What happens when an artist plays with his food?
Doug stirred the paint directly into the dinner leftovers in his Tupperware, eager to try out the effect of his new “paintbrush.” He fished out a handful of cold, sticky spaghetti, threw his right arm back over his shoulder, and pitched the spaghetti toward the empty hanging canvas. Thinking ahead, he had already put a second canvas below the initial one to catch the pasta as gravity pulled it toward the garage floor.
For acrylics painter Doug Naugle, inspiration surfaced one winter evening while he cooked pasta for his kids. When Doug looked at the cooked spaghetti, he recalls, “I saw these beautiful flowing lines inside the colander.” Doug wondered if he could recreate the same effect on a canvas. He remembered thinking, “People have painted with all sorts of things; why don’t I just try actually painting with [noodles]?” Little did Doug know that this thought would inspire dozens of paintings and help form a new style.
Doug began his career as an artist just days after graduating from Coronado High School in Lubbock, Texas. Earlier in the year, Doug had visited Angel Fire, New Mexico, on a ski trip with his neighbor. “While we were there,” Doug says, “we went to visit one of his friends who was an artist, and he was in his prime. He was really making a splash on the scene, and I was like, ‘All right, I am not going to college; I am going to move to Angel Fire.’ I was eighteen years old; I had no idea what I was doing.” Doug packed his entire life into two bags and headed to the mountains, where he spent the next seven years painting southwestern-style art.
During that time, Doug got most of his ideas for new paintings before falling asleep. “I’d be lying there and [an idea] would pop into my head,” he says. “I would go write it down and take notes, and I wouldn’t have a problem painting it from start to finish. Somehow that faded, that went away, and I was struggling to come up with ideas.” It was then that Doug realized he needed to step back from full-time painting and look for a new artistic outlet. He returned to Texas and began learning the complexities of working behind the camera in videography, a passion he followed for twelve years before delving into acrylics again. Doug says, “That fueled my creative energy for a long time, and then I realized my true passion was painting and creative art. [Videography] wasn’t the same.”
Since returning to the easel, Doug’s work has evolved tremendously. While many of his paintings involve spaghetti, Doug creates others strictly using traditional drip work. Typically, Doug begins with a color pallet; he pours his paint into ketchup squirt bottles, drips the paint on to the canvas, and then sprays it with water. Doug says, “Sometimes I’m tilting [the canvas] and other times I’m laying it flat; it reacts differently both ways. Sometimes I’ll do both.” Often, if he lays the canvas flat, he will drip rubbing alcohol onto the wet paint, causing a fascinating effect when the paint separates.
In most of his work, Doug completes the drip work phase and lets the canvas dry before mapping out naturally-existing shapes with a Sharpie or paint. “I try to bring out a pattern, an organic pattern, something that looks like it’s created more by nature than by man,” he says. Doug admits, however, that not all of his blended colors in the drip work stage are eye-catching. “Some of the ugliest pieces, when I block those out into trees, they become some of the most beautiful paintings.”
Trees are an enduring theme in Doug’s work; he searches for them in many of the outlines of his paintings. “There’s something about trees that keeps me grounded,” Doug says. “They make me feel calm.”
Doug’s painting Life prompted many of his nature-inspired works. He explains, “If you look at it, it’s a story all-encompassing about life.” The painting features many elements of the earth, including views of the galaxy and the skies, along with water and the sun. When Doug initially created the piece, he was looking to create a reflection of life around him; he didn’t realize that the title would also reflect the period he was going through. Doug reveals, “The really cool thing about it is that it kind of breathed new life into me. It’s fitting; I think my subconscious is smarter than my conscious sometimes.”
Sometimes inspiration comes from an unexpected place, such as the kitchen colander. If Doug’s work is any indication, working with the unexpected often leads to uniquely beautiful results. “I’m always creating the chaos first,” Doug says, “whether it’s by throwing cooked painted spaghetti on a canvas or dripping paint and using chemicals or water bottles to help it move and flow.” That’s the true constant in Doug’s work: patterns from chaos.