Carla Sonheim's 'The Art of Silliness' — Let Doodling Inspire Your Crafting

Posted by on Nov 02, 2012

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While learning how to doodle may seem like a silly activity, Carla Sonheim argues that many aren't silly enough when it comes to doodling — and many other forms of art. The artist's new book "The Art of Silliness: A Creativity Book for Everyone" offers even the most stick-in-the-mud crafter techniques for letting loose when creating. Read on for Carla's advice on doodling like a kid and then get downright silly with our crafts.

woman learning how to doodle
Being silly gets scary as an adult. Any advice for overcoming our fear?

I think letting our guards down can be quite scary as adults. We don't want to appear dumb or unintelligent, or perhaps we're afraid that letting a less-serious part of our personalities show will undo all the serious stuff we've been able to accomplish until now.

But I think most of us enjoy meeting people who can laugh at themselves and are less afraid of looking "silly" (whether it be skipping down an office hallway with a coworker or drawing a less-than-perfect drawing). I think one first step to overcoming fear is to remember that we are all human, we all have our "moments," and it will probably be okay if you let a sillier you emerge once in awhile. (And besides, it's really fun to be silly sometimes!)

How has doodling and silliness helped you, personally?

Drawing has helped me be more creative in general, I think, and it is the window through which I see the world around me. All the lessons I learn in drawing can be applied to the rest of my life (including not holding too tightly to preconceived ideas and being able to go with the flow and/or fix mistakes when things turn wonky).

Recently, my particular way of encouraging my Inner Silly is by creating a menagerie of very bewildered-looking animals ... it might not be "serious" art, but it's fun and it's "me" (and it's what I have to offer the world right now)!
doodle of a dog
What about seriousness? How has being serious interfered with your creativity?

Well, I should say that I really am a pretty serious person! And in many areas of my life, it's a good trait. However, when it comes to creativity, being "too serious" has drawbacks. I've found that in order to open myself up and let creative solutions flow through me, I need to let go of the need to control the process. When I forget this and am taking each of my ideas a little too seriously, it definitely inhibits the creative process all around. In addition, holding on to a single idea too tightly makes me afraid to put them out into the world for fear of being shot down. (Not a good thing!)

Most people doodle on margins and junk mail. How are the worksheets in your book "The The Art of Silliness: A Creativity Book for Everyone" better?

Oh, worksheets aren't better, they're just one way I've found to help people overcome the fear of the blank page. Bonus: the format often takes adult students back to the kid inside them that loved learning and trying out new things. In the worksheets from the original online classes — now presented in my book — I've taken "real" drawing exercises such as blind contours, contour drawings, one-line drawings and shading and then put them in a more playful format. Some of the exercises are silly, some are serious, but all of them help train eye-hand coordination and help students become more comfortable with putting pen to paper.

You've taught both young students and adults to draw and practice art. What are some pros and cons to teaching these ages?

Both groups are wonderful to work with, and I end up learning so much myself whether working with children or adults. Kids are fun because they tend to be a bit more enthusiastic and demonstrative about their creations, and aren't afraid to actually like something they've made. It's wonderful! But adults are great, too.— A little more cautious, perhaps,— but in my experience completely game and willing to put themselves out there ... yay!

As adults many of us feel that unless we can draw realistically, we shouldn't bother to draw. That's silly! (It's like saying you shouldn't ride a bicycle unless you're good enough to be in races, or you shouldn't cook unless you're a chef!)

Image credits (from top): All images via Carla Sonheim

cover of "The Art of Silliness"
Carla Sonheim is the author of "The Art of Silliness: A Creativity Book for Everyone," published by Perigee Trade.

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  • by terry.weiss.50
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    I got the Imaginary Animal Book and am working in it daily, I highly recommend it and can't wait to see the new book. Love her work.

  • by judyt
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    Can't wait to see a copy of this new book! Looks terrific.

  • by byshena
    User profile

    Good article! I have taken a few of Carla's online classes and have her first two books and in my opinion she is one of the best teachers around to get people playing again! And because of her unique way of teaching and presenting her information, you not only get to play, have fun AND actually end up with some really great pieces inspiring you to do more and more ~

  • by jane.hinrichs
    User profile

    A Blog tour -- what a cool idea. I recommend Carla's books wholeheartedly!