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.
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.
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?”
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.”
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.
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?
Have I mentioned that KerDoodles are also musical? Well, why wouldn’t they be, since they’re cartoonular representations of the human condition?
I started to see their musical side after a couple of years of drawing, and to hear it too. I gave them dignity by drawing them in full concert regalia, on a warm, black and gold background. There’s no commentary necessary for these. The only required acknowledgment is that in my opinion they deserve to be highlighted and celebrated.
So in this collection you’ll find various singers and instrumentalists – both traditional and non. Look here for trombone, oboe, trumpet, tuba, cello, triangle, violin, guitar, flute, harmonica, and comb. And singers? Boy, have we got singers! A men’s chorus, an operatic diva, a tenor, a bass. And what more could a music lover ever want or need?
Following the gallery we’ll take a look at a few more specific musical offerings. Click on an image to enlarge it.
Not all my musical nods were reverent, of course, because cartoons are also supposed to be fun. Let’s see a few which had fun with the subject. First, an enthusiastic tenor with a piano-playing accompanist.
I like how the velvet curtains in the background turned out. They make the ‘toon feel warm. Like many of my KerDoodle characters, everyone looks very happy in their work. And why wouldn’t they be? Such a sound they are making!
Next, the rabbits were always the kings of the double-entendre and they certainly didn’t mind going after music and musicians.
Here we have a couple of classic misunderstandings. Sometimes I pat myself on the back when I come up with these – even though I know it’s not really original humour. I think I just like being a cornball.
Running kidoodles, a sprint to the finish, a sleeping KerDoodle, a policeman showing signs of annoyance, an old man, an airplane, a slide – and even an homage to the First KerDoodle and much, much more. As I recall this took me about a week to draw. I finished it up with ET and the love birds in the heart, and posted it here.
I have always enjoyed this kind of Breughelesque treatment of certain subjects. In a later chapter I’ll share a few more.
Then one day I was thinking up a limerick for some reason and it occurred to me that there was no reason a KerDoodle couldn’t also be a country singer. Thus was born the Country Crooner – a dry-witted, sardonic, ironic fellow with dreams of creating the perfect iambic pentameter.
Here he’s lamenting his financial status. This chap went on to produce some pretty classy material – in a cornfield kind of way. He’s a cowboy musician who picks up his li’l ol’ gee-tar an’ plays himself some silly toons. I remember the day I thought of him, and how surprised I was that he came out so well. Why? Because drawing things like limbs in awkward positions is hard for me and yet this guy was born without too much trouble at all. Yes, suddenly there he was: a quiet, subdued, but totally active fellow, fully and happily engaged in the making of music.
This next one, and the last music-specific entry for our purposes, I was very pleased with at the time, and I still am.
Oh, I traced the heck out of that organ – make no mistake about that – but the work of bringing this to life is all me. The KerDoodle? Obviously, 100% original. The light and shadow – all me. It’s called “Baby Get Bach” – in itself a double-entendre suggesting the famous song, and a need to immerse oneself in the music of the great musician. The mouse, the smile, the book – all come together to deliver a warm, happy fellow greatly enjoying his innate musical abilities.
So that was music and musicians. There were more, of course – these are simply representative. Suffice it to say, these musicians had to be. They simply had to be.
One of the charters I took on as a school bus driver was a Parks Canada position in the Rocky Mountains. Because the job was a three hour drive from my home it was a three-days-on three-days-off proposition with no-star accommodation in the mountains provided. It involved carrying passengers up and down a rough gravel mountain road so they could hike, or camp, or both, in the shadow of the stunningly beautiful Rocky Mountains.
There were rules of course, which were posted in horrible, impersonal list form in various places within the operation, and naturally I took it on myself to KerDoodle-ize them, for easier audience inculcation. Considering that many of the passengers were from far away lands with extremely limited, or zero English skills, I thought this apropos.
I got a kick out of drawing these, even though Parks Canada management decided they wanted to stick with their impersonal lists. The fact that I didn’t draw them in both official Canadian languages (Canada is a bi-lingual country), might’ve had something to do with it, though I’m more inclined to believe that the manager in charge just didn’t have a sense of humour.
