Sanjeev Kotnala: How I captured wonderful nature in a series of 12 Tree Doodles

29 Jul,2020

By Sanjeev Kotnala


I am a compulsive doodler and to me, doodling is a way to meditate. My experimentation with doodling led me to develop a unique style of ‘Doodle Signature’ and I have received very positive feedback from people who commissioned their signature art. These artworks have found their way into office cabins and living-room walls.

But that is not what I want to share today.



That blog ( Doodling to Signature art) interested Meenakshi Menon, one of the founder member of Vanashakti, a Mumbai-based non-profit environmental NGO. It commissioned  a 12 Doodle Series on Trees.

Vanashakti thrust areas are forest, mangrove and wetland protection, environmental education for schools both urban and rural, livelihoods for forest-based communities and scientific investigation into local environmental degradation.



I initiated the assignment in  mid-June, Thank you, Meenakshi, for seeing the potential and possibilities and for  making it a reality. The assignment is now delivered, and Vanashakti informs me they plan to auction ‘Tree series doodles’ at a later stage. Anyone interested in acquiring them, please connect with Vanashakti here or write to



Getting the assignment was one thing, completing it quite a different task.

The first attempt looked stupid. It was neither a sketch nor a doodle.

I realised, there was a subconscious pressure and I was attempting to bring realism to make the tree’s identifiable. Lack of  large spaces were creating problem for patterns. It was not working out. It was more like paintings I used to do on my Samsung Note.

This was not the first paid doodling assignment still there was pressure in terms of desired results which was more of self-creation than client brief.

Doodle is full of mindlessness. They are a tool of focussed meditation through patterns. It is about acceptance of imperfection. It needs you to stop chasing the myth called perfection. Doodling is about fluidity and fun. And as I was doing Pen on paper, there was no scope of major  corrections at any stage.

Another attempt and the result was no different.

What should have been an activity of concentration and happiness was becoming somewhat of constraints. I discussed it with Meenakshi, and we agreed on a few guidelines.

The assignment was simplified.

I was allowed to do whatever way I wanted to doodle, but on one simple condition.  In the end, the 12 artworks should look like a series. The choice of trees and the way of representation was left entirely open to me and my interpretations.

Suddenly I was liberated.

The ideas, patterns started jumping out. Leaf by leaf the trees came to life in unique signature doodles.



I am an Engineer and a Management student, not a botanist. So, I had to start from the basic.

I started observing and studying trees, their structure, leaves, veins and patterns. I was  learning and understanding trees from a different perspective. I was surprised at the range of leaves we have from conical to plantation, large and small, leaves that branch out giving the impression of a circle and neem which follows a 1-3-5-7 pattern.

How was I blind to them.

It was the same space I was covering now, but the trees and leaves had a different interest for me. I was deep in conversation with the pictures of trees I shot.

Some trees gain vertical height, means they just shoot as perpendicular to mother earth as possible. Some have branches almost parallel to the ground and in case of few trees the branches point downwards.


The tree trunks have their own patterns and structures.

During my walk at Indore, I was more into observing trees.  In Mumbai, while taking Milo Kotnala for a walk, I repeatedly stopped to marvel at the trees we have. Some people thought, it was the lockdown pressure.

Before the assignment, I was blind to this beauty surrounding us.


FRESH PLANS. I am OPEN for more doodling assignments

Now, I plan to start a series on Tyres with their beautiful almost mandala type radials wheel designs. If anyone interested or knows marketing people in any of the tyre companies ApolloBridgestone or MRF Tyres – let me know.

The offer on Signature art is still open.

I am open to new assignments, and it could be a location, structure- that you want me to doodle- or a Shriyantra or a Mandala- let me know here. Would love is to do a full saree border if someone could help it get printed- any designer friend interested.

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