Breughel, Baby

I showed you a first little Breughel-esque thing a little while back – the little world of musical trouble laid out on a treble clef. Well, I feel like I need to chuck in a few more here, before I wrap this little explication once and for all. The first is this little airport scene….

The idea behind one of these is to pack as much information and activity as possible into a very small space. These are complex Kerdoodle offerings – snapshots in time. Here is an airport, with bright, high open spaces, pleasant decor, busy KerDoodles all running this way and that, all on their own little life trajectory – just like us. There’s so much meaning here. So much to see! Is that man running to a gate, or is he following the kidoodle making a mad dash for the washroom? Over there is an advertisement for a dating site – Smoochers. There’s art on the wall. There are mannequins in a store front – because you never know when you’re going to need a new dress or a new pair of slacks. There are anxious kidoodles, there’s a man placing trash in the proper receptacle, a woman alerting a security guard to some development or other, a man walking by, posters on the walls, airplane tails (looks like the bunnies have their own airline – oh my!) There’s even a lady inspecting the camera that has taken the photograph we are looking at.

These are fun to draw. They tax the imagination. They take a long time because of the sheer number of things going on, but they are quite satisfying.

Reasonably enough, from the airport we fly to London, and then on to Paris, then back to New York. I won’t take you through each and every one. By now you know what you’re looking for. What I will do is be quiet, so you can take a proper look around.

THESE BE KERDOODLES

So what are the KerDoodles? After almost five years extant we must surely have a sense by now of what they are. The best word I can think of to describe them is ‘sweet’. They are the best of us. They may not always be beautiful, but then, nor are we. They may not always be smart, but then, nor are we. I think they are an example of what we humans could be if we tried harder. They laugh at each other – not unkindly, but with good humour and respect. They focus on their weirdnesses as a point of pride not shame. They accept each other with joy and love, in a spirit of mutual appreciation and of the assuredness of their equal intrinsic value. Even when they do something silly, they accept its silliness as part of their own essential good nature. No one goes out of the way to make others feels bad. No one hates. No one is intolerant, impatient, or intransigent. There’s understanding in Kerdoolia. The village itself is a place where tolerance and love thrive – where skin colour, religious beliefs, political affiliations just don’t matter. What matters is how other people feel. They believe what they believe, but they don’t tear down others who don’t share those beliefs. Instead, they engage with them as KerDoodles – equal in all respects, assured by and in their own skin of the validity of their own existence. They don’t need to force themselves or their way of thinking on their fellow critters because their fellow critters are just as patient and tolerant and kind as they are. Lordy, but it sounds like Utopia! Well, maybe it is. But there’s nothing wrong with that.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little journey through the first KerDoodle years. If so, please tell your friends – if I get a million followers I get a new set of steak knives. Oh, I’ll have to buy them myself, but that’s neither her nor there.

Last I heard, the drawing guy was away – walking slowly around the world, watching hockey, perfecting new recipes – some such. The KerDoodles were beside themselves when he left. Their hope is of course that he’ll come back soon and get back to work.

Of that, time alone will tell.

A Few Favourites

So it’s time for me to show you a few favourites. Let’s face it, in earlier sections you’ve already seen some. Baby Get Bach is one. The Cash is Under the Floorboards is another. I loved almost all of the pictures I drew for the School Bus Adventure – especially the space capsule fly-by and Jace’s first day – that one because it really did look like that. I loved Julia’s Pre-Trip and The Well-Groomed Horse, KerDoodle Farms and… the list goes on and on. I know which ones I loved, and which ones felt a little forced, even as I drew them.

But there are more! This one, for example, which was remarkably complex considering it was actually an Early Work.

It was drawn for Halloween of 2018 – a stagecoach for KerDoodle ghosts, screaming across the desert toward nowhere. There’s something incredibly satisfying about seeing an outcome in my mind and then actually bringing it to life, and that’s what happened here. Somehow, even with my decided lack of experience, the hand – the wrist – got the lines and the colours right in this one.

Covid was a very difficult time, but that didn’t mean it was immune to the KerDoodle treatment. In fact, if there was anything that cried out for mirth and hilarity, it was the COVID pandemic. I drew about a dozen COVID-themed pieces in all, but to save you from having to revisit that dark time I’ll just include a couple here.

It’s not funny – it wasn’t meant to be. It was meant as an homage to the medical people who were fighting that terrible pestilence on the front lines. The doctors, the nurses, the cleaning staff – all were crucial to the system which looks after us – and all greatly deserved our appreciation. There was a lot of crazy rhetoric and behaviour through that time. In this piece I particularly liked how wonderfully clean the reflections made everything look.

Here’s another COVID piece.

I’m not particularly religious myself, but I recognize the reverence which can and should come from devoting a portion of your mind to quiet ministrations, and the religious arena often facilitates this. At the same time I have concerns over the many fundamentalists who turned the fight to control COVID into some kind of faux religious crusade – how they looked on mandates on gatherings as attacks on the right to worship. In my view nothing could be further from the truth. Religion continues to exist. The right to worship if you want to is still held sacrosanct. Nothing has changed except that people were just asked to do things a little differently for a while as a horrible disease ravaged the population. The KerDoodles are not political in the slightest, but as a human being I believe I do sometimes have the right to have my say. So, worship as you choose, but don’t let paranoia make you crazy.

Anyway, that’s just about enough of that! Take a quiet moment to remember those who lost their lives to COVID, and then we’ll move on… to yet another COVID-inspired presentation.

Remember the early days of COVID when everyone suddenly had to figure out how to communicate without being together? The ZOOM® phenomenon took the world by storm! Suddenly everyone had to get online if they wanted to learn, work, or just not go stir-crazy. I did it. You did it. We all did it!

So what do we have here? Eating, crying, showing off family pics. Happy, yakky, bemused, cool, angry, kid-interrupted, determined, attentive, coffee-drinking, my dog, me, sleepy, nose-picking, dog at night – there’s so much! And so many situations to which I think we can all relate. Yes, that’s little me in the picture in the middle, fourth row down. Looking very important, if I do say so myself. This one definitely came from the inspired list.

I then went through a period of doing some underwater work – not for any specific reason or purpose but to learn and apply new techniques.

This is one of the drawings I came up with. To give you an idea of the complexity of these works, each one employs probably twenty or thirty separate layers – for objects, critters, and for all the colours involved. There’s also a layer for the effect which makes the image slightly translucent. Each one of these underwater images took about a week to draw. I did have fun with them, though – I always love to learn new things and a great deal of learning came from these offerings.

This one really got my comedy juices flowing.

If you’re paying attention you’ll discern my subtle English sense of humour here. I don’t believe I need to lay it out specifically and in detail for you, but when I drew it I really got a kick out of it.

Same with this one.

The carrot fridge is empty and as a result he is one hot, cross bunny. The reflections were something I learned to do with the COVID offering above and I’ve used them again here. They add a certain sumpin-sumpin, I think. They give the work real depth and character – and even realism. I like it.

How about a little hair on your chest?

