British contemporary artist MR DOODLE, known in his daily life as Sam Cox, presents a whimsical yet irresistibly captivating form of expression: doodling. Often perceived as a simple or idle pastime, doodling, in Cox’s hands, becomes a complex and multifaceted form of creative expression, utilizing the medium in his ongoing mission to cover the universe with doodles.
From the earliest memories of his childhood, Cox was driven by an unquenchable passion for drawing. This fascination found him incessantly doodling, with his artistic impulses spilling over onto every conceivable surface—from the pages of his schoolbooks to the expansive canvases of bedroom walls and even furniture.
I’ve always had the urge to doodle over everything, I love to see my doodles spreading and it’s my dream to doodle the entire universe!
Far from being contained, this habit flourished as he grew, extending its reach to the walls of local restaurants and schools. In Cox’s universe, an ordinary surface becomes unconquered territory, transformed into a playground of imagination through his markers. Each line and swirl of his pen is a response to his enduring love for the simple yet obsessive act of doodling.
This passion led the artist to doodle his way to success; in 2020, he was ranked as the world’s fifth most successful artist aged under 40 at auction, earning $994,238 for his large canvas titled ‘Spring 2019’ in that year. Doodle’s rise to fame was notably propelled when he went viral on Facebook after someone filmed him covering the interior of his temporary pop-up shop with doodles at London’s Old Street underground tube station.
This exposure significantly increased awareness of his work, helping him gain international recognition and millions of views for videos of him doodling and walking his paper doodle dog. Now, Mr Doodle boasts 2.9 million followers on Instagram and a steady line of collectors.
His work is marked by striking fluidity and boldness, often drawing in black and white. Characterized by busy, light-hearted doodles from intricate linework, his pieces depict characters and concepts that embody a playful and fun spirit. Often describing his doodling as ‘graffiti spaghetti’, he seamlessly engages in a flow of creativity once he starts, adorning surfaces with the precision and abundance of a blossoming garden.
Doodle’s works have a Haringesque feel, evoking 1980s nostalgia minus the societal messages. Most recently, MR DOODLE and Keith Haring‘s longtime collaborator, Angel “LAll” Ortiz, went back-to-back doodling in a New York gallery. However, it is crucial to remember that artists make work that best represents them. Doodle’s embrace of doodling as a gateway to the imagination enables the creation of fantastical landscapes, characters, and narratives, demonstrating the boundless possibilities of visual storytelling in his ongoing world-building of Mr Doodle and DoodleLand.
Doodle’s artistic endeavours go beyond conventional art spaces. His collaborations with popular brands like Fendi, Converse, Puma, Samsung, and MTV attest to his versatility as an artist. These partnerships have helped establish him as an artist who can seamlessly merge street art with commercial appeal.
In the next segment of MR DOODLE‘s universe, the artist opens his new exhibition at Hong Kong’s Pearl Lam Galleries. Titled ‘Mr Doodle In Space‘, the exhibition poses an intriguing question: ‘Will Mr. & Mrs Doodle manage to return to DoodleLand before Mas—also known as Mr Doodle’s malevolent twin, Dr Scribble—fulfils his dark mission?’
For Mr DOODLE, creativity transcends beyond canvases; it’s an embodiment of his lifestyle. His practice extends from the intricate patterns on his hand-drawn clothing to the whimsical doodles adorning his home, showcasing a deep immersion in the joy of creation. He demonstrates the transformative power of art — a celebration of self-expression and the freedom to let one’s imagination roam. We caught up with the doodling artist to learn more about his practice, especially his approach to doodling and what’s next for him.
Hi, Mr Doodle; thank you for taking the time to speak with us. To start, could you share some insights into your journey as an artist? When did you develop your passion for art, and who were the individuals or moments that played a significant role in shaping your path?
Mr Doodle: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to doodle, when I was really young this was with crayons, then it was pen and pencil drawings of my favourite video games and cartoon characters, and as I delved into art further at secondary school, I started to find the style that is most reminiscent of what I do today. When I was 15 my teacher gave me a project called ‘Obsession’ and this really kickstarted my path into finding my doodley way, a path which was later marked with the milestone of creating the character Mr Doodle. The first time I wore doodle clothes was a huge moment too.
At what point did you feel that the walls of your home could no longer contain your creativity and that you needed to move to a larger canvas?
