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Why do we doodle? The global appeal of doodle drawings explained

Who can forget this classic scene from the movie, “Clueless”? Tai proudly shows Travis her doodles of Marvin the Martian (and if you look carefully, there’s a Schwarzenegger-like torso on the pages too), and Travis asks Tai to do one of her “nice representations” on his skateboard, before saying, “Are you sure you didn’t trace them?” – Some drawings are in pencil, some are in ballpoint and color, but all of the images crowded onto the page are doodles. 

why do we doodle
[ Image by Jess Bailey via Unsplash ]

That doodle covered binder represents every school-age child on the planet. Some of us carry on the tradition of doodling into adulthood, and others let in fall to the wayside, firmly categorizing it in the “things I used to do when I was a kid” file, as we allow the writing and drawing muscles in our fingers to atrophy from eight-hour typing sessions on our keyboards.

Do you miss the dreamy days of doodling away and want to know why we all do it at some stage of our lives? Yes, doodling is officially global – if you have ever walked on the beach trailing a stick in the sand behind you to make a line, then you’ve doodled. 

Are you feeling the need to get back to your doodling roots and want to rediscover the benefits of doodling? 

This is your doodle drawing support group – because everyone loves a good doodle!

why we doodle
[ image by @shaydacampbell via Instagram ]

Doodles are how we express ourselves without words

The good news is: there’s no such thing as a bad doodle. 

Think about this scenario. You’re in a meeting and the speaker is droning on a bit. You begin to lose focus on what they are saying. Your eyes begin to dart around the room, desperately looking for something to entertain the brain. Your fingers begin to twitch and move toward your mobile device. You shift around in your seat, hyper-aware of the hard wood supporting your back. The words to which your ears are meant to be listening, processing, and then storing in your memory, are figuratively going in one ear and out the other. 

Then you start to doodle. You know you can get away with it because the speaker thinks you’re taking notes and it gives you the chance to look down and away without seeming rude. Suddenly, the speaker’s words come back into focus! Your eyes (and right-creative-side of the brain) are entertained by the doodles, so your ears (left-analytical-side of your brain) can concentrate on what the speaker is saying, without distraction. Your brain kicks into action – storing the words you are hearing in your memory and subtly guiding your doodles to help you remember where you are storing the information in your brain.

 Everyone has experienced this. I’ve been caught without my doodling equipment while stuck in a long meeting, and felt a real sense of loss because I can’t doodle draw. The minute a work colleague silently pushes a spare pencil and notepad in my direction, it lightens my mood and extends my ability to focus by several hours. Ultimately, everyone’s brain wants to be entertained, given a sense of purpose, and allowed to be creative or inventive. 

That’s why we love doodle drawings.

floral doodles
[ Super cute flower doodle by @shaydacampbell via Instagram ]

Why are some people reluctant to try their hand at doodle drawing?

Countless folks out there see someone doodling away happily, and say wistfully, “I wish I could do that – but I’m just not artistic.”

It cannot be stressed enough: ANYONE CAN DOODLE DRAW!

The problem for beginner doodlers and those who are just too intimidated to try it out, is this: just because it’s done on a notepad, doesn’t make it a doodle. So, there’s an awful lot of “look at the doodle I just did” going up on social media profiles, which aren’t doodle drawings at all. This can frighten off potential doodlers interested in trying it out. 

Key differences explained:

  • Drawing – An image/diagram/picture made using pencil/pen/crayons, and not paint
  • Sketch – A  rough/unfinished drawing
  • Cartoon – A simple, humorous drawing
  • Mandalas – Sanskrit for ‘circle’. Believed to put the person composing it into a meditative or spiritual state
  • Zen-tangle – Mixed, structured patterns
  • Graffiti – Drawings and/or writing spray-painted, scratched or scribbled onto a public surface illegally
  • Doodles – To draw or scribble absent-mindedly; to create a rough drawing with no set end goal in mind when first starting to draw

Now that we know what a doodle is, the next step is to get busy doodle drawing.

doodles journal health
[ image by @bujowithsarahh via Instagram ]

Don’t overthink it

The beauty of doodling is this: it might seem like you’re not giving it your whole attention, but our brains being the multilayered organs they are means your subconscious is actually providing you with a multitude of ideas.

Some of the most popular doodles, done by U.S. Presidents, Queens, famous authors, and ordinary people through the ages are as interesting as the people who created them. 

notebook doodles
[ Image by @thejournaltea via Instagram ]

The big question: does what and where you doodle draw matter ?

Psychological studies have been done on what you doodle, where the doodle drawings are placed on the page, and how it helps cognitive recall. Others believe that doodles have nothing to do with your personality or thought process, and everything to do with whether you’re left or right handed, how the page is placed next to you, and how tightly the book pages have been bound.

Pop psychology suggests the following interpretations:

Center doodles – Careless, selfish, and attention-seeking. Typical extrovert behavior traits.