Yes, I know. The shameless use of a simple aphorism for the purposes of a laugh. Unbelievable! There oughta be a law.

“So why don’t you draw people?” I was once asked. Well, as you’ve seen before, very occasionally I do.

So here we have newly-elected President Biden responding to a crisis. And boy, are they in trouble! The real joke here is the idea of unity in a crisis.

Then there’s this one.

It’s along the lines of the earlier skydiving offering, but a little more KerDoodley. The KerDoodles are far more assured by this time – more comfortable in their own skin, if you will. The earthscape is all mine. It’s still simple, but it also has some complexities. I like this one mostly because it came out exactly the way I envisioned it, and there’s always a supreme satisfaction in that.

Finally, this one was born in my subconscious while I was watching TV one night. I believe one of the characters in the show used these very words, and this image popped into my head completely unbidden.

It had to be drawn. No ifs, ands, or hanging KerDoodle buts about it.

A final homage, perhaps, because it is one of my favourites. Along with Charles M. Schulz, one of my artistic idols was Berkeley Breathed, the creator of – as he references him – the ‘existentialist penguin’, Opus. I felt constrained to do some kind of honorific for him too.

So here we are, in the Antarctic, on a cruise, with Opus and his family. Yes, there’s a KerDoodle here. There are actually three, if you look on the bow of the ship in the background. They’re enjoying this little penguin family portrait moment. I actually emailed Mr Breathed through his website with a copy of this, seeking permission, or making apologies, I’m not sure which, but I didn’t hear back. I therefore invoke ‘fair use’ for the purposes of showing it here, and hope, hope, hope that he doesn’t hate me.

Oh man, look at how complex the KerDoodles have become!

For some reason this fellow is wandering around a cemetery in the dark. Evidently, he’s doing some ghost hunting, but it’s pretty clear that he’s having second thoughts as he’s figured out that he’s not as alone as he thought. I love the light in this one. The torchlight on his face, the mistiness, the bounce of the glow off the headstones, and the high-tech ghost hunting gadgetry hanging from his belt. Can you see the ghost KerDoodle who’s with him, peering out from behind the closest headstone? He’s very faint, but he’s there. Is that the ghost of Garth, I wonder, mentioned on the next marker over? I just don’t know.

Once I started drawing aliens I started seeing them everywhere.

I mean, surely they are at least as socially well-organized as we are, right? They don’t just fly around up there for nothing, right? They get paid, like we do (probably better), they raise little aliennettes, pay off loans on their family space ships, they hunt, and gather, and provide, right? So, one day I was thinking about all this important stuff when I suddenly pictured how it would look with an alien at the bank, cashing his cheque. Yup, no clothes. Shameless! I enjoyed drawing the bank in this one, and for some reason I was surprised at how well the trees outside of the windows turned out. I’m not exactly sure why. They look quite real!

Truly one my favourites ever is Marshmallow Dance.

I was working the mountain bus job when I conceived this one. All those campers, dancing in the dark around a warm and welcoming campfire. The marshmallows on forks, the curious, deep-green trees looking on. All invoking smiles such as are usually remembered best only in childhood! Definitely an ‘Ah yes, I remember when’ sort of thing.

I was, and still am, very satisfied with the colours in this one – the deep black of night, the red and orange glow of the fire, the bright red flecks of cinder and ash headed inexorably for the sky. I was very pleased, too, at the effect I created when I shadowed the fireward surfaces of each happy KerDoodle with a bright orange, but very, very thin line because it truly helped define the character and to tether him or her corporeally to the naturalness all around. It’s almost as if they are emerging – evolving – from the darkness which surrounds them.

It’s so simple, yet so joyous. And that’s what truly defines the KerDoodles. The joy. The innocence. The inherent kindness. The idea that to do nasty, vicious, or violent things to anyone for any reason is simply anathema to what they are – to what we are supposed to be. It just does not compute. Is it my most complex work ever? It is very busy indeed, but probably not. But I love it – because it has a delicious kind of exuberance about it that is really appealing.

After such a sublime state of affairs, here are a few random favourites for your enjoyment and edification before we move on.

There be Monsters

In the spirit of evolution my mind naturally turned toward monsters. Don’t ask. There was a brush with the monster idiom early on – an offering that embarrasses me to this day involving a cardboard box type thing with eyes, hiding under the bed. After that attempt I was happy enough to acknowledge my weaknesses and stick to learning how to draw KerDoodles.

But by 2021 I figured I’d come far enough to touch on the idea again. After all, they’re everywhere aren’t they? They are an endemic part of our culture – of every culture. They are the bi to the polar. They are the yin to the yang. And as an important part of our understanding they really needed to be included in The Village landscape. I like to think of the Village occupants as pretty nice guys – as sweet and light and loving, but even they need their monsters to keep things in perspective. That said, these monsters probably won’t frighten you very much.

This was the first monster, and what could be more threatening than a monster liking your hair? It’s a personal space thing. Notice something? The likee is one of my human representations. But don’t worry, all is well. Our KerDoodle heritage is teased out by an über-amused Kerdoolian, smiling at the situation. Everybody looks happy enough. Even the subject of the hair-tickling seems bemused rather than offended. And isn’t that just the way it should be?

The next monster to exit the cranium was this one.

The question occurred to me: what does a monster do at home after a long, hard day of monstering? What does he do with his time off? This fellow suggests that a nice horror movie is apropos, with a wobbly pop and a bowl of popcorn. The cemetery picture on the wall was a nice touch, I thought, as was the KerDoodle night light. Tacky armchair, though. What on earth was I thinking! I guess monsters are human, too.

Next we happen on a sad scene.

A monster’s traditional job, of course, is to frighten the children, and that’s okay. As the kidoodles found out from Clive and Connie, sometimes we learn from our fear. But what happens when that child goes away? Gramma visits, school trips – sometimes the kids leave their monsters behind. Why do you think we enjoy vacations so much? Because we leave our monsters behind.

So I wonder, did anyone ever stop to think how the monster feels? I do. The kids do. And here he is. He’s not a happy camper, is he? Sure, it’s only one day, and I suppose he can survive that, but it’s hard for a monster to be away from his attachment for too long.

Of course, there’s also the other side of that coin. Sometimes we have to put the monster in its place. I mean, once in a while your monster just gets out of order. That’s when it’s critical to correct him as this little kidoodle is doing now.

Did you ever have that experience where you put something down somewhere, then when you went back for it it was gone? I think everyone has gone through that at some time or other. Some people think that’s evidence of a ghost – a perfect purloining prestidigitatory poltergeist. But I think it’s the monster. Remembering that we all have one, it’s pretty reasonable to suppose that when we’re too good, too kind, too sweet, he just might feel the need to act up a little – to shake us up.

It’s only boredom when he takes our keys from the table and hides them in the desk. It’s only pique when he spills milk, when he bunches that rug up in the corner, when he throws the dog’s toys all over the floor. It’s only an impish devotion to his nature when he leaves the fridge door open or the toilet seat up. And you can’t blame him for being true to his nature.

