Ingredients: Some tracing paper, pencils and black felt-tips, (optional) air-drying clay.

The Big Sell: Struggling to get a group or individual drawing at all? Doodling is the safest place to start.

Strategy: We all doodle, don’t we? When I’ve been working with groups of teenagers or adults who say “I don’t do drawing”, they at least admit that they doodle – on their pencil case, on the pad beside the phone, on the backs of hands. It comes from that deepest part of our brain that refuses to be self-conscious and when bored loves to come out and play.

You can harness this harmless activity to free up people who will admit they actually find it quite fun, especially as it carries an unspoken attitude of recklessness when it comes to mistakes.

1. If you are working with a group, cut up small squares of tracing paper, and ask them to sit in groups of 4 or 5.

2. Ask one person to start doodling for 2 – 3 minutes, then pass on their doodle to the person on their right who adds another sheet of tracing paper on top and continues to add to the doodle. Keep going until everyone has doodled and there are many layers of paper accumulated.

3. Ask the group to consider their combined image by holding it up to the light – what symbol has emerged from their combined free-association? What would they like to edit? Where is the strongest part of the image?

4. Now ask them to take a black pen and each draw out the final image that the consensus agrees works the best. Alternatively, you could ask them to interpret this selected image by each carving it into their own lump of air-drying clay.

5. You will notice each person’s image is slightly unique, despite the fact that they are working from the same template. If they have made them into clay, these can be rolled with printing ink and made into stamps for comparison to be printed next to each other.

The Verdict:

Above all, this activity works well by bringing people together to work on a combined project. Even the most reluctant artist can be drawn in to contribute to the doodle. They must show sensitivity and engage critique by working on top of each other’s art work and by coming to democratic decisions.

They come to appreciate their own individual creativity and its’ part in this group effort– were they drawn towards curves, geometric shapes, text, decorative detail? The final symbol could be used to generate many things, from a brand for a club to a wallpaper pattern.

When I used this exercise in teaching students, I explored the deeper principle of free-association beneath the doodle and the psychotherapeutic roots with Jung who asked patients to undergo a process of confession through using the arts to expose the unconscious. I asked students to think about what youth work means to them as they doodled – we then looked at the final symbols and asked what it told us about their professional ideals.

Catchphrase: Don’t worry, just doodle…

Left wanting more?

• You can buy excellent doodle books from a bookshop near you – they are filled with half-finished pages to inspire you, such as Do you Doodle? by Nikalas Catlow, published by Buster Books.

• Look at Keri Smith’s blog for more ideas and books you can buy that encourage this type of approach towards creative stimulation: www.kerismith.com

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