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  • Bianca Vinther

How to doodle paint: a daily practice in 3 steps to unlock your artistic creativity

Looking for a fast and hyper-effective way to boost your creativity in art?

There are days when we just feel empty and uninspired. Whether it slowly creeps into our minds or it comes on like a giant wave-like cloud, art block is a challenge we all have to deal with from time to time.

You wake up in the morning, follow your usual routine, and get ready to begin another day of work in your studio. And then … you feel that something blocks your mind. You lack the inspiration that keeps you moving forward. You’re feeling stuck. What do you do?

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from Julia Cameron’s seminal work The Artist’s Way is that a daily practice like the morning pages is vital to one’s mental hygiene and creative resilience. After having understood how blockage relieving and brain stimulative such a daily routine is, I went on with my morning pages until I came across doodle painting.

I began to practise doodle painting one rainy morning in the early days of the first lockdown, when I had run out of ink cartridges for my fountain pen and, as a consequence, I didn’t feel like writing my usual morning pages. I must confess, I don’t write almost anything without my fountain pen. Don’t say I have a pen fetish because I can use a ball pen or a drawing pencil instead, but only if I’m forced to. So, this is how my morning pages turned into daily doodling, a practice that has brought me many benefits so far.

Curious to know how that works with me? Follow the 3 steps below to learn how to doodle paint The Pointless Artist’s way.

Step 1: Choose your art materials

You can pick whatever materials you want to use before starting to doodle paint: acrylics, watercolours, oil paints, ink, gouache, airbrush colours, water-soluble pens ... And you can choose whatever brushes and out-of-the-box painting tools you'd love to work with (e. g. twigs, sponges, and corks).

I normally use a paper block, my favourite watercolours, some airbrush colours, gouaches, and acrylics plus a set of oil pastel chalks, and a few B pencils. I pick a handful of round, flat, and fan brushes in various sizes, and some alternative painting tools, like small pieces of cardboard, a few pointed wooden sticks, a little round sponge, cotton pads, and two wine corks.

My art table with a selection of art materials for doodle painting
My art materials, ready for doodle painting

Some of my favourite brushes are medium to large round brushes (preferably the kolinsky sable-hair ones), medium and large flat brushes, and small to medium size dry fan hog-bristle brushes.

I like to keep to a limited range of art materials because fewer materials help me work simpler and faster. But nothing should stop you from using as many colours, brushes, and alternative painting tools as you want. In other words, choose whatever feels best for you.

Step 2: Start with a few points, lines, and splashes of colour

Now it’s time to doodle paint.

With nothing in mind and no time for reflection, you should begin with a few lines or a couple of splashes of colour. This is my favourite intro, by the way, for nothing can go wrong here, and there’s no pressure or fear of failure whatsoever involved in it.

A view of doodle painting in progress displaying a few splashes of colour, a feather, and a brush

A view of doodle painting in progress displaying a few splashes of colour and a wine cork

A view of doodle painting in progress displaying a few splashes of colour and a brush

A view of doodle painting in progress displaying a few splashes of colour and an oil pastel chalk

A view of doodle painting in progress displaying a few splashes of colour and a B pencil

Alternatively, you can draw a few abstract shapes and then paint inside several of them without following their contour, like Emily Sutton, an amazing British illustrator. Have a close look at her paintings — there’s a lot you can learn from them!

Step 3: Play with your marks, shapes, and materials

Layer colours on top of each other to achieve more depth or more sophisticated tonal values. Notice each time how the colours spread and blend. This works particularly well with airbrush colours – it doesn’t take more than a few drops of paint added to a few water puddles.

Observe the patterns and textures that emerge, and wonder at the way they unfold. Like I said in a previous blog post: work with your materials and tools, focus on your marks, think and create without an end in mind, and let yourself be surprised.

Detail of a doodle paint in blue, yellow, and grey tones

Don’t force your means of expression into a pre-established grid, don’t manipulate them into a specific direction or towards a clearly defined result. Let go of the urge to control them and the outcome of your work. Doodle paint. Literally.

I simply love to play intuitively with my colours, like in a stream of consciousness, without having to think about the design of my works. This is one of the most relaxing practices I know!

I always leave some areas completely white because, like in a musical score for an ensemble piece, the painted surface needs a general pause, which can be short or rather long and profound, depending on how you feel. An empty space in a painting has always got the power to amplify the effect of the marks and shapes that the painting contains.

As my doodle painting expands, I go back over dry sections with pencils, oil pastel chalks, or other tints of colour. I set aside any judgment or thoughts. I let myself be led, and just go with my creative flow.

Sometimes I draw inspiration from stones, scallops, dry plants, tree bark, and feathers, but my approach remains personal and the outcome very free in its form, lively, and often in high spirits, pretty much like a musical capriccio.

A basket filled with scallops

A collection of scallops and stones from the sea shore

A little collection of scallops and sea shells