Even though I got a BFA in studio art as an undergrad, and got my MFA in Jewelry & Light Metals from RISD, I’m not a very good illustrator. Not for lack of trying, I took a LOT of drawing classes as an undergrad. I even minored in illustration. Well, that’s overstating things, I took so many classes in illustration, I minored in it by default. I got to the point where I could draw from life well enough that people knew it was a foot, or a lamp, or a duck, and then I gravitated to 3D where I got to pound on metal and make pots. Way more fun for me. Despite my lack of skills as an illustrator, I really love doodling. There is something incredibly therapeutic about a great pen on a smooth piece of paper with no expectations for the final result.

When I worked in the corporate world, I learned to use doodling to mask my frustration and boredom in meetings. In fact, I had a name for them: Rally Doodles. We had these quarterly all-staff meetings–Rallys–that were mind numbing and I would get through them by filling pages with doodles. Here’s an example from a particularly infuriating Rally:

Lots to analyze here.
Lots to analyze here.

These days, I get to draw for work every once in a while. Often when I need to draw something that needs to actually look like something, I start by tracing. It’s kind of cheating, but I try to add my own style to it. and I make sure it’s not too perfect.

This is the Leica that my Dad gave me as a wedding present.
This drawing is based on the Leica that my Dad gave me as a wedding present.

Sometimes, I combine doodling and tracing!

Little birds in a tree.
Little birds in a tree.

Tonight, I decided to relax with a little doodling while sitting on the sofa. It’s amazing how much my mind wanders, but never gets stuck, while I’m drawing. I can feel my shoulders relaxing, and my brain thinks of creative endeavors instead of worries. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with white on black and I really like the result.



Here are a couple of videos I’ve made for NHPR recently that have utilized my drawing skillz. A little bit of doodling, and a little bit of tracing, captured with a time-lapse camera. The best jobs are the ones where you get to experiment and do what you love.


3 Replies to “Doodling”

  1. That rally doodle would make an awesome fabric pattern! Really cool stuff. It’s awesome that you are having such a good time at your job. Glad you got out of this MFA quicksand

    1. I’ve thought about making some of my doodles into fabric! That Spoonflower place lets you upload designs….hmmm. Could be a good recovery project.

  2. I can help you recalibrate your definition of “not a very good illustrator” by showing you anything I might attempt to draw, if you like? You are clearly talented, you crazy goon. Love seeing your doodles!

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