There’s an idea in pop-psychology that someone’s personality can be determined by what they doodle – stars are drawn by optimists, squares by control freaks and stick figures by people headed for success. Marc David Spengler’s scribbles say that practice makes perfect.
Blocks of color and reoccurring geometric symbols fill pages and pages of Marc’s A6 notebooks, and the German image-maker often tears through a whole sketchbook in a couple of weeks. “Every day I try to draw as much as I can to keep pushing it forward,” he says. Sometimes he redraws the same scene over a number of pages, making small changes each time. Flipping quickly through the sequence creates a mesmerizing stop-frame animation.
Using a mix of Molotow One4All and Posca markers, Marc crams color into his drawings, adding as many as he can in one spread. His tubes, staircases and letters fit into the frame in bold combinations like a game of Tetris.
Watching the time-lapse videos of his process on his Instagram, you soon realise that Marc has a strange way of working – almost as if nobody has taught him where to begin. Instead of drawing the outlines of objects and then coloring them in like most people would, he begins at the edges of the page filling in the negative spaces first to eventually reveal shapes in the white of the paper.
So while Marc’s compositions seem pre-determined – mapped out methodically in his mind like an architectural plan – 90% of his images are created spontaneously. “I try to think as little as possible about what I’m drawing,” he says. “The vision comes to my mind. I refuse to do a pencil drawing beforehand, otherwise the coloring part would become boring because I can already imagine how the result will look.” The outcome is always a surprise to him.
I refuse to do a pencil drawing beforehand, otherwise the coloring part would become boring because I can already imagine how the result will look.
Sometimes he’ll draw real life objects like a guitar, a bike, or a bowling ball, which stayed in his mind for weeks after an evening bowling with friends, before it made its way into his work. For the most part though, the shapes that unfold in his artworks are abstract. “It’s more interesting to draw shapes that have no meaning, because there’s more room for interpretation,” he explains.
Other times, phrases will pop up from his subconscious. In two works, block letters spell out the titles for seventies disco hits Boogie Wonderland by Earth, Wind & Fire and Boney M’s Ma Baker. Listening to music helps to switch his mind off, aiding his “non-thinking” way of working.
Marc’s affection for custom lettering came from a stint of basic graffiti writing. “In Germany you can see graffiti everywhere,” he says. “The biggest inspiration for me were the pieces I saw along the train line. Every piece was covered with paint and there were so many different colors and styles. When you’re painting and twisting letterforms you learn a lot about different letters and that aroused my interest in typography and later in graphic design.”
While Marc associates feelings with certain colors and shapes, it’s not his aim to communicate these with his audience. “Of course I like getting positive feedback about my drawings,” he admits. “But basically I’m doing them for me. It just makes me happy.”
It’s more interesting to draw shapes that have no meaning, because there’s more room for interpretation.
Words by Alix-Rose Cowie