How to Doodle

At whatever stage you are in your art, it’s necessary, always, to improvise. Improvisational painting is the dance of the subconscious mind, the tango of creativity—twirling the more objective mind so fast that the pursed lips of criticism can’t open until the spinning is over. And what, in the visual arts, is equivalent to dancing? Why, doodling, of course. Doodling is an almost unconscious activity and, as such, provides dramatic insights into our personalities and our psyches. How about doodling as a prelude to painting—a way of freeing our unconscious and tapping into our stores of creativity?

Use a brush
For these types of paintings, I begin by making random marks with both watercolor and liquid watercolor, using different size brushes on a sheet of hot-pressed paper. When I use liquid watercolor, taking the eyedropper full of paint, I draw with it onto a dry surface. Sometimes I wet a brush and brushed into the liquid watercolor—making it a lighter value. Once the first layer dries, I return with other colored pigments and draw over the original lines—making new lines. Working transparently, wonderful color diffusions occurred. I often repeat this process. After the last layer of paint dries, I select a color to be my dominant color and add a small grid in a strategic place. Then I begin making up shapes in the area of the focal point, where the calligraphy is most accentuated.

Pour paint
During a workshop at Springmaid Beach in South Carolina, I discovered another method. To try this, take one pigment at a time, liquefy it, and then pour it onto the paper. Before that application of paint has a chance to dry, pour another liquefied pigment into it, tilting the paper some more. Then add another pigment. You’ll end up with a multitude of crisscrossed lines that you can study and then decide what to do with it.

Zoltan Szabo, currently residing in North Carolina, is a nationally known watercolor painter and instructor, and has written six books on painting.

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