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Doodle Cart 2016
Adam Haycraft practices some mindless meandering at the Doodle Cart. (Photo by Darryl E. Owens)

The dreaded “freshman 15” is the scourge of collegians everywhere.

More insidious, however, recent studies have found that packing on the pounds isn’t limited to the first year.

It’s perhaps the desire to spare his six-pack from ballooning into a 12-pack that drew Adam Haycraft to the odd fruit-adorned cart recently parked outside the Student Services building on Beacon’s campus.

Or perhaps his tortured inner Van Gogh subconsciously drew him to the Doodle Cart.

And drew was the operative word.

Haycraft took an artist pencil and soon the half-sheet of white paper no longer was blank.

“I’ve got these shape things happening, here, and this cone guy, with this thing wrapped around it, and this circle guy,” Haycraft said. “I don’t know what’s happening.”

Paul Rutkovsky, the owner of the Doodle Cart, knew well what was going on.

“Mindless meandering,” he said. “That’s what I call doodling.”

Doodle Cart-closeup Ever since the Florida State University art professor flipped the script on the adage “a penny for your thoughts” to read “Do a Doodle And Get a Free Organic Fruit or Vegetable” and took his Doodle Cart on the road, he’s been inviting strangers to sketch and snack.

“We all doodle and … I’ve seen students doing that while I’m so-called lecturing,” says Rutkovsky, who has taught at FSU for more than two decades. “So, I’ve always been fascinated with it. Some of my best work as an artist is actually doodling in faculty meetings.”

Rutkovsky noodled his notion about the Doodle Cart almost three years ago. If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, he reckoned an (organic) apple and a doodle really would work gangbusters.

He designed the cart, solicited a friend’s help constructing it, outfitted it with colored pencils, markers, paper and produce, and began touring with the contraption fabricated from roughly 95 percent recycled materials found in and around Tallahassee.

A granola kind of guy, Rutkovsky frequents college campuses and food co-ops, which donate the harvest on the cart that he shares with doodlers. Right now, a small grant covers his traveling and lodging expenses. The Doodle Cart has traveled as far north as Virginia.

For their time, doodlers receive a nutritious nosh; Rutkovsky, meanwhile, collects another doodle for his collection of roughly 1,500 masterpieces that he plans to use in 100-doodle exhibits at food co-ops. Drawings range from stick figures to intricate meanderings of time and space. Or something like that.

“Today, from time to time, I’ll say, ‘spend a minute or spend an hour,” he says. “I discourage spending a minute because I think mindless meandering deserves more attention than that. Really, I can see some people freeing their preconceived ideas real fast because there’s this tendency to stare at the white of the doodle paper and think — I can almost feel their brains ready to explode because they’re preconceiving what it should be, and that’s not doodling. Doodling is letting yourself go, and that’s antithetical to our culture.”

For the Doodle Man, accepting his invitation to doodle is a mind-body experience.

“One thing about the Doodle Cart, [with] the doodling, you [get to be] be creative, and you get a piece of non-pesticide whole food,” he says. “We’re a culture of processed food … and the fact that these are organics, and there’s less pesticides” is a good thing. “It seems we treat our automobiles better.”

Erik Day, an assistant professor of digital media, who teaches a number of courses in digital art at Beacon College — the first institution of higher learning accredited to award bachelor’s degrees exclusively to students with learning disabilities, ADHD and other learning differences — is inclined to agree.

Erik Day and Paul Rukovsky Day learned of the Doodle Cart from a colleague at the University of North Georgia where he taught last year who informed him of Rutkovsky’s impending visit to that school.

Taken with the experience, Day — concerned with the increasingly Rubenesque portrait of the U.S. collegian — invited the Doodle Cart to Beacon.

“Statistically speaking, American college students are overweight,” Day said. “America is overweight, although this should not be news to any of us. We are obese. Let’s do our best to remedy this.”

The pairing of organic fruit and doodling, Day believes, offers a good start.

“Students gained a single piece of fruit, and hopefully a bit of confidence in their ability to engage the right side of their brain.”

Taking Rutkovsky’s advice, Haycraft spent more than a minute on his doodle. Much more. When he finally dropped the pencil, it was almost biblical.

He looked at the once-white paper and what he created … and it was good.

Then, he reached for the forbidden fruit.

And for a sinfully good doodle, an organic Cameo apple seems about right.