The Graffiti Spaghetti of Mr. Doodle

Nazia Safi
Published on
Mr. Doodle. Image from Sotheby’s.
Mr. Doodle. Image from Sotheby’s.

“I want to label myself ‘Mr. Doodle’ – the person who doodles everywhere,” says Sam Cox. Better known as Mr. Doodle, Cox debuted in the auction industry last spring. In August of 2020, he became an art market sensation when his painting Spring (2019) sold for almost USD 1,000,000 at Tokyo Chuo Auction.

Since his auction debut last year, Cox’s 158 works have amassed nearly $4,700,000. According to the Artnet Price Database, he was the fifth top-selling artist under the age of 40 in 2020. This past May, a dedicated Mr. Doodle sale at Christie’s Hong Kong brought in a total of $730,264. As the young artist continues to climb the ladder to success, Auction Daily takes a closer look at the art and style of Mr. Doodle.

Mr. Doodle, Spring, 2019. Image from The Value.
Mr. Doodle, Spring, 2019. Image from The Value.

The Birth of Mr. Doodle

Born in Kent, England, in 1994, Sam Cox began his artistic career at the age of nine. He doodled for hours on sheets of paper, often covering his entire bedroom. When he couldn’t find any paper, he scribbled over any surface he came across, including furniture, clothing, books, kitchen counters, and walls, to name a few.

To pursue a professional career in doodling, he enrolled as a graphic illustration student at the University of the West of England, Bristol. He once turned up in class wearing a hand-doodled outfit with his signature patterning— smiley faces, simple shapes, dots, and oddly outlined figures. Seeing his attire, a professor dubbed him ‘Mr. Doodle,’ an alias he has used professionally since December of 2014.

Cox believes that he resonates more with the name ‘Mr. Doodle’ as it is a part of his artwork and style. “I just always known art is such a hard thing to really get into and I felt that advertising myself as much as I could with these suits was a pretty good idea,” Cox explains. “It’s also sort of like a cape or something, where I feel like I could work better while I’m wearing it.”

Mr. Doodle. Image from The Financial Times.
Mr. Doodle. Image from The Financial Times.

Graffiti Spaghetti

Sam Cox’s whimsical, hand-drawn doodles contain interlocking designs of odd characters, clustered patterns, strange symbols and objects, and numerous complex scenes. He calls it Graffiti Spaghetti and Obsessive Compulsive Drawing (OCD).

Describing how his style got the name, Cox says, “When I was at university, a tutor described my work that way and I’ve just kind of run with that phrase since then because it really captures my style quite well… My work really consumes surfaces and wraps around like spaghetti with the layers and the way it tangles around.”

Soon, he began to doodle large-scale complex designs in art installations, murals, and street art. He later collaborated with clients like Adidas, Cass Art, Fendi, MTV, and Puma.

Mr. Doodle. Image from Artnet
Mr. Doodle. Image from Artnet

Mr. Doodle’s visual style is influenced by Disney characters, video games, and comic characters, as well as artists like Andy Warhol, Banksy, Keith Haring, and Pablo Picasso. However, his ‘Doodle World’ or ‘DoodleLand,’ as Mr. Doodle prefers to call it, is an entirely imaginary place where his characters live.

First Footstep in the Art World

In 2016, London’s Hoxton Gallery hosted Mr. Doodle’s debut exhibition, ‘Attention Seeker.’ For this exhibition, Mr. Doodle covered the gallery walls with a doodle mural featuring DoodleLand and his cartoonish fictional characters.

In 2017, he carried out a 50-hour marathon doodling paper-covered walls, floors, ceilings, and furniture in a shop in London’s Carnaby Street.

Mr. Doodle’s career shifted when he got a show at the Ara Art Centre, Seoul in 2018. In the event, the artist filled different rooms with themes like the Sphinx, the Mona Lisa, and Donald Trump. This exhibition paved the way for future opportunities; Tokyo’s Anzai Gallery gave him two shows in 2019.

Mr. Doodle, Mona Lisa, 2018. Image from Starting from Korea.
Mr. Doodle, Mona Lisa, 2018. Image from Starting from Korea.

According to Mr. Doodle, art collectors began to take an interest in his works after the Seoul exhibition. “My intention has always been to create a universal doodle language that can relate to and attract people from all over the world,” Cox said. “The fact that this has worked particularly well in Asia has just happened unintentionally, but happily.”

Mr. Doodle’s Debut Auction

A year after his successful Seoul exhibition, Sotheby’s Hong Kong hosted Mr. Doodle’s selling exhibition in December of 2019. The show featured 52 new works by the artist, ranging in price from $6,200 to $25,640. The exhibition witnessed a sell-through rate of 100 percent.

Mr. Doodle, Mona Doodle, 2019. Image from Sotheby’s.
Mr. Doodle, Mona Doodle, 2019. Image from Sotheby’s.

In June of 2020, Sotheby’s once again offered the artist’s works in an online-only auction, titled ‘Contemporary Showcase: Summer Lovin.’ The auction offered 16 pieces by Sam Cox. His 2019 works, titled Pink Kitty and Blue Kitty, fetched $22,577 each against high estimates of $903.  

This May, Christie’s Hong Kong hosted a dedicated sale titled ‘Mr. Doodle: Caravan Chaos.’ All 27 offered lots sold out, smashing their presale estimates. The event fetched a total of $730,264, with online bidders mostly residing in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan.

With 2,700,000 followers on Instagram, Mr. Doodle continues to push the boundaries. Recently, Pearl Lam Galleries announced its global representation of Mr. Doodle. He also showcased a new series of works at Art Basel Hong Kong in May of this year.

Want to learn about other contemporary artists? Check out Auction Daily’s profile of Korean joomchi artist Jiyoung Chung.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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