WHERE I DRAW THE LINE
WHERE I DRAW THE LINE
FROM GETTING PAID IN KEBABS TO WORKING WITH MTV, TENTERDEN’S MR DOODLE IS ON A SQUIGGLY LINE TO SUCCESS
The pen goes up and around. A little squiggle and a dot. It looks like a face with two eyes. Hold on, he’s off again.
There is something completely mesmerising about the black shapes and swirls that come bouncing out against the white walls and white flooring as Mr Doodle runs his fat felt pen in a seemingly never-ending line.
You can easily lose 10 minutes watching the characters and little scenarios unfold in his drawings, and that’s without taking any mind-bending substances. It’s no wonder that the video that made him famous has ticked over to 40 million views on YouTube.
Describing his art as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Drawing), Sam Cox can often be found sitting within a sea of doodle on his online channel that regularly broadcasts cartoons and doodle exploits.
And while a viral video has made the Tenterden local an overnight star, it was no flash in the pan.
Commissions from Wembley Stadium, MTV, Adidas, New Look and other international brands have taken Mr Doodle’s notoriety to a whole new level – DoodleLand. This is his brand, which includes clothing, furniture and a whole house covered in doodle – not to mention ideas for his own smartphone app.
“I’ve been to Hong Kong and New York, where I did a mural recently,” says Cox. “It’s great to see really nice places and meet cool people and do what I want to do.
“I have had some quite cool companies ask me to do stuff like Converse and JD Sports, and I had a commission for MTV at their head office which was really fun as they let me draw inside their logo.”
Mr Doodle is in the process of signing off a project with a large American retail company, and he has spent recent months doodling his way around iconic buildings like Wembley Stadium and the pillars under Olympic Way.
Back when Cox was just a tiny doodler, the honing of his skills started on school books and even his parents’ furniture.
“When I was 4 years old, I did a lot of drawing because I loved cartoons and video games and I would copy the characters from the shows I’d watch,” he explains. “I wanted to make comic books and video games.”
The Simpsons, Crash Bandicoot, Sprio the Dragon are all formative influences in the creation of Mr Doodle’s style.
“I started drawing on the furniture and walls in my bedroom and things like that, and that progressed to me drawing on other people’s walls as a job.
“My work has always been very cartoonish. For a little while I wanted to draw more realistically but I would get frustrated when drawing my friends because they’d always end up bug eyed and I couldn’t escape my style. I realised that it was more in tune with how I am. I like more fun stuff and silly drawings.
“It’s very much like symbols and things like cave drawings or hieroglyphics, I suppose. Not fully worked out drawings. More primitive. And that is the most fun to me.”
As this cross heading suggests, it all started in a kebab shop, in Bristol to be precise.
“I studied illustration at Bristol University. It taught me how to build a narrative in the drawings. So, for instance at Wembley, making sure I could incorporate sports, particularly football and singers in the stadium, and all the things that go on there.
“At the start, I was doing drawings for local restaurants like fish and chip shops and kebab shops in Bristol. I was walking around the area and seeing shops that had blank walls and I would ask them if I could draw on it.
“I wanted to build up a portfolio of mural work to potentially take to bigger clients. They would pay me in kebabs and burgers and things.”
Word of mouth spread until Cox headed back to London (though living in Kent, of course) where he would, with permission, doodle on walls in the street in areas like Shoreditch.
“It was often where there’s lots of traffic and people walking past, where there are a lot of bloggers and everyone is photographing everything,” says Cox. “I did a small show in Old Street Underground Station last May. It was this little shop I was drawing over and people came in to watch.”
After being filmed doin’ his ting, the video got picked up and spread like wild doodle across the internet.
“It went out of control for a bit, and I would say that was probably my ‘break-through’ point,” says Cox.
“At first they hadn’t tagged me in the video and no one knew it was me, I couldn’t believe it! So, I messaged the owner and got myself tagged. My social media following went up to more than 100k over a few days.”
The video was posted on the not-for-profit art sharing Facebook page ‘Drawing the Soul’ and has attracted some 23 thousand comments and earned almost 350,000 shares.
Some 43 million views later and bloggers, admirers and magazines all wanted a piece of the artist (bloody sharks).
The website for his online shop crashed having been inundated with orders, but the Mr Doodle brand was born.
“I got to do lots of events and felt that I wanted to fully brand myself in that way, to dress up and it naturally snowballed in that direction,” says Cox. “A lot of art is lacking a sense of humour. It’s a fun thing to be able to draw and create your own world, and sometimes it is funny. I’m not afraid of people laughing at me or if they don’t get it.”
But clearly, the majority of people do get it and commissions to bring his doodles to the high street are ongoing.
“I did some t-shirts and hoodies with New Look, a fairly limited range, but that was great,” says Cox. “But I have to balance it as I have to be careful in giving full license to a company to take the design and have it on different apparel, because I still want people to be directed to my own site.”
So, what does the future hold?
“I am now able to animate my stuff and use new tools to bring things to life, so that is exiting because it changes the work. If I can go on new surfaces or take in new mediums then I want to do that, while keeping the thinking behind it consistent.”
DoodleLand is coming.