Jim Takes a Break: Interlude


Graphic by Jim Hollingworth

There’s not much to talk about on the college front besides the cacophony of thumb-twiddling that’s taking place as we wait for late-March admissions. There’s also the happy truth that college is currently a bit “out of sight, out of mind” and I’d rather not dwell on something that’s better left alone for a few more precious weeks.

So, in the spirit of rebelling against college-oriented themes, I’d like to talk about an activity that you would never put on an application, a skill that is so underwhelmingly useful that by learning it you might actually become less productive, and a pastime that I think is essential for living in a world of paper-centered assignments — the art of doodling.

It is my firm belief that everyone should learn how to draw. You don’t have to be “good” at it, like it’s a competitive sport. You don’t have to understand ‘realistic’ perspective, or shading — you don’t need to know a single thing about proportions or how many eyes should fit in the width of a human head.

But everyone should try sketching their own character. With eyes pointing in different directions, with hair that looks stupid, with misaligned noses and mouths — it’s okay if your lines look like they’ve been drawn by a demented second-grader hyped up on caffeine.

Because cartooning is a way to relax. The feeling of childish power I get when I make a face-shaped circle is genuinely exciting. I have the ability to make the head happy, sad, bearded, excited, horned, anything. It’s like speaking another language, like being in control of a tiny world.

I draw kings and queens throughout my history notes to liven things up; I draw puns on intimidating math quizzes; I draw fight scenes and tea parties during homework breaks. Drawing is a therapeutic alternative to beating level 497 on Candy Crush. It’s a talent-building, no-strings-attached hobby — nobody’s going to mock you for your three-minute sketch of a oddly-shaped zombie eating a sandwich.

You’ve got to give it a wholehearted effort, though. If your reaction to this is to draw a wimpy stick figure with a neck as long as its body and no nose, and then tell me that you don’t have any “natural talent”, you’re perpetuating a cycle of defeated laziness. Your creations don’t have to be like things you’ve seen before; they don’t have to be smoothly professional. Make what makes you chuckle.

‘Art’ is a scary word with intimidating connotations: years of practice, brush strokes, depth, and berets. But the pursuits of doodling, cartooning, and drawing – these are happy minute-fillers that can brighten the dreary study guides, the empty margins, and the blank backsides of unimportant college applications.