The posters required the creation of the KerDoodle bear you see here.
This one – Don’t Litter! – depicts a scowling park ranger catching a guest red-handed dropping trash on the ground. (Bad guest! Bad). The bears are witnessing this loutish behaviour, along with a bunny and a million disapproving trees. I mean, think about it: would you want to be caught dropping trash on the ground? Well then, shape up! I like how I captured the park Ranger tapping his foot on the ground with disdain.
Occasionally I had ideas for actual humour, as I drove the bus. One thing I overheard a lot was the campers being told that as they went hiking they should make a lot of noise. That was, of course, to alert any of the nasty (but lovely) bears that might be in the area that they were there and so avoid confrontation. Well, being who I am, I couldn’t help but look at that from the bear’s point of view, and this is how that played out.
Again, the trees have eyes. I like the little Canadian flag on the bear on the right. And the bear on the left appears to have found himself a bear bell, which is something that hikers wear to alert bears to their presence.
Then there was the day I was ‘on the hill’, waiting at the bottom for the next run. I was alone and, well, my imagination took over. I wondered, wonderingly, what would happen if a bear were to run amok and take control of the bus.
This is what I came up with: the bear looks mad, (mad, I tells ya!) and the passengers – who must have been napping when the bear got on – are absolutely terrified. As always the trees are watching. The piece is captioned, When Bears Go Wild – because, after all, bears are wild – ‘out there’ – so for them to enter our world they’d have to be even wilder.
I know, completely silly. I mean, have you ever actually met a bear with a driver’s license?
Finally, this one.
I think it’s fairly self-explanatory, so I’ll just call it the final nod to barehood, and leave it at that.
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.
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.
For this next one I recall there was a background conversation going on about how horses are looked after. How some live in the field, some in a stable. Some, it seemed to me, had top-drawer accommodations while others seemed to live under a tree. Not so very different, if you think about it, from how we human beings exist, but that’s another story.
For our purposes, here, it got me thinking about Shangri-La, and some kind of equine utopia. I mean, look at these guys! Yes, they’re outstanding in their field, but they are not doing as others do. These guys have found just a few trappings of the luxury life. Carrots in a bucket, a trough of water where they can bob for crisp, fresh apples, a nice bucket of clean, cool water, a tent (with a horsey weather vane, no less) where they sleep. A few personal items adorn their abode – a white board for keeping notes, a snack-rack full of hay, a carpet for greater comfort, and all in a sweet, flowery field just loaded with green, green grass and happy, sheltering trees. I mean, for a horse, does it get any better than this?
By the time 2020 rolled around I was pretty sure of my audience. That is to say, I want to make my cartoons innocent in their fun, but at the same time they need to make people think. Being English in upbringing I don’t hold with the face-slap, on-the-nose style of comedy that is popular in my home country. Oh, I know it has its place, but I believe that people should occasionally have to exercise their brains in order to understand what I’m saying. Sometimes it’s more rewarding, and therefore a more satisfying experience, if the reader has to do some mental gymnastics to get to the punchline.
In this horsecapade, I’m using the word (you know which one) without actually using it. This is safe for the kiddies, who would never, ever know the word being referenced, and it’s interesting for adults, who enjoy a laugh and appreciate having a little inside knowledge. There’s another one along these lines that’s something of a triple-entendre. We’ll see if I can include it in another section a bit later.
Now, who on earth is this handsome fellow?
A dapper Dan if ever I saw one. And doesn’t he just know it! Well-groomed, and obviously very happy about it. The reflection came about because of another technical tool. Remember, I can’t draw the same thing twice, so there’s no way I’d be able to duplicate it in reverse were it not for technology. Let’s see – how does it go? Copy, Paste, Flip horizontal, Tilt, and occasionally, for the convex effect, a little warp in the middle.
The Sketches app, I must advise, does not include all of these tools. So sometime in 2020 I purchased another platform called Procreate and started getting a bit more jiggy with things. Because I was used to drawing with the pens in the Sketches app, I kept drawing there, but where there were special processes to apply, I copied and pasted the element into the Procreate app. Confused? Let’s elucidate.
