Thoughts on doodling

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The terrific cartoonist Pete Emslie posted several pages of doodles he drew on a newspaper, and wrote some interesting comments about the fun of doodling.

My favourite subject matter is cartooning the human face, as I love to explore the myriad shapes, sizes, and relative placement of facial features on various head shapes. Admittedly, most of my doodles end up being of cute cartoon girls, as that is a subject I can never tire of drawing! The great thing about doodling on newspaper is that it is so completely inviting and tempting. Unlike doodling on clean white fresh pages in a sketchbook, which can be rather intimidating due to the commitment of the act, sketching on newspaper is just like getting more use out of something that was destined for the recycling bin anyway. Also, there is nothing quite so pleasing as the feel of a ballpoint pen on soft, padded newsprint.
Pete Emslie on doodling



  1. I agree, newsprint is cheap and great for doodling. So why don’t you just get rid of the bright white sketchbook and just buy blank newsprint? It’s almost free and comes in huge pads. The problem with bound sketchbooks is that they make every page seem precious. A box of white copier paper is just as good.

  2. That is so true. I used to doodle on newspapers all the time as a kid. What I used to do was build bases on the newsprint and them attacked by various UFOs and things.

    I don’t get newspapers now I’m a grown-up and this post makes me realise I miss doodling on them :(

  3. I love looking through other artist’s sketchbooks. I use to sketch a lot in the margins of class notes, homework and any scrap paper I could get a hold of, but for whatever reason I don’t anymore. I’ve been following Alan Tew’s Virtual Sketchbook for years. Hes a really talented character designer for video games who just posts random pages of his sketchbooks which are quite awesome and funny.

  4. Unlike doodling on clean white fresh pages in a sketchbook, which can be rather intimidating due to the commitment of the act,

    Reminds me of “red light fever”, where musicians in the studio can’t quite commit to a song or play a good solo, whereas live they nail it every time.

  5. As I read this, my sketchbook is open in front of me, and maybe every third or fourth page will have one small sketch that doesn’t look like it was scrawled by a spastic monkey. Seeing stuff like this is both inspiring and frustrating.

  6. I’m convinced that the only time I can draw well is in class when I should be paying attention. All of the sketches I have saved are on scraps of paper and old biochem notes.

    1. Im not sure he did. His blog says hes 50, which means that he was 4 when bewitched was airing. so… no, I dont think he did.

      1. Sorry, I was unclear. What I meant was: when I look at the business-person doodle, it makes me think of Darren on Bewitched. I thought that would be a fun retro-cultural reference for “readers of a certain age”.

        Also, when someone’s throwaway doodles are this evocative, I think it means they have talent to burn. Very cool.

  7. Thanks TEKNA, I think his style has seeped into the collective unconscious! I love how he is so experienced that the use of negative space in the original ad was his template. Especially the girl to the left, although she is drawn over text, its only her hair, which has some texture details anyway.

  8. I love the art. I too doodle, mainly at work in a sketch book along side notes from meetings and what not.


    Newsprint is awesome, but I usually find myself springing for more expensive 80 lbs paper sketch books; hot press acid free takes ink pretty well.

  9. I dunno about you all, but There are few things more precious to me than a blank piece of anything, though i am partial to Solid white paper. Opening a new sketchbook is hardly intimidating. Its like standing in that space in the martix where literally anything is possible. You just make.

  10. When I worked as the sound supervisor on the TV show Psych, we mixed on the same dubbing stage as The Simpsons. They would usually be in there the day before us. Apparently Matt Groening still comes in and watches episodes and gives notes on the mix on a yellow pad, then he leaves his pad there for the next show. So every now and then I would come across a list of barely legible Simpsons notes with all sorts of Life in Hell doodles in the margins. I kept one and gave another to a rabid Simpsons freak.

  11. My gods, I would give my right arm to be able to draw like that … wait, that wouldn’t work out well, would it?

    And I’ve fallen in love with one of these girls. I won’t say which one. You can’t have her; she’s mine.

  12. The main drawback I see in using newspaper for doodling is the fact that the sensation of pencil on newspaper is for me similar to the sensation of fingernail on chalkboard. I often doodle with ink, but when using graphite I have to draw on my 50lb acid free pad.

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