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This artist covered his mansion in doodles, fulfilling a childhood dream

British artist Sam Cox, a.k.a. Mr. Doodle, at his mansion, which has been covered inside and out in the artist's trademark monochrome, hand-drawn doodles, in Tenterden, England, on Monday. (Gareth Fuller/AP)

LONDON — There are a number of ways to turn heads in a neighborhood: covering every inch of your home with black and white doodles is certainly one of them.

British artist Sam Cox, 28, says he has fulfilled a childhood dream by transforming his home into a quirky work of art and covering it with monochrome, free-flowing drawings.

“I’ve always wanted to live in a completely doodled house,” he told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “It feels the most natural way to create art for me, and the most instinctive process when I pick up a pen and just start drawing.”

He bought the 13-room mansion in Kent, southeastern England, in 2019 and, with the help of his family and friends, transformed it into a perfectly white canvas ready for him to begin his doodles.

The bedsheets, toilet seat, cooking utilities, lamp shades and computer mouse are all doodled — with no surface left blank.

“Everything is doodled,” he said. “It’s living as an artwork.”

A video time lapse he posted online Monday shows casing the hand-drawn doodles attracted millions of views globally. He did not use computer-generated imagery, or CGI, he said. Instead, the animation is made from 1,857 photographs, “painstakingly taken between September 2020 and September 2022.”

Cox, who also goes by “Mr. Doodle,” has worked as an artist most of his life, and some of his work has fetched hefty prices at auction in Asia. Mr. Doodle is not yet a household name but is well known in the art world and among fans, and his doodles feature in coloring books and on T-shirts.

He began drawing as a child and would work through hundreds of packets of paper with his scribbles. He then asked his parents if he could start doodling on furniture and his bedroom walls, to which they acquiesced after “some convincing,” he added.

He tries not to over-plan the doodles, which he said would make his work feel “forced.” Instead, he lets himself get lost in it. “My mind tends to wander around, and I end up thinking about all sorts of things,” he told The Post. “I just have a vague idea and let myself relax and let my hand do the work.”

The artist’s grand project took almost two years, propelled in part by Britain’s coronavirus lockdowns.

The lockdowns “helped accidentally,” he told The Post. “We were forced to be inside, and my main project was so easy to access because we live there.”

He began in the bedrooms and doodled the upper floor, including a “cloud room” for thinking. Each room has a loose theme as the doodling travels downstairs, displaying animals and aliens. It finishes with spray-painted drawings on the exterior of his grand home; importantly in Britain, he uses weatherproof paint. He has also doodled his Tesla car, which schoolchildren enjoy waving at when he drives through town.

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The home is monochrome, creating stark contrasts, Cox said. His wife, Alena, known as Mrs. Doodle, has also been involved, sometimes coloring in his other canvas projects. She hails from Kharkiv in Ukraine, and the artistic couple have produced a colorful doodled heart as part of a charity project to raise funds for children caught in the war.

All his work is hand-drawn, and if he makes a mistake he tends to leave it, Cox said. “The nature of a doodle is to let it be,” he added.

Cox used 900 liters (238 gallons) of white paint, 401 cans of black spray paint and 286 bottles of black drawing paint, and he went through 2,296 pen nibs for the doodles, he said.

It is not to everyone’s taste, however.

“You are not welcome in my home,” wrote one person online. “Bits here and there are great but the whole house including furniture will hurt your eyes eventually,” said another. “This is a trypophobic nightmare,” added one person on Twitter, referring to people who suffer from a fear of repetitive patterns.

Others online have also questioned whether living surrounded by the immersive art could be jarring. “You do get used to it,” Cox said, explaining that he doesn’t suffer headaches or feel overstimulated by the decorative walls. “It just feels complete and like a happy place when it’s all doodled.”

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Whether the house is a masterpiece or a monstrosity, the couple and their dog will continue living in it and have no plans to turn it into a gallery, Cox said. They are excited to create online tours, given the international interest.

“I’m pretty committed to staying in it,” he said. “We really like where we live, and we’re really happy being in the home. We want it to stay doodled … We think it’s really fun.”

The project was kept under wraps for two years, said Cox, who lived in constant fear that a delivery driver or neighbor might take a photograph and share it online before it was complete. That didn’t happen, and his neighbors have been overwhelmingly supportive of the artistic curiosity he has created, he said.

“It’s been a really good response,” he said. “They’ve turned out to be really excited by it, and they can’t wait to come around and have a tour.”

Cox has shows in China and says he is keen to do more international projects soon. He is already looking for yet bigger canvases to cover in his doodles. “I’d love to do a whole street or a village one day,” he said.

For the art snobs who may not view the humble doodle as a high art form, Cox said he wants to encourage students in classrooms or people stuck in meetings to never consider their work “just a doodle” and to know that it “can take you far.”

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