If you look up the dictionary definition of “doodle,” associated epithets include “rough” and “absent-mindedly.” The concept of doodling is often seen to precede art, it’s the mere practice, the daydream, before the actual masterpiece. Well, it might be for most people – but not for Sam Cox, aka Mr Doodle.
Cox is an artist, a full-time doodler. The British artist self-admittedly “moved to Doodleland a little while ago so that [he] could create a world full of [his] own crazy doodles.” His career began in school – spray-on t-shirt stencils became murals, and friends and local businesses alike all wanted a piece of the Doodle Man. Exposure rose as his corner of the Internet grew bigger and became increasingly covered in doodles.
While the world enjoyed his two-dimensional drawings, Sam saw the possibility to spread his work even further. As well as approaching companies and individuals for bigger and better doodling projects (clients now include adidas and MTV), Cox took the jump to never not be connected to his work.
“I realized that I didn’t want to regret not trying hard enough later in life”
He became the Doodle Man and his doodles became part of his sartorial identity, covering him head-to-toe at all times: “I quickly became a character of my own making,” Sam tells Konbini. Where some struggle to separate work and play, Cox takes his work home. “I enjoy living my drawing fully. I don’t feel the need to constantly go out and advertise myself, but I do feel the need to constantly doodle […] it’d be weird if I didn’t do it.”
With such expansive and immersive works of art, it can be tempting to scour every detail for a definition. Where does it sit? What does doodling really mean? For Sam, these labels don’t really matter.
“If somebody thinks that my work sits in the category of either doodles, graffiti, street art, drawing […] it doesn’t change anything, because I’m just doing what I do.”
With projects spanning fashion, street art, furniture installations as well as print sketches, it’s clear to see how the Doodle Man really has created the beginning of a Doodleland – and how could you pigeonhole that? Sam admits: “I don’t ever feel the need to categorize it because if I do then I’m building walls around what I do.”
What matters to Sam is being able to doodle in and on as many platforms as possible. If that means being a street artist on Monday and a video animator by Thursday, that is where Sam will go.
Today, Mr Doodle is considered to be a versatile and fascinating artist. Not restricted by categorization nor spatial limitations, his work breaks physical and theoretical shackles – and yet Sam admits the still existing prejudice around doodling. “Because it’s so accessible, it’s something that anyone can do, there’s no real standard you have to meet to consider your work a doodle,” he says. It’s this accessibility which makes his work so infectious, but that also reminds us of the basic and somewhat belittling definition of doodling in its elementary nature.
“When you think about it, nearly everyone in the world has doodled at some point in their lifes but not everyone has painted a bowl of fruit.”
Rather than creating the Doodle Man persona and trapping himself in an isolated fictional existence, the immersive, almost method, experience of being Mr Doodle is an outward facing long-term project.
His installations and larger-than-life persona extend an invitation to all those who enter Mr Doodle’s orbit to join in. “I think by calling my work doodles then that’ll make them want to join in rather than say ‘I can’t draw’ or ‘I’m not an artist'”.
In the same way that Sam resists labels fitting his work into a specific genre, he is reluctant to isolate himself as an “artist,” thus furthering the gap between those who dream and those who actually doodle.
“Who even cares if you’re an artist? These titles don’t matter, the work is what matters.”
Sam’s work takes inspiration from sources you would expect – Where’s Wally, Cartoon Network, Matt Groening and Banksy among the founding fathers of cartooning and doodling. But the art of Mr Doodle also sees its roots in hip hop music, dogs, the artist Bob Ross and sweet aisles in supermarkets.
Grounded firmly in memories of his family and friends as well as through childhood drawings, there is nothing absent-minded or rough in the staggering world that Mr Doodle has created.
Originally published on Konbini