Let’s say I’ve drawn a character in Sketches, but I’m not really happy with him. It’s possible. It’s been done. Frankly, there’s a good chance of it.
Now, this KerDoodle human is inoffensive enough, isn’t he? But maybe he’s a little bit too… rotund. In the middle. Ok, fine, he’s got a paunch. Perhaps my own failings make me feel bad for him, (Lord, is he a self-portrait?!) so I decide to slim him down a bit. The Procreate app allows me to move lines seamlessly so that happy chappy can instantly lose some weight. See how happy it makes him? It makes me happy, too, because I don’t have to crumple up the paper and start from scratch!
There’s one thing you should notice about this happy chappy. He’s not one of them, he’s one of us. He’s a human KerDoodle. He and his ilk are currently in development. But don’t worry, the purple fellows are not gone. They will always be a crucial part of the tapestry which is…
Life. In the Village.
Speaking of spoiled horses living in Utopia, check out these offerings. The first is a highly stylized rendition of another horse which is absolutely outstanding in his field. Well, technically, out-sitting, because he’s treating himself pretty well at the moment.
The KerDoodle fellow in the background has a T-shirt on which suggests he take a day off – good advice for us all, from time to time. The horse, having stripped off all the paraphernalia of horsedom (bridle, saddle, shoes), is propped up against the tree – cushioned by a pillow – enjoying some sunshine on this lovely summer afternoon. Look! Even the tree is happy! I used some watercolour brushes for the background, and some fuzzing effects, including using the fill tool in some areas which had already been filled, which has the effect of splotching up an area to give it character. He’s a happy fellow, isn’t he, as he settles in for a wonderful afternoon of sunbathing and the scarfing of carrots? What’s not to love!
One of our final reviews of horsedom here explores the word hors d’oeuvre…. This is not, of course, an equestrian term by any means, but is a food term defined in the Merryam Oxferd Dictionary of Irreducible Facts and Fictions as, ‘snackables which help broaden your waistline’. The auditory proximity, however, to the word ‘horse’, and the treatment I read into it when I drew this allow it to be presented here.
Behold a great hall, horsulated with a multitude of fine – and highly spoiled (expectationswise) horse types, all quite moved at the prospect of a treat as delivered by the butler. It doesn’t really need much more explication than that, except to say that I remember the satisfaction I felt when it was done. Twelve different and unique equines in an ornate and impressive space were taxing indeed on my brain and my pen, so when it turned out as well as it did I was quite genuinely pleased. It’s always pleasant when a result passes from potential to realized.
Here’s a little more horse corn to spur us into the next section.
My sister is an equestrienne extraordinaire (she told me to add the extraordinaire) so I knew it wouldn’t be long before I was trying to draw a horse. But my first ever drawings involving horses used photos I’d taken. Long before “hoarse” (somewhere above), I drew these fellows.
That’s Bear (the horse) and my sister, practicing their rising trot or their off-leg canter or some such thing. Little did they know that they were not as alone as they thought. They were accompanied by a shy, scared, little KerDoodle friend. You can just make him out – holding on for dear life. He’s got very short legs, but he makes up for it with very long arms. No pants. Yada-yada.
This was especially early on. At that time I was in the habit of naming the piece right on it, initialling it and indicating the year. This was before the days of the copyright notice.
This was 2017 – right about the same time as “Don’t Get Scared Now”, from page four, but shortly after I learned about layers. It’s the same for this one – “Don’t Forget Me”. It was extremely early on, before I’d even dreamt about clothes, hand-drawn trees, real KerDoodle horses and all that. It was pre-just-about-everything, evolutionwise, but I think it demonstrates the essence of the initial KerDoodle thrust: that they were everywhere, that I could see them, and that I was constrained, almost physically, to draw them even before I had a sense of what they were.
Here they are again as sis and friends ambled off into the woods, two on-board, one leg-bound as he fights to not be left behind. Second verse, same as the first – the message here is that they’re everywhere – if you but open your eyes and see.
