Doodle Dudes draw out Austinites who want to get creative

Jose Gonzalez

Every Saturday night, the Doodle Dudes sit down to tables cluttered with pencils and drawing pads at Dominican Joe’s. The meetings are more than just sketches or animated cartoons — its about Austinites getting to connect with each other creatively.

Doodle Dudes USA was established in 2014 to provide amateur artists and like-minded strangers a space to sit down and draw. Since their first meeting at Dominican Joe’s on Congress, the shop manager has reserved tables for them every Saturday from 6 until closing.

For Justin Smith, one of Doodle Dude’s organizers, the club is a space to put imagination on paper and unwind among friends. He said the group’s welcoming attitude harbors each persons creative aspirations.

“We all just have this common language,” Smith said. “People love it so much that even if there’s not an actual meeting they just want to come here and get together, draw together and joke around.”

The Doodle Dudes have expanded from their early group of five to now as many as 20 members. They are supportive of each other, even through their mid-session carpel tunnel exercises. 

Though Smith is working toward being a full-time storyboard artist, he said the Doodle Dudes embrace each other’s artwork regardless of skill level. Smith said a lot of the members find something therapeutic about sharing a space where everyone is focused on producing art.

“Everybody should spend at least a few hours a week just being creative, and it helps knowing that you’ll get to see these friends and spend five hours on a Saturday night just creating something and being inspired,” Smith said.

The artists that come and join Doodle Dudes each have their own distinct style and like to do what they’re best at. Joe de Francesco, a regular of Doodle Dudes, likes to sketch elaborate architectural pieces that resemble Escher paintings. He said he appreciates that there isn’t a specific set of rules to follow.

“We don’t care what you draw — we just want you to come out and have fun,” de Francesco said. “The rules are just be open to the process (and) be open to everybody.”

Whenever a roadblock comes along, de Francesco said everyone helps each other improve their craft and continue the creative process.

“We have very like minds, we understand each other and how we think, but more so there are times when you get into a rut,” de Francesco said. “We always give credit where credit is due and we bounce ideas off each other.” 

Tyler Mead, another regular who joined last year, said the Doodle Dudes push one another to be innovative with their work so no one ever stays stuck in the same
place artistically.

“I want to do something that makes me feel uncomfortable, and that’s how I feel every time I come here,” Mead said. “This group keeps me accountable and keeps me working and exploring, whwich is what I want to do.”

Within the range of creativity within the Doodle Dudes’ current and future members, Smith said he sees an enormous amount of potential not only to develop as an artist, but start new relationships. 

“It’s about freedom, it’s about being creative, relaxing and socializing at the same time,” Smith said. “As an introvert, this club was the best thing that could’ve happened.”