The Kid Who Wrote on the Walls and Didn’t Get in Trouble

When you were a kid (or if you still are a kid), there’s a good chance you’ve been in a classroom and, despite your best efforts, unable to focus. For better or for worse, you have a solution on the desk in front of you — a pad and a pen (or pencil). Before you know it, you’ve filled page after page with little tiny drawings of nothing in particular. You’ve doodled.

Doodling, even while you’re supposed to be taking notes, isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it may help some people learn, unlock creativity, or even (counterintuitively) stay engaged. But every so often, a teacher takes exception to a student’s apparent inattentiveness. And that can lead to trouble.

Or it can lead to a job. Even if you’re only nine years old.

Pictured above is Joe Whale, a young English boy, either nine or ten years old at the time the photo was taken. As you can see, he’s not drawing on paper. He’s drawing on the walls. But don’t worry, he’s allowed to. 

Multiple times over his grade school career, Whale found himself doodling in class — and it was a problem. As Fatherly explains, “he was in school getting frustrated at the little amount of art he could do, so he used to doodle on the table’s whiteboard in class and get into trouble for doodling.” But his parents didn’t get angry. Instead, they decided to help their son tap into his passions and, it turns out, his talents. Whale’s doodles weren’t just idle scribbles; they were characters, expressing emotion and life. Whale’s parents enrolled their son in extracurricular art classes and encouraged him to keep up the doodling, at least when appropriate. And to give him an outlet for his creativity, his parents and art teachers also created an Instagram account for his creations.

It paid off — literally. At some point in 2019, an eatery in Shrewsbury named “Number 4” took note of Whale’s efforts. The restaurant owners inquired whether Whale would be open to drawing something for them. He was immediately interested — and the job turned out to be a much bigger one than he expected. The Good News Network explains: “The Number 4 owners reached out to Joe and asked if they could commission him to decorate the restaurant. At first, the boy thought that he would simply be doodling a small framed picture—but upon arriving at the restaurant, the staffers said they wanted him to cover the entire white wall of the restaurant in doodles.”

The restaurant pays Whale for his work (which they should; it is, after all, work, even if it’s fun) and Whale’s efforts likely help draw diners into the establishment. But you don’t have to go to England to see what Whale has put together on those walls. More pictures of Whale and his wall-drawing efforts can be found via Bored Panda, here, or you can follow him on Instagram, here.

Bonus fact: Whale may be the youngest professional doodler, but he’s hardly the only one. Some companies hire doodle artists to sit in on meetings and document brainstorming sessions — not by taking meticulous notes, but by drawing pictures which highlight key takeaways and ideas. As Inc. reported, “It might seem silly, but these sorts of visuals are effective in brainstorming, says Martin Eppler, professor of media and communication management at University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. ‘We’ve found in our experiments that using visuals during meetings creates more ideas, creates better ideas, and increases recall,” he says.”

From the Archives: The Writing Was on the Wall: When you shouldn’t — really, really, shouldn’t — write on the wall.