Top margin doodles – Spiritual, independent, and energetic. The belief that their opinion matters. 

Left margin doodles – The most common side for people to place their doodles. Linked to having a strong foundation in the present with a touch of nostalgia or regret about the past.

Right margin doodles – Someone paying close attention to what goes on around them. Fond of communicating. In touch with their feelings. The most common place for people to doodle in their bullet journals.

Please note that these are just generalizations and doodle interpretation is not an exact science at the best of times.

Simple starter doodle ideas

If you want to see more ideas for doodles, check my post where I share more than 100 simple doodle ideas, and also check this drawing ideas post where I share the step-by-step instructions for drawing all of them.

  • Eyes
  • Lips
  • Flowers
  • Foliage and Leaves
  • Spirals (Ulam’s spiral was originally a doodle)
  • Houses
  • Ships and water
  • Underwater animals
  • Cars
  • Stick figures
  • Faces
  • 3D cubes
  • Brick patterns
  • Arrows
  • Animals
  • Insects
  • Food and drinks
  • Letters and initials
  • Squiggles, zigzags, dots, circles
  • Stars
  • Spider webs
  • Hearts
  • Stars and planets
  • Weather symbols
  • Teardrops
  • Geometric Shapes
easy doodles for beginners

You don’t need to decide what you want to doodle draw straight away

1. Ease yourself into a doodling frame of mind. Open your notebook and start with some random squiggles. Let your free spirit flag fly!

2. Look at how things are basic shapes or an assembly of basic shapes. A balloon is a teardrop with a string; a flower is a circle with teardrop shapes around it; a rainbow is an arch. Start basic and work up to more complex compositions.

3. If you have a wide choice of drawing tools and nibs, try out different thicknesses and angles – the same way calligraphers change thickness and angles to create letters.

4. Begin to incorporate doodles into your everyday life. Don’t rely on technology which can stifle your creativity.

One of the saddest things to happen since we started texting, typing, and tapping, is that we forgot the simple pleasure of illustrating our messages and notes, and just plain old goofing around with doodle drawings. 

One of the best ways to fight back and keep the creative candles burning, is with bullet journals

notebook fall sketches
[ image by Slav of @seed_successful_you via Instagram ]

RELATED: Want to add more than just doodles to your notebook? Take a look at this post with ideas for empty notebooks.

Doodling: for keeps or for throwing away?

Bullet journals are not just a great way to keep track of your goals, plans, and daily tasks. They can become treasured items – similar to scrapbooking – only the writing and drawings inside each year’s bullet journals are your very own original creations.

The possibility to make your bullet journal special and unique are endless. 

  • Writing in black ink pens (fineline or thick nib) and doodling in pencil.
  • Illustrating the margins with hilarious sketches about what happened that day. 
  • Using colored pens to write the days of the week (each day gets a different color) and then doodling and writing in those colors so you can tell what day of the week it was when you added them.
  • Colored pencil doodles
  • Geometric shapes added free hand or by using a geometry set – compass; ruler; stencil. Apparently Leonardo da Vinci, another avid doodler, could draw a perfect circle without using tools.
flower doodle notebook
[ image by Slav of @seed_successful_you via Instagram ]

And there you have it. Now you know why we doodle and why it’s recognized as an essential little habit we can all benefit from doing. 

Happy doodling!

Elizabeth O

Friday 2nd of August 2013

Joy me encantan tus diseños, especialmente los que estan en Español, ya que son mas dificiles de encontrar, me parece que se verian fantasticos en vynil sobre el espejo del baño ;) Muchas gracia por compartir tu talento! Que tengas un dia fabuloso!


Friday 23rd of August 2013

Muchas gracias Elisabeth!! estoy tratando de aumentar en numero de diseños en Español, de a poquitito =] ojala que para el proximo año ya tenga varios para que elijan =] un beso grande!! y muchisimas gracias por el dulce comentario


rona b.

Friday 2nd of August 2013

your new sketches look very lovely :)


Friday 23rd of August 2013

Thank you so much Rona!

Andrea Garland

Thursday 1st of August 2013

Love your doodles. Mucho mas los en español eso siempre es mas difícil de ver, yo soy de Peru, me encanto encontrar tú blog hace unas semanas atrás y saber que eres de Chile :)


Friday 23rd of August 2013

Haa!! que genial queme encontraste! siempre trato de hacer projectos en Español, pero es complicado aca porque todos hablas Ingles asi que me piden productos en Ingles, pero trato! =] un beso grande!!


Thursday 1st of August 2013

These are all gorgeous!!!!

-Becca Ladyface Blog


Friday 23rd of August 2013

Thank you Becca!!

Jess G

Thursday 1st of August 2013

I love your doodles! I can't tell you how much I love and appreciate the quote you did for me and I'll be back time and time again :)


Friday 23rd of August 2013

Thank you so much Jess! Ia m so happy you liked it =] xoxo

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