Another one I ‘saw’ before it was drawn (there were so many!) was this tribute to an iconic moment in cinematic history. Can anyone tell me which movie it comes from? Of course you can! Titanic, with whatsisname and the pretty one. It isn’t my favourite movie ever, but I thought that moment as they left port was pretty strong, and I thought it needed to be honoured.

It’s on a photo backdrop, of course. It’s another cheat that I discovered along with layers, but in making this discovery I learned a lot about depth in my drawings, as I think you’ll see a bit later. Layers really are half the battle when it comes to cartooning. I do notice that I haven’t put pants on him yet. Don’t read anything into that. Again, these are the early works: plenty of time for pants later.

If there’s one thing I hope I’ve managed to express throughout my time drawing the KerDoodles, it’s the depth of my appreciation for Mr Charles M. Schulz, of Peanuts fame. I grew up with him – with Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty, and of course, Snoopy. I loved them all. As a boy I read them just about all the time, and everywhere. I think I had them all – I certainly had a huge collection, and I loved them all. I still have a number of those books, now, forty seven years or so later. I’ve given quite a few away over the years – to kids, for example, from the school bus I used to drive – but I’ve kept some with special meaning. The one that made me laugh so hard I almost choked: I kept that one. As I did the one I was reading on a Wardair flight from Edmonton, Canada to London, England when I realized that Reg Varney, (On The Buses), was sitting in the seat right in front of me. He signed it for me, making me one happy little boy. I kept a bunch. Now it’s a bunch lite, but I still have some.

So it should come as no surprise that when I started drawing I thought of Mr Schulz and modelled some of my work on what I thought he would do. Nor should it be surprising that I wanted to honour him and his work at the earliest possible moment by referencing it respectfully with my humble offerings. Here are two such.

The first uses Lucy’s infamous psychiatric stand to deprecate my own shirtless character. I confess I chuckled myself when I drew that one. The psychiatrist, a female like Lucy, has been thinking about the patient’s issues, but has “got nothin’” and has given up. This is, of course, depressing for the patient, who looks quite choked.

In the second, Woodstock, Snoopy’s little feathered friend, has spied the shirt on this KerDoodle character and has thought him to be Charlie Brown. The KerDoodle politely directs him to his own ‘studio’, where he will find “Mr Brown”. I don’t remember anyone calling him “Mr Brown” when I was growing up, but I sure call him that now. The more I look at the work of Mr Schulz, today from my adult, cartoonist’s perspective, the more impressed I am with the fundamental decency and honesty which he brought to his work. There were life lessons for children who read his offerings. There was important information. But always without trauma. Even when Charlie Brown kept missing the football, he never really got hurt or angry.

Moving on! It’s all progress. Let’s see what happened next.

I love barbershop. Not the haircut kind, obviously, but the musical kind. Close harmony, to me, is a miracle of the way the human animal is capable of communicating. To be so close, so in tune, so focused on the presentation of an idea through musical means must surely be one of the greatest of our specie’s achievements. So, I had to honour that, didn’t I? Sweet Adeline is just about the first tune any barbershop singer learns, and these KerDoodles appear to be enjoying it very much. This drawing is the result of a combination of tools. The barber poles on the walls and the chairs are photographs laid into the image. The rest is hand drawn. I can count seven distinct layers in this drawing. The blue background, the brown wall and perspective lines, the chairs and poles, the two barbershop customers, the members of the quartet, and the customers’ and quartets’ clothing and capes. All that was quite ambitious for me, but this was another of my ‘inspired’ drawings, so it had to be. I love the facial expressions as they delve deeply into the music. There’s an innocence and enjoyment here which is, to me anyway, infectious. I know the tune, ‘Sweet Adeline’, obviously, so I can hear it in my mind now, but even if I didn’t I think the happiness of their endeavour would be palpable. They are clearly loving what they’re doing. I also seem to recall that this was one of the first times I realized how intensity can be increased by closing the KerDoodles’ eyes. Ok, next.

In this one – back in the pre-clothing era, I think I was feeling a little preachy. It occurred to me one morning, over coffee and muffin, that the first thing we learn in life is the word ‘no’, and that we just keep learning it, over and over. As children, it’s ‘no, junior, don’t do that!’ In school, at work, and perhaps even in Court, it’s the same thing. I don’t know why, but I thought it needed to be said. Occasionally, (sorry) my drawings express my inner horrors, my politics, my opinions and my beliefs, and on this occasion I was thinking how really, devastatingly harmful that word is.

Even to this day when I’m told ‘no’ on something, as mature and rational as I am, it hurts. Last week while out walking I came across a man who was walking about five or six dogs. I’ve got one of my own, so I asked him if it was okay to put my hand out and let them sniff me. His answer took me aback: he said, “Absolutely not.” Well, I accepted that, and in hindsight he might have been right, but I can’t deny that it hurt. Not being told to stay away from the dogs, but being told ‘no’ on any subject at all. No is a harmful word. It’s necessary, but in my opinion it’s so overused. It limits us far beyond its intention. The child wants a candy and is told no, but the meaning is far deeper than just the lack of a candy. The word means no you can’t have a candy, but it also avers the word, ‘can’t’, which is limiting in every possible way for the entire length of a life. It is negative affirmation, which is devastating in its effects. It’s a power word – transferring authority in that circumstance to the other, and perhaps even stealing self-confidence at times when it’s most needed. But methinks we probably use the word too much.

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