These early horse things must have been filed subconsciously within me. Perhaps I ruminated in the interim on the possibility of drawing actual horses. Probably, because it was more than a year before I actually started to draw horse KerDoodles. I don’t remember which was the first, but I do remember getting a whole bunch of ideas at around the same time. Like the hare phenomenon, the horse thing just seemed to spring organically from my mind, as though from the earth of a horse farm, or something silly like that.
Yes: in rows they grew, neither photographic nor Thelwellian renditions of the equine form. An crude assemblage of circles, ovals and other highly apropos pointy bits, the KerDoodle horse was my unique, rib-poking take on one of the most glorious animals on the great good green earth of Gosh.
In much the same way as the rabbits, the excuse for many of the horse drawings was a saying of some kind. “You can lead a horse to water…” is one that sprang to mind.
Here, it’s bath day, and in full view of his pony-cronies this equine fellow is resisting. It’s all there. Fluffy, Doobey, Smiler and Amigito, a pile of hay, a bucket of apples, a bath with soap-frothed water, and a KerDoodle hand with a brush and a loofah sponge and a hard hat for his own self preservation. There’s trepidation in the air, and anger, and ambivalence, and mirth. Oh my!
Another horse-centric saying that demanded the KerDoodle treatment was Clothes Horse. For you youngsters out there who have never known ‘owt but the tumble dryer, a clothes horse is something your parents and grandparents used to hang small items of clothing on to let them dry, or de-wrinkle, or just chill. My take, however, just had to be a little different. By now I’m sure you expect no less.
Here he is. A well-dressed chap in a sweater, hat, bow tie, standing, fully fourth-wall-engaged in a nice and neat and tidy walk-in stable – I mean, closet.
Lordy, but this one took me a while to draw! About a week, as I recall. All those little details in there. Shirts, sweaters, pillows, bridles, reins, horse shoes, a wheelbarrow full of hay, shopping bags, a curry comb, a bucket of carrots, and a bucket of apples – what more could a distinguished-looking equine fellow in a purple sweater and a bow tie possibly need!? I had fun drawing this. It married well the very best parts of my imagination, my abilities, and the topic at hand. I hope you like it too.
In this next one I got just a little bit artsy-fartsy.
In KerDoodle Farms a reluctant, disdainful roan is being dragged (albeit with love) into a trailer for transportation to some event or other. I think I got the reluctance quite well, don’t you? The barn in the back is modelled on the barn at my sister’s farm – up to and including the motif above the door. There’s a suitable amount of excitement here, as the horse chappie looks back over his shoulder at the author of his discomfort, the unhappy-looking, jodhpur-clad, crop-holding boss. Bunny and chicken: we can’t forget them.
I remember being very pleased with how this all came together. No, it doesn’t take much to make me happy.
This little expliqué of mine seems to have gone to the dogs. Sorry. How about a little hare of the dog, now?
This one, of course, comes from the phrase which drinkers (not soda pop, water, or juice) will understand. It’s an early thing, as evidenced by the shape of their heads – for a while there I really did have trouble with the side view. I decided to fool around with the phrase, “hair of the dog that bit me”, and tossed my hat with glee as it resolved into “the hare, and the dog that bit me.” Get it? It’s true: with the advance of the hares and the rabbits, the corn factor turned way up. There are so many ways to use and abuse the word ‘hare’; the temptation is just too strong.
This next one was, actually, the first use of the hare in my cartoons. I realized of course that I’d have to develop a whole new critter: body, feet, arms (no fingers), neat, ovular face, long, pointy ears. Seems pretty simple. So I combined the new critter with a big bowlful or corn, and this was the result. It occurred to me while I was watching a thriller movie – I forget which one. Someone (it may have been me) said the show was hair-raising, and, well, the rest is history.
The double entendre is, of course, that something scary can be hair-raising, but it can also mean lifting a rabbit off the ground. And, omigosh, if you somehow get another rabbit to do the raising, well, I just don’t know what! If you think about it, it can also mean a parent rabbit raising its young. I don’t know – it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The joke in the next one is just as obvious. It was also an early one, as you should be able to tell by now.
