Through Concentrated Breath

making images from memory

The Rules of Doodles I

21 October 2017 by Rey Armenteros

I am a tireless inventor of useless processes, but I firmly believe that in some such throwaway activities, I will find that mound of treasure that can point to new artistic directions.

Doodling could be one of these activities, but recently, I have been adding a certain twist to the meandering drawing you do when your head is not particularly going in any direction. I have been adding rules to my doodles, so that I can play a game as I explore. I’ve been using something I call loops, and I recall this coming about when I was doing variations of the typical spiral one day, not so long ago (when the spiral by itself was not quite sufficient to pass the time). I distorted my spirals, searching for something else, striving for unpredictable ways to get at a drawing that was not a spiral. My goal was to find forms I could place in an asymmetrical choreography, and the rules were my way of destabilizing expectations. Rules or no rules, I was still looking for ways to come up with images from something that was abstract; this was just a different take on that basic idea.

The loops could be any shape including having rectilinear sides, and they can bend in any direction, but a single loop had to stop when it ran into its own loop line, where I would start another loop. And I would try to adhere to these limitations. As an option, it could also stop when encountering another loop if it happened before touching its own line. A loop line could also intersect another loop line and create new shapes in between two or more loops.

When I doodle, I don’t usually have something in mind, but for weeks, I’ve been counting the loops, after having settled on the number five. Even if I did not designate a subject matter, that number of loops does reference something for me because it is based on human qualities. The number five is the human number because we are limited to five senses, we have five fingers on each hand and foot, and we have five limbs if you count the head. So, I would use five loops for every discrete form I would come up with, trying to find a face, a foot, a hand, or a body.

Sometimes I did have something in mind, and if it were a human, I would count the loops anyway. If I tried to bring back a certain old friend I no longer knew, I would think about this person and doodle the five loops without looking at the page, with my eyes fixed on infinity. And when the five loops were over, I would try to find my old acquaintance in the scribble. Then, I would do another one and another one, until I got it right or gave up.

Recently, I’ve been taking these quick doodles and trying to make something of them with a bit of crosshatching and such. I would see a face and then bring it out of the obscurity by finding details, still trying to surprise myself by distorting forms even as I was bringing them out of the linear mire. I was coming up with things suddenly in the wake of having nothing in mind. And this was even more exciting than placing the finishing details on a little gem of a painting.

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