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Doodling as Meditation?

April 15, 2011

This post was almost ready to be published yesterday, and then we suddenly lost our internet connection again. There are system-wide problems in our rural area, and this isn’t going to be solved quickly. The ISP’s phone recording says “We are aware of the outage and are working to restore . . . blah, blah, blah.”

So as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted:

Have you ever taken a phone call while working on an art project? I know everyone has had the experience of doing unconscious doodling during a phone conversation. But while you’re working on a more serious piece of art, have you ever just kept working while you were talking? I’ve had that happen several times, and it’s always had a positive outcome. Somehow, as if by magic, I’m able to converse and at the same time be less tentative about the painting I’m working on. This same thing happened today.

Just as I’ve always said, art is therapeutic for me. It has helped to keep me upbeat and positive for most of the past 20-plus years. I truly believe this. I think it could be good therapy for anyone anywhere.

But in a recent post I talked about sketching and doodling, not necessarily as preparation for anything, and not as a finished product. I began to think of just sitting down to play with paint and drawing tools and paper as a meditative process in itself, without having to be product-oriented and without a goal in mind. In fact, I wanted to get “out of my left brain” for a bit.

For some crazy reason, I can’t bring myself (yet) to start the traditional bound journal.  I want to; I really do. But I haven’t yet decided to do that. Instead, today I got out a stack of different colors of great paper and started painting and doodling on those. After all, I reasoned, if I wanted to keep them all in once place I could choose to bind them at some future time. It’s a baby step.

But my main purpose was to just play around with no purpose. Get into a meditative space and just play. Here’s a sampling of the results.

Who knows? After doing these for a while, an interesting new set of symbols might appear, or a juxtaposition of colors, or a way that the paint is laid down. These certainly aren’t meant to be studies. But the fun part might be to look back through an accumulation of them for some  pattern to emerge.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2011 8:58 pm

    Thanks for sharing. These are fun pieces, full of texture, color. I like them.

    • April 16, 2011 5:43 am

      Thanks Judy! And thanks for stopping by and commenting. Your photographs are wonderful!

  2. April 16, 2011 2:48 am

    I just wrote a post on my blog similiar to this about having a ‘scratchpad’ book for doing just this, doodling and playing with no purpose. And in the end I did end up with a finished 11X14 ink and pencil drawing and a potential for a second one of a similar theme. I think to stay creative it’s important to keep playing with no product in mind.

  3. April 16, 2011 3:41 am

    I think the word ‘doodle’ is a misnomer when it comes to artists because whatever and whenever an artist draws they’re going to bring to it that wealth of skill, technique and imagination they have at their disposal.

    Working whilst talking on the phone has the effect of cutting the left brain out of the creative process and – as you discovered – it seems the right brain is much more confident and decisive at art-making without the interference of it’s sibling!

    Lately I’m trying to make all my art from that same place (I listen to podcasts whilst working if my L brain won’t be quiet) and my art has changed profoundly. I’m also finding that the L-R shift is a habit so that I need the podcasts less and less 🙂

    Good topic!

    • April 16, 2011 5:33 am

      WildC, point well taken about the word “doodle.” But it pretty aptly describes things like “automatic” writing or drawing. And good for you with using the podcasts! I do turn on background “talk” sometimes when I’m working. Music is good too.

      Also, you’re right about the L-R shift. I have been out of practice. Used to be pretty good at making the shift at will.

      Thanks so much for coming by. I checked out your blog and hope others will as well. I’m also following you on twitter now. Great work!

  4. April 16, 2011 4:53 am

    oh Martha … i am sure what you are doing is worthwhile and will lead on to other avenues in your art. How I wish that I could follow your example for I am truly lost at the moment. I do not even have the mental energy to pick up a pencil! But maybe having just read this before I go to the oblivion of my bed I will wake up tomorrow with the necessary ‘joie de vivre’ to try.

    You make things seem possible. XXX

    • April 16, 2011 5:22 am

      Lesly, I want you to know that just doing this little exercise got me excited and eager to go back and do more. My next step will be to make all of it portable. Small sturdy sketch pad (or possibly a book I will bind myself using great paper,) good markers, pencils, and pens. And what if one were to pre-paint the papers as a lot of journal artists do? Then you wouldn’t be staring at an expanse of white. This is definitely do-able.

      • April 16, 2011 11:16 am

        Blank index cards are a cool portable as well – fun to rearrange afterwards and ponder relationships…

        I immediately grab my ring binder journal and a biro when I have a long family phone call to make – the less intimidating the materials the better for me.

      • April 16, 2011 11:42 am

        I love that! Both ideas are great. Thank you!

  5. pat q permalink
    April 16, 2011 9:23 am

    I now am leaving pencils and assorted paper of different sizes by each telephone.! Thanks for the creative nudge.

  6. Amy McDonald permalink
    April 18, 2011 12:58 am

    gah. i straight up love

    my brain just
    better while it is doing a big nothing.
    like doodling.

    which i

    as I said.


    • April 18, 2011 6:22 am

      Amy, it had been a long time since I was doing this on a regular basis, so I forgot how pleasurable it is. Now I actually miss it when I’m not doodling. It really opens up your creative mind.

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