The rabbit is very rough – I hadn’t yet figured out how to make him walk. There are no trees or buildings to add dimension to this four-panel jape – I guess I got lazy. This particular panel was about the punch line, and it would seem that the sooner I got the reader to that, the better.
Once the hare thing was rolling, how could I possibly dream of resisting this one? It’s an iconic punchline – “waiter, there’s a hair in my soup”, but when it’s an entire rabbit it’s a completely justifiable concern.
The focus is on the bunny, sure, but also on the maître d’, and the chef in the background. The side view of our protagonist – the customer – is somewhat suspect. That tells me that it was an early 2019 thing – and/or that I just wasn’t on that day. It joins the others on the ‘inspired’ list. I sawn it before I drawn it.
Ever have a bad hair day? How about a bad hare day? We get used to our neighbourhood bunnies being quiet, respectful critters – hiding under a bush, dozing under trees, stuff like that. But what if your fluffy bunny misbehaves? What if he gets cranky and turns into a meanie and a bully? What if… Well, you tell me. For a card-carrying non-vegetarian, I sure do like the corn.
How about a bit more of the same before we trot on? Rapid fire!
You’ve seen the first dog, well let’s see a few examples of what he ultimately became. With trial and error – backstage practice, if you will – he developed into a totally distinct creature, as capable of emotion, wit, and irony as any of the other village inhabitants. Here’s another early iteration.
In fact, I think this was the next time (2019) I attempted dogs after “DoDoodle”. It’s like a practice page – a tableau – of dogs in various lights, all being observed with interest by a solitary, anchoring KerDoodle. There’s posing, sitting (also no rear legs, dang it!) walking, pointing, playing, howling, scratching, and shaking paws in a most human way. Since there’s no punchline I’m pretty sure I just sat down and started drawing dogs. Sometimes I do that – especially if I’m trying to teach myself a new character.
The tableau gave me the courage to be corny – you know, the wishing well of wit I go to when I need inspiration. Here are a few examples that show the corn, and the evolution of the KerDoodle dog.
Once I got going, I drew a lot of the little pups, so you really are just getting a few of them here. I don’t need to describe them in detail. By now I think you know what’s happening, up there in my attic.
Here’s one that’s a little different.
I drew this one for my brother-in-law, to be printed onto his morning coffee mug. He walks the dogs at the end of every day, you see, so this seemed somewhat apropos. The dog, in case you can’t tell, is a rough collie. This looked really good on the mug. Want one?
As time went by the pen got stronger and stronger. I learned to help the critters emote. I learned how one little change in a line on the face can change the entire mood of the drawing. That’s an important lesson as I found that I could really plan ahead. The comics got more and more corny (sorry), and more and more ironic. I drew a lot of pups – like “Salty Dog”, and “Dog Tired”.
The term salty dog, refers, of course, to a pirate, or a seaman, but for our purposes the KerDoodle is sprinkling salt on a canine. Silly, I know. But whatcha gonna do?
Dog Tired is fairly self-explanatory so there’s not much to say here. It’s just the further shameless abuse of a time-worn phrase from the English language.
Beware of the Dog, however, is the result of a request from one of my fellow school bus drivers. “Here’s a pic of my dog,” quoth she. “Can you do something with him?” So I did. There’s nothing to beware of, of course, but I tried to make the KerDoodle at least look nervous.
Bus Stop is definitely in the inspired column. At the time I was driving the school bus, of course, so buses were front of mind. But specifically, I remember being in the bus one snowy morning, as I headed back to the yard after the route was done, when I pulled up to a red light. At a bus stop on the other side of the road, there was a long line-up of people. This little tableau instantly blipped into my mind, and when I got home after my post-trip inspection I started to draw it.
There’s a lot to unpack here! Deep breath: on a snowy winter’s day we see a real hodgepodge of characters. Is that a hockey team there in the background, or a bunch of fans headed to the game? I’m inclined toward the latter, because, well, I drew it and I know what I was thinking, and because it’s somewhat unlikely that a health-focused hockey squad would take to the can or the bottle on game day. That’s only logical. Fans, on the other hand… Well, I think there’s a law.
