Quick on the Draw – Meet the Band of Doodlers

No stranger to the local design scene, compulsive doodler Mas Shafreen AKA Wanton Doodle has been illustrating for a long list of, well, illustrious clients for the past eight years. With the firm belief that anything can be a canvas, his work frequently goes beyond traditional applications, adorning buildings, cable cars and sailboats in a look he personally describes as “OCD meets LSD”.

In between his corporate day job and a dizzying line-up of small to large-scale design projects, he also conducts team-building doodling workshops and mentors young artists for The Apprenticeship Programme by the National Arts Council. Really, it’s a wonder the guy gets to sleep at all.

Now, his new artist collective Band of Doodlers is blazing a trail – amid a dense cloud of marker fumes – across Singapore’s endless supply of blank spaces (Taylor Swift, eat your heart out). Mas tells us a little more about Band of Doodlers, the importance of co-creation and fostering a community through the healing power of doodling.

Check out the gallery of the team and their works after the interview.

Who are the Band of Doodlers? How did the collective’s story begin?

I started the Band of Doodlers in late 2013, with the intent to create an inclusive platform to promote collaboration and co-creation through an accessible art form. We are a doodling group made up of artists with keen interests in doodling, drawing and illustration. We are “white space bandits”, on a mission to rid the world of blank spaces.

When I was a mentor with Noise Singapore – an arts and design initiative by the National Arts Council – I realised that I wanted to create an opportunity for more artists to be involved in something greater, something that would continue to grow and evolve. My mentees from that program became the very first Doodlers.

How did the name “Band of Doodlers” come about?

I wanted something that embodies the idea of being part of a large group or posse. The idea of being bandits who are quick on the draw also provides for many Wild West drawing duel analogies. Also, “Band of Doodlers” is an Aurebesh anagram for “doodle or doodle not, there is no try”.

How much has the collective grown since its founding days?

I insisted on Band of Doodlers being a welcoming, inclusive group. The only criteria I ask for is a passion for drawing. The group quickly grew from 10 talents in March 2014 to a pool of over 250, including renowned international illustrators, today. We meet regularly for doodling events and performances, or simply to bond and exchange ideas.

Who are your clients?

We have doodled for Singapore World Water Day 2015, the Singapore Grand Prix, Adidas, Starbucks, the Singapore Arts Museum, and the National Arts Council, among others. We have also conducted workshops, visual recording exercises and team building activities to encourage camaraderie and self-discovery through doodling.

What do you guys hope to achieve with Band of Doodlers?

Our goals are to promote interactive arts as well as interaction through arts; provide opportunities for members to network and share illustrations; and advocate doodling as a fun community activity through live doodling performances.

Above all, our common vision is to have fun, because drawing is our passion, and when you pursue your passion you will definitely have fun! That emotional connection is further reinforced when you collaborate with like-minded people – which is why BOD has been all about group co-creation.

You currently have over 250 members. How diverse are they in terms of age and background?

I have to admit that most of the members are art or design school students or graduates. However, that is not a prerequisite – being able to hold a marker is. We have your non-artist types as well – child therapist, medical undergraduate, white-collar worker. Our youngest member is nine, and the oldest over 50 years of age.

Describe Band of Doodlers’ aesthetic.

During drawing events, we advocate co-creation through public participation – this may range from watching the mural piece evolve, to actually drawing along with us. As such, it would be very difficult to define the aesthetic. The closest way to describe it is that it is an expansive doodle piece that organically grows.

We typically use markers and almost always stick to just one colour – usually black on white. This is to bring together a common thread across different styles. The beauty is not knowing where one artist’s creation ends and another one begins.

What is your take on the state of traditional art techniques like drawing and painting, with technology playing such a big role in our lives?

It is important not to lose touch with traditional methods as they give you the most tactile experience. Add to that the emotional bond with other artists, and you have a very meaningful experience – which technology may find not be able to replicate.

Most of BOD’s work turns out to be extremely intricate and detailed, even though the creative process seems spontaneous and random. How much thought goes into a project before you embark on it?

Most of the project planning is done by a select few, in terms of logistics and administrative matters. It is also part of the learning experience. As their mentor, I will do my best to guide them along, but making mistakes is also part of the process. I believe that if you do not make mistakes, you are not likely to make anything.

As far as design goes, we welcome all ideas; although admittedly, we may not be able to incorporate everything into our mural pieces. We do plan on occasion for some of the more exacting design briefs, but most of our partners trust us with the final outcome – and you can see that is when we do our best work.

Lastly, any parting words for the doodlers/artists/daydreamers/rebels/office warriors out there?

Never procrastinate fun.