2017 Red Bull Doodle Art winner Alef Vernon
© Felipe Gabriel/Red Bull Content Pool

7 moments that prove doodling is timeless

If you've ever made a drawing while your mind wandered, you're a doodler. A new edition of Red Bull Doodle Art reminds us that this underappreciated art form is timeless and constantly evolving.
Written by Trish Medalen
3 min readPublished on
We've all been there. You’re sitting in class or a meeting and before you know it, your mind takes off and you've put pen to paper to make a doodle. But what you might not realise is that doodling is an enduring form of expression that documents our past and present – and sometimes hints at the future. Our ancestors doodled on the walls of caves and we’re still doing it today, with many more opportunities to bring our doodles to light.
Creative minds around the world are invited to put their doodles on paper and apply for the latest edition of Red Bull Doodle Art, where their artistry could take them all the way to a World Final in Amsterdam.
Here are just a few of the historic moments in doodling’s ever-evolving timeline:

Middle Pleistocene age: doodling hits the wall

500,000 years ago, our ancestors didn't have paper. They did have cave walls however and that distant period is when some believe the first rough doodle – a zigzag line – was created. A pig drawn nearly 50,000 years ago may be the first animal doodle.
Competitors draw at Red Bull Doodle Art.

Humans have been doodling animals for 50 millennia

© Red Bull Content Pool

1400s–1500s: doodling's renaissance man

There may be no better example of how doodling fosters innovation than the notebooks left behind by that towering genius, Leonardo da Vinci. In the margins, the Italian doodled fantastical creations that were centuries ahead of their time, including a car, a robot and a helicopter.

1900s: doodling gets surreal

In the 20th century, doodling became increasingly recognised for its artistry, as well as for its ability to tap the subconscious. Famous artists ranging from surrealist Salvador Dalí to abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock experimented with a type of doodling, automatic drawing, as an exercise in creating art without conscious thought.

2012: doodling takes centre stage

In the inaugural Red Bull Doodle Art event, university students around the world allowed their minds to wander and drew doodles on simple paper cards at campus events. The best works were hung in an exhibition, where the winners were chosen. The inclusive pen-on-paper concept was a hit and it continued even as technology was introduced to expand participants' horizons at future World Finals.
Close up of a competitor doing some colour work at Red Bull Doodle Art

All you need is a pen, paper and your imagination

© Fabio Piva/Red Bull Content Pool

2014: doodles go digital

The second Red Bull Doodle Art saw 32,551 participants worldwide explore their artistry and while putting pen to paper was still the foundation of the event, tech innovation came into play for the first time. At the World Final in Cape Town, South Africa, viewers of the Global Gallery marvelled as the creations came to life through eye-catching animation on a digital platform.

2017: doodling reaches the next dimension

In the next tech twist, the third edition of Red Bull Doodle Art gave winners from 27 global regions the opportunity to train in VR painting using Google’s Tilt application for 3D. Then, at the World Final in the tech hub of San Francisco, California, USA, those talented finalists presented their doodles in virtual reality, dazzling the judges.
A finalist of Red Bull Doodle Art 2017 in virtual reality drawing mode in San Francisco

Red Bull Doodle Art 2017 final in San Francisco

© Nicholas Bruno / Red Bull Content Pool

2023: A new link in the doodling chain

For 2023, Red Bull Doodle Art incorporates the next wave of art and technology with the introduction of Web3 and NFTs. Every eligible participant who submits a doodle – whether online or on paper at a local application event – will have the opportunity to access a personalised digital collectible, and the national winners will receive their artwork as an NFT (a digital asset on the blockchain).
Red Bull Doodle Art is your chance to make your mark on the timeless art of doodling. You can explore doodles, and submit your own, here.

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