In the front row, left to right, what do we see? The padre (rather short, even for a man of the cloth – the bowler hat makes him taller) appears already to be at work as he offers a blessing to the man reading the newspaper. On the newspaper is a grey KerDoodle (because newspapers aren’t always printed in colour, are they?) advertising some product or other (Get It Now!). The man next to newspaper guy appears rather suave in his fancy beige overcoat with matching trilby, and dark, super-ventilated gloves. He looks a little vexed about something, doesn’t he – perhaps the bus is late, or maybe he overslept, or perhaps he’s discovered a stain on his coat which he is trying to cover with his hand. To his left, two fellows appear quite discombobulated by a commotion over their shoulders where we see a mother scolding her two unruly children who are poking each other. That’s okay, but a little further yet there’s even more consternation over the behaviour of a small pup (the reason for its appearance here with the animals) who is barking and fussing and pulling toward something out of frame as his rather diminutive and totally oblivious owner listens to his music. The other passengers are clearly not amused. All of this on a simple, but effective snowy backdrop – heck those wintry trees even make me feel cold!
This is from the much-vaunted pre-pants period, dating it as one of the more advanced of the early works. Additional carbon dating indicates that the drawing guy’s methods have definitely improved, and if this is the result of inspiration, well… I want more!
So it’s true: animals are a large part of our lives, and over time they’ve become a significant part of the KerDoodle world. The most I can say about my first animals is that they were valiant efforts. My heart was in the right place. In a previous iteration I would be too embarrassed to show them to you, but not here. You can’t know the evolution of the KerDoodle animal unless you can see where they started. So, here they are. In all their glory.
The first, strangely enough, was this cat.
I say, ‘strangely’, because as it turned out I didn’t draw cats all that often. That’s probably because of the antipathy I have toward them as selfish, demanding, unfriendly, suspicious-minded creatures. I think a cat would just as soon push you under a bus as let you touch it, and in my mind any creature who abhors contact is a nasty thing indeed. As the old saying goes, ‘dogs like to go for a ride, cats like to drive’.
Anyway, this cat… the ‘CaDoodle’. He’s awful. Truly. Bad lines. Awful colour. A one-line tail – really? Those two front legs? They disappear right at the butt line! And guess what – no rear legs at all! Oy vey! What was I thinking?! The movles are exciting, though. First try, kindness to self. E for effort and all that noise. No, make it a D-minus for trying to add a mouse.
The first dog wasn’t much better.
Labelled, ‘DoDoodle’, he looks pretty much just like the first cat. Sitting up, looking down and to the right – apparently at the same mouse, wagging his three-dimensional tail (movles and all). There’s a valiant attempt at rear legs, here – I even have the tail going behind the left rear leg, as it should be. The ears, you’ll note, hang straight down like a regular KerDoodle. Remember, “they look like dogs”, (page 29)? Well, this is likely proof positive that that diminutive person was correct. Except for the nose structure it’s practically a dead ringer.
Darn it all, animals aren’t easy to draw! Their lines go in all sorts of strange directions – you really have to understand the skeletal structure of the animal you’re involved with. It’s worth the work, though. These humble beginnings actually did ultimately evolve into real and consistent, cartoony animal characters. So, if you also draw, just remember not to get frustrated at your first attempts. I include these dreadful, unsure, shaky examples here in order to reinforce the notion that, if you keep at it, your efforts will be rewarded.
Cat, dog, mouse. What else is there? How about a bird or two?
Birds aren’t particularly taxing to draw – even for a newbie. A fat little body, smaller head (no ears), wings off the side, all atop two spindly-ass little legs, with a pointy beak of some kind to enable communication. Here are a couple of early efforts. They’re a little bit cheaty, in that I didn’t draw them from roll-the-dice, eyes-closed rumination but from a picture. But that’s okay. That’s how you get the lines in your hand. That’s how you develop muscle memory. I was taught from a young age, from my earliest piano lessons, that in anything you want to learn, consistency and proficiency come from practice. The way my teacher put it, as I recall, was… “practice, practice, practice.”
Here, in Scarekerdoodle, a totally indecent KerDoodle fellow is acting as a scarecrow above the crop.
