“Everyone Doodles” makes art approachable

Last Saturday afternoon, students and community members ventured into SCI 145 in anticipation of one of the many courses offered during the Peripeteia weekend. This particular workshop, “Everyone Doodles”, was developed and taught by David Holmgren ‘18. With the understanding that the course would be geared towards participants with a wide range of artistic backgrounds, people of all interests and areas of study showed up united by one shared characteristic: an interest in doodling.

Unlike the formal academic courses Swarthmore students are used to, Holmgren stressed from the beginning that his workshop would be laid-back and spontaneous.

“I want you to be doodling while I’m talking…I won’t get mad,” he said.

Some participants brought their personal sketchbooks and art supplies with them, but Holmgren also provided materials for those who were diving into the art of doodling for the first time. A colorful array of pencils, pens, and markers were spread across the front desks along with stacks of blank paper inviting students to tap into their imaginations and create characters, shapes, and worlds where none had existed before.

As everyone began to doodle on their papers, Holmgren shared a brief Powerpoint presentation highlighting the scientific importance of doodling in academic settings. According to research presented by Holmgren, drawing while taking notes in a lecture improves the brain’s attention to the subject and often helps students form personal connections to the information they are learning.

Doodling is a very popular activity among a surprisingly wide variety of people. Holmgren pointed out that numerous celebrities and even presidents have doodled throughout history. Our current president Barack Obama is no exception to this trend; a sketch of his sold at a charity auction for $2,075 when he was still a senator.

The remainder of the course was spent doing exercises with partners and small groups that promoted social interaction while drawing. One activity had students doodling on their own for 5 minutes before switching papers with the person next to them and finishing their neighbor’s drawing. This exercise encouraged a flow of inspiration as well as an attitude of spontaneity, teaching participants to be open-minded about the outcome of their art.

“I want to show people that art doesn’t need to be elevated and unattainable … It can be accessible to anyone who enjoys it,” Holmgren replied when asked about his goal for the course. “You do you. You don’t need to be good. Just express yourself.”

A prospective art major in his second year at Swarthmore, David Holmgren already has an impressive background in art education. He attended two years of vocational art school back home and has taken four art courses since coming to Swarthmore. His experience only adds deeper value to his claim that if they haven’t before, everyone should doodle.


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