If you’ve had a wander around East London, chances are you might have stumbled across one of Doodle Man’s doodles. Sam Cox is a 22 year old illustrator who’s donned a quirky alter ego of super doodler. His quest? To one day accomplish the ultimate feat of doodling the entire world.
Sam started exploring his doodling tendencies since he was a toddler. At 15 his teachers helped him push his skills further. From then on his life revolved around illustration, studying the subject at Bristol University. This is where things really kicked into action.
What was university like for you?
I had between 4–7 tutors at any one time. The majority suggested that my work had to have more meaning. They’d say things like “you need to anchor your work towards something happening in the world, like politics or world issues”. I kind of got that but that just wasn’t me. It wasn’t my style. It never felt natural for me to do those kind of stories.
That’s a lot of tutors! What was your relationship like with them?
All of my tutors were really nice, and there was a tutor for every individual. This meant we could pick up the best advice from each and take into account their own point of view. Some were harder for me to please than others, and often this challenged me to create better work for the harsher tutors critique.
What kind of influence did they have on your work?
One day I decided to doodle on my clothes and I wore them into university. My tutor saw me and took a photo to post onto Instagram. It got a really good reaction, and from that I decided to build a fictional story from this character. That brought everything together for me, and my tutor helped me realise that.
The Doodle Man was born, and his quest began.
Like all creators, Sam had to negotiate the transition between illustrating as a study and as a career, the illusive bridge for creators that universities seem to forget about. Fortunately for Sam the transition was fairly frictionless. His proactive mindset prepared him well:
Early in my university years I offered to do murals for kebab and fish and chip shops. I asked if I could doodle on their walls, and for payment I’d have free food for the week.
That sounds both delicious and terrifying having all that free food...
I also did a burger van. The great thing about it was that because I had all this free food, I could try everything on the menu. Things that I would not have usually ordered (I realised spicy food was not my thing). I admit this probably was not best for my health!
Along with fast food shops, Sam progressed into doing murals for a number of schools. From then he had obtained enough contacts and promotion to roll into an artistic career, a position many of us would have loved to have been in upon graduation. Ultimately, his unique alter ego coupled with an early initiative to hustle work with restaurants set him up to make a living out of his passion.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
5 years ago I was 17, I knew I wanted to keep doing this. I just didn’t know whether it would work. I want to see how far I can take this. One day I want to own my own house, paint it white, and doodle every inch of it as the Doodle Man’s home. It will be a big Doodle Man brand.
Don’t get embarrassed. Don’t care about sharing your vulnerability and your work. You’re the artist and you have to be the leader.
What advice do you have for fresh new artists?
Practice makes perfect… Ha I know its cliche but I’ve got to say it. I think for me, I’d say really try to take criticism in the best way. Learn to recognise good feedback and take the best bits of advice from everyone. Making mistakes is not a bad thing.
Procrastination is bad. Everyone does it and is guilty of it. It’s so much easier to say I’ll do that tomorrow, if that happens you should do that straight away. You might turn 40 and realise you have not done what you want. I hate the idea of getting old and saying I really should have done that thing. There are a lot of people in that situation and it’s a shame. Don’t listen to downers, sometimes its just worth trying things no matter the outcome.
One thing I noticed at university is that it seemed frond upon to talk about your work in a good way. Or to be proud of something. People don’t need to be big headed but you shouldn’t feel bad about the work you make.
Don’t be tamed from what people think. I can remember when I started dressing up into my suit. My parents were saying not to walk down certain areas because you might get beaten up. You shouldn’t live like that, it’s not an offensive thing. You can’t blame people for having a go, but you just got to do it.
Above all, don’t get embarrassed. Don’t care about sharing your vulnerability and your work. You’re the artist and you have to be the leader.