February 20, 1996 in City

Doodles Say Oodles About The Artists

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:column

Sometimes there’s a very blurry line between art and garbage.

For example: Lynn Colwell and Sarah Porter once threw away all the squiggles, curlicues and zigzags they routinely scribble on their desk calendars at work.

The pair now stockpile their inky scratchings as if they were priceless Picassos.

The duo dreams of making business cards. They talk of selling T-shirts and other items imprinted with their unique and thoroughly random designs.

Trash has been elevated to treasure now that the two Spokane Community College employees are immortalized in a monthlong exhibit of doodling.

“If a guy can become a millionaire with pet rocks, why can’t we do the same with doodling?” says Colwell.

The, ahem, artist graciously accompanied me to Coeur d’Alene the other day, where her, ahem, work hangs in the North Idaho College Doodle Show.

There certainly are oodles of doodles in the Student Union Building’s basement gallery.

The walls are covered with doodled-on scraps of paper, school binders, a telephone book cover, a gourd, a jacket, a lunch bucket, a well-worn pair of canvas Keds. …

A few people doodled faces or cartoon characters. Most drew meaningless designs: boxes, triangles or abstract shapes.

The show even includes the stylish doodlings of Panhandle Health District Director Larry Belmont.

Taxpayers will be thrilled to learn that Belmont probably created these masterpieces on the job. You can still see the notes Belmont was taking at the same time he was drawing little curvy stained-glass windows.

One woman submitted vintage doodles that her now-deceased mother, JeAnne Scott, drew on a railroad notepad in 1946.

A few entries, however, clearly don’t belong. These are not doodles, but skillful sketches done blatantly by people with real talent.

“Pseudo-doodlers,” proclaims Colwell of the ringers. “Not us. We’re the real thing.”

Colwell and Porter are as pure and compulsive as doodlers get. Their giant, doodle-covered calendars occupy an entire wall of the show.

If doodling is a window into the mind’s inner workings, Porter may need some serious couch time. Her doodles are dark, spiky landscapes that Dante wouldn’t dare walk through.

“I don’t know what they mean,” she says, adding a nervous laugh. “I don’t want to know.”

Colwell’s etchings are colorful, intricate mosaics, but you have to wonder: is this stuff art?

“One doodle would mean nothing,” explains NIC art instructor Allie Vogt. “But all of them together make the doodle a significant force.”

Vogt’s fertile mind hatched the idea for this zany show. She solicited doodles from members of the public and is thrilled by what she got.

But come on. Just because your mama sings in the shower doesn’t mean she deserves a concert tour.

Likewise, doodling hardly warrants the gallery treatment.

Most of us doodle out of nervous habit. It’s a way to keep from being bored silly while earning a paycheck or yakking on the telephone.

“It’s an affliction,” says Colwell, who says she once doodled on her son’s shoes. “You can’t put a piece of paper in front of us or it will be covered.”

Perhaps the scariest thing is the public reaction to this show. Visitors wander into the gallery and strike thoughtful poses as if they were appreciating Rembrandts in the Louvre.

The gallery guest book is filled with gushing praise.

“Much better than most regular art exhibits,” wrote Will Nesse.

“Way cool!” added Elizabeth Stokes.

I don’t know. I think if Van Gogh got a load of this flapdoodle he’d slice off his other ear.

, DataTimes MEMO: The Doodle Show runs through Feb. 29 and is open noon to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The Doodle Show runs through Feb. 29 and is open noon to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.


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