Drawing and doodling

Person doodling with a pen on a piece of paper

Drawing and doodling

A couple years back I was asked if I would hold a sketching safari around the Government Gardens for a few delegates attending a national architect’s conference. No worries. Except I figured there wouldn’t be much I could offer these seasoned professionals in the art of drawing – but we’d go out anyway and give some field sketches a quick shot. Maybe focus on a couple sculptures.

About 10 minutes into the exercise I was quite surprised, discovering that many of the team struggled with the simplest of perspective or rendering techniques. Another sign of the times I guess, where modern industry seldom swaps pixels for pencils.

As in many disciplines these days, architects and designers hop onto computers to work on their ideas. Software even sorts out the perspective, light and shadow. Nice.

It’s almost like the art of freehand sketching and drawing is dying.

But a leading Dubai-based architect reminds us that hand rendering and sketching is as important as computer generated presentations. In a design meeting, for example, nothing is sweeter than being able to sketch something up real quick, right in front of a client.

Case in point, I recall working with an artist on a mural in Monte Sereno, California a few years back. My American colleague always uses a projector to draw and compose his imagery.  One night, on a project miles from the studio he threw his hands in the air with the sudden shock realization that he hadn’t packed his projector to help draw a last minute illusory door handle.

‘No worries’, I said, reaching for a stick of charcoal, ‘I’ll get this one.’

I think I understand now why kiwi’s have gained a reputation for being self-reliant and inventive.

But when you are perched on a scaffold 50 feet in the air with failing light and pressing deadlines, even with the best of preparation or intentions, sometimes you just need to be able to work on the fly.

Sure, drawing isn’t for everyone, but turns out many of us are actually quite proficient doodlers.

Here’s an art form (one step up from the scribble), that certainly deserves a mention.

With brimming examples found in the margins of school textbooks and household phone directories (the result of extended conversations), doodles are the artistic dawdles that happen when our full attention should be otherwise occupied.

But, turns out, doodling isn’t a bad thing at all.

Research tells us that doodling can aid a person’s memory by expending just enough energy to keep one from daydreaming – which actually demands a lot of the brain’s processing power. So, in the spectrum of thinking too much or thinking too little, doodling is a mediator that helps us focus on the current situation.

In a recent study conducted at the University of Plymouth, doodlers recalled almost 30% more information than non-doodlers.

Many American presidents, including Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton would avidly doodle during meetings – and I’m sure it’s possible some of our decision-makers may be top notch doodlers too.

Of course these nonchalant, mostly unseen doodles are hugely analytical, so let’s be optimistic then that our world leaders have desk blotter-pads simply crammed with hand-hewn peace signs and big smiley faces.