On doodling

There’s this app called Paper that’s kind of addictive.

It’s the perfect gift for those indolent, self-styled creative-types that make your life so interesting.

Apple or someone (maybe the developer, FiftyThree) categorizes Paper as a “productivity tool”.

I kind of have to take issue with their nomenclature. I’ve probably lost 17 or 18 hours to Paper, doing nothing but doodles. If a productivity tool is supposed to save you time, then clearly somewhere in the supply chain, there has been a gross miscarriage of the service level agreement.

And if Paper wants to make it so easy to doodle your life away, then they should also develop an app that makes its users more responsible managers of their time. They could categorize it as a productivity tool. Its only task would be to prevent the customer from using Paper. It could be called Paper+ (now with added productivity).

Hello, FiftyThree? I’m reasonably certain that I have more important things to do with my time than doodle. Like, my job or paying attention to the cars in front of me in traffic. And when Jacquie is telling me it’s time to clean the cat box, how many more times do you think I can get away with, “Not now. I’m being productive” before she catches on that I’m just doodling? Seven, eight more times is my guess.

Paper is a digital palimpsest on which you make marks to simulate physical media, as they might behave in a rigidly ordered world. There is a brush with a water color effect, and tools that mimic a pencil, a magic marker, a pen. You are constrained by the rules of the app, parameters that force you to pay attention to the potential of the tool combined with gesture. This includes the simple “undo” interface, which antiseptically corrects your missteps, the way physical erasure could hardly ever be.

Anyway, I like to doodle. And not just the whatever comes to my head kind of sketching, but real portraits.  Here’s one I did of Vince as a microscopic parasite.

Vince as microscopic parasite

I also like to doodle my wife. I use my finger. I could doodle her all day long.

Last night, I was doodling her and she didn’t even notice.

She said, “Simon, the cat box smells terrible.”

And I said, “Not now. I’m being productive.”

This is the piece I was working on at the time.


I know realism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But as you can see, Paper makes it a cinch. In fact, if I had decided to draw Jacquie with conventional tools, she would have put her shirt on and sat up straight by the time I started sketching.


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