Bigger doodles

By “doodle” I mean drawing or painting without a plan. No preparatory sketches, no particular subject or composition or colours in mind, just start painting and keep painting. I like the idea of it, partly because doodling seems too casual for a medium like oil painting, which is sometimes weighed down by its own history. Also, the low-stakes improvisation of doodling seems to me to be conducive to unguarded imagination, although I haven’t got there yet.


170114b (2017) oil on canvas 30 x 45cm

This one was a true doodle. I started painting the ribcage and went from there. I wasn’t copying from other paintings, but I can see a jumble of influences here. The way the skeleton is painted comes straight from Albert Oehlen’s Black Rationality (1982), the girl’s washed out face is from Karen Kilimnik, the patchy high-contrast modelling of the neck and folding arm are from Dana Schutz, Judith Linhares and Philip Guston (the blades of grass definitely Schutz), and the composition owes something (not a lot) to Neo Rauch. But with so many influences jostling, it ends up looking more like something else, some kind of surrealism, but I’m not sure who (Sydney Nolan? Paul Nash?).


Sydney Nolan Glenrowan (1956-7) oil on hardboard 91.4 x 121.9cm

It’s all fine with me. The more I paint, the more I relax into it, the more possibility there is for ideas to come into my head and get into paint without a lot of fuss. It’s like the TV set in Poltergheist. Gotta have the portal open before the ghouls can come out. The fact that I now feel confident doodling at a slightly larger scale, and with more illusionistic space and figuration, will give me more freedom to invent content, which I like.


170114c Bosse-de-Nage (2017) oil on canvas

I started painting the greenery, then decided to put Bosse-de-Nage in the picture. It’s a character from Alfred Jarry’s writing. He has a dog’s head and a baboon’s body, I think. I’ve only read about him briefly in the Pataphysics guide. My painting doesn’t really look like a dog or a baboon, but I had fun negotiating the arrangement of limbs, imagining where the light might fall, trying to make it a legible form. I didn’t know what to do in the space on the left, so I just used up the remaining paint. Now I think it looks like he’s witnessing another similar creature vaporising. That part of the painting reminds me how much I want to get gesture and abstraction back into the mix of my paintings. I like how it’s more dynamic than the figure’s fixed pose.


2 thoughts on “Bigger doodles

  1. and while you’re doodling in these few exercises, other stuff is happening in them than you are noticing. Says I. But composition is happening way more subtly than simply thinking, oh what will I put facing Bosse de Nage. It’s all part of relaxing into it as you say.


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