Archive for Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Oodles of doodles

Boredom often prompts classroom drawings

September 7, 2004


Since there have been pencils and pens, doodles have developed in notebooks and desktops as a result of boredom or an outlet for artistic expression.

Trying to decipher common classroom doodles -- such as three-dimensional objects, stars, abstract shapes, tracing letters -- could be a waste of time.

"Some people would attribute it to more than just idle passing of time," said psychologist John Spiridigliozzi, owner and president of Psychological Resources Inc., 1711 Mass. "It could be a form of expression to deal with anxiety. It might deal with boredom or the tension they feel in a classroom situation.

"There is no psychometric validity to drawings giving away deep insights to personality."

For Baldwin High School junior Amanda Helm and Lawrence High School junior Stefanie Ward, doodles stem from boredom. They don't search for the significance behind the drawings, which often surface subconciously.

"I think I doodle most of the time because you just get so bored in class listening to teachers talk hour after hour, so you just daydream and doodle little things," she said. "I notice I doodle the most in classes where I don't like the teacher and/or the subject, or if whatever they're talking about at the time doesn't interest me. I also notice I doodle when I am listening and paying attention ... like my hand is just moving around drawing little things and you're not even looking at what you're drawing."

Doodling keeps the mind stimulated, Ward said.

"When I'm in class and the subject is boring, I doodle just to stay awake," she said. "As for the doodles themselves, mine tend to be very abstract and don't make much sense to anybody but me. This is probably because when I doodle, I doodle to entertain myself and don't really care whether it qualifies as art or not."

Jo Huntsinger, an anatomy and physiology teacher at Lawrence High, isn't entertained by doodles.

"They're not paying attention to what they should be doing in class," she said. "I think it is distracting. Everything I do in class relates to lab and test we will have later. It is important they pay attention, stay conscious, ask questions. That can't be going on if they're doodling."

Huntsinger often confiscates her students' doodles, especially handwritten notes, laminates them and posts them in her class.

Rick Peñaloza, an LHS senior, has had his doodles seized by Huntsinger. His doodles, though, are more elaborate, often evolving into full-blown sketches.

"A doodle is a freehanded drawing done quickly and carefree," he said. "They are not usually well-thought out ideas that manifest themselves on paper. For me my drawings are not a doodle, but unfortunately my attention span, especially at moments of extreme boredom, are beyond bad. As weird as it may sound, I can actually concentrate better if I 'doodle' while listening to a lecture. I can look at parts of the drawing and remember what I was hearing while I was drawing."

Whereas most artwork is destined to be on display, most doodles aren't supposed to be for public consumption, said Angelia Perkins, an art teacher at LHS.

"A doodle to me is almost a form of subconcious mark-making that is not intended for anyone except the one doing the doodling," she said. "I think it is similar to activities that the surrealists use to promote where they did stream-of-conscious writing and drawing to try to get the raw information directly from the mind without concious efforts of control over the final product."

Doodles are a creative outlet for established and amateur artists, Peñaloza said.

"I have noticed that doodles usually are a self-expression of the person who drew them," he said. "These can be mere thoughts or emotions that are outleted onto a surface with the doodler's imagination. They can also simply be a way persons entertain themselves, if only for a small amount of time."

Here's a look at the perceived significance behind common doodles and their place on a page:Geometrical shapes: organized brain; clear thinking process and planning skills; meticulous planning on one's steps; efficiency, purposefulness.Stars, celestial bodies: optimism; ambition; a need to prove and advertise onself.Abstract shapes: tension; difficulty and disturbances in concentration.Arrows and ladders: much ambition; a strong drive to prove themselves; the end, in their opinion, justifies the means.Houses: search for a home; a need for family and willingness to invest in his family; a need for a spiritual shelter and search of self; feelings of insecurity.Animals: likes to defend others; love of animals; a need to take under his protection; sensitivity and consideration.Hearts: sentimentalist; when in love, there is an understandable tendency to sketch hearts.Center of page: extroversion; a need for attention; sensitivity to privacy; need for space.Left of page: drawn to the past; apprehensiveness; sensitivity; fear of being exposed.Top: enthusiasm; spirituality; unpractical approach.Bottom: critical and practical approach; at times depression.Source:

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