A few quick bursts before we head to our final monster thoughts. This fellow is clearly very well organized.

Let’s see, neatly compartmentalized he has cake, hamburgers, movies, badges, puppies, popcorn, toys, candies, money, perfumes, a mask and…. These are not tools of evil – they are tools of acknowledgment. Remembering that everyone has a monster, you can appreciate that these toys symbolize the things that attract us all. Several of the ‘deadly sins’ are represented here, so hey, this is serious stuff. But we can at least be assured that the monster has them well organized. You’re not going to be very good at nastiness if you aren’t well organized.

I watched a video of a song on the infamous tube site one day, and it gave me the idea for this one.

Monster Mash. Mashed potatoes. Get it? Sorry.

This one will have meaning if you think about King Kong.

I’m sure you’ve seen the iconic image showing the enormous gorilla scaling the side of the Empire State Building. If you haven’t, I’m sure you can look it up online. Well, here we have a KerDoodle monster standing in the street in front of a fully occupied skyscraper, looking up, and contemplating on whether or not he wants to attempt it. You can see the answer.

Of course, there’s something to consider when you think about your monster. I’ve long lived with the idea that “wherever you go, that’s where you are.” Well, it’s true for your monster, too. Wherever you go, in theory, he (or she) goes with you. Our job as KerDoodles, or as humans, is to control the monster, to give it voice without giving it control. Everybody’s monster is different – so it’s not the same issue for everyone. But whatever issue it is, the monster must be controlled.

This fellow seems to understand this. His monster has one hand on his head – oh, he’s up there – but they are still distinct entities and can remain that way as required.

Suffice it to say, KerDoodle monsters aren’t your run-of-the-mill mean and nasty fellows. They aren’t set on destruction or horrific acts. They are, rather, an indispensable part of our ego, our id, and our very selves as we function, day-to-day. KerDoodle monsters are polite, unimposing. Their aim is not to trouble, but to support. I hope you at least can find them funny, even lovable. In fact, if you do, why not take a moment to look behind you right now and say, out loud, “hello, dear Mister/Miss/Mrs monster… let’s get along, eh?”

I See KerDoodles

So if aliens are visitors from another place, are ghosts visitors from another dimension? Or another time? I’m fascinated with the interplay between we living, corporeal, sentient animals and the spiritual, insubstantial echoes of people who have supposedly gone on before. I’ve had a few experiences, but I still don’t know the answers – nor does anyone – of what actually happens on the other side of the veil. What I do know, however, is that if humans have these questions, so too do KerDoodles. They are, after all, reflections of ourselves.

With this ‘fact’ in mind I started exploring interactions between us (we being KerDoodles ourselves) and them. This was fun for me. There were again new techniques to learn, including but not limited to opacity and transparency. I had fun drawing the expressions on the faces of the KerDoodles who encountered these entities. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, I don’t think anyone can deny it’s a fascinating subject.

This one was the first.

These indeterminate, monk-like apparitions are gliding through the snow from and to who knows where. It’s an idyllic scene on a photographic background. Its function was, pure and simple, to showcase the transparency feature. If you look really closely you can in fact see through them, though if I were drawing this one today I confess I would make them larger and more obviously transparent. They are strange-looking KerDoodles indeed! The ears are there, but the shape otherwise is just a little off. In fact, if I remember rightly, this was drawn before I had really figured out how to use the zoom feature for detailed drawing. This has the distinctive look of an early work – it’s right on the edge of inexperience.

So is this one, where a KerDoodle angel is rising from the earth to the heavens.

I’m not sure what I was going for here, although I think it had to do with KerDoodle mortality. How do you like my version of the Earth? It shows vague representations of Australia, Africa and South America. I think.

Here’s Richard again – the ghost kidoodle on the school bus.

He sure does look lonely, doesn’t he? It occurred to me one morning after the morning run. I had parked the bus in the yard and as I did my customary ‘last glance’ down the shell of the bus I wondered if Richard ever forgot to get off the bus at the school with the other kidoodles. If he did, he might well feel pretty sad as he waited for the afternoon run.

Let me explain Richard a bit more for you. Richard was a construct of my genius mother from when I was little. Sometimes in our Lynton Avenue home there would be creaks and groans and noises which scared my sister and I. Well, my mom told us not to worry – that it was only Richard, fooling around in the attic. She explained him as a little fellow who was just having fun, so we didn’t need to worry about anything. Richard has stuck with me through all these years. I still blame him for strange noises and lost keys. He doesn’t mind.

When I was driving the school bus he made himself available again. At one point in my route in the second year, because of this and that and the other, it wasn’t unusual for us to be ahead of our schedule. Well, that’s no good, because parents time things so that they arrive with their kids at the stop about five minutes ahead of the bus. So if the bus is early, the parents become late and they could potentially miss the bus.

Because of traffic concerns and consideration it’s not always easy to wait at the bus stop itself (quite a few of them are in fairly busy intersections), so I chose a quiet spot where – if I was ahead of schedule – we could sit for a few minutes and not bother anyone. It was only usually three or four minutes – if at all – not much. But it was enough to pique the interest of some of the kids on the bus.

“Bus driver, why do we stop here every day when no one gets on?”

“Well, sweetie, this is Richard’s stop. We have to wait for Richard.”

“Who is Richard?”

I, incredulous: “Richard? Well, he’s the ghost kid. I thought you knew him. He speaks very highly of you.”

“Oh, that Richard. Yes, I know Richard. Is he here yet?”

I look at the clock on the dashboard.

“No, not yet. Unless… yes, that’s him over there. Look, he’s running towards us!”

“He looks funny when he runs!”

“Well, I think I’ll tell him you said that.”

“No, don’t! Please, bus driver. Please don’t tell him.”

“Well, okay. He’s crossing the road now. Nice job – looking both ways.”

And then I’d watch the sidewalk in front of the bus, following ‘Richard’ visually as he approached the doors. I’d open the doors to let him in, close them behind him, then watch in the number seven mirror (the big one for watching inside activities) to see where he chose to sit down today.

“Move over a bit, Lexie. He wants to sit next to you.”

“Really?” Lexie, or Clarissa, or Maisie would say (whoever he decided to sit next to), but then she’d move over and look beside her. Perhaps she’d smile. Perhaps she’d frown. Either way, she believed, and that was the important thing.

It’s possible the kids thought I was crazy for going through this little drama every day, but I don’t think so. As evidence of this, I will tell you that there were a few times when we weren’t ahead of schedule so I didn’t need to stop.

“Bus driver, you forgot Richard!”

“Oh, no, sweetie – Richard’s mom let me know this morning that he won’t be on the bus today. He has a bit of a sniffle.”

“Aww.”

I had fun with that. Maybe someday those kids will remember their kooky bus driver. Maybe. But maybe too the anticipation of being the first to see Richard running for the bus has fired their imagination a bit. Perhaps that imagination will inspire them in some way. If that’s the case, then I will have done a good thing.

The next ghost was inspired indeed. I got the idea because I’ve been religiously using an online tool to try to learn Spanish for several years now.

