Friday, January 6, 2012

Is it a Doodle or a Sketch?

(Lyric here) I am happier than a little puppy dog with two tails to wag to be involved in The Sketchbook Challenge again this year. It's been a wonderful way to challenge my abilities and to be involved in some small way with your lives and artwork. Sometimes I struggle with a theme - and that's good. You don't learn much if you don't struggle - if you don't try things that are beyond our current abilities our outside of your comfort zone.

But this month?

I absolutely LOVE this month's theme!
I doodle ALL the time. 

I have my sketchbook with me pretty much all the time and I tend to have trouble paying close attention to something if I need to sit still. I end up fidgeting enough to bother other people. I seem to listen better if my hands are busy. 

I'll doodle while I'm waiting for a meeting to start, or during the meeting. During church I pay better attention if I doodle something about what is being said.

I doodle on the airplane or at home or any time I am trying to wait patiently for something or somebody. 

Hey, maybe doodling makes me a better person? Or at least makes me tolerable to be around.

So I'm wondering - what is the difference between a doodle and a sketch? I think doodles are time killers, aimless wandering with a pen in hand. But sometimes my doodles are very purposeful. Sometimes they are looking out the window at a crazy little group of Cardinals. But that could be called sketching - maybe trying to capture the essence of the thing you are observing?

Sometimes doodling is playing with a new tool. I'm in love with my japanese brush pen - learning to control the flow of ink and make thick luscious lines or tiny delicate ones with the same tool. Or is that a learning process as I master a new technique?

Sometimes something I see will capture my attention and imagination and I quickly sketch it in. Is it a doodle because it is quick? Or perhaps because it has not end purpose? It's not necessarily trying to be something.

Sometimes I doodle what I see out my window as I'm talking on the phone. It's a sketch of a landscape through a window but it's also killing time so it might be called a doodle. I don't think it really matters.

What do you think the difference between a doodle and a sketch is?
Does it matter?


  1. I think of a doodle as something more "mindless," whereas I think of a sketch as something a little more purposeful (even if that purpose is just practice). For example, if I'm talking on the phone and just scribbling away without thinking about it, that's a doodle. But if I sit down to draw a scene I see out the window or to practice with a new pen, that would be sketching. But I'm guessing it's a totally subjective definition, huh? ;)

  2. I think a doodle comes to the hand while the attention is focused on something else, whereas while sketching our attention is focused on the subject.
    Lyric, I learned this from you: sketching teaches us to pay attention, to look at things carefully.
    Does it matter? From a linguistical perspective, it does matter, because I understand your activity differently depending on the word you use to refer to it. So, it does not matter how you enjoy putting ink on paper, it matters how you communicate it to others.

  3. I like the thoughts already presented on doodling vs sketching. As I read them I thought of the term so often used in drawing classes, mark making. I think doodling could be considered mark making until it becomes part of a sketch or drawing, that being done with focus, so well said by Angela.

  4. My first thought was to agree with the above, mindless vs. focus. Then I considered my own doodling and realized that (for me, at least) it's only true for certain types of doodling.

    When my attention is focused elsewhere, I tend to doodle organic shapes and curvy embellished letters; when I doodle with graph paper, patterns and/or my computer fonts, I become very focused, as I do when I'm sketching a real-world object. How weird is that?

  5. Thank you so much, Lyric, for raising this question. I think that you do grow more, discover more, when you are pushing yourself, focusing on something. I've always had trouble understanding "zentangle" because it seems like the opposite of a focused meditative activity. Sketching or exploring a tool or process, or finding your way in unknown visual territory takes ATTENTION and focus. Especially when you are drawing from sight. It is much much harder to really PAY ATTENTION when you are repeating the same lines and shapes over and over again. Maybe that is the challenge, but to me it seems a little too much like the mindless thing you do when you are on the phone. Just my $.02.

  6. Good question - doodle versus sketch! I always thought that a sketch was meant to look like "something" whereas a doodle is more organic yet. . . What you did with the Japanese brush pen doesn't look like "something" but isn't what I'd consider a doodle. Either way it is gorgeous!!

  7. I think of a doodle as more of a mindless type of drawing/painting/whatever the medium of choice is... but I think of sketching as a drawing I am trying to make it look like a specific thing. Thanks for the thoughts.

  8. Dont think it matter , doodle or sketch, either can be a time killer and we are probably using another part of our brain.

  9. There's such a blurry line between the two! This post is well presented ... doodling sees one through boring classes, long phone conversations, restlessness ... it's lovely to have a month dedicated to doodling!

  10. What a great question. One that I pondered when I considered this as a challenge. Yes, I think a doodle is automatic ... something your hand does while your mind is occupied elsewhere. I was planning a post on this so I'll save my thoughts :)
    Thanks Lyric, for getting the conversation started.

  11. I've been asking the same question today and looked up into google hoping to some answer that will keep in in light. Thanks for the post.


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