At the time of this writing, Andrea Ross has spent an uninterrupted 850 days creating one-of-a-kind doodles at gruntled.ca. She looks back on each day, through all the things she’s experienced, picks her favourite moment of joy, draws it, and posts it to her site. Some days are full of wonderful things to choose from, and some days offer slim pickings, yet she performs the artistic exercise to create a daily note, absorb the day’s events, reflect on what happened, relive the times, and recall the good things that were there. And, as she puts it, “This has been especially therapeutic during lockdown and COVID-19.”
If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend you visit her website (after reading this article of course!) and enjoy some of her creations. But before we get ahead of ourselves, please read on, as I recently had the pleasure of talking to her over the phone so she could give us a glimpse of her world and what life events have transpired and inspired her to go on this visually appealing trip.
Apt613: Hi Andrea, can you start off by telling us your earliest memory of doodling?
Andrea Ross: When I graduated university, I remember (that) I would do doodles of my friends or make doodles on t-shirts for them. I remember when I biked across Canada, I brought a mechanical pencil, an eraser, and a stack of card stock, and that was fun. You’d bike all day long and sit in the campground in the evening and doodle pictures of Canada, with me happily waving on my bike. It would show the big picture and small picture, in one simple drawing and have a little note on the back. Then I’d mail it to someone back home. This was way before email and social media was around. This was how I used to keep in touch with people. When I was at Nortel, I would also create doodles of my co-workers and we’d use them on our nameplates in our office workstations.
Another memory I have is when I got married… it was 21 years ago. We were getting married because I was pregnant, which was on purpose of course, but it was a touchy situation because we didn’t know how the family was going to react. I wasn’t really super welcome with his family. So I was super nervous about the small wedding and asked my best friend for help and moral support. As we were about to leave for the wedding, I was telling her about each guest and filling her in on their potential explosive reactions or whatever, and I would doodle a picture of each person on a scrap paper that was around. It’s kind of funny because after my friend met the guests, she reminds me to this day how well those doodles represented the people when she met them.
What made you want to bike across Canada?
In the old days, there was this Explore magazine that had this tiny article about biking across Canada. I wasn’t a cyclist at the time, but it kind of stuck in my head. A few years later I got a bike and signed up for a bike trip in Italy with a local group from Canada. After I came back, I found the original article in the magazine, looked up the contact and signed up for the trip with Tour du Canada.
It’s organized by a journalist from the Globe and Mail. He would get a group together and do it over the years. You’d bike all day, like about 130km, and at night you’d meet at a campsite and the group would take turns cooking. There was a truck that would bring everyone’s tents and stuff like that. I was young and crazy at the time. That’s where I met my best friend actually, back in 1993. It was really fun and my daughter is thinking of doing it next summer.
Do you have formal art training or have you taken classes before?
Oh no, I just learned on my own. If you take a look at all my drawings over the 850 days, my first few drawings were just stick figures. That’s all I drew, but over time, doodling for 850 days, they’ve become more playful and expressive. Now I’ve become a little more daring with what I’m doodling because I do it everyday.
Is there a reason you chose to concentrate your daily doodle on a happy memory?
I’m a cancer survivor, so I’m good at noticing the positive details in daily life. When you think you’re going to die, every positive detail is so big to you and you know there’s no future. So all the things that people normally care about don’t matter to you. I became very good at noticing those positive things.
It’s like Dr. Rick Hansen says, our humans brains tend to be Teflon for good things and Velcro for bad things. Like if someone gives me a compliment, I won’t dwell on it, but if they give me an insult, I will dwell on it for the rest of my life. So, because I started noticing the little good things more and more, I wanted to dwell on them in a positive way and celebrate them. That’s why I’ve chosen to doodle the happy stuff from each day. I hope the doodles help encourage positive experiences, especially during trying times like now with COVID-19.
These doodles help me notice more of the good in each day and dwell on the positive feelings more than I may have in the past. It makes me more aware of happy things in the moment.