What Can Presidential Doodles Tell Us About Republicans And Democrats?


Monday, 8.03pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Every now and then, a presidential candidate surprises us with a truly human and honest moment. – Ron Fournier

In the last thirteen or so posts I’ve been looking at people who doodled as they worked. I may have reached the end of this path of enquiry when I stumbled across the book Presidential Doodles by the creators of Cabinet Magazine.

The book had its genesis in an idea to publish doodles by famous people from the 20th century but when found a couple of presidential doodles the compilers couldn’t resist a compilation of the works of “doodlers-in-chiefs”.

The book is amusing, whimsical and has a range of doodles and ways of doodling. It shows how some of the most public people in the world found an outlet for their restless energy while doing a hugely important job. Others were fascinated by the insight these scrawls afforded into the minds of people given the power to make big decisions – and you ended up with a descent into psychography and an attempt to see inside their heads and find “anxieties, issues, neuroses and penchants.”

There is a problem with this, however. It’s just not very interesting. So someone was bored, or listening very carefully – and they let their pen move on the page. Does that tell us anything useful? Did making that scrawl help them in some way – and is there anything we can learn from that?

The one interesting psychological insight on page 204 is that during a meeting a reporter collected doodles made by Republicans and Democrats. All the Republicans had drawn geometric shapes while the Democrats had drawn animals and people’s faces. Does that tell us that conservatives are more likely to be rational and pattern seekers, people that live within rules, while democrats are more empathetic and care about people? Is it possible that asking someone to do a drawing could help you to understand what they’re like – a psychological profile based on the art they make?

I’ve just said the psychology of art is not that interesting, but maybe it is. I do have a book somewhere in my stack about art and therapy. I suppose you’d need to do some research into that – which is something interesting in itself. How could you study something like that?

Now, I do need to step away from this line of enquiry because it isn’t my area of focus or interest. Although it is interesting. I was looking at drawing as an aid to writing and there are fewer examples of people who do that. It looks like there are lots of people who draw to fill the time before writing – but how many use it as a tool – as part of their process? One writer who does in John McPhee and he’s written in Draft No. 4 about how he draws a diagram that captures the structure of the article he’s going to write.

So where should I go from here? I’m going to do one more post on drawings made in old manuscripts and then we’ll change direction and explore a different path.

Not sure which one though.


Karthik Suresh

2 Replies to “What Can Presidential Doodles Tell Us About Republicans And Democrats?”

    1. Or neither? Maybe they just write words? It’s probably a fertile area for speculation and psychologizing. But I don’t know how useful an exercise it is to do that. Maybe the way to look at it is as a relaxation or focusing technique – that’s how Lynda Barry comes at it I think, as a way to lean into your work. She starts her classes off drawing a tight spiral, doodling as a way to get focused, before the main body of work that follows.

      Liked by 1 person

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