Help me doodle pretty.
November 5, 2007 7:08 AM   Subscribe

DoodleFilter: How do I learn to draw intricate patterns freehand?
posted by Laugh_track to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I know this sounds "tongue-in-cheek" - but "practice".

That and go to the store/library and get some books on "how-to-draw-x" and start copying. Once you develop the fine motor-skills by copying, it should be easier to do your own stuff.
posted by jkaczor at 7:33 AM on November 5, 2007

Do it repeatedly. There's no secret, do it a lot and learn along the way.
posted by fire&wings at 7:39 AM on November 5, 2007

Don't copy. Art is not a recipe. Find a pen you really like, some nice paper, start small (maybe in a corner) and let your designs "grow". Suspend judgement. Don't erase. Uniqueness and inconsistency are your friends.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:01 AM on November 5, 2007

I'd recommend checking out Islamic art; it's really pattern-based so it kind of opens up possibilities from simple shapes.
posted by shownomercy at 8:02 AM on November 5, 2007

The question is kind of vague to me, but I'll give it a shot. If want you want to doodle is what I think you want to doodle, is first find a motif that forms the base of this pattern. Maybe it's something like squares of made up of squiggly lines or bubbles. Repeat this motif, but add small changes here and there, maybe the squares are bigger, smaller, canted at a different angle, done in red ink instead of black. Keep the primary motif the focus and the changes, the flourishes if you will, to a minimum to keep them interesting and to keep the image from just being chaos. It's like a song, in a way.

This is sort of what I'm talking about. There are at least six seperate styles going on here, but in each of them, you can see the repitition with variations. I don't know much about this artist, but you can see more of their work here.
posted by picea at 8:07 AM on November 5, 2007

Response by poster: Sorry, I should have been more specific. What I want is to make harmonious, symmetrical, abstract drawings that are visually appealling, and I don't really want to express myself.

I'd love to hear about some good books containing decorative line-based patterns, simple ones to start with and complex ones for later.
posted by Laugh_track at 8:14 AM on November 5, 2007

Have you tried going to and searchign for celtic or islamic patterns? Also, just about any local arts store will have these types of books.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:34 AM on November 5, 2007

Try some Celtic Knots to begin with.
posted by brautigan at 8:34 AM on November 5, 2007

My doodles and art involve intricate linework. For me, it's the interaction and flow of the patterns rather than any rigid regularity. My influences include Mayan imagery and Australian aboriginal art.
And some of those mushrooms I had back in college ;)
posted by Thorzdad at 8:42 AM on November 5, 2007

No book recommendations, but I do what I think you're talking about. I start near the corner of the page, usually with something to focus on with a clear, simple edge shape, like a spiderweb or a yin-yang symbol, then start drawing around the shape. I focus on keeping the lines and edges equidistant and don't lift the pen from the paper very often, and very shortly patterns start to emerge. Don't think about it, just let your hand draw, concentrating on the distance between the lines. I end up drawing lots of spirally swirly-type patterns, but occasionally it gets angular. Sometime I'll throw in more little focus points, like a butterfly or a vine or some dots, particularly when it's a doodle through a long training session getting interrupted by group activities or the like.
posted by goo at 8:50 AM on November 5, 2007


The diagrams and methods in this author’s book series would be a good place to start, even if you’re not specifically interested in Celtic design; the methods are illuminating regardless. Also recommend this.



Be sure to scroll thru the Customers also bought links on each page.

As for freehanding symmetrical images, practice and drawing on a grid will help most, in my experience.
posted by dpcoffin at 8:51 AM on November 5, 2007

There are certainly some tricks you can learn. I would recommend reading up on tessellation.

Start with a basic shape pattern, i.e. bricks or hexes. Then you draw something in one of the shapes, remembering that your drawing will be meeting itself at the edges.

I think it makes more sense if you look at this. You "cut" one side out of the cube and add it to the other. This also looks pretty promising, if you don't mind that it's intended for middle-schoolers.

In any case, what's going on in my examples aren't necessarily doodles, but the ideas behind what's they're doing should be able to carry over to drawing.
posted by kpmcguire at 10:27 AM on November 5, 2007

I'm not much of a pattern doodler myself (self link: doodles).

But tessellations and celtic/Islamic patterns are a good start.

Check out The Technical Pen. It includes some good examples of various pattern based shading and crosshatching techniques.

Other sources of inspiration might include quilting patterns,
posted by alikins at 2:21 PM on November 5, 2007

Another approach. I do this in meetings, it helps me concentrate. Draw- put ink down on the paper and don't pay attention to what you're doing. Just fill the space. This works for me in meetings, because I'm listening and thinking about the meeting, and not thinking about what my hand is doing. The key is to make the lines on the paper take on a life of their own, and they'll take you where they want to go. Just remember, you're not in charge, the ink is.
posted by Area Control at 12:36 PM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

My doodle technique at meetings: always have some lined paper and a pencil or pen. Across the lined paper, I start out with a single long twisting overlapping line. The next step is to study the structure and find areas that are the most interesting... then just start using different fill styles to color in the shapes: hash marks, solid, bricks (outline the line), etc.

I use to be embarrassed that I did this activity during meetings. I'd secretly create the starting scribble in private. Finally, I just became comfortable to just boldly make the scribble right in front of everyone at the start of the meeting.

Now, my supervisor even tells me occasionally, before an intense meeting, "be sure to bring your doodle paper..." Doodling is a great way for kinesthetic type people to channel energy when trapped in a room with others during long dialogue.

I have to remember, though, that there does come a point when I need to start with a new design... I can sometimes over "fill in" these types of doodles.
posted by chase at 4:59 PM on November 7, 2007

Book recommendation: Keys to Drawing with Imagination by Bert Dodson. "Strategies and exercises for gaining confidence and enhancing your creativity." The majority of the book starts out straightly focusing on doodling.
posted by chase at 5:56 AM on November 8, 2007

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