He’s not very good at it, though, is he? The crow is laughing at him, and singing away atop the wheat. I like the interaction between them. There’s disdain in the crow, and a certain sadness in the failure of the KerDoodle to which I think we can all relate.
I used a picture to model this second birdy ‘toon – primarily because I was portraying a dodo.
The joke itself was just an attempt to be corny – some of my best jokes are corny, some of my worst jokes too. I might even have ‘traced’ this dodo bird rather than just copying him by eye. He looks a tad too strong for me to have drawn him, um, freebird – especially given how early the drawing was. Carbon dating suggests the first quarter of 2018 – about three months after “Don’t Get Scared Now” (page 4).
I hesitate to include this next one because technically it’s not an animal. Rather, it’s my first attempt at a monster.
As I recall, Halloween was coming, and I needed to do something scary for a blog post. This was not in the ‘inspired’ column. For this one I sat down at a blank page and just started drawing lines. Tree trunks, a big, scary animal juxtaposed with a diminutive, very early version KerDoodle, approaching menacingly. He looks very hungry, doesn’t he? He looks in some ways like an enormous, vicious dog, but with narrow, slitted, red eyes. Evil. Vicious. Not particularly scary, but it was early. I got better at scary later on. In my totally KerDoodlesque way.
So now how about some Stephen King? I’ve read quite a few of that prolific author’s books, and seen lots of his movies. I know he has expressed concern over the years that the movies weren’t really faithful to his plots, but what can you do? How do you take a novel of umpty-thousand words and compress it into a movie-length script without losing some of the finer points of the story?
This iconic moment is from the film, The Shining. In the movie, the boy is riding his tricycle around the halls of that big hotel when he turns the corner and runs into the ghosts of two little girls. They entreat him to join them in eternal habitation of the hotel, as they put it – for ever and ever and ever. It’s a scary moment. Spine-tingling. I remember the first time I saw it – yes, my spine actually tingled! So here’s my KerDoodle rendition of that moment. It’s not terrifying. But it is scary, in an ‘isn’t-that-cute’ kind of way.
Another Stephen King effort – a more recent one – is It.
The art, makeup and effects in this one – being far more modern – are really on point. Terrifying would be a better word. So with that word ringing in my ears, well, I absolutely had to give it the ol’ KerDoodle nod, yes? So I did. I drew this, in essence, for Halloween, and of course I hung it up in the school bus – my rolling KerDoodle art gallery – and darn it all if the kids didn’t seem to quietly zero in on this one and study it every day. What is it about dark subjects that draws people in, anyway?
The caption is, “beware of, you know… It,” and that softening of the text is absolutely deliberate. I’m pretty sure the majority of my readers are adult, or mature, (not necessarily both), but I’m also pretty sure that kids will occasionally see my work (school bus), and I certainly don’t want to frighten them. Remember what I told that boy who wanted me to draw the muscle-bound soldier type with machine guns hanging around his neck? Same thing here. I gotta draw the KerDoodles in the way they want to be drawn. I can’t make them fit an ugly mould just because ugliness is in vogue at the moment. No, this homage to It is just about as evil-looking as my KerDoodles will ever be.
You show me the kid in the seventies who didn’t watch Star Trek on TV and I’ll show you an honest politician. That’s right. They probably don’t exist. This is my homage to the Star Trek franchise. The Enterprise is there, on a starry backdrop, as our own Cap’n Kirk looks proudly on. It’s a simple nod to all the Trek things that stimulated the brain of youngsters like me: phasers, tribbles, transporters and shields, huge banks of instruments, warp engines, and heroes from all walks of life. Terrific things that made us believe in a bigger universe than our every day reality allowed.
Next up is my nod to Chicken Run, a claymation production detailing the odyssey of a bunch of chickens trying to escape the coop.
Chicken Run, of course, was itself an homage to The Great Escape (1963), with such greats as Steve McQueen and James Garner. This one was from the earlier period – several elements suggest as much, as pantsless KerDoodles stride purposefully toward the coop’s gate. You can see here that I’m playing with light a lot. The dusky light over the far horizon, the ambience in proximity to the inmates, and the yellow light of the windows all require the use of techniques which I remember learning for the first time about eight months after I started drawing. The chain link fence in front was I think also the first use of a new tool in my arsenal.
It was exciting at the beginning, as I perceived a problem, worked out a solution, and applied the solution to a drawing. I did a lot of technical practice in those days, in a folder which never saw the light of day. But of course, that’s only right.
A few more to go. The next one was my ‘take’ on the Swedish Chef, from the Muppets.
I know, they don’t look much alike, but trust me, he’s in there. The KerDoodle is simple enough, in his inordinately large smock and pink bow tie, but as the reminiscing artiste it’s the other objects which interest me. I can see with my critical eye that I took a shortcut here – one which I would not take if I were to draw this today: the objects on the counter are not hand-drawn, but are from a photograph. I don’t remember if I borrowed the photo, or borrowed elements, but they’re quite obvious, really. “Shame on me”, says I. “Not so fast,” replies I to myself, chiding myself for being so hard on myself. This is still from 2018, and if I remember rightly it was quite early on in the journey. So while I wouldn’t do that today (in fact, thinking about it and scanning through my archives I can’t see any other time that I did do this) I am not going to chide myself for doing it then. It was lazy, perhaps, but it shows I still lacked the confidence at that time to try to draw the objects myself.
So, um, yeah. It’s an homage, but kind of on the lite side.
I remember I was quite pleased at the time with this next one.
I was enjoying the crimmy series, Father Brown, at the time – murder, but with a gentle, family touch – and I thought it deserved a nod. If you haven’t seen the show, the basic premise is that a Priest in post-war England is better at solving crimes than the local plod. My take – again, early on – shows a very adventurous attempt at a cathedral, a motor car, flowers and the show’s main characters – Father Brown on his bike, Mrs M, the chauffeur and Bunty, the wealthy young lady who occasionally teases the edge of propriety to get the Father the information he needs to solve the crime. The background techniques here are done with a watercolour effect – ‘water’ smeared over and around the grass and the sky to give it a hazy, nondescript look. This is one that I saw in my mind before I started drawing. I can’t put too fine a point on it: I have always found that the best results came when I saw the result in my mind before I started drawing.
Next is this little thing from 2020. If this doesn’t demonstrate how my technique evolved, nothing will.
In the first place, it’s funny. It has a punchline which, well, you know, tickles the ribs. The background is interesting – stretching off into the distance – the ark (I think) is quite well conceived and executed, and the KerDoodle animals – well, that’s a whole different subject. Rabbits, monkeys, giraffes, dogs, moose (Meese? Moosi? Mooses? 🤔), horses, elephants, all, two-by-two, entering or already inside the ark.
The piece speaks to the importance of communication, and to the limitations of technology. Ok, I don’t really think there were answering machines or voicemail when the original Noah did his thing, but a guy can dream, can’t he? And you know, there might be an element of truth to this. It is just possible that this communicative faux pas is the reason KerDoodles today are in such limited supply. Perhaps – just perhaps – they were invited to the ark, and they answered the call, but they went to the wrong place. I don’t know. It’s a theory.
The last little homage I’ve decided to include here is this early but adventurous little thing.
A shiny new nickel to the first person who can tell me without reading ahead, who this fellow is. Well? Well? That’s right, it’s Liberace. All flash, he was, and a lot of pizazz. I’ve coined this homage, “Liberacedoodle” to show this happy fellow posing next to his snazzy grand piano. I was no huge fan of Liberace, but there’s no denying his showmanship, hmm? And I thought there really should be a KerDoodle version.
So these are some of my favourite KerDoodle tribute drawings. They were fun to draw, and they really were done in a spirit of adulation. I think they reference iconic moments and individuals in the human experience, and they demonstrate how close to humans the KerDoodles really are. I hope you enjoyed them.
In the next chapter we’re going to look in a bit more depth at something I dropped in a couple of pages ago: animals. You see, once the KerDoodles were themselves fully established I felt the need to expand, to grow the repertoire to include animals of different kinds. It’s not really a big stretch. Animals are a big part of our lives – whether we like them or not – so why shouldn’t they similarly be a part of the life of a KerDoodle?