Fuelled by the exuberance of youth, a lot of us dare to think big and daring. A few of us dream of being film stars or musicians. Others might fantasise about saving lives, the polar ice cap or a rare species in Africa.
Sam Cox’s teenage ambition was slightly more area of interest. Because, from the age of 15, he just knew that someday he needed to turn out to be a famous doodle artist, buy an enormous white mansion and doodle throughout it. Inside and out of doors, partitions, ceilings, floors, doors and all.
‘It was my lifelong wish. The whole lot I wanted. The whole lot was done with the aim of fulfilling this dream,’ he says.
Happily, he is a little more focused than most of us and so, hey presto, 13 years later Sam (aka Mr Doodle, with a social media following of well over two million), his beautiful Ukrainian wife, Alena, 32, and I are all sitting on doodled sofas in his doodled sitting room in his grand doodle mansion, set in three acres of sweeping lawns on a leafy lane in Tenterden, Kent.
The whole lot is doodled black and white with cartoons, squiggles and patterns. The skirting boards, the cornicing, the table, the TV stand, the wood burner — even the windows and patio doors are daubed with black acrylic paint.
Hang on, the windows?
From the age of 15, Sam Cox (pictured together with his wife Alena) knew that someday he needed to turn out to be a famous doodle artist, buy an enormous white mansion and doodle throughout it
Jane Fryer took a visit to Mr Cox’s grand doodle mansion, set in three acres of sweeping lawns on a leafy lane in Tenterden, Kent
‘I assumed it could be good to immerse myself totally within the doodles,’ says Sam. ‘I desired to go for the utmost effect and I’m so completely satisfied with the result. I attempted to be very thorough.’
He isn’t kidding; you may have to look past the window doodles to see the doodled garage and doodled garden partitions. Even the inside the toilet seat has been lovingly adorned. Together with the tub, the microwave, the oven extractor hood and a few fake toast within the kitchen, for effect.
Your entire project took Sam two years of as much as 16-hour days until, last week, he was finally able to reveal the art installation that he and Alena will now live in. ‘I used to be a bit nervous about it but so pleased with what I’ve created,’ he says. ‘But even when just one person on the earth liked it, is moved by it, I’d be completely satisfied.’
It has actually caused a stir. TV networks from all all over the world are clamouring for a chat with Mr Doodle. Social media has gone bananas. And even fashion brands are limbering up for collaborations.
Some people — including one next-door neighbour, who’s screened from many of the monochrome glory by a really thick yew hedge — apparently adore it. Sue, who lives in a bungalow across the road, is a bit of less enthusiastic: ‘It is not to my taste — it is a bit psychedelic for me. Though, to be fair, I didn’t even notice it until a friend told me.’
The 2 individuals who is perhaps the least keen are the couple of their 70s who sold the home to Sam back in 2019 for £1.35 million, when his profession was first taking off.
The whole lot is doodled black and white with cartoons, squiggles and patterns. The skirting boards, the cornicing, the table, the TV stand, the wood burner — even the windows and patio doors are daubed with black acrylic paint
Your entire project took Sam two years of as much as 16-hour days until, last week, he was finally able to reveal the art installation that he and his beautiful Ukrainian wife, Alena (pictured), 32, will now live in
‘They knew I used to be Mr Doodle they usually told me to not doodle on it,’ he says. ‘I told them I would not because I loved it a lot.’
And the minute they moved out? ‘We began ripping all of it out,’ he says. ‘We have not heard from them yet, but they only moved quarter-hour down the road. It’s only a matter of time.’
So out went the rugs and bookshelves, the beige carpets and gold wallpaper — and in got here the white paint.
‘It was a really traditional English house,’ says Alena. Now each vast — and slightly empty — room has a theme: the grand hall is a doodled Noah’s Ark, the steps are Heaven- and hell-themed with Adam and Eve within the Garden of Eden on the upstairs landing and sharks on the downstairs hall floor. There are racing animals, aliens in spaceships, TV cartoons and burgers.
It’s all pretty amazing but, even except for the echoey rooms and powerful smell of paint, it’s quite an assault on the senses. The partitions almost throb with doodles.
I’m undecided I can imagine actually living here, but Sam and Alena insist they can not wait to maneuver in permanently from the annexe round the corner. And, they are saying, they love nothing greater than sleeping of their doodle bed under their doodle duvet after brushing their teeth of their doodle bathroom.
Even the inside the toilet seat and the bath have been lovingly adorned
And within the kitchen so have the microwave, the oven extractor hood and even some fake toast, for effect.
‘It’s wonderful! We adore it. The longer you stay, the more you get used to it. And it is so nice falling asleep taking a look at all of the characters,’ says Alena earnestly.
There is definitely quite a bit to have a look at — if not much furniture. Or any books, pictures, cushions or, well, signs of life. There is no color in any respect — aside from Sam’s wonderful red hair. Even their cockapoo, Joey, is black.
‘I had wanted a Dalmatian, but we decided to not,’ says Sam.
