The Creation of Dot by Dot — My Dream Project

I became aware of doodling when I was in 9th standard, I really enjoyed art at school but I was really bad at the subject. I used to doodle behind my class- test question papers and textbooks always pairing my drawings with a poem or prose. By the time I reached college, I had become more aware of this art form, so much so that my final year project was called ‘the doodle’ and I could equate it to anything, including myself. To me, there was something very fascinating about the ability to produce spontaneous pieces of drawings. Where were they coming from? How did I know what I was drawing? What made it so intriguing to look at?

In the years following my graduation, I was going through periods of deep conflict and confusion about who I was. I didn’t like the work I was doing as I couldn’t relate to it. During this phase also, I used doodling to calm myself down. I used to doodle at work and at home, it made me feel that I was creating something original. With time my strokes got better and I started illustrating on mugs, tee-shirts and eventually made storyboards for a magazine too. In 2013, I decided to leave my industry and explore something else. By this time I had started doodling with some deliberation. In 2014 I decided to pursue my master's in Graphic Design from MITID Pune, Once again I decided to do my final year project with doodling as my main subject.

This time, there was a lot at stake, I had given up my internship to do this and I had no clue what would become of me after I came out of this project.
For the project, Initially, I thought I would start my own company and create a website and make products. But when I took this idea to my Dean, he asked me to first think about why we human beings doodle in the first place, what inside us, makes us create these spontaneous art forms, what do we make, why do we need to make it and many more such profound questions.

From that second, it took me 8 more months to figure out some of these answers. And while I don’t own a company, I have ideas that are potent enough to change the way in which we look at this world. Change the way we look at art. One of these ideas is this book called Do- By Dot.

Why Dot-by-Dot?
When we are born, mark-making is one of the very first things we humans do in order to learn about ourselves and our surroundings. Every child does it. Eventually, we start scribbling and dabbling with crayons and color. It’s only after this phase in life, we are taught how to write alphabets. From this moment till the time we become adults, we are completely schooled to do
things in a certain way — the correct way. At an individual level, writing and reading become the primary way to consume and gain from the world around us, for most of us. Art of course remains a subject in school, and only a few excel at it and the rest, move away.

While this method has worked well and has helped us survive and thrive in the world, at an individual level, it takes away something very crucial from our being — our ability to learn, play and create as we go. Allow me to explain this with an example. Imagine a person who hasn’t learned how to read or write. When this person wakes up to the sun every day, while she can see, feel and sense it, she doesn’t know that it is a star at a great distance and is yellow in color etc. Instead, she creates her own meaning and interpretation of what she observes and has the ability to create her own, untainted idea of the sun. If this same person now goes to school and is simply taught about the sun and our solar system, and is fed with hundreds of concepts created by other sources, she may learn everything about the sun in no time. But somewhere, over a period of time, she may lose the ability to create her own interpretation, her own wisdom, rooted in her own experiences.

With time, our entire life starts revolving around these concepts we are taught in school, at the office through movies, advertising, and whatnot. We seldom find it difficult to tune out and break away from our conditioning, something we could do very easily as toddlers.

I took my first hints from here. But the eureka moment occurred when I asked my father to join three dots I had made on paper. Without giving it a second thought, he joined the three dots to create a triangle.

In a millisecond, I just knew what I had to do. I told him to then join the dots with any type of line any number of times. Suddenly I was nervous and excited at the same time. What I witnessed after was something that became the sole purpose of my project.

I saw my father break free of his conditioning. He went on and on making different types of shapes on paper. All with three dots. These dots were like triggers and the freedom to choose his lines pushed his muscles and imagination to create something. It was like star gazing. Like
making shapes out of clouds, but with a pencil on paper.

This was it.

I started designing my activity series based on what I had discovered. In our mind, we associate words with visuals. We are born with the ability to see and recognize patterns. I would use dots to trigger and words to create associations. Thus I will hand-hold people and help them to break out of their schooling. Help them to draw again. I also realized that, once the conditioning was broken, two people would never see the same things in the dots. They would see the same pattern in a different light because it would stem from their personal experiences.

Once I created my activity book, I made a prototype and gave it to 16 people, most of these people felt that they couldn’t draw after school. They thought they were bad at drawing. I convinced them to just join the dots with my rules and see how they come through by the end of the prototype. I gave the same patterns to everyone. After a couple of weeks when I collected
these samples, I was so amazed by the variety I saw. Each prototype had a different narrative and the respondents were thrilled to share their drawings with me. I also took my idea to an astrophysicist, a mathematician, and a musician. Speaking with them made me realize that doodling need not just be art on paper. The mathematician scribbled formulae on paper and the musician hummed songs. At a deeper level, it was more about the act of playing through different media. It’s just that doodling on paper was possibly the easiest.

I decided that my activity book would be for everyone who wanted to break out of their conditioning, who wanted to explore their creative side and get back in touch with the toddler who made drawings without thinking twice about it. Be it old, young, artistic, engineer…anyone would enjoy this book like they would enjoy solving their crossword puzzle with their morning tea.

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Curiosity keeps this cat alive.

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Nehal Tiwari

Nehal Tiwari

Curiosity keeps this cat alive.

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