So, it occurred to me that all those ghost hunters who go to another country to film a TV show really are silly. They go all the way to Rumania, say – and they speak to the Rumanian spirits in English! Nary an interpreter in sight! And the presumption to me is breathtaking – that English should somehow be known to a spirit who only ever spoke Rumanian in life. Breathtaking impertinence!

So this one needed to be drawn because it occurred to me that the same barriers that exist for the corporeal might well be in effect for the spiritual. It has an ethereal feel to it. It’s a misty night with a full moon. The ghost is indeed following our hero home – not because he has any real drive to follow him, but because he doesn’t know what the heck he’s saying. Communication is so important.

Next, the wisdom of your ancestors. Also inspired, I had it in mind before I began. It took about one day to draw. It illustrates the need to pay attention – even when we’re sleeping – lest we miss out on important information.

And here’s a fairly terse poke at the burial process.

The ghost of the ‘customer’ in the coffin is watching as his body is carried to its final resting place. It’s a solemn occasion, to be sure, but it hasn’t escaped his attention that they aren’t using the high-quality coffin he ordered – and paid for! Let this be a lesson to the providers of these services: they are being watched.

After I drew this, it occurred to me to wonder why they are burying him at either sunrise or sunset. Maybe they’re just trying to sneak the illicit burial in. But, you ask, where are the family? Are there no loved ones? Maybe that’s the real reason our hero is annoyed at the cheap coffin.

Sometimes when I’m in my kitchen I’ll be working away at this or that – chopping onions, wiping, tidying, stirring – when all of a sudden I’ll feel like something just passed by the kitchen window on the outside. I’ll turn quickly and look, but there’s never anything there. Well, that was the inspiration behind this one.

Perhaps, it occurs to me, there is something to see, but when I’m looking straight ahead I just can’t see it. Perhaps it’s there now, doing what this ghost KerDoodle is doing – sticking his tongue out at me.

How about some ghost hunters?

I don’t know if you’ve watched those shows on TV where a crew of ghost hunters visits an abandoned structure in an attempt to hear or see strange occurrences. They go with so much equipment – recorders, flashing lights, grids of laser light, ULS, DSLR, UPS, sometimes even ELO! Now, I don’t know what all those mean, but I thought a few of those investigatory moments needed to be captured in KerDoodle form, so here you go.

In the first, there’s a ghost shouting, trying to get through. Apparently, though, none of their equipment is picking him up. This one grew from me, wondering how often that happens.

In this one we see the ghost KerDoodle banging a ghostly object on a pipe on the wall. He’s making a noise which has attracted the attention of our valiant hunters, though of course they can’t see anything because he’s behind a box. This one was scary enough that I thought a teddy bear was a good idea. Of course, even the teddy bear looks a little bit disconcerted.

In this next one, our intrepid crew are caught in mid exploration when a spirit suddenly walks out of the wall.

Everyone’s shocked, of course, including the guy outside, looking in. The ghost cat is not upset but, well, it’s a cat and I don’t think anything upsets cats. The guy in the basement has red eyes and is peering up from behind a bucket with the good advice on it of, ‘don’t kick the bucket’. Presumably we should worry about making a lot of noise.

I remember this one took me almost a week to draw. There are so many layers involved here – at least thirty, probably more, and there are a lot of little details. The hangman’s noose, the spider, the picture on the wall, the bucket, the boot, the teddy bear, the scarf, the flashlights (and their light), the ceiling tile falling down, the cracks on the floor, the holes in the wall. If you’re not paying attention, you could miss stuff. So pay attention!

Of course, I got to thinking about the relationship between ghosts and humans. I mean, if we’re so organized and so structured here, what about them? Are they free to go where they want, to do what they want, to scare who they want? Or are they subject to schedules as we are? If they are free of this mortal coil, are they free of all obligations and responsibilities, or are they bound as we are to rigid expectations? Is the act of haunting a matter of ghostly rights and pleasures, or is it the job that was assigned to them when they checked out?

In this one, Hank is scheduled for the 1am haunting, and he’s good at it. Because of how reliable he is, a corpykerdy (empirical, not rhetorical) has established a ghost-hunting tour to begin fifteen minutes ahead.

Great. Now I’m wondering what they do in their time off.

Halloween is a magical, mystical time of year for kids of all sizes and ages, as evidenced in this little offering.

The sight in the street, around my house anyway, is something to behold. Little ghosts and goblins, lords and ladies, witches, robbers and pirates, and yes, even a little Charlie Brown, breeze eagerly from suburban house to suburban house in the irreducible hunt for Halloween swag. There’s a mom, making sure, and a little red devil being devilish. Pumpkins, bats, a flying witch, and a ghost. Does it get any better than this? My mom says I’m good at the facial expressions. What do you think? Do you agree? Be very careful, disagreeing with my mom.

Aliens.

Oh, Lordy, but did I have fun with the aliens! There are so many ways to think about them, to use the word, that it really was a smorgasbord of ideas for a creative like me. You might remember the first space scene I drew, on page 40. Well, right about that same time I drew these.

This first is quasi-political. It’s an entreaty to be kind – to be clean. It’s an alien commenting on the way we humans seem to make a big mess wherever we go. Yes, that’s a photographic background. No, I didn’t take it – I’ve been called ‘spaced out’ a few times but I’ve never been to the moon. It was one of my first KerDoodle aliens – you can see that I haven’t quite figured out their final form yet. He’s got the dog-ears of the regular KerDoodle, and a very pale skin and jumpsuit. His eyes are black circles, with small white circles inside – the reverse of the usual KerDoodle norms. I like him, but he’s not quite there yet.

The same in the next one, which – imagine that – I drew somewhere around Christmastime.

Again, they’re pale grey. But this time they’re a little more insect-like – solid, round faces with long, grey antennae, and thin, flat feet. In this one, the scene is simple. Santa has landed with his sleigh on the surface of the moon – or whatever other planet he has detoured to – and he’s being held up apparently at gunpoint by a gang of KerDoodle aliens. Santa looks scared – at first. But soon – as we see in panel 2 – he’s leading the aliens in a friendly, stomach-clutching, uproarious cacophony of mirth. The guns are lying in the background, unneeded, undesired. Santa has worked his magic on these nefarious chaps, and they are completely intoxicated. And isn’t that the way it should be? What place is there in KerDoolia, in the Village, or even in our world for all the anger and the angst? It’s so unproductive. So much better to just put the weapons away, and laugh.

The next one shows the development of the KerDoodle aliens.

The basic shape is there now: long trunk, long head, high, pointy eyes. They’re still a pale shade of grey – they haven’t darkened up yet. Their feet are looking a bit strange, but even they are a sign of progress toward what they eventually became. The scene is simple enough: our KerDoodle hero has apparently been abducted and is on the deck of the space ship. The Captain has his inordinately long arm wrapped around him (is it a welcome or a threat?). There’s a grin on his face and he’s looking nervously left, at the Captain. Who knows what thoughts are crossing through his mind?

