Once Upon A Time, Or Doodling Is Coming Back

Once upon a time (we are talking the 90's) I doodled.  With pen/ink.  And strange things were evolving.  Intertwined and moving shapes.  Some more abstract than others.  This doodling was not taught during my art school days (how would you teach this?), and there is no way anyone would think these were mine.  They didn’t look like anything else I worked on.  They were a different world from classical plaster casts and endless still lifes in the academic art school back in Russia.  Here are some examples (click on the images to enlarge).

I don’t think I even realized what I was doing. I was sort of weaving lines together and they morphed and took shape of their own.  Working like this was liberating.  These were not meant for anyone but me.  It was literally a spill of something out of me onto the paper, and I had the urge to keep doing it.  No outline, no planning.  They started with no specific idea in mind, and it’s almost like the pen was going on its own.   

I am turning back to them now (and digging through old notebooks and folders I have not looked at for ages) because I just realized that I was unconsciously starting to use those forms, that fluidity, and that abstraction, in a sense, in my otherwise realistic paintings.  Comparing my recent paintings to the ones I’ve done several years ago, I am seeing this more and more.  Look at "That's What I Dream".  Or "Wafting in Crimson".  Or even "Indian Corn".  But it didn’t occur to me until now that I am in some way using something similar to those old doodles.  I guess that’s how my brain works.  Sooner or later the doodles were meant to play their role. 

Or maybe they did not go anywhere to begin with, maybe I used them all along.  After all, the main purpose of those lines was to create a movement, a compositional draw.  Even examining my still lifes, my favorite parts of those paintings were the ones where I just let loose and created abstract shapes.  I looked for repetitive elements, diagonals, for push and pull, for weaving the strokes into something that looked believable and fresh to me.  Isn’t that from that old doodling? 


After years of concentrating mainly on oil painting I am coming back to drawing.  Soft charcoal and graphite drawings, yet there is an element of that old doodle – at least in those feathers of the most recent drawing.  This is all doodling.  The feathers I saw were not exactly this way, but to move the eye around the figure, to make the transition from shade to light believable, to get the shapes and the textures more interesting to the viewer, I just let go and had at it.  With some brushwork too – look at the washes/spills under the graphite (charcoal can be painted with, who knew).  Doodling.  That same old doodling.  Liberating.  Work, don’t take me wrong, it took hours.  But so fun.

The piece I am currently working on is also pushing that doodling (in the shape of the fabrics).  And I love that.