Thinking Inside of the Box:

Madrid-based mixed media artist Alex Mitchell shares her latest collaborative project.

Inspired by the infamous “Exquisite Corpse” drawing game of the Paris Surrealists in the 1920’s, the “Exquisite Doodle” Artist Project required a group of artists to doodle in succession on a little paper scroll set inside a small box. A talented group of international artists signed up to participate, and I took the task of preparing the materials and documenting each step of the project on a blog. Thus, the doodle-by-mail adventure began.

From the beginning, I wanted this project to utilize everyday materials, so that anyone could make their own scroll-in-a-box by following the instructions I'd written on my blog. The materials used were matchboxes, paper, paper clips and lollipop sticks, while the tools required included a pencil, ruler, scissors, tape and pliers.

 Making boxes
Making the “Exquisite Doodle” boxes and scrolls.

I assembled the boxes, painted the covers, started doodling on each of the scrolls, and mailed them out. From my studio in Madrid, Spain, the “Exquisite Doodle” boxes sailed around the world, reaching players in Denmark, England, Australia and the USA. I had already doodled on half of the scrolls, and the participants were instructed to add their own doodles before returning the work to me. I documented every step of the creative journey, from the preparation of boxes and scrolls, to the finished pieces.

A lot of work went into the preparation of the boxes and scrolls for each player, but receiving each unique scroll made it all worthwhile.

Bob Seal
“Exquisite Doodle” box and scroll:  Bob Seal.

The first returned "Exquisite Doodle" box I received was from Bob Seal in Australia, who created a jubilant scroll with loving messages (above). Bob’s amazing drawings make his generous spirit bounce off the paper. Kristine Suhr (Denmark) was all too happy to make her scroll into a murder mystery (below). In fact, I hear she is still searching for more clues. The butler is not off the hook yet...

“Exquisite Doodle” box and scroll: Kristine Suhr.

Paula Joerling’s scroll (Atlanta, Georgia) made me smile and think about how nothing is more comforting than spending time with good friends, especially when there’s cooking and dining involved.

Bob, Kristine and Paula's scrolls

When I first laid my eyes on Tom Haney’s scroll (Atlanta, Georgia), I nearly saw him staring back in vibrant colors! He had left his magic touch on every inch of the paper (below).

Tom Haney's Scroll
“Exquisite Doodle” box and scroll:  Tom Haney.

When I opened John Frame’s scroll (Wrightwood, California) I was struck by the familiar “old book smell,” As it turns out, John had cut his own paper and inscribed it with intricate drawings and cryptic writing. It gave me the feeling that I was holding some sort of ancient treasure in my hands.

Keith Newstead’s scroll (England) gave an endearing lesson in perseverance through his delightful drawing, while Lisa Kaser (Tigard, Oregon) filled her scroll with little characters that seemed to float across the paper. I happen to know that Mary Lou Zeek chose a rainy day to stay inside and work on her scroll; but regardless of the rain outside, it's clear to see that she drew with a cheerful heart.

“Exquisite Doodle” scroll details:  Tom Haney, John Frame, Keith Newstead, Lisa Kaser, Mary Lou Zeek.

The finished scrolls were meant to be viewed inside their little boxes by using two paper clip cranks to turn the paper. I felt a video was the best way to show the scrolls being turned, and thus, it is with a video that my doodle-by-mail adventure came to a close.

 Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell with the “Exquisite Doodle” video stage and puppets.

The Video: The “Exquisite Doodle” Artist Project (

The Blog:  Art In Communication (


The Players: 

Alex Mitchell (

Mary Lou Zeek (

Kristine Suhr, the pop-up queen par excellence (

Bob Seal, the wonderful wizard of illustration (

Lisa Kaser, a delightful teller of pictorial tales (

John Frame, the visionary film-maker (

Paula Joerling, a design and illustration goddess (

Tom Haney, a mechanical poet and storyteller (

Keith Newstead, an automata superhero (


The idea for the “Exquisite Doodle” Artist Project would not have flourished without the insight, enthusiasm, and financial support of the Mary Lou Zeek Gallery. (


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