The Subway Series: Exclusive Interview with Artist Subway Doodle

Subway Doodle is a multi-media artist best known for his creative collages that depict blue monsters (creatures) who interact with NYC residents on a daily basis. These blue creatures become looked upon as everyday monsters and showcase a variety of emotions- just like their human counterparts. Subway Doodle has many other accolades such as being an accomplished writer, director, motion designer, editor, and creative director at The Mint Farm which is a Brooklyn based agency that produces short-form content for both television and social media. His work has been recognized with dozens of media industry awards and was displayed at the Museum of the Moving Image.

I feel very fortunate to have met you several months ago at 198 Allen Street where you had created this wonderful 3D monster. I remember trying to photograph it at all different angles as it was so unique and whimsical. What made you decide to be part of that particular show and have you created other 3D pieces prior to this show? I am so used to seeing your monsters in photographs that the 3D monster was something new for me.

I like exploring different mediums and tinkering with mechanical things. That installation was an experiment in giving depth and movement to my doodles. My doodles started as small digital creations on a digital tablet. When I began painting my Blues on walls, the idea was to bring them into the real world. This installation was an experiment in expanding my doodles from 2D to 3D. It was partly successful. A moving mechanical component didn’t work as planned. I solved that problem in a moving installation I created for a Bloomingdale’s window this past summer. But plenty of other new issues came up. Fail. Learn. Succeed. Repeat. My recent Wall Monster series was a painful lesson in molding liquid plastics. Fail. Learn. Succeed. Repeat.

Photo Credit: Emma Gordon Levine

Please tell our audience about your process when using mixed media. Do you photograph the initial frame and then add the appropriate monster into it? You have so many wonderful varieties on both your feed and site of different locations so I wondered if the monsters come to life based on their surroundings.

I take a lot of photos, but I use a small fraction of them. Maybe 1 out of 100 will become a doodle. I have a hand tremor, which makes taking pictures challenging, especially in low-light settings; like the subway. A lot of photos are blurry and unusable. And then it’s simply a matter of finding a photo that provides inspiration. When I'm taking pictures I rarely have a concept in mind. Sometimes I do, but usually I’m looking for it when I review the pictures later on.

What was your major in college?

In college I was a Fine Arts Major with a concentration in oil painting. I also contributed a comic strip to the school paper, designed and sold inappropriate collegiate t-shirts, and made flyers for parties and friend’s bands.

I must ask you why you chose the subway as the main subject matter of your work? When did you start "doodling" underground?

The subway became a main subject of my work because I was spending so much time drawing during my commute. For a long time I just sketched random things. One day, in 2011, I used the camera of my tablet to take a picture and started drawing over the photo. And I just kept doing it.

Do you directly equate the monsters with the humans using the MTA system?

Sometimes they are reflections of daily life in New York City. Sometimes they are just meaningless doodles that were fun to draw. I find it interesting when people find unintended meanings in my work.

Are the monsters your friends or do they have a life of their own? Did you grow up enjoying someone like Shel Silverstein or are there other artists you were inspired by? That was unfair of me to give that reference without knowing who inspired you to create your colorfully interactive monsters.

Growing up, I always loved to draw monsters. I simply never stopped. Of course I read Where The Wild Things Are a hundred times when I was a kid. Who didn’t? And I read it a hundred times to my kids. Was it the primary inspiration for my monsters? No. Was it one of hundreds of influences? Yes.

Do you view your work as a way to express a variety of feelings?

Sometimes. There are pieces that were intentional expressions of how I was feeling at the time. Creating is such a healthy form of therapy.

Did the monsters become friends to you? Did you feel alienated in any way as a child? When did you start doodling?

I have been drawing since I was 5.

Did your first pieces look anything like they do now? What brought these creatures to life?

I recently uncovered the box that contains all of the childhood artwork I saved. It was interesting to see elements from past works that have persisted.

What bit of advice could you offer an emerging artist that does not know how to get to the next level?

Draw, paint, create. Good art is a series of successful mistakes. Go make some mistakes!

What advice would you give to artists struggling to gain notice?

Don't measure your self-worth by likes and followers. Your art should be for you. Notoriety is a bonus.

Where can our audience learn more about both you and your monsters?

Instagram: @SubwayDoodle

Facebook: facebook.com/subwaydoodle/

Twitter: twitter.com/SubwayDoodle

Prints are available at subwaydoodle.com

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