Now that artful doodling has claimed its place, we can fully celebrate the incredible techniques artists incorporate to create their swirls, flourishes, patterns, and marks. Want to take your own skills even further? That’s as simple as following some of the inventive and easy ideas from doodle artists who have discovered unique ways to draw, paint, and even carve gorgeous designs. Read on to discover 10 great tips for unique artful doodling:
1. A sketchy idea: In his article “The Importance of keeping a Sketchbook” in the Fall 2016 issue of Zen Doodle Workshop, Nysha Oren Nelson touts the benefits of regular drawing. By focusing on his Zentangle® designs, he discovered how to improve his artwork simply by doing, by working through ideas and creating a record for future reference. “I learned that adding pencil to shade a design made all the difference between spread that I didn’t like and one I was proud of,” he says. Many doodle artists also keep sketchbooks to record images that they can later translate into doodles, such as architectural details and patterns in nature.
2. More mandalas: Doodled mandalas offer tons of options for patterning and designs, but what’s the best way to start a mandala? In her book Creating Mandalas, Deborah Pacé suggests a few ways to go: Find a center point, and create a series of concentric circles using a compass. The circles can be as close or as far apart as you like. Or, create grid lines to make your design more geometric. Another option is to keep it loose by making your mandala freeform; for one mandala Deborah started with a dot, then created leaf shapes around it. By making eight leaves, she created a pattern she could easily add to.
3. Gourd for it: Doodles aren’t just for paper; intricate designs can be drawn on almost anything, even dimensional items. Kathy Taylor Shearer decided to add favorite patterns to dried gourds, and the results (in the article “Gourd Doodles” in the Winter 2016 issue of Zen Doodle Workshop) are astonishing. After painting the gourds with white acrylic paint, Kathi draws string lines with pencil, and commits to her patterns with a Sakura Pigma Micron pen. To make sure gourds don’t slip while she’s drawing on them, she anchors them on a waffle-like foam coaster; try that technique when doodling on other other smooth, rounded objects.
4. Bling-bling: Pretty much any medium can be used for artful doodling, but when you want to add a bit of shimmer, try foiling. In her book Doodle Trees and Happy Bees, author Kim Anderson suggests drawing designs in pencil first, then going over them with a glue pen. Allow the glue to dry until tacky, then press foil over the artwork, burnishing firmly. Gently peel back the foil to reveal the sparky designs, and re-apply the foil to any areas that didn’t adhere.
5. A cooler shade of pale: Add a tool to your doodling tool arsenal that’s usually found in the laundry room. In “Wearable Doodles” in the Spring 2016 issue of Zen Doodle Workshop, Kim Ballor uses a gel bleach pen to create doodles patterns on shirts for one-of-a-kind wearable art. For best results, hold the pen with a slight squeezing pressure and start your design with the main motifs. Work quickly; you have about a 20-minute window to finish doodling before the bleach dries. If the bleach dries it will damage the fabric, so a more subtle bleached look is better than a bright white one. Choose light- to medium-colored fabrics to work with.
6. Layer after layer: Turn your doodles into one-of-a-kind rubber stamps, and you’ll have your favorite designs available forever. In the article “Doodle Block Stamps” in the Summer 2015 issue of Zen Doodle Workshop, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer offers directions for expert stamp carving, creating designs that fit into rounded squares. The squares can be stamped in any combination or pattern to create complex doodle designs, and she shows a neat idea for layering the stamps, creating the illusion of depth. To do this, stamp each design on scrap paper and cut it out, creating a mask. Stamp onto your surface, then cover the image with the mask. Stamp onto the surface again, overlapping the paper mask. Place an additional mask over the second stamped image, and stamp again. Repeat until you like the results.
7. To the letter: Doodled letters can be created freeform, but Tiffany Lovering also likes to use a stencil, especially for a single important letter or word. In her book Zen Doodle Unleashed, she suggests using a letter stencil with an open design. Lightly trace the letter with a pencil, then draw a grid within the letter. Use the grid to create a pattern, and use color and shading to highlight the letterform. To make the letter stand out even more, create a black-and-white background pattern around it. Add additional shading around the letter for extra depth.
8. Inspirational signs: Use mehndi patterns to inspire your doodles. Kathryn Costa incorporates beautiful mehndi designs (often seen in henna tattoos) in her mandalas, and discusses their symbolism in her book The Mandala Guidebook. Birds are popular mehndi symbols, for example, with peacocks representing beauty, and swans signifying success as well as beauty. Butterflies and dragonflies symbolize transformation and rebirth. Mandalas, whether charted or done freehand, offer ample opportunity to incorporate mehndi designs; center motifs, scallops, and petal shapes can be filled with any number of mehndi-inspired doodles.
9. What an interesting background: Doodling on plain paper is great, but sometimes a stunning background is all that’s needed to give those designs an extra spark. Joanne Sharpe has an incredibly easy way to create beautiful backgrounds using just watercolors and markers. In her webinar, “Inspirational Doodle Journals,” she starts with simple accordion-folded watercolor paper, then paints each panel. On one she creates an outline with a single color, then fills it in with a loose wash. On another, she uses angular brush strokes to apply the color to fill the space. On the third, she creates another outline, this time using a water-based marker, then paints over the line with a wet brush and fills in the center with a light wash in another color. When the panels are dry, you’ll have colorful, dynamic backgrounds ready for your doodle artwork.
10. Scratching the surface: Remember the scratch-art sheets you worked on as kid? They’re back, and they’re perfect for artful doodling. Dena Ann Adams reveals handy tips and tricks for working with scratch art panels in her article “Scratch-Art Doodles” in the Fall 2016 issue of Zen Doodle Workshop. While etching a design on the panel, for example, Dena recommends keeping a tissue underneath you hand as you work. “Scratch Art paper,” she says, “has a slick surface, and any amount of oil from your hands will make scratching almost impossible.” To color doodles after creating your design, paint a light coat of Mod Podge on top of the panel, using a soft brush; this creates a uniform matte surface that’s perfect for adding color with water-based markers.
If you’re ready to add some new ideas to your doodle repertoire, check out these fantastic resources from the North Light Shop and the Interweave Store!