Gilbert Leiker has been doodling in the margins of his notebooks since he can remember. He even still has some of his notebooks from high school and college with drawings in them, but he didn’t start making what he calls “cluster drawings” professionally until he was working as a graphic designer.
According to Leiker, it all started with an extremely slow computer. He began doodling on scratch paper while he was waiting for his computer to open files. One day, a coworker came in with a frame and told him that when he completed the drawing he was working on, he wanted to frame it and keep it. The office trend caught on as others began making similar requests.
The biggest difference between Leiker’s earlier work and the work he creates now is that he fills an entire page with the doodles instead of simply filling the margins of notebooks. The drawings themselves are similar.
“It’s all the stuff that I used to draw in meetings and in classes on the margins but now instead of … just drawing in the corner margin of the page and then throwing it away, I’m now just filling the entire page,” he says.
Leiker held his first show at a friend’s record store, Discology, in 2006. Since then he says he tries to hold one or two shows a year to continue to get his artwork out there.
Leiker’s current show is at Bibo Three Gallery, 945 Record St., where it’s scheduled to be on view through Feb. 18.
Leiker uses reoccurring themes in his work, including two illustrations that can be found in almost every piece he creates—octopus tentacles and space cats. So why octopi?
“Cause I really like octopi,” he says. “I think they’re just kind of crazy. They’re kind of creepy, but they’re also kind of cool looking animals.”
As for the space cats, part of that drawing obsession can be credited to Leiker’s two cats who he says are constantly trying to help him with his artwork, but the specific space cat idea comes from a graffiti drawing he saw on his way to work one day. In reality, the drawing was just a few simple shapes, and Leiker admits he doesn’t even really know what it was supposed to be, but to him it looked like a female cat in a spacesuit, and from there, he began putting space cats into his pieces.
The space cats create an aspect of “Where’s Waldo?” in his artwork. Leiker says he’s been at shows and overheard people searching for the space cats in his various pieces and getting excited when they stumble across one.
So how many pieces feature his infamous space cats and octopus tentacles?
“Pretty much all of them,” Leiker says. “I’ve only forgotten [to draw them in] like once or twice.”
In addition to his two specific drawing obsessions, Leiker says his pieces often contain certain reoccurring themes based on his interests including references to comic books, superheroes, science and space.
Most of his pieces are random acts of drawing that reference a plethora of his interests including movies and television shows he’s watching and songs he is listening to. An interesting aspect of Leiker’s work is that he doesn’t plan them. He simply starts drawing in pen, never picking up a pencil, and lets the drawing develop itself.
“Mostly I just kind of let them happen,” Leiker says of his art pieces, “Just drawing whatever I want, however I want.”