Outside there’s a rocket flying by – clearly having just taken off from the planet Earth. There’s also another little lite craft hovering by – one which we will see more and more often as we continue to encounter our new alien friends.

After this one the final form of the KerDoodle aliens seemed to just set. I figured out the mould, and filled it in the same way more and more frequently. Like our regular KerDoodle friends, these guys are encountering earth as foreigners would, and because we are on the other side of the fourth wall, so are we.

So now that you know what’s going on with these alien types, how about a quick look through some more? This is a small selection of the aliens I drew – a selection from the inspired list, to be sure. Some are simple observations, some are actual attempts at humour. You be the judge. Rapid fire.

Isn’t this what’s supposed to happen with illegal aliens?

The relationship between aliens is not all that complex, but it is fraught with difficulties. Here we are, up to our old tricks again.

But, that’s not how it’s supposed to work!

An alien named Roger? Outrageous!

The space ship Enterprise must be thunderously loud, up-close. One question: how, on earth or off, did an ordinary KerDoodle wind up yakking with an alien?

Aliens gotta have their experiment subjects, so when the tractor beam breaks down they just do the best they can.

Going back to illegal aliens, here’s an civilized alien invasion.

This one is, I think, self-explanatory.

Actually, I love this one.

Which of our inventions, do you suppose, would be of any interest to aliens?

Another commentary on human trash.

This one takes a poke at our propensity to pollute. Between garbage and pollution we are a pretty filthy animal.

Nope. Not much of that around these days.

It occurred to me that aliens would probably have some kind of system in place for property management.

Ever wonder what’s going on when you see UFOs flying in formation?

Now you know.

Is there fire in space? There must be, or why bother with fire hydrants?

Is it true that the first two cars ever put on the road got in an accident together?

Do space craft use hi-test?

Because sometimes they just have to know.

The First Day of School

All these buses! At the time I was surrounded by buses, and kids, and kids, and buses. It seemed to be my every day life. Actually, it was. So I dreamed up a story, to be both drawn and written, for the benefit of children the world over.

Here it is. Settle in. Relax. Pull up your widdle banky, and enjoy…


It was the first day of school and the first kids waited patiently for the bus.

Even Richard, the ghost kidoodle, waited by his house for the bus to appear.

One by one, the summer-tired kidoodles stepped up into the bus and, as the Sun rose warmly behind them, bounced and jostled their way to a new school year.

They were quiet at first, but that wasn’t to last.

The bus was big and beautiful, and oh so ready for the new school year. Her name was Connie. And Clive, the driver was just as kind as ever. Earlier, in the yard where the bus lived, their first meeting of the year had been very special.

Oh, this was going to be a wonderful school year!

Now, Connie was a very special bus. She had all sorts of special gizmos which none of the other buses had. Let’s face it, she was a magic bus, and because of this she was full of the understanding and intuition and awareness that is reserved for only the very best of school buses.

Gradually, the kidoodles entered the bus and sat down for their first ride of the year. They were all quiet for a little while, and that was great, but soon they got used to the pitch and roll of the bus – and they started to talk to each other, and to get loud. All except little Jace, who was taking his first ever ride on the big yellow bus. Jace was one nervous little kidoodle.

It wasn’t long, of course, before all the little kidoodles forgot where they were. Clive even pulled over to to the side of the road once and watched them all in his big rear-view mirror. But they didn’t stop their yakking. They didn’t even notice they’d stopped!

Clive and Connie figured now was as good a time as any. Best to sort these things out early in the year, he thought, and as the kidoodles fooled and played and fiddled and romped and scuffled and rampaged, Clive and Connie got themselves ready. They knew how this went. With kids it always started off in fun, but sooner or later someone wound up crying, and feelings were hurt. Someone always says something, or throws something, or someone’s lunch gets spilled, the laughter turns to tears and before you know it, the kidoodles are mad at each other.

And sure enough that’s what happened. Oh, Clive tried hard to get their attention so that they’d know they were doing it wrong. But they weren’t looking, and they certainly weren’t listening.

And so they started arguing with each other, staring and glaring, and shouting and hollering and yelling. Fingers started pointing, and words were thrown, little hearts hardened and suddenly there was no more choice.

Little Jace, sitting there on his first ever bus ride, looked so scared as he watched this commotion – there was so much about life he still did not understand! But, the combatants still wouldn’t back down.

And that’s when it began. First a long, low rumble, then a sound like metal scraping on metal – a long, high squeal of steel – of emotion it would even seem – from somewhere deep within the bus.

Pascal – a third year boy – knew that sound.

“Uh-oh,” he said, looking around, and soon everyone stopped what they were doing to try to figure out what was going on.

Clive put both hands on the wheel, held his breath, and closed his eyes.

“Be gentle, Connie,” he muttered. “It’s only the first day.”

Connie rumbled and shook, she shook and she rumbled – and oh boy did she rumble! She rumbled low, then lower, then even lower yet – almost as if she was boiling inside! It’s a special time when the bus gets mad.

Clive heard Michael say, from the back of the bus, “Uh, guys, I think we’d better hold on now.” Like Pascal, he had clearly been through this before.

All the kidoodles grew quiet. Little hands gripped the edges of seats and nervousness rippled through the bus as Connie’s trembling and rumbling grew more and more intense.

“I don’t like this!” whined little Maisie, looking all around her.

“Me neither, nuh-uh,” agreed Rufus, one of the tiniest kidoodles.

“Just hold on,” said Michael – “and hold on hard!”

And he was right, for just at that moment the shaking grew stronger yet, and the bus started to move.

“This isn’t me, guys,” hollered Clive, “this is Connie, taking charge!”

A sudden surge of moaning and groaning passed amongst the passengers as the front wheels lifted slowly off the ground.

“What’s happening!?” cried Lucy. “I’m scared!”

“We’re taking off!” hollered Pedro.

“Well, it’s your fault!” replied Juan, his brother.

“Is not!”

“Is too!”

The front of the bus lurched suddenly forward and up, and a high metallic shriek grew from under the hood.

“We’re floating!” hollered Emily.

“We’re flying!” bellowed Leah.

And flying they were. Up and up, into the sky, toward the high, thin clouds of early morning. They gathered speed, grew faster and faster, and when the kidoodles finally found the strength to look outside they saw that everything below had gotten so very, very small! The houses, the cars, the people, had all fallen away to little dots on the ground, and it wasn’t long before they were completely left behind.

And that’s when the kidoodles started to realize what was going on.

As the temperature in the bus rose, Clive knew what was what. Connie the bus didn’t like it when the kidoodles argued, and darn it, sometimes there were lessons to learn and no one but Connie could teach them.

“You’re ready for this, are you, Connie?” he asked the big bus. She responded with a low, satisfied growl, and Clive knew she was.

So he and the kidoodles all pressed back in their seats as the bus roared skyward. They were all looking outside now. Most were scared, but a few of the older kidoodles looked like they might even be having fun!

“Bus driver, did my mom put you up to this?” hollered Clarissa from her assigned seat, holding on to her little teddy bear. She had a wry grin on her face.

