Random Quadrupeds Part 3: Process, Intentions, Source Drawings

Random Quadrupeds source drawing, created 2004-02-14

This post looks at the original source drawings that served as inspiration for my Random Quadrupeds series. In my previous posts (Part 1, Part 2) about this series I wrote primarily about the process and the finished pieces. It was only in hindsight, while looking for a specific file for another purpose, that I remembered the origin story of the concept, as compared to the motivation for the series.

It’s now approximately eighteen months since I originally began this project, and some of the details are hazy because so much has happened since then. But at its essence, the origin is not a whole lot different from process I had normally used when conceiving of a new body of work.


  1. Flip through my sketchbooks (either physically or digitally) to look for patterns, inspiration, resonances, or anything that catches my eye. (Digression: in this case it was digital because most of my 80+ sketchbooks are in storage, several were damaged in a flood a few years ago. And much as I love the tactility of leafing through books, some are very smudgy, I can never avoid paper cuts, and sometimes I just want to quickly skim through thousands of thumbnails.)
  2. Shortlist a few ideas.
  3. Pick one idea to work with, and select the working drawings.
  4. Work up a rough piece or two and see if it holds my interest. If not, start over.
  5. Continue to make pieces from the items selected at step 3.
  6. Maybe work the theme into daily sketchbook drawings. This depends on interest, inspiration, and whether or not I have a regular sketchbook habit.
  7. Maybe make completely new pieces directly, without base drawings.

Steps 4-7 are not always a linear process.


As I mentioned in another post, for this new series I wanted something fun, cheerful, simple, and sustainable:

  • Sustainable meant something that I could work on for at least a couple of weeks. Without getting bored or burning out.
  • Simple meant that it wasn’t going to take a huge time commitment: up to a few hours a day, but usually an hour or less. I didn’t want something on the scale of Encounters or Transit and Transience, which sometimes took days to complete.
  • Fun and cheerful because we were in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, there had been some tough times in my personal life. I felt that my life was already “doomscrolly” enough, and I was creating my own timeline cleanse. This also relates a bit to my reasons for returning to art practice after a 9-year hiatus: ultimately I felt that I could make a more positive contribution to the world via my art than by writing yet another business case study that’d suffer bitrot in an executive’s digital storage.

Source Drawings

I eventually fell in love with a handful of quirky creatures that I had drawn in 2004. They were silly and often made me laugh out loud, even after looking at the multiple times. I remember commenting to Lia (my wife): “these are really random”. And since they were all four-legged creatures, I just started calling them “random quadrupeds” and the name stuck. The drawings themselves were not my usual sketchbook drawings. We were living in Japan at the time, and I had gotten into the habit of carrying around a stack of what I believe are B6-sized cards (approx 5″ x 7″) and trying to create a complete pen-and-ink composition each time I sat down with one. I ended up selecting seventeen of these drawings for the series.

Three source image drawings for Random Quadrupeds series
Three source image drawings for Random Quadrupeds series
Three source image drawings for Random Quadrupeds series
Three source image drawings for Random Quadrupeds series
Three source image drawings for Random Quadrupeds series
Two source image drawings for Random Quadrupeds series