Buckle Up!


Another bus I drew was this one, all decked-out for Christmas.

Although I note now that it is undated, I know it was one of the experiments I did when I first started pulling light out of darkness. I think the Christmas lights show very well against the black background. And have you noticed? There are no KerDoodle characters whatsoever in this picture. The bus itself is the star. I don’t think that ever happened again.

I was such an old meany to those kids on the first bus that I actually went to the trouble of drawing a Christmas card for them.

I signed each card personally and even gave each child a very small Christmas present, which they picked from a bucket so that I couldn’t be accused of favouritism. They were a rambunctious bunch, those kids, but they were all good. I know that some kids learn more easily than others, but I believe that given enough time and patient attention and concern any child can pick up the hows and whys of bus behaviour. I also believe it helps a child not simply to be told to do something, but to understand why.

Another thing you might notice in this highly-stylized KerDoodle greeting is that for the first time the bus has eyes – I have imbued it with personality. I suppose it was the first step on my road toward the personification of just about everything. Of course, I can blame my grandmother for that (love you, granny!) because she was the one who told me when I was learning to drive as a boy to always give a car a name so that you treat it better. She was good people. And in these bus pictures I was clearly only carrying her logic to a wonderful extreme. You could say, if you were adventurous enough, that without my Granny’s influence, the KerDoodle buses might have been only two-dimensional, not three.

Earlier I talked about early marketing attempts (GET YOURS TODAY!!) for friends and family. Well, once word got around the yard that there was a weirdo on the payroll who drew bus cartoons, the need for a School Bus Calendar grew. This was the front cover for the first-ever KerDoodle School Bus Calendar.

Sky, mountains, cityscape all provide the backdrop for a big bus, a happy family, and a driver with his mechanical and safety support cohorts. There’s the bus, looking right at us. All of these characters are fully and excitedly engaged with the fourth wall – because, after all, they want us to welcome them into our homes and offices.

I compiled another calendar for 2020 – the year the pandemic struck. Sales were brisk.

I think you can see that the confidence had grown even more. There are a couple of elements here that absolutely demand to be noticed. The sunrise, for example, in the background. That’s the result of at least six or seven different layers of colour, all gradually superimposed on one another – a case of addition by subtraction. Also, the buses’ windows: you can actually see inside the bus – you can see the side windows fading into the back, and the front rows of seats behind the semi-opaque glass.

Actually, as posters go, I think it was pretty cool. And those bus drivers – they look pretty darned happy to be there.

Jokester me. I was always looking to lay out the punchline. That’s what I did in the next one.

It’s an early one. You can tell by the rabbit, which is very rudimentary. The driver, too, is post-pants, but pre-vest – all things which can be used to date an idea. It’s a simple, copy-and-paste operation. The only things that are moving are the bunny, the driver, and the bus’s eyes. All in service of the punchline.

The next one is also in service of the punchline, but here you see that the drawing guy has finally broken down and created an actual KerDoodle bus.

Teeth, eyes, eyelashes – and a talker, to boot! I think he’s cute, albeit a little inflexible. I drew quite a few cartoons with him as the star. As I recall, he just got used to the spotlight, then with the onset of COVID, he was gone.

The next one (and the last, for our purposes here) was commissioned and paid for by a fellow driver.

Julia asked for a drawing of a pre-trip inspection being done early one very cold and snowy winter morning. Now, this is one which I saw in my mind the instant that she asked for it. I saw the bus – Julia drove small buses so that’s the one I saw. I saw the snow. I saw Julia doing pre-trip work, being watched by a fellow driver. I even saw the flashlight that Julia was using to look under the bus to check for leaks. The rest of what you see in this picture is extra – like the jug of windshield washer, and those little hand-made stands on the ground which were used to keep the electrical plug-in cords out of the deep snow. In the background you can see a cityscape, with the Calgary Tower leaning off to one side – all under a blanket of accumulating snow on a cold, cold January morning.

I thoroughly enjoyed drawing this one. The snow built up on the windshields and hoods of the buses looks completely natural. And the buses, as signified by their eyes, are very interested in what’s going on. If anything, Julia’s bus, the one in the middle, looks embarrassed at being checked out this way, but also resigned to it. I happen to know that the printed version of this picture was framed and hung on the wall in Julia’s apartment and I can’t think of anything to make a wannabe artist feel better about his work than to have his work so honoured.

Believe it or not, it’s a fairly accurate depiction of a school bus pre-trip on a cold January morning. Everything is pretty much as it was. Except for the ears.

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