A couple of months ago I discovered, or rather rediscovered a dormant passion for mindlessly doodling. It seems like an odd thing to fall out of practice with, especially for someone whose life and career revolves so fundamentally around illustration.
But that's just it. When a hobby becomes a career it is difficult to separate the two and, for me at least, it becomes a serious endeavor. When you start getting in projects that demand 10 hours a day of illustrative exploration and progression down a specific path, you don't generally want to pick up a pencil again when you clock off. And it's a shame as after a while you start to loose your sense of self in the work. I never stop loving what I'm doing, and I'm very privileged to make a living from a passion, but when you stop creating for yourself, for the pure love of doing a thing, you stop growing on a personal level within that field. When everything you design or illustrate is for someone else, it's like you've lost ownership of your skill.
I hardly noticed it happening until someone asked me what my hobbies were and drawing didn't make the list anymore. It felt like an accountant saying that counting shit was a hobby of theirs.
Next day a bought a new sketch book, one that would never see a drop of ink meant for work, and started doodling. I set my self the challenge of at least a doodle a day, and more often than not overshot my limited target. At first I was shaky. For about two years I had hardly wielded a pen if not creating for someone else, so I found myself asking 'what should I draw and how should I draw it?'
That first week was interesting and produced very little worth showing, but it started the discussion with myself, and slowly I began to answer my previous questions. My style wasn't what it had been before, it had fermented and developed, bubbling away under the surface of years of commissioned projects. It had split aggressively in two directions also. One following a road leading to high detail and tedious shade and line work, the other plummeting into a pit of restrictive simplicity. the more I played with them however the more I found that there was a harmony between them, like two ways of telling the same story. Each borrowing from the narrative of the other and eventually reaching a similar climax.
After a while I began sharing one of these illustrations each day over socials, partly to keep me honest and producing something for myself every day, and partly because I was growing prouder of what I was making.
There was no time limit set on this project but I knew at the beginning it wouldn't last forever, it just had to last long enough to get the kindling lit again. And soon enough my pet project was overwhelmed again the demands of paid work. Doodles coming every other day, then every few day, then once a week, but they still keep coming. Perhaps laking the military efficiency of the early days, but still coming none the less.
Here's a few of my favourites.