“It’s got nothing to do with me, sweetheart!” cried Clive, lifting his hands off the now useless steering wheel. “This is all Connie.”

“Why’s she doing this then?” queried Michael. He did not sound amused.

“I think, if you look very honestly at yourselves,” said Clive, “you’ll figure out exactly why this is happening.”

“I think I know,” said Nathan, who liked to think he knew everything. “Hey, I can see my house!”

“The sky up here is really dark!” cried Jessica, excitedly looking out.

“It sure is,” agreed Gabby. “And it’s getting darker,” and a chorus of kidoodles agreed that they had noticed this too.

“It’s very pretty,” said little Lexie.

“We’re pretty high up,” added Jace, now looking around.

“Hey, there’s an airplane!” hollered Sophia, pointing,

All the kidoodles craned their necks up to try to see.

“I don’t see one,” grumped Marcos, but he was looking up, and Sophia was pointing the other way.

“It’s down there – behind us,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“It’s really getting dark now!” said Ryleigh.

“I’m floating!” yelped Emily!

“Hey, I’m floating too!” cried Leah.

“And me!”

“And me!”

“We’re all floating now!”

As they all started lifting gently off their seats and floating into the air, all their little voices rose up too, and still Connie the magic bus just flew and flew and flew. Way up high, she flew, through and past the earthbound blue, into the wider reach of space – the silent reach of space, for just at that moment Connie’s engine cut out and as all the little kidoodles floated toward the roof of the bus, everything suddenly turned quiet.

“I’ve never been up this high before,” said Anna, in the big, quiet bus. “I’m afraid.” She was upside-down, clinging to her seat with all the strength in her little fingers, the rest of her floating up into the air.

“Me too,” said Pedro, gripping the back of his seat and kneeling down, looking out of the window.”

Look at the stars!” breathed Anthony. “So beautiful.”

“Look at the Earth!” cried Chelvy, and everyone did, pasting their little faces to the windows to look at the Earth, far, far below.

“Wow, it’s big,” said Miguel, slack-jawed.

“I can see my house!” someone hollered.

“You can not,” cried someone else.

Everyone went quiet, and they stayed quiet for several minutes, in absolute awe of the beauty and enormity of space. Then, suddenly, the silence was broken. It was Pedro.

“Hey! Quit stepping on me!”

“Get your stupid foot out of my way!” yelled his twin brother Juan.

“I’ll put my foot wherever I want to!”

“Oh yah?”

Yah!”

And just like that, the glorious majesty, the great serenity of the enormous sphere beneath them, the perfect wonder of the planet, Earth, was forgotten.

“Boys, boys, try to get along now,” said Clive. “Have you forgotten where we are?”

“I don’t care! He does this all the time! He’s always putting his big, fat foot where mine is, and using my stuff, and jumping line for the bathroom, and taking my potato and…”

“I never take your potato – I take my potato. And ask mom – it’s not your potato, it’s our potato! Ours! And I don’t care where we are, that will always be true!”

“Boys, boys, boys…” Clive tried again to interject. Ordinarily, on the ground, he would park the bus for this kind of thing, get out of his seat, and mediate. But here in space, where could he park?

“Sometimes he makes me sooooo mad!” seethed Pedro.

“Well, I don’t like him, and I wish he wasn’t my brother any more!” Juan folded his little arms angrily across his chest.

“Oh yah?”

Yah!

There was a brief moment of silence, but then Connie the bus grumbled once again back to life. A deep, rumbling, angry roar grew from her very belly and in a moment she lurched forward and was moving again.

“Uh-oh.” said Pascal, turning to try to sit in his seat. “Now you’ve gone and done it.”

Clive reached above his head, then, and flipped the switch – the one installed way up high by the roof. The red switch. The small red switch with the red covering on it and the large white letters around it. The special switch that no one knew about but him. And Connie.

Nothing happened right away. But both bus and driver knew it would, and judging from the kidoodles’ behaviour behind him, they knew too that something was going to happen.

It was just a matter of time.


Meanwhile, back at the school, just as the Sun started rising behind her, Vice Principal Señora C was checking her watch.

All the other kidoodles were already in class, but where was Bus 293?


The bus lurched forward and started soaring again, sweeping left and swooping right. All the little kidoodles did what they could to hold on, but it was difficult.

One by one they reached out their hands to hold on to each other. One by one they held fast and would not let go, so that soon all the kidoodles were holding hands. All except for little Juan and Pedro, who were still frowningly scowling at each other.

“Take his hand, Pedro!” hollered Pascal.

“No!” cried the little boy.

“Juan, grab hold!” ordered Alyx, one of the smallest but fiercest of the bus’s passengers.

“I don’t want to!”

“You have to!” they all shouted. “Now!”

But the brothers were so mad at each other that they just wouldn’t – couldn’t – hold hands, even if it put themselves and all their little friends in danger.

Meanwhile, Connie just kept getting more and more upset. She swooped left, then right. She soared up, and dove down. She lurched, heaved, groaned, grumbled, grumped and skidded sweepingly both left and right, high in the big, beautiful black of space, but still the brothers would not hold hands.

Suddenly, the front door opened, and Clive flipped the OXYGEN switch on his panel.

“Argh!” cried Pedro. “I’m being sucked toward the door!”

“Hold my hand, Pedro! Quick!” cried Pascal.

“I can’t!”

He was indeed being sucked away from the group and toward the front door. He tried to grab each seat as he passed, but he couldn’t get a grip, and in only moments he was passing his brother, looking into his eyes as the vacuum of space was starting to take hold.

‘Help me, Juan!” he begged. “Please!

Juan held firm to the nearest seat. He looked at Pedro. He was still mad at him, but with that look in his eyes something triggered inside him, and he realized that even though he was angry he actually kind of liked having a brother. In a flash he recalled all the times they’d just sat and talked, finished each others’ sentences and laughed about it. Then he remembered all the times that Pedro had stood up for him in the playground, or steadied him while they were riding their bikes, and from there it was the work of only a moment for him to decide that yes, absolutely, he needed to do something to save his little brother.

“I’m not your little brother!” cried Pedro, who, it would seem, had somehow heard his brother’s thoughts.

“Yes, you are, I was born ten minutes before you, so…”

“Okay, okay, fine. But help me!”

Just then Pedro’s grip on the last seat loosened.

“Help me, please!” he hollered. He was scared now, and the wide-open door was looking really, really big, and just as Pedro slipped toward that door, Juan sprang into action. He dove headlong toward the first row of seats, past the bus driver’s outstretched hand, and grabbed hold of the handrail. Then he lunged toward his brother and reached out. The force of the vacuum of space tried to take them both, but he held tight to the hand rail and would not let his brother go. Never again would he let his brother go.

Auggghh!” cried Pedro. He was scared – very scared – but he felt okay now because he had his brother’s hand in his and somehow he knew he was going to be alright. As mad as he had been, he knew in his heart that he could rely on him, no matter what.

