Invention of Scarabocchio Art

"Bloop Goes the Sneezle" 2007, David L. Smith



Scarabocchio is a unique artistic style that evolves from a blank sheet of paper, ballpoint pen, and vast imagination. With these elements, individuals can try their hand at doodling. David L. Smith, a retired art professor from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, developed his original doodle method to inspire those who believe art is beyond their capabilities. In doing so, he ignited artistry throughout the Stevens Point area. The intricate details and technical sophistication of Smith’s completed designs not only demonstrate his talent but also his passion to enrich our community. The Wisconsin Idea played a vital role in Smith’s community outreach. Smith wanted to ensure an art-centered education outside of the structured classroom setting. By donating the Scarabocchio Art Museum to Stevens Point, Smith will continue to spark artistic inspiration for generations to come.

Smith developed Scarabocchio art during his graduate studies in the 1960s, though at the time he had not yet found a name for his technique. Smith was not inspired by any artist in particular. Instead, Smith developed his own decorative, non-objective art form. Smith named his original style after a comment made by his Italian aunt. After viewing his sketches, Smith’s aunt classified his work as “scarabocchio”, the Italian word for scribble or doodle. 

Over the years, Smith refined his technique. During the 1970s and 80s, Smith experimented with colors and patterns such as dots, hatch marks and crosshatches to enhance the overall aesthetic of his sketches. The evolution of Smith’s art is also evident when comparing the dynamic color palettes and varieties of patterns between his earlier sketches and later professional designs. Smith also found inspiration in other people, and he often collaborated with fellow artists to develop new varieties of patterns, shading, and color schemes.

David L. Smith took pride in the notion that his Scarabocchio method was accessible enough that non artists could create their own original doodles. By adopting this non-objective art form, Smith often transformed simple sketches into dynamic works of art. Smith often took his original sketches and laser printed the designs in different sizes and colors. Several pieces that Smith created through this method went on to become award-winning masterpieces. These works are now part of the prized collection at the Scarabocchio Art Museum. 

Smith’s ability to pen a doodle into a masterpiece served as inspiration to artists in Stevens Point and beyond; with a little time, creativity, and determination, even the simplest sketch can be transformed into a work of art. Through his ability to perfect his own Scarabocchio technique and subsequently teach it to others, Smith became a pillar of the local artistic community.


Smith's Manifesto