This was never going to be a linear interview. Mr Gordo is not a linear kind of character – you can see that from his illustrations. Or doodles, as he prefers to call them. Mr Gordo is the personification of his art; he’s free flowing yet precise, juvenile yet x-rated, considered yet carefree.
We sat down with the tattooed man himself to talk about being badass, collaborating with his idols and the mysterious doodle cave.
Mr Gordo: [Grabs the dictaphone] Welcome to the doodle world of Mr Gordo…
Rhythmic Clicking: I haven’t asked my first question yet. Who is Mr Gordo?
Mr Gordo: I’m a doodler. A doodle wizard. A badass doodler.
RC: What’s the difference between a doodler and an illustrator?
Mr Gordo: Everyone asks that. Come on, mate…
RC: Well, I’d call you an illustrator but you seem to insist on being called a doodler.
Mr Gordo: Doodling by definition is free flowing and unplanned, like my stuff. Although, a lot of my work is predetermined around briefs so I guess it crosses over into illustration too. That’s where the confusion comes in. I don’t want the pressure of calling myself an illustrator or an artist. That’s why I call myself a badass doodler.
RC: Do people think you’re being cocky when you call yourself badass?
Mr Gordo: Some people think that I’m trying hard to be cool, but I’m just having fun – I’m just taking the piss. I’ve got “badass doodler” tattooed around my nipple though so I must believe my own hype.
RC: That's dedication to your art. How did you get into whatever you want to call it?
Mr Gordo: I did a BTEC in graphic design and then studied it at Nottingham Trent University. My dad was a graphic designer so I always thought that my output had to be through that medium. I started hanging out with people at Uni who were studying different art-related courses so I stopped worrying about the strict rules of graphic design. I'd just spend my time drawing and doodling for no reason instead. I just wanted to have fun with it all. From then on, anytime I thought of an idea, I’d store it in the doodle bank and draw it as soon as I could.
RC: The doodle bank? Is that like a wank bank?
Mr Gordo: Yeah, a safe place to store my doodle ideas. My brain is a doodle bank and a wank bank, and that’s about it.
RC: What inspires you? To doodle of course.
Mr Gordo: It’d be easier to answer if you asked who inspires me.
RC: I’ll ask that in a minute.
Mr Gordo: At this moment in time, the tattoo shop I’m managing is really inspiring. I’m surrounded by creative people everyday. They’re not just straight-up tattoo artists either; they’re brilliant painters, t-shirt designers and creative all-rounders. A few days ago one of the tattoo artists was tattooing an illustrator with the illustrator's own work. That’s one hell of an inspiring environment to be exposed to, right?
Mr Gordo: I suppose it’s more of a cliché but I’m also inspired by music, especially pop punk. Oh, and I fucking love those old black and white photo booths. There’s one in Pizza East near Boxpark. You can just walk into the restaurant and get your photograph taken.
“I love being super self-indulgent and interpreting myself in loads of different ways.”
RC: What things do you enjoy doodling?
Mr Gordo: I’m really into celebrities at the moment. And myself. It’s only in the last year that I’ve felt confident in drawing myself. Maybe that’s because I’m single now and I always assumed my ex wouldn’t have liked me drawing self-portraits all the time. But now I live in my own little doodle cave so I’m in my own little bubble.
RC: Is it tricky to draw yourself without exaggerating your best bits?
Mr Gordo: I love being super self-indulgent and interpreting myself in loads of different ways. Like, I did a doddle called ‘The Gordos’. It was an interpretation of this album cover for a jazz band called The Flamingos. This girl recommended the band to me. I wanted to woo her with a drawing so I redrew the cover with loads of versions of me on it.
RC: What is it you love about the art of doodling?
Mr Gordo: Right now I love using my doodles to entertain girls. I love drawing stuff to make chicks happy.
RC: So you’re like a sleazy version of Mr Bingo?
Mr Gordo: No, it’s not sleazy, I just like to illustrate my emotions and use my doodles as a way to entertain girls.
RC: You’re always updating your Instagram page. How vital is social media in promoting your work?
Mr Gordo: Instagram is the only social media outlet that really pushes my doodles forward. I can get feedback on pieces immediately. There’s limits to it as a platform though.
RC: In what way?
Mr Gordo: There’s a whole series of 'rudles' [rude doodles] that I want to develop but because of Instagram’s shitty policy it’s really easy to get reported. I’ve got some amazing doodles that certain people wouldn’t want me to share but I’d love to see people's reactions if I did. I don’t want to offend people; I just want to see what kind of reaction I get. There needs to be a platform where you can share pieces of art without being censored.
RC: Using Instagram for exposure seems to satisfy you on a personal level, but is your work commercially successful?
Mr Gordo: That’s the problem. The transition from personal gain to commercial gain is tricky.
RC: What commercial work have you done so far?
Mr Gordo: I do a lot of gig posters for venues. In the past I’ve done stuff for The Old Blue Last and Birthdays; both are venues Vice are affiliated with. At first that was a great gig great because they’d let me do what I want, but recently it seems like the bands have to sign off the creative, that sometimes makes things tricky. On the other hand, I’ve got commissions from bands off the back of those posters, for example, I’ve done tour posters for this band called 'together PANGEA' [sic].
RC: You’ve done stuff for the Atticus clothing brand too, right?