Just then, Juan felt other hands behind him. Daisy was holding him from behind, wrapping her arms around his waist so he could let go of the hand rail and use both of his hands to grab hold of Pedro. Somehow Juan knew that his friends were keeping him safe, so he held fast to Pedro and slowly pulled his brother back into the bus.

They slipped back inside, and just as they cleared the doorway, the doors magically snapped shut and the tired little kidoodles floated back up safely inside.

Juan and Pedro hugged each other and cried.

“I’m sorry, Pedro, I shouldn’t have been so mean.”

“Well, I’m sorrier,” blubbed Pedro. “You can put your foot wherever you like.”

“And you can have my potato any time!”

All their little kidoodle friends were smiling at this wonderful development, and as Connie the bus settled back down again and stopped rumbling and grumbling and soaring all over the place, Clive the driver somehow managed to conceal a little smile as he flipped the red overhead ADVENTURE TIME switch to OFF.

He looked down toward the earth and took the wheel.

Yup, he thought. It’s time to get these little kidoodles to school.

All calm now, the kidoodles floated about, talking quietly to each other about what they’d just been through. At the same time they took the opportunity to look outside – at space, at the moon, and at the Earth.

Maisy saw Clive the driver lean forward and talk to the dashboard for a moment before putting both hands firmly on the wheel. Then she and all the kidoodles relaxed as the bus rolled slowly and gently to the left. She looked out the window as the earth rose up toward them.

“Wow,” said Michael from the back of the bus.

“That’s awesome!” agreed Maisy.

“That one’s Africa,” said Leah, pointing. “And there’s Spain!” Leah was good at geography.

“And look over there!” added Pedro, with a giggle. “We’re not alone!

They all looked outside as a little space craft floated by. All the little kidoodles watched in awe as the craft hove into view and four startled space KerDoodles stared back at them.

“Their school bus is a very strange shape,” said Gabby with a giggle, and they all watched as it slid slowly away behind them.

Just then Clive’s radio crackled to life. He picked up the mike and exchanged a few words with the dispatcher.

“Ok kids,” he said, “it’s time to head to school. We’re the last ones to arrive. Now, everybody hold on!”

Connie the bus picked up speed as she rolled further left and pointed herself back toward home. It became quite loud inside, and there was a faint red glow around them as they headed back down to the big blue planet, to their country, their neighbourhood, and their school. The deep, deep black of space turned gradually blue again, first dark, then really, really bright. Most of the kidoodles covered their eyes when it was at its brightest, but then in only a few moments they were surrounded by a grey-white mist of clouds which made the windows wet. Then suddenly they saw they were pointed at the very same road from which they had taken off.

The ground rose up toward them, but no one was scared. Connie raised her nose to the sky and seemed to be feeling around with her hind end for the ground. All the kidoodles watched their progress through the windows. Then at last there was a bump, a clunk, a bump-a-clunk-a-lunk, and a whine of spinning tires as Connie resumed her regular road-bound duties.

“There’s the school!” hollered Pascal.

“There’s Señora C!” added Daisy as the bus slowed to its regular crawl.

After a minute Connie pulled up to the school and Clive flipped the switch to open the doors.

“Ok kids, have a great day. I hope you learned something this morning.”

“Sure did,” said Juan as he turned to go down the stairs. “I learned to always share my potato.”

Señora C was greeting the kidoodles as they got off the bus.

“Good morning, children. You’re a little late. Is everything okay?”

“Sure is, Señora,” said Daisy. “We had an adventure!”

“Oh?” she said. “What kind of adventure?” She looked over toward Clive. Clive rolled his eyes.

“Oh, you know…” he said. “Traffic.”

A couple of kidoodles giggled, and went into the school

One by one the kidoodles left the bus. Señora C checked off her clipboard then waved at Clive. He got up and checked all the seats for sleepers – as if anyone could have slept through this morning’s adventure! – then sat down in his seat and sighed.

“That was fun, Connie,” he said with a smile. “I never get tired of that.”

And Connie, with a delightful, self satisfied harrumph, revved her happy motor before Clive took the wheel and guided them both back to the yard.

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.

On the Buses

So you might recall that I have some experience driving school bus. Yes that was me, at the wheel of a forty-foot rolling petri dish full of human cargo, belting out the Beatles classic, “We all live in a yellow submarine”.

I did that job for about two years. To be clear, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The kids were great (for the most part), and operating and being responsible for a great big bus and lots of peoples’ hopes and dreams was really quite satisfying. I wasn’t all that keen on getting up at 5am to do pre-trips in -30°C cold and giving up an entire day to work a split shift for astonishingly low money, but on balance I’m very glad I did it. I’m quite certain that if it weren’t for COVID I would still be there, slogging away, yakking in the driver’s room with other drivers awaiting shifts, sitting on instructions, listening to the kids prattle on, and not necessarily in that order. It was fun. It was social. It was affirmative. And it gave me a whole gold mine of inspiration for the KerDoodles.

So I’d be terribly remiss if I didn’t include a few of the bus drawings I did either for my fellow drivers, or with them in mind.

I got my bus driver’s license in May of 2018 – about six months after I started to draw the KerDoodles. The first assignment they gave me was to take up a route for the last two weeks of the school year. I was told by the Principal of that school, who welcomed me wholeheartedly, that the kids on my route had been through about six different drivers the year before, so they weren’t really all that good at the bus thing. Well, I’m good with kids, so I took that into account as they loaded, and started fooling around. Once the kids were on board and the doors were closed, I stood in the aisle and addressed them. It was wonderful. I had all the answers. In my mind I had a vision of kids who would listen when I spoke, who would respect the almighty power of the driver of the bus. I believed they would understand what I was saying, and that they would obey without question. Boy, was I wrong! Let’s just say that the first two weeks of my bus driving gig were exhausting and frustrating. I can’t count the number of times I had to pull over to the side of the road with the flashers on to give the little darlings yet another lecture. Now, some might use that as a reason to quit, or to switch routes, or to file complaints, but not me. I used it as an impetus. I recognized, you see, that the kids were acting up because of inconsistency. If they had indeed been through six drivers in the past year then they had not been given clear and steady expectations to live up to. It’s hard to do the right thing if you don’t know what that is, and it was all but guaranteed that if those kids had had different levels of caring that you will inevitably get from six different drivers then they really didn’t have a clue what was expected. How could I punish them for that? The impetus was there for me to be sure to return in the fall and give these kids a chance to learn that lesson, to figure out by steady application of knowledge how they were supposed to behave on the bus.

That’s a lot of words to say that I decided to go back and give them a whole year of dedicated, determined inculcation – just to see if they could be taught. On the final school day I assured them that I would be back in the fall so they should spend their summer doing absolutely nothing but contemplating what they had learned about behaving on the bus, and of course I’m completely sure that happened.

I then spent the summer working charters to get some experience driving the bus. I had a blast. It’s hot as hell in one of those old buses on a summer day, but I didn’t care. I was learning, and socializing, and establishing practices and procedures, and keeping my bus clean, and I was having a great deal of fun with all that.

