The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Students discover Zen doodling


Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

A Zen-doodle gift card by fifth grader Lucy Hankins.

Some Seward Elementary School students have taken up a crazy-popular art form: zen-doodling. They are using it to give themselves something fun to do in their spare time, to enhance their artistic creativity and also to raise money for their annual class trip. The school's fifth grade classes began selling some of the best stark black and white doodle masterpieces as gift cards, along with other art project items at the Seward Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair that took place last weekend. Their work also will be for sale to the public at Serendipity on Third Avenue downtown.

Zen doodling is a creative process that takes doodling to new levels. It uses repetitive designs and patterns, sometimes ones that are pre-established, but often ones that are created on the spot.

Zen doodles often start by tracing a figure, then dividing it up into smaller shapes. Each smaller area gets its own type of doodle pattern. Other zen doodles have no outline, but start with a small area or random shape. Again the doodler will divide it and continue to add more shapes and patterns to it such as feathers or little tentacles, and the artist just continues to doodle or fill in the spaces.

"They're amazing pieces with very intricate designs," said fifth grade teacher Seward Elementary Terri McKnight, showing some of the cards the students made. The cards garnered quite a few comments from members of the public, and the fifth grade class sold at least 80 packets of them by mid-afternoon Saturday, McKnight said.

Her class is one of several classes at the elementary school to introduce Zen doodling over the past few years. McKnight's students will doodle as they chat quitely together with acoustic background music to relax and focus their attention on their work. Interesting patterns or images that they might wish to try out flash by on a nearby screen. They find the shapes to outline in books or online.

Students often discover a whole new dimension when they start adding more black to their designs with their gel pens or Sharpies, or when they start bringing in color, McKnight said. With time, students develop their own unique recognizable styles and some discover they are quite adept at this art form.

Cindy Capra and Jerry Olive, two Seward-area pen and ink artists, both visited the school to help teach students the basics of Zen doodling, and several parents and other teachers also helped out with the various a rt projects, McKnight said. Capra, who visited the school as a guest for the National Park Service Art in the Schools program last year, has noticed students wandering the hallways with their Zen doodle books, and practicing it in their spare time. She found the sight quite heartening.

"In my mind, anything we can do to teach the kids something to do with their hands, and turn off the electronic devises is a wonderful thing. It's really good for kids, or if you're stressed," Capra said. "I find in situations where I've got something heavy on my mind, and I can't follow a pattern to crochet, I can just pick up my drawing and it kind of relaxes me, and it ends up with something that's kind of cool."

While doodlers may be seen as being distracted, absorbed with something other than the task at hand, some say doodling actually appears to allow the brain to concentrate better. It also lets one's subconscious, or right side of the brain, to take over and drive ones' imagination.

Many famous people were doodlers. John Keats liked to doodle flowers in his medical notebooks. Writer Ralph Waldo Emerson doodled elaborate scrolls and decorations all over his composition books while he was a university student. George Washington doodled constantly. President Ronald Reagan doodled western figures, animals and other people. So did presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Other well known doodlers include actor Patrick Stewart, comedian Richard Pryor, musician Elton John, and Leonardo de Vinci, who filled notebooks of sketches and other doodling while looking for interesting objects to paint, especially faces.


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