June 15, 2010


I don't remember when I started doodling...it's just one of those things I always did. My school papers from elementary through college are decorated with eyes, trees, anatomy experiments, butterflies, and weird abstract shapes, and I have all sorts of notebooks and folders lying around that are chock full of odd little doodles that I keep thinking I'll go back and revisit someday. I always sort of felt that when my hands were busy, I could concentrate more effectively. I would take notes in class and would later be able to recall something about Biology or Music History based on the odd little drawing that grew up in the margins around that portion of my lecture notes.

My doodling gained a new intensity when I started using Bic round stic medium pens. This is not intended as an ad, but to this day I love the way ink emerges from a medium Bic. It's consistently smooth and dark, and with practice and sensitivity can be manipulated into creating various textures and grades of shadow. Most of my largest and most involved drawings are done in Bic pen and Sharpie...with a bit of #2 pencil thrown in occasionally as well. The techniques I consider most particular to my personal style have all been born from a habit of idly fidgeting with these cheap simple materials.

The picture on the left illustrates this technique perfectly. I drew it during the summer (maybe 1996 or 1997?) I worked as a housekeeper at the International Music Camp on the border between North Dakota and Canada. I loved the IMC and had already attended several years as a camper. Some of my most formative adolescent memories center around the IMC's performing ensembles where I was surrounded by students from around the world who had just as much, if not more, excitement about playing music as I did. Housekeeping on the other hand was a tough job and we were given only one day off per week...our only day to be free from dirty toilets and stinky trash...and my only day to revel in the musical goings on I otherwise had to ignore.

On one of my days--a particularly damp one--I huddled myself into a corner of the main performance hall with some paper and a pen and began to doodle an eye...which, admittedly is how I've begun about 90% of everything I've ever drawn. While I sketched, one of the ensembles was rehearsing the Holst "First Suite for Band". There is magic that happens in those IMC bands and I remember being absolutely transported as I listened. From there I just let the picture emerge as it pleased...let the line tell its story without imposing judgement or any preconceived structure.

The result...well...it is what it is. People look at it and tell me what they think it says about my psyche: that I'm in emotional pain...a tormented artist...that from my grief is born a cruel sort of beauty...that as I create and share my gift it is also eating me alive. Maybe, maybe not...in any case, I did not start out with the intent to draw a speared fish, and that pleading expression could have just as easily turned into the frolicking gaze of a unicorn.

Since then I've done dozens of these kind of drawings. Some of them are just as random and surreal (and slightly morbid) as the speared fish...

And others ended up retaining a consistent theme and stayed relatively tame...

Some do illustrate nightmarish fantasies (Oooo...branched out into some blue Bic!)...

And others are optimistic and even a little light hearted (used a hint of colored pencil here)...

By far the most complicated drawing I've ever completed that is still completely an unplanned doodle is "Bad Trip". Let me just say I have NO IDEA where this bizarre image came from, but as with the speared fish, I started with an "eye"...

Yes, that is an eye...of sorts. The small black dot in the middle is the pupil, the oddly transparent tubular growth around it is the iris...can you see it now? I started this doodle on a large (19 x 24 in) sheet of very nice paper and had intended (and hoped) it would end up being one of my more "serious" works, but I had no idea how utterly obsessed and disturbed by it I would become. It's based roughly on a nightmare I'd had previously (and only vaguely remember at this point) where a gigantic eye had slowly, over the course of "dream-days", peeled itself out through the top of my skull.

I began the drawing on a Sunday afternoon and (as I've frequently done) stayed up late into the night working on it. I eventually pulled myself away to get a few hours of restless sleep, but I couldn't stop thinking about that horrible eyeball...it literally made my skin crawl knowing it was laying out in my living room...looking around...

When I woke up for work the next morning, I could only think about finishing the drawing. I called in sick and spent the rest of the day, well into the evening, watching the psychotic image create itself before me. Other than the eye I had no idea what would come out of the page. It was a doodle that lasted two days...and almost used up an entire Bic pen!

I promise...I've never used any sort of substance to induce a drawing. This just comes out of my naturally wacky imagination.

One of the things I'm looking forward to most about going back to school is that I'll once again have to take notes in class. Maybe my old habit of thoughtless doodling will resume and a new spark of creativity will ignite. If I'm lucky it will help end the horrible dry spell I've been experiencing and I'll have a whole new series of interesting doodles to share with you!


  1. You are so multi-talented! I still have a drawing you did for me forever ago, of a couple of faces in some flowers. My little girls love it and it's hanging up in their room.

  2. I love to surround myself with your art, as you know. Now I have even more interest in your "next" DOODLE!!!!

  3. The comment posted by MPS is really mine. Rod was logged in to my computer and forgot to log out