When the fall came, I was ready. I observed closely as the yard’s operations ramped up, and when I was told that my assigned unit was out for inspection it occurred to me that there was a whole world of activity going on behind the scenes which the kids never see, and it inspired me to draw something to suggest it.

This is what I came up with.

Yes, that’s the actual bus we used for route 293 that year. In reality, the bus was out for mechanical inspection, to ensure it was safe for use. But in my mind I saw it being cleaned and tightened and twiddled and scrubbed and mopped and painted to within an inch of its own existence in order to be ready for the kidoodles who would depend on it for their very lives. The part of this one that I like the most is the two guys on the hood. One is painting the SCHOOL banner above the windshield, but he’s misspelled it and his supervisor is shaking his head in disappointment. Maybe someone needs to go back to school.

You can tell this is an early drawing. The KerDoodles still have awkwardness to them – stray lines, extra lines. They aren’t yet wearing any pants – they’re all apparently male, too – there are no pink ones around, not even in the office. From my memory, it’s from about August 2018 – so, eight months after The First KerDoodle.

The A-frame sign on the right being painted by the KerDoodle rather inexpertly perched on his knees is an actual representation of the sign I drew for the bus window – the one that denoted the route information that must legally be in every school bus in service. Kids of 293, St Benedict, I was effectively saying, all this work is being done for you.

I drew a number of things to hang inside the bus, too – important information the kids needed – since they were the only ones allowed inside. By policy, the kids had to have an assigned seat, though it was up to me, the driver, whether they had to actually sit in it or not. Other drivers scribbled on magnets, or stuck little pieces of paper on the wall/ceiling above the seats. I, of course, represented the kids in KerDoodle form, with their name, to show they owned the seat. With the kids of 293 the assigned seats were used as a kind of carrot. If you behave, you can sit where you like. If you don’t behave, you’ll sit in your assigned seats. Grrrrr. And by the way, big kids were assigned seats with little kids, friends away from friends, so I really was trying to get them to voluntarily behave. It worked. And it didn’t. Kids will be kids, and those kids were particularly good at it.

Anyway, I hung this drawing by the front door of the bus.

The photo in the background was taken by me, in the actual spot where I parked the bus to await the afternoon pick up. The sign’s message is obvious: use the handrail. The steps are steeper than you think. I don’t need you falling backwards and bonking your little noggin on the ground outside!

The next one I drew as a matter of course as soon as I took the bus over in my first spring.

It’s a simple Dos and Don’ts for the kids’ benefit. The left image was based on fact: things I had actually seen, with perhaps a soupçon of hyperbole for effect versus the superlative, the utopian – the highly unlikely, at least for the 293 group. Somewhere in between the two extremes would have been satisfactory, had we ever quite gotten there. In that first year, we didn’t. We did make some progress – some kids learned to do it right – but most did not. I remember one troublesome boy with whom I had butted proverbial heads a few times over his inability to stay in his seat. About a week from the end of school he stopped by my seat on his way off the bus. I said, “Goodnight, Matthew.” He replied, “you know, I’m going to be very happy never to have to get on this bus again.” I didn’t take this personally, and I didn’t take it as a defeat. I took it as an acknowledgment that we had been at loggerheads – and that he had noted my role as an educator figure in his life. He was one who had improved very slightly during the year. I told him, “Give it time, Matthew. Everyone has stuff to work on. I will miss you even if you don’t miss me.” I don’t think he expected me to say that.

Following up on these informative posters I started focusing on drawing the bus. To begin with the buses were somewhat realistic in appearance. I would take a photograph in the yard, trace the outline of the bus, and fill in some of the details manually. Then, of course, I would add KerDoodles. This image of a flat-nosed KL (KerDoodle Lines) bus garnered a certain appreciation around the yard. It shows a simple bus, waiting to take an early morning group of holiday-goers and their luggage to their destination. I mentioned earlier that the bulk of my experience that first summer was in charters – well, this is what I was talking about: getting up very early to get the bus woken, to get it ready and to get to the pickup location. Yup, that’s me, behind the wheel.

Homage

I can proudly say that the vast majority of the ideas for KerDoodle content are 100% original. They are all me. They all squoze out of the imagination organ secreted somewhere behind my whotsit, and plopped unceremoniously out onto the ‘page’. Some, though, were more inspired than others.

I’ve talked about Peanuts before – my love of Charlie Brown and the gang, so we’ll start there. But then we’ll move on to real artists throughout the spectrum of legitimate creation. I loved and appreciated them before I started doing these little creatives, but then? I appreciated the true genius of those incredible artists so much more after I started trying to draw. As much as I enjoy drawing these little guys, there really is no comparison with the real artists of the world, and I know it. So, the best way I could think of to show my appreciation was to draw an KerDoodular homage to the ones I appreciated the most. So here are my favourite head-nods, cap-doffs, and solemn bows to the true greats of the art world, amongst whom in my opinion I only aspire to wish to want to belong.

It seems that everyone in the Village requires the psychiatric assistance of my rendition of Doctor Lucy Van Pelt. Dogs, cats, rabbits. Horses. We’ll see the animals more in a little while.

This next one is not so much a literary or aesthetic reference as an historical one. Mount Rushmore, of course, shows carved (read, exploded) renditions of the most famous, revered and important American presidents, and I thought some respectful KerDoodle presidents would not seem amiss.

Note that I drew them so that there’s no more room for additions. That’s because I don’t think there should be. In many ways the unifying message of those four has been lost in the noise of the present-day, and adding anyone else to that reverent place would, to me, be an absolute travesty.

Ok, you won’t recognize this next one. It has a family angle. The original – the one that I’m honouring here – was drawn by my grandfather, Stanley McDonall. He was a sign-maker, a cartoonist, and a window-drawer back when store windows needed to have things drawn on them. Here’s a photograph of his original. Rather appropriately, it’s hanging on the wall of my sister’s barn, in the darkest wilds of Ontario.

He was undoubtedly an artist, don’t you think? He used real paint, real canvas. There was no delete button, no ‘undo’ to make corrections. If he made a mistake he had to fix it. Of course, we could argue the pros and cons of the available technology all day, but what purpose would that serve? That’s why I consider my version an homage. It’s not better. It just nods to his work as a way of saying, ‘nice job, Gramps.’

I didn’t know my grandpa all that well – he lived in a different country, at the other end of the continent. But the fact that I started drawing at all – even all these years later – makes me wonder if there isn’t some kind of genetic predisposition in our family to render the world around us in – if you’ll forgive the pun – palatable terms.

Anyway, here’s my version. See what you think.

It has the same elements as the original, but a slightly different treatment. For this production I actually had to learn how to draw cobwebs, if you can imagine that – I had to go to school for that. The other, outside, KerDoodle, looking in, is an added bonus. His job is to affirm that this situation is, in fact, funny. You know, in case you missed it.

When I drew this I had not seen the original work in decades, so my homage is strictly from memory. It certainly wasn’t an attempt to copy the original, but I think it works. Anyway, at the very least it’s done with love and appreciation for the idea.