Sam is a stunning chap, nevertheless it’s protected to say he was at all times stood out from the pack. He grew up barely five miles away — the center of three sons to folks who ran a news agency.
From the age of three, he was doodling continuously — at college, during lessons, within the margins of his homework, at home, on the partitions, often until the early hours of the morning. ‘I’d sneak back downstairs and my parents would find me hidden under a table, drawing,’ he says. ‘I needed to do it.’
When he was 15, someone told him that only five per cent of aspiring artists make it. ‘So I knew I had to offer it every little thing I could, otherwise I’d regret it,’ he says. ‘I drew on a regular basis — every night until three or 4 within the morning. All weekend.’
He didn’t play football, or waste time on the pub — and really had no other hobbies.
Each vast — and slightly empty — room has a theme: the grand hall is a doodled Noah’s Ark, the steps are Heaven- and hell-themed with Adam and Eve within the Garden of Eden on the upstairs landing and sharks on the downstairs hall floor
Sam and Alena say they love nothing greater than sleeping of their doodle bed under their doodle duvet after brushing their teeth of their doodle bathroom
‘I did go to parties, but I’d take a sketch book and draw.’
Brilliantly, his friends accepted him as he was, checking up on him and bringing him food when he became too immersed in his work.
It was on the University of the West of England, Bristol, where he studied illustration and commenced to wear clothes he’d doodled on, that a tutor nicknamed him the Doodle Man. Sam loved it and created a creative alter ego.
‘There is no plan, no pencil. It just flows out. Sometimes I’m at it for 18 hours and I often haven’t any recollection of what I’ve drawn,’ he says. ‘But doodling is the perfect feeling ever. I really like constructing these universes of completely satisfied characters. It brings me joy.’
His big break got here in 2017, when he opened a Mr Doodle pop-up shop in East London. Suddenly, a Facebook video of him doodling on the white partitions, floors and ceiling was viewed 46 million times in per week.
Then got here collaborations with Fendi, Puma, Adidas and Samsung; lucrative commissions; even Mr Doodle boxer shorts. His work took off in Asia and, by December 2020, his greater pieces were selling for as much as £800,000 a pop — catapulting him to multi-millionaire status, despite being given short shrift by many art critics.
Despite promising the previous owners that he would not doodle everywhere in the house, he made a start as soon as they moved in
‘Some adore it, but others say, ‘This is not art. It mustn’t be validated’, and a couple of claim it is a rip off of American graffiti artist Keith Haring. Which does not feel fair,’ says Sam. ‘I believe Keith is an incredible artist and he has inspired me, but so produce other artists.’
It was soon after the success of his pop-up that he and Alena, a fellow artist from Kharkiv, Ukraine, met.
‘I discovered myself mesmerised by the videos [of his doodles] and messaged him to say how sensible they were,’ she says.
After six months of chat about art, they met in Berlin and, as she puts it, ‘that was that’. ‘On our first date, he told me that he had this big dream — someday to purchase an enormous white mansion and doodle throughout it. I assumed that was a really brave dream and I had my full belief in him.’
As we slide through in our socks — no shoes allowed within the Doodle House — the perfect bit is the grand hallway, with the master en-suite bathroom and its 2,000 individually doodled tiles a detailed second.
The surface — brickwork, garden partitions, statues, flagpole, flag, Doric pillars, garage doors, all done with spray paint slightly than marker pens — doesn’t work quite so well. But Alena’s recent, doodled Tesla — which took Sam just 4 hours — is slightly impressive.
It’s an excellent thing he has stuck closely to his two strict criteria upon buying the home. First, that it must not be visible from the road for fear of upsetting the neighbours. And second, that they continue to be near their family — all of whom have rallied around to support them. Sam’s uncle has been an enormous support.
‘I used to be a bit nervous about it but so pleased with what I’ve created,’ Sam says. ‘But even when just one person on the earth liked it, is moved by it, I’d be completely satisfied.’
Alena’s Ukrainian parents, who fled here in March after the war broke out, helped design the two.8-acre garden.
Sam’s 83-year-old grandfather, David helped paint all of the partitions white and was an enormous support when, in early 2020, the stress of juggling every little thing Doodle became overwhelming. ‘It is a bit of an obsession really and all of it got a bit much for [Sam] when things really took off. He’d have a phone stuck to his ear and he’d be drawing on canvases while negotiating contracts and payments,’ says David. ‘I said, ‘You are doing an excessive amount of.’ ‘
After contracting flu, by his own account, Sam began hallucinating that he was living in a video game as Mr Doodle, and needed to spend six weeks on a psychiatric ward. It will need to have been a dark time for all of them, but today he looks great, is beautiful company and seems utterly content. ‘Day by day is such a completely satisfied day now,’ he beams.
But in fact it’s! He’s wealthy, famous, can sell his doodles all over the world for vast sums and, aged 28, has already fulfilled his wildest childhood dream. Perhaps the one downside of achieving your life’s ambition once you’re so young is understanding what to do next.
‘I believe possibly I’ll do an entire street,’ he says. ‘Or a village, or perhaps a town.’
Be careful, people of Tenterden!