Mr Gordo: Yeah, that was both good and bad. For me, that brand [founded by Blink 182] was massive for me as a pop punk fan, so it was amazing when they invited me to draw for them. I did a lot of work for them but they seemed pretty confused about where they wanted to be as a brand. It made me step back and realise that certain brands don’t operate how you imagine them to.
RC: Is it difficult to charge for work if you're calling yourself a doodler?
Mr Gordo: I always underprice anyway. I'll always end up doing posters on the cheap. Although, that way I get more freedom to do what I want which means I turn it around quickly. Nowadays I’m managing a shop full-time so I’m a bit slower at finishing projects. You find that some clients will prefer to commission someone who will work for free.
RC: Do you resent people who work for free?
Mr Gordo: Not at all, man. I always used to work for free so I understand that if you’re at that level in your career you need that stepping stone. At the moment, I need to top up my bills so I need to charge.
RC: Are there a lot of doodlers out there?
Mr Gordo: Everyone can doodle so yes. Search #doodle on Instagram and see how many doodles come up. This sounds big headed but I love tagging pics of my work with #doodle because kids stumble across my work and seem to go mental for it.
RC: How long does a doodle take you?
Mr Gordo: It depends. I’m still kind of a yes man. I’m always taking on projects but running a tattoo shop seven days a week. I’m becoming the person I never wanted to be, I’ll tell people I’ll turn around a poster in a night or two and then it’ll happen three days later. I hate being that person, man. I need to stop being a yes man and start being more realistic. I wish I could just produce art so there’s no brief, no deadline and no revised version. Instead of finishing ten poster commissions, I’d rather doodle Michael Jackson just because it’s his birthday and share it on Instagram.
“I drew the initial drawing of this guy getting a blow job in a pair of fake Air Max. Then Rita added some censored bits to it and that became the poster.”
RC: Do you think you could make a living just doodling exactly what you wanted to doodle?
Mr Gordo: Obviously there has to be a balance. The other day I was chatting to my friend Tim who runs the Sick Chirpse blog. We were chatting about Robbin Williams’ death and I just picked up my pen and drew Robbin Williams. I uploaded it to Instagram and it had the most likes I’ve ever had. That made me think that maybe I’d like to reinterpret current affairs through my doodles. I think that'd hit the balance between personal satisfaction and commercial success.
RC: What’s been your most memorable project so far?
Mr Gordo: The Pancake Ass, Brazilian Wax & Fake Air Max exhibition I did with Wasted Rita in Lisbon was pretty special. Rita has become a massive influence through collaborating with her.
RC: How did that collaboration come about?
Mr Gordo: Social media, again. We followed each other on Instagram and just started swapping illustrations and chatting. At the time, she was doing loads of exhibitions all over the world and was planning to come over to London. We planned to exhibit in a gallery together but we struggled to secure a space based on a verbal guarantee that we'd sell loads of prints. Rita was then approached to curate an exhibition in Lisbon, where she’d recently moved. She kindly suggested that we do an exhibition together. I stayed with her and we just made great art for a week.
RC: What work did you display? The name of the exhibition doesn’t give much away, but the poster looks really explicit.
Mr Gordo: Yeah, I drew the initial drawing of this guy getting a blowjob in a pair of fake Air Max. Then Rita added some censored bits to it and that became the poster. We didn’t have anything produced until I landed in Lisbon so we just started drawing together. I bought a load of vintage porn and introduced her to R. Kelly’s ‘Trapped in the Closet’ rap opera. We just started drawing stuff inspired from all this crude stuff we were consuming. It was a phase when I wasn’t drinking so I was sober. I had to dive really deep inside my doodle bank to push my creativity. It was an emotional roller coaster but it was really rewarding when the exhibition opened.
RC: Is the spirit of collaboration important to you?
Mr Gordo: Definitely. This year has all been about collaborating and it’s something I want to continue. I've even collaborated with a buddy to make some exclusive badass doodle rings.
RC: Is there anyone you dream of collaborating with?
Mr Gordo: I really want to finish a collaboration with one of my favourite musicians, Jordan Pundik from New Found Glory. That was the first band I saw without my parents, I was sixteen and it was their first time performing in the UK. Jordan’s recently joined Instagram and it turns out he doodles and is learning to tattoo too. I messaged him with the idea to swap doodles and after hearing nothing for ages he agreed to the idea. I dropped him my email address and before I knew it we were bouncing ideas around.
RC: What’s your idea?
Mr Gordo: He’s going to draw Cowboys and Indians because that's really American and I’m doodling some kings and queens. It sounds basic but it'll probably turn into something really intricate.
RC: Don’t they say you should never meet your idols? Isn’t doodling with them a step too far?
Mr Gordo: It’s a major box ticked. He even emailed me saying, “Sorry for the delay, my wife has just had a baby.” How crazy is that? He’s gone from this musical entity to someone on the same level as me. He’s touring in November so I’m going to have my sheets ready and get him to finish them when he’s off tour.
RC: You mentioned the doodle cave, is that where you work?
Mr Gordo: You want to see it?
[A train journey later and we're stood in the middle of Mr Gordo's doodle cave. If we struggled to understand the notion of his doodle bank then his studio/living space made us understand. Walls were wallpapered floor-to-ceiling with self-portraits, celebrities in compromising positions and terrifying creatures. It soon became clear that Mr Gordo isn't just some profit-driven illustrator, nor is he some care-free doodler, he's a character trapped within his own life-sized drawing.]