Maybe you’re too young to get the reference here, but back in the day — those long ago times when I was growing up — you didn’t want to be an “L-7”. An L-7 is a square. Draw them out, and you’ll see where the expression comes from.
L-7’s and the whole slang about “being square” goes back to the original Beatnik days. I realize this is almost “ancient history” now, but it was a fun aspect of the times in which my generation lived. Gradually the “beatnik” philosophies melded into the “Hippie” culture. Both the “beats” and the “flower children” were non-conformists. It was a time of creative self-expression, a time of “doing your own thing”, and the last thing anyone wanted to do was to be square. It was a derogatory term used for someone who was old-fashioned, someone conventional, someone who believed in following all the rules.
Of course, squares are important — both the societal kind and the geometric kind. Square are solid. Squares provide support. They make a good foundation upon which to build.
Squares can be put together to make grids, and grids can be useful in many ways. Even in a free form of art like Zen Doodling — an art form of which both Beatniks and Hippies could approve — squares and grids have a definite place.
I’ve previously shared a few grid patterns for doodling, and today I’m sharing a few more. My first doodles using grids were based on rather neatly-divided squares. Each “doodle square” was divided into 16 smaller and roughly equal squres.
These gridded doodles are generally referred to as “checkerboard” designs, for obvious reasons, but we can move far beyond the somewhat static-looking 16-square grid to make more, shall we say, unconventional designs?
If squares can sometimes feel boring, we can use wavy lines. We can divide our starting square into more — or fewer — squares, if we choose. And we can elaborate upon our doodles in many different ways, embellishing them with additional designs or adding color.
Here are just a few of my recent “checkerboard” doodles.
My favorite is the last one — the bottom right. My least favorite is the one with the red. I definitely prefer the stark contrast of black and white when I’m doodling.
I do still appreciate the unconventionality and the emphasis on personal expression and creativity that was so much a part of the “counter-culture” as it was called. I may be old, and I’m definitely old-fashioned in many ways, but I hope I never become so stodgy, stuffy, and stuck in my ways that I might be termed a square.
At the same time, I do appreciate squares. The concept of “squareness” can equate with “fairness” or with something being right or complete. We speak of “square deals” and “square meals”, or being “on the square” with someone. Many times our towns are built around a “square”.
Before I close this post, I can’t resist throwing in another little tidbit of trivia I learned about the use of “L-7” or “being square.” Squares are seen as the opposite of a circle, and it seems that certain “cliques” and gangs have adopted the L-7 “hand gesture” as a way of indicating disapproval of someone viewed as being “outside the circle” — thus, a square.
It’s interesting to me to see how language evolves from one generation to another. As for art, I’m going to put myself right in the middle here. Squares are good, grids are interesting to work with, and sure, we need them. At the same time, when it comes to doodling around, I don’t want to be “too square”. I want to be a bit looser, a bit freer, a bit more on the wavy side.
How about you?