Linnea Doyle on robots and Art-A-Whirl
|Linnea Doyle in her studio.|
City Pages recently talked to Linnea Doyle, the artist behind the metro's most whimsical robot paintings. A Minnesota native, Doyle grew up in Minneapolis and went to Washington University to study art before coming back to her home state. Doyle specializes in painting figures in a place she describes as a "reality where colors are twice as bright, love is infinitely more vivid, and the world is condensed into simple, crystallized pleasures, so just a smile ignites a connection to make any distance small."
What first got you started in art?
Until fairly recently, I had no idea that I even had such a thing as visual thinking. I thought everybody's brain worked that way. I have this extremely vivid memory from when I was only one and a half that finally gave me the realization that my picture brain is not universal.
What was that moment?
I was standing wide legged on the wood threshold in the door between the kitchen and the bathroom and looking up at my grandmother. She was in front of the sink, and as she turned to me she was grasping her front teeth between thumb and forefinger. It was like she was smiling, and then the teeth all popped out of her mouth and there they were in her hand. My mother says I ran through the house yelling. I don't remember that part, but I do remember tugging at my own teeth to see if mine would come out.
The impact of that moment wasn't because it started my interest in visual thinking or changed the way I see the world, but from the earliest moment I've been hardwired this way.
What's your favorite medium?
I'm more of a drawer than a painter. Even though most of what I do involves paint, I almost always end up drawing on the canvas. I like to use everything: acrylics, oils, charcoal, colored pencils, inks, and markers. My least favorite are watercolors; I'm awful at using them. I guess what I use most just might be Sharpies.
Why did you choose robots as one of the more prominent figures featured in your paintings?
I started doodling them in my sketchbooks, repeating them so much it was like a robot invasion. I drew the shapes over and over until they had developed an entire world. Once I
made the first three paintings, the response I got from viewers was huge -- robots are oddly
fascinating when they look back at you. They appeal to all kinds of people, and it seems
they're easy to connect with.
They're very convenient containers. You can put any emotion you want into a robot. Mine are less mechanical and a little more organic as far as robots go. I was working toward a character that was super simplified, but still kept a lot of nuance. I had all these thoughts that I wanted to express subtly, and it was funnier to me to do it by being obvious. I like putting the robots in new situations all the time because I want them have a kind of candor, an uninhibited response to finding themselves there.
Imagine if your robots stepped out of their paintings, what would they say?
This is interesting. I never imagine their voices. Everything they have to say is there for your eyes. That's the language they use for addressing these feelings, which are essentially abstract. So, maybe they'd play music or sing a song with no words.
Your style varies differently from the robot and ball-guy work to sweeping landscapes and detailed figure drawing. Is there a challenge to switching back and forth between both kinds of subjects?
The diversity in my work is due partly to the growth and evolution of my style, learning new ways to draw and depict subjects, and partly to the circumstances I'm creating in. If I'm alone in the studio and focusing tightly on a small drawing, it turns out differently than doing a huge painting onstage with a high energy rock band or DJs. I don't prefer any particular style, but I like my work best when you can see a story in it. The challenge for both is to end up with a picture people want to keep looking at, and it's a huge joy when I can accomplish that in any style.
What was your experience in college as an artist like? Did you find you were able to branch out more? Or have you found yourself more artistic after graduating?
I had a great time at art school. For the first time, I was surrounded by a ton of other deeply creative people, and it was a fun place. However, I wish they would have taught me more about the business side. In retrospect, I think that you should go to art school in the city you want to work in. The connections you make are so important.
As far as finding myself as an artist, that is something that is always happening. There's just different phases, and hopefully my biggest advances are yet to come.
This year I have a completely new series that I'm excited and nervous to reveal. People familiar with the generally cheery robots may be surprised. I decided to start bringing all the hurt, broken robots out of my sketchbooks into paintings, and this series has collage elements and a more restrained color palette.
I'm also showing the Strangers series that was the precursor to the dark robots, and I'll still have plenty of happy colorful robots on hand.
What other kinds of work have you done as an artist?
I've done a really wide range of illustration work because it's easy for me to adapt my style to what's needed for each project. I spent a while doing concept design for furniture, drawing gig posters for bands, spot illustrations for articles, creating custom wedding invitations, action painting for bands and DJs, and working on commissioned paintings.
The botanical illustration is still some of my favorite work I've done. I love plants, and I got to examine them in microscopes and do extremely detailed work. I was drawing these plants that were brand-new species, and being identified for the first time in history. It was nerdy and exciting, I saw specimens that Darwin collected.
More recently, I did a drawing for Magnetic Poetry's Love Robot word kit. I just got a book made where my illustrations are the story for an epic haiku poem. It's called "The Stranger." Right now, I'm working on a children's book that's going to be amazing. It's the adventures of two siblings in a magical world told by a friend who is a master storyteller.
If you could take on any project, what would you do?
I'd do a storybook about the robots that every kid everywhere would want to read every night. I would do screenprint or woodcut editions. Then I would paint really humongous versions, and spend years working on each one. I'd just keep drawing and see what I would create next. I'm basically already doing what I love.
What do you want viewers to take away from your art?
Most of the time, just a smile and a sense that this little world actually exists somewhere.
IF YOU GO:
Visit www.nemaa.org for a complete list of locations and happenings
Noon to 10 p.m. Friday; noon to 8 p.m. Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday