my mother to teach me to draw that when something actually went right, she would ask me if I had traced it. It made me quit trying for a very, very long while.
Then I met one of my college roommates. Jade was (and is) an amazing draughtsman – and claimed that I wasn’t hopeless – that she could teach anyone to draw. What she really taught me was how to see — not so much what I was trying to draw, but rather what actually came out on the page. She showed me how to say, this is what works in this picture and why. This is why the overall impression is wrong. It’s really just this one little line here.
This is not to say that I always get it right now — no, my sketchbooks are still filled with hundreds upon hundreds of awful little drawings, and I have to mine for the gems, but you know? Twenty years later and that vein of gems is finally getting more regular!
This October marked the twenty third year Jade and I have been friends. the gift of drawing is only one of the many benefits I’ve enjoyed over the years. She also edits my writing, stitches some of my models, and runs a mean roleplaying game. And she produced my super-cool godson, too!
Happy Birthday, Jade!
For years I designed little cross stitch designs, all the while claiming I couldn’t draw. And I still hold the belief that not drawing shouldn’t keep you from designing pieces you want on your wall, especially if you can’t find a designer who designs just exactly what you want.
Options for the non-drawing designer!
- Make geometric counted work by making shapes on graph paper and repeating, rotating and connecting them. Yes, this is how I come up with some of my more elaborate pillow patterns, as well as my small motifs for my samplers.
- “Specialty” stitches make nice band samplers, vertical, horizontal, and round on different fabrics, worked in squares or shapes, and so on.
- Free embroidery can be designed from your own drawings, yes, but you can also combine sources of images from copyright-free materials, for example, Dover pictorial archives (royalty free), or other clipart. If it’s for personal use, you might work needlework from a coloring book page (note: be very aware of who owns the copyright of any image you plan to use on something to sell or display, whether it’s your stitching design or a finished object. If in doubt, write to the artist or the publisher or to be really safe, both, and ask permission. The worst they can do is say no or ask for a portion of the sales for royalties, and most artists are extremely friendly when approached politely. You might even make a new friend!) Personally, I still sometimes use the Dover series, especially the book and CD combos – the computer makes it really easy to copy, paste, resize, rotate, and otherwise mess with the image until it’s something I want to stitch.
Note: Dover also will send you sample pages weekly of some of their pictorial archives if you sign up for them at the Dover Website click on Free Samples in the menu bar at the top.
- The Dover and clipart method can also be used to create cross stitch by tracing the outline onto graph paper and then playing wth colored pencils to color in the appropriate squares. This takes practice, but actually is the same method I use with my own artwork when designing. This can also work with photos you have taken, and you can also use a program such as PatternMaker by Hobbyware, or PC Stitch to do this playing quicker, with DMC or Anchor colors, and then print a chart directly from the software. These programs will also take your artwork or photo and convert it directly into a needlework chart, but I don’t recommend that method – the design generated is usually huge, uses a huge number of thread colors one or two stitches at a time to visually blend the color in the photo. Basically you get a huge mosaic design that once stitched you need to stand across the room from to actually see the image. It can be an interesting exercise, it can be a nice starting point if you want to clean it up by hand, but I find that tracing the outlines and choosing my own colors produces a better product in the long run.
My mother doodled all the time. — she made little geometric designs on napkins, scratch paper, letters… once she even doodled in ballpoint pen all the way around my father’s good drafting tape (on the EDGES, not the main part — she ruined the whole roll) I took the heat for that one – mom wasn’t home when he found it and “she knew better,” so I was obviously lying. Well, yes, she did, but it didn’t stop her. and I didn’t, at that time, doodle at all.
Why not? Doodling was hard for me. I’d ask Mom or friends how they did it, “Just turn off your brain and move your pen” was the answer. But I couldn’t seem to achieve both of those things at the same time, although I am perfectly capable of doing either at once (and I’m capable of turning off my brain and dancing!). What I realized much later is that the “turning off your brain part isn’t really necessary – what they really meant was “make your brain get out of the way for a while.”
Doodling, like rough drafts of writing, requires you to turn off the inner critic that says to you “but you’re not accomplishing anything. That’s not REALLY art!”
Well, no, it’s not. It’s the building blocks of the practice of art, however. Think of it as a brainstorming activity – it doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to be finished, it just has to BE.
I have a few rules I set myself when I doodle geometrically. They were very effective in getting me started on geometric doodling.
- Start with a small iconographic image in one corner. I use flags, flowerpots, a smiley face, hearts, a stylized cat, anything I can quickly churn out.
- Draw a diagonal line from that image across the page in some way.
- Add a ribbon over the middle of the page. The image is sacred, but I’ll cross any other lines with the ribbon.
- Start filling in spaces with random patterns. I played roleplaying games for years, so sometimes I’ll role a polyhedral die to decide what to put where. Things I often use, set up for rolling two six sided die are (when you roll a number, fill the space with the description:
- 2 Wavy lines or wavy stripes
- 3 Dots
- 4 Large cowspots (blobs)
- 5 Concentric outlines
- 6 Lines radiating from any point
- 7 Checker Board grid
- 8 Stripes
- 9 Spirals
- 10 Checkerboard made from radiating lines
- 11 Crescents
- 12 Cross hatching
- Repeat the last step until all the spaces are filled or you are bored out of your mind. (Or it looks cool to you and you want to stop!)
These are the first doodles I taught myself to do in high school.
- Take your pencil and draw a squiggle. It actually works better if you don’t actually look at the page while you’re scribbling.
- Open your eyes and look at what you have scrawled. Stare at it until you see something in it — like looking for cloud shapes in the sky.
- Darken the outline of whatever you see. Instant (sort of) doodle!
- Or, draw your squiggle large and use the list of geometric fillers to fill in the spaces.
- Expand your horizons and try different combinations when doodling. Pretty soon you will be doodling with the best of them! And sometimes, those doodles can inspire embroidery!
Doodles that are currently inspiring embroidery pieces, though they aren’t on fabric yet:
I decided Thursday on a whim to actually sign up for Sharon Boggon’s new Studio Journal course at Joggles. Since I don’t have a lot of formal art training, I’ve always felt pressured by my sketchbooks… and that I shouldn’t be. So I’m hoping this will give me a new lease on them. I know just the little bit she covered sketchbooks in the Sumptuous Surfaces class helped immensely last year.
So. First week started Friday, and I’m already psyched about this. YAY!! This was a good investment for my art and my business, I think.
So Friday I went out to Michaels thinking maybe I’d get a new journal. Decided to use the one I’ve already got. Got the 2 skeins of DMC I needed to finish a sampler (Spots of Fun – by Debbie Draper). I’m doing it all in one color of variegated thread.
Anyway, while I was at Michaels, I saw these little bobbins of ribbon in the ribbon section… Ended up buying 5 of them. They’re intended for scrapbooking and paper crafts. Ummm… if you say so. I’m going to stitch with them, of course. Pictures. Click to enbiggen:
I think my favorite thread is the one in the last picture. It has what seem to be little pompoms every 3/8 inch or so. And of course it’s in blue and lavender, which though I keep trying to expand my color schemes I seem to always come back to: blue, green and lavender. Oceans. Grin.
I’ll keep y’all posted on what I’m doing with it all! If I can actually get to my studio any time soon, that is!