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My thanks to Desdemona McCannon for querying the subject of doodling for a feature she’s writing for Varoom (AOI magazine). I’m repeating my response here:

I always carry a small sketchbook with me everywhere I go, sometimes I use it to sketch, sometimes to practice, sometimes to work out ideas for jobs, and sometimes just to doodle. Doodling is a distinct activity for me. It’s never sketching, it’s not preparative drawing, and never has any deliberate connection to work, were it so it would cease to be a doodle. Doodling is something unto itself.

For me it’s all about flexing of the boundaries, going outside parameters of what I think my professional style should be. All of the baggage of career can be put aside for a while. Doodling can be an exploration of texture on the page, often in my case it’s an exploration of grotesque, which is perhaps odd as my professional work is rarely grotesque at all.

I remember in younger years I would often get into trouble with my parents for defacing photos of celebrities in Radio Times etc, you know, adding goggle eyes, goatees and afro hairstyles. Mum and Dad could never see the creativity in it all. I think my doodles can be an extension of that pleasure.

It’s an antidote to the need to please others, I doodle purely for my own enjoyment. Doodling is emotional therapy. It has no forced point to it, I never sit down and think “okey, I’m going to doodle about this” so, relieved of the weight of the commission or need to explain itself, the drawing follows it’s own course, it soars, it breathes as it expands, and through that it connects with creativity in an unforced, natural manner.

Half way through a “serious” sketch I often reach a point when I think – “hey, this is quite good” and that’s the time to stop. But with a doodle often I don’t stop, I carry on, seeing it through to the bitter end, fill the page or push it so the drawing is overweight or ruined. It’s not important, because sometimes the act of doodling is more important than the final product. For me sketches and working drawings are often quite light, doodles on the other hand can be heavy or laden.

Are doodles art? I think they can be, if, as they unravel themselves, they touch on your emotional state, or other subconscious thoughts, and can connect with the viewer. But it doesn’t always happen, and the more self conscious you become, the more you feel you need to make a pleasing drawing, somehow the less personal it becomes. Great doodles should create themselves, they should meander from the end of your pen almost without command. Ideally anyway.

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