May 16th, 2016

The Importance Of Doodling

I wish I had all the newspaper crosswords I've ever done all together in a folder. No wait, don't go! The reason I want all those scraps of newspaper is because they would effectively make up a portfolio. A portfolio of my favourite art. You see, I'm a doodler and the space around a crossword puzzle is prime doodling real estate. But newspapers get thrown away so all my best work has been lost forever.

Bear Angry Dog


It makes me sad to think of all those little masterpieces left on trains or stuffed into the recycling bag. Sad because I know that however many times I try, I won’t be able to reproduce that old lady’s head I drew in the Evening Standard on the train from Cannon Street. I’ll never do a better dog than the one I left in Pizza Express on the kids menu. And I wish I still had that front page of the Guardian where I turned ‘The Guardian’ into ‘It be Guardian’ and drew a farmer saying it.



Like all compulsive doodlers, I’ll draw on anything and if I don’t have paper, pencil or pen, I’ll draw with my finger in the air – which is weird, I know. I have to stop myself. It’s like a kind of sensory over-spill; the pen or finger needing to describe again an image that’s already established in the brain.

But most of the time, my doodling is powered by my imagination or even [insert weird music] my subconscious. I say this because, as we all know, doodling is often done whilst we’re engaged in important phone conversations that demand all of our attention. In these instances, we’re not really aware of what we’re drawing but when the call ends, there it is: a sad whale wearing a hat or maybe a leg with a curly shoe on the end – with shading and everything. What can this possibly mean? There’s no conceivable connection between a curly shoe and extending your overdraft. Or is there?


My doodling started at an early age. My dad would bring home paper from the office he worked in and I’d doodle on that. I had my own pad of course (usually a jumbo one from WH Smith) but there was something satisfying about filling this posh, headed paper with dinosaurs, spacemen, sharks and explosions. This is what I spent most of my time doing as a child. When I was at my gran and grandad’s house, I would set myself the task of covering an entire sheet with drawings – the outline of each creature or object suggesting the shape and identity of the next one until the whole space was filled.


I went to a school that insisted we protect our books with backing paper. Wallpaper off cuts were the most commonly used material for this purpose. Any lesson would provide a snapshot of home decor in the 1980s. Needless to say, I quickly covered my backing paper with all kinds of artwork – from cartoons and caricatures, to anatomical studies and band names. My art teacher would set us tasks like drawing an old boot or painting a still life but that didn’t excite me in the way that drawing stuff ‘out me head’ did.


Whilst I do think, in my case, that I could have done with a bit more formal training, I think continuous unfettered scribbling and sketching is invaluable in developing a connection between the imagination and the pencil. Of course it’s great practice to sit and observe and then draw what’s around you – this teaches you about form and texture, light and space. But to just let your mind wander and your pen with it, well that’s creativity at its purest.

My new book Douglas, You Need Glasses! was inspired by a single doodle. Likewise my next book Shark Dog. This isn’t always the case but the process of working on a picture book will involve problems that need solving. That’s when the blank page of the sketchbook needs to be an exciting prospect rather than a scary one. A lifetime of doodling has prepared me well!


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by Ged Adamson


“Isabel opened the doors that led to my work being published. Throughout, she has offered honest opinions and patient coaching – all without ever losing the courtesy, gentility and decency that makes her a pleasure to know. I owe her deeply!”

Nick Soulsby, Creative Authors Client.