Doodling Makes You Smarter…Sort Of

I wonder what most people would think if they peeked inside my purse. I have the usual necessities such as my keys, phone, wallet with credit cards and license, the checkbook, gum, a compact, hand lotion, lip balm, and…other feminine things (boys can’t know all the secrets in there!). Rummaging deeper though, things get odd. There’s a battered Moleskin and a filthy kneaded eraser. There are pencils, Sharpies, and Microns. Sometimes I’ll have colored pencils or waterbrushes or a spool of black thread. I have found mat and Exacto knives in my purse that I was completely ignorant were even there (oops). To me this lovely little collection has become normal, even essential. If I don’t have something to draw with at all times I doodle in my head, my hand unconsciously drafting on invisible paper what only my mind can see.

One of my favorite places to pull out my artillery and draw is during church, and I’m not the only one. The March issue of Smithsonian magazine features a fantastic article on artist John Hendrix who also doodles during church, creating colorful, symbolic and moving visuals of the Sunday morning sermons. Very snazzy stuff!

It’s not often that you’re surrounded by models sitting rapt in quiet attention. I like to use my time in church to gain more life drawing experience, because staring at people who don’t know you’re drawing them is NOT creepy at all. Here’s a sampling of some of my portraits.

My current sketchbook is a 3.5″x5.5″ Moleskin. Each portrait measures between one to three inches high. I usually only have about twenty to thirty minutes to spend on each portrait, sometimes not even that much. The model may shift position or lean forward or back. It’s good memory training.

For me drawing frees the mind. Although my hand is moving and my eyes are focused elsewhere I always feel like I retain information better.

I used to feel guilty drawing in church, until I met artist Steve Vistaunet, a self-pronounced doodler, who proclaimed that studies have shown drawing or doodling actually helps you to retain 30% more of what you hear. I cannot cite this study beyond, “Hey, Steve said it…so yeah,” but I do remember in elementary school we always had to write out our spelling words three times as practice before an auditory spelling test. So isn’t that kind of the same thing? Or what about the sense of smell being the most powerful memory trigger? I’m interested in studying if the combination of the senses has something to do with information retention.