Mr Doodle: I’ve always had the urge to doodle over everything. I love to see my doodles spreading, and it’s my dream to doodle the entire universe! From canvases to cars and entire buildings, my doodles seem to find their way onto all sorts of mediums and into all sorts of places! I love being able to express my creativity freely, and I’m very happy that I’m able to share my doodles and DoodleLand with the world.
In your art, there’s a captivating complexity to the characters, objects, and patterns that emerge. Do these stem from an underlying narrative, or are they the result of spontaneous inspiration? Can you give us a glimpse into the process that fuels your creativity and what inspires you?
Mr Doodle: My doodles are my stream of consciousness; once I put pen to paper, I get into the flow of it and just let my hand and the pen be the conduit of all the thoughts in my mind. There is an underlying narrative but this ties into the more overarching theme of Mr Doodle’s story, there is a large narrative explaining the story of Mr Doodle and how the characters fit into it.
You can see a part of this narrative shown at my Mr Doodle in Space show; this show details Mr and Mrs Doodle’s journey from Earth to DoodleLand, encountering all sorts of creatures on the way and eventually coming face-to-face with Mr Doodle’s evil twin brother Dr Scribble!
Your work is marked by a striking fluidity and a bold lack of hesitation. What’s the secret to maintaining such remarkable stamina and consistency in your creative process?
Mr Doodle: For me it is just a matter of getting into that flow and letting it happen, it feels like a really smooth and natural process to let the doodles just come to life in this way. The key for me is to just keep doodling as much as possible each day, that way the drawings never have hesitation and everything just flows out fast and naturally. It’s important not to think too much!
The therapeutic quality of art is well recognized. Could you describe how doodling serves as a form of therapy or meditation for you?
Mr Doodle: When I’m doodling I feel most comfortable, expressing myself and creating different creatures and pieces is definitely soothing and I love that the audience pick up on this sense of relaxation and calm when watching me create my works.
You gained a significant amount of attention in 2017. Could you point to any specific events or exhibitions around that time that were crucial in propelling your career forward?
Mr Doodle: One key thing for me that year was the doodling I did in a temporary pop-up shop within an underground train station in Old Street, London. Whilst doodling the walls and floors, lots of people came in to watch. One of these people filmed me drawing on the floor and the video went viral on Facebook which lead to many future events and my audience began to grow significantly.
Your works are often seen as redefining the boundaries of fine art. How do you respond to such a perspective, and how do you personally define ‘fine art’ within the realm of your own creations?
Mr Doodle: I find that my work crosses boundaries between fine art, street art and other areas. It’s hard, as with many modern artist’s work, to determine where my work sits. I love that people within the fine art world are recognising doodling as a true and respected art form, and it’s really interesting to see the discourse around that. I wouldn’t define fine art within the realm of my creations I, would say that my creations are doodles and if they are redefining the boundaries of fine art then so be it, it is natural for things to change and develop, art especially.
DoodleLand has been described as a ‘whole new visual phenomenon.’ Could you elaborate on the inspiration behind DoodleLand and what it represents to you?
Mr Doodle: DoodleLand is the world in which I envision Mr Doodle belonging to, it is his universe, monochromatic and consumed entirely by the happy doodle virus, full of fun characters and whimsical wanderers of all shapes and sizes. To me it is a joyous place, somewhere that represents positivity and happiness, where I can doodle to my heart’s content and somewhere the creatures I create, known as the ‘Doodlings’ can inhabit.
When people engage with your art, you aim to evoke wonder, happiness, and love. How do you hope your audience interacts with your work, and are there any reactions that have been particularly meaningful to you?
Mr Doodle: I love to see how people react to my work, it can really vary but some of my favourite reactions have been when I see people coming away with a sense of inspiration and happiness, it’s infectious too! When I see that, I feel even more enthused and inspired to create new works.
As you look towards the future, what new directions are you excited to explore in your art?
Mr Doodle: I want to doodle over even more things! I want to see my doodles on everything, on the biggest buildings and to reach into every corner of the world. I’m also excited to create more exhibitions for people to come and step into my world, to let people come face-to-face with my doodles and take a peek within my mind.
And finally, on a more personal note, what does art mean to you, and how does it embody who you are beyond the identity of Mr Doodle?
Mr D: To me, art is about expressing yourself in any form, but my interpretation of that comes out in a 100% fun and happy way because that’s how I feel in myself and how I feel about life- that things shouldn’t be too serious and that artists in particular shouldn’t take themselves too seriously. Because, after all, we have the best job in the world! What’s not to be happy about?