I thought, contemplated, and mulled even more. He had to leave the wall behind completely. If this journey was to happen at all he’d have to figure out how to exist in different environments. The wall, the well, the tree – they were easy. They were what he knew. But he – by which I mean, ‘I’ – would have to figure out how to be brave, to go to new places and – frankly – to draw new things.
That was my fear. I didn’t trust my hand. As a young boy I’d doodled, of course… in my Bible, in the hymn books. But this… This was different. My mind was churning. Was this something I could do? Could I take these first, halting steps of a still-nameless creature and actually turn him in to something? I felt scared – actually scared. It felt like a responsibility, I’m not sure why. But, being an adult (allegedly) I knew I had it in me to figure a way. In the back of my mind I remembered that my maternal grandfather considered himself an artist of sorts, and I knew that if these little creatures were to actually become something, I’d have to use method.
First, and most important, was to remember to draw one line at a time. To avoid getting too adventuresome too soon. Thankfully, knowing my limitations is second-nature for me, so getting ahead of myself was not likely. In my mind I had a concept – one borrowed from my childhood – a creature who felt sweet and kind, and worth nurturing. All I had to do was figure out how to take him out of my mind and put him down on – if you will – ‘paper’.
Method and I are very familiar with each other. I’m not going to spout my resumé here, but I have in my time managed to secure two not insignificant pieces of paper simply by knowing how to organize myself. Not brilliance, just method. Being able to break the project down into its component parts is key, and by the time my purple friend was looking away from his wall, looking at that house, this is what I was doing. I was figuring out how far he might go.
Three more things before we finally launch into this little retrospective. First, the name. To begin with, I was going to call it the Doodles. Why not, right? After all, in my self-deprecating mind that’s what they were – just doodles. There was certainly nothing expert about them, though the abilities and the steadiness of hand did improve with time and practice.
This was the first drawing that I actually felt was worthy of publication. I posted Holy Doodle to my Twitter feed, and sat back and waited for my well-deserved thousands of responses. As soon as I posted it, though, I thought about copyright for the first time. I was quite sure that the word ‘Doodle’ was not going to be easy to lock up – even informally – after all, it’s a pretty common word. So I thought, and I pondered, and I wondered, and I hemmed and hawed, and I vexed and kvetched and gnawed at nails until I finally thought of KerDoodles. Don’t ask me why.
Ok fine, I’ll tell you. I have a vague recollection of thinking of my last name – the multi-syllabic ‘McDonall’ (meaning, literally, ‘son of’ ‘donall’) and translating that obliquely to the word doodle. McDoodle, of course, would be a little bit too much on the nose, so I invented the ‘ker’, and my characters (no longer did I consider them ‘creatures’) became the KerDoodles, or, literally, ‘sons of Doodle’. After an exhaustive search of the internet, not having found any evidence of anyone else using the term, I claimed it as my own, and thus were the KerDoodles born. So very quickly the Holy Doodle became the Holy KerDoodle, the Twitter post was corrected, and the rest is history.
The second to last thing before we launch is the nature of inspiration. As I exercised the drawing muscle – the one I didn’t really even know I had – I discovered that some things that made it to ‘paper’ did so because they simply had to be. I would close my eyes, and there they would be, waving at me from my mind’s eye. This has been the case since the very beginning, and is still the case to this day. It is possible, when drawing, to commit a line to paper, add another, and so build something from nothing, and quite often I have found that the results from doing it that way are satisfactory. But the best results have always come when I could see the image in my mind before I even began. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s true. Perhaps having the idea in mind beforehand gives it a ‘leg-up’ – a reinforced access to the font of creativity. I don’t know. But generally speaking as we take this KerDoodle journey together if I refer to a specific drawing as ‘inspired’ you know that I saw it in my mind before I ever picked up the proverbial charcoal. You know that there was never any doubt in my mind how the drawing would turn out – except perhaps for those enforced by the limitations of my ability. As I look back over all my drawings today I remember exactly which were born of inspiration, and which evolved from themselves. It’s singular: the ones I am most proud of are the ones that came from within.
Last, and possibly least, is my sense of humour. I grew up in England, so England provided the foundation stone of many of my thoughts – including my sense of ha-ha. My wit is dry. It is thoughtful, meaning it sometimes requires thought. I make no apologies for this. It is who I am, and since the KerDoodles are an extension of who I am, it is who they are. I know, even my guinea pigs (the much-loved mom and sis) occasionally told me they ‘didn’t get it’, but that’s ok. Hearing it made me look again, but I seldom went so far as to change the joke itself. The drawing, perhaps, but not the wit. Whether you ‘get it’ or not, the wit speaks to who I am – my flaws, my sweetness, my kindness, my irritations and so on. How can I possibly change that without looking to change myself? Ludicrous!
I learned during the course of my first significant ‘piece of paper’ at York University in Toronto that as a creator it’s my job to create the stuff and the reader’s job to interpret it. Yes, I bear some responsibility to make the content consumable, but the reader also needs to open his mind, to be a willing participant in the interchange of ideas which is taking place. In truth, the reader may or may not ‘get it’, but that doesn’t mean he or she shouldn’t try. I don’t believe that, to be consumable, humour must always be ‘on the nose’. I know some of my humour is subtle, but I guarantee that if you think about it – if you exercise, as Hercule Poirot would say, your ‘little grey cells’ – you will find the little nugget of something in my little drawing that is meant to tickle your funny bone. There is no sledge hammer in my tool kit.
Finally – and this time I really do mean finally – the KerDoodles are not a traditional cartoon. They do not always begin with a premise and end with a punch line. They are not always intended to make you laugh. Occasionally they are merely the exercising of my creative muscle – the flexing, the coordination of pen, wrist, and brain – the urge to create and be satisfied. The KerDoodles themselves represent us. Like Hobbits, I suppose, they exist in their own little world (In The Village) and they experience life in much the same way that we do. Of course, there’s enough pain and angst and anguish in our own universe so I have never felt the urge to reference much of that in their lovely little imperfect place. They try to react to problems with humour, with kindness, with understanding and tolerance. Many of my creations attempt to entertain, but sometimes they are just an attempt to express – to show their world as they live in it. Tableaus, montages, images, inspired or not, are often just an attempt to show a state of being, without significant commentary. Perhaps in this way they will form an escape for you, as they occasionally have for me.
Now is as good a time as any, I suppose, to point out that in the absence of specific KerDoodle characters along the line of Charlie Brown, Linus, or Lucy, I pretty much refer to all the male KerDoodles I draw as ‘Clive’. So instead of saying things like ‘the KerDoodle’ all the time, don’t be surprised if I refer to him by his name.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this little journey. The KerDoodles have become a surprising part of my own journey. I never, ever, in my wildest dreams saw myself creating anything like them. But… here they are.