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Doodling becomes a Yeiser attraction

When a business meeting gets particularly boring, your pen starts to wander. Curlicues, horses and airplanes appear, scrawled along the margins of your notes, but as you doodle, are you really creating art? According to the Yeiser Art Center, you are. Once a month this year, local interior designer Bill Ford has held doodling workshops for children in the center, and he recently held his first class for adults. Casey Northcutt has more on an art form spawned from boredom.

Bill Ford sports a pink button-up shirt topped by a matching bow tie while two pairs of glasses rest on his head. He looks like the appropriately quirky man to host a workshop that teaches adults to let go of their inhibitions and to allow their impulses become art. That, essentially, is the point of doodling class.

“The thing with doodling, you can’t make a mistake. You cannot make a mistake.”

Woman: “But do we add? Do we start here or anywhere?

Bill: “You start where your heart tells you to start.”

Working out of the Yeiser Art Center gallery, Ford typically leads doodling workshops for children, but recently he and Yeiser board members set up a table for wine and dessert and invited adults instead. A modest admission fee makes  the event an educational fundraiser. 

Yeiser Board member Jane Gamble attends the workshop, expressing her own creativity with a symmetrical doodle of flowers and vines. She says she hopes the event will expose participants to artistic abilities they might not have known they possessed.

“A lot of people think that they can’t do art, but everybody doodles.”

And she’s right. Almost everyone doodles, and studies indicate that this idle art form can actually be good for you. An article published in the journal “Applied Cognitive Psychology” suggests that doodling can even improve your ability to focus and remember information. It describes a study in which participants who doodled while listening to a mock telephone message could recall more information than people who didn’t. Maybe that’s why a piece published in medical journal, “The Lancet”, reports that at least 26 of the American presidents doodled during their meetings.

Gamble did her own research and found that what people doodle can even be indicative of their personalities or psychological states.

“Airplanes are about speed, but they’re also about sexuality. Hearts are about romance, of course, and flowers, I think you’re sensitive.”

Bill Ford cares less about his participants’ hearts and flowers and psyches and more about their general creative expression. But, the artist does admit that holding an event for people to intentionally doodle slightly fudges the definition—doodles are aimless, so it’s hard to sit down with the intent to absentmindedly draw. However, he says in his workshops, the spontaneity lies in the drawing itself. You draw the first thing that comes to your mind.

At his workshop for adults, Ford demonstrates this, his steady hand whipping across the surface of an illustration board. Shapes and lines curve gently down the surface. And then he issues his challenge.

“You can add to what I’ve done, so if you just wanted to add something in here, so it’s just however. Who wants to be brave enough to start first?”

Participants pick up pens, and hearts, vines and kites begin to take shape on the board.

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