You’re Such An Animal

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.

Artsy Fartsy – Part the Second

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?

Artsy Fartsy – Part the First

Other homages have been cultural in nature. Literary, cinematic, and so on. You might remember this chap from page 42. He’s one of the Monster KerDoodles I developed during the pandemic. His watching TV here is reminiscent of the Pink Floyd thing, don’t you think? Skip back and forth and you can certainly see the differences in the details.

As I recall everything in this drawing was done free-hand. I re-used the popcorn and the tables from other places, but they’re still mine. The art on the wall is a previous KerDoodle outpouring. I’ve often decorated the village walls with art work comprised of earlier drawings. That, too, is something of an homage, isn’t it? Either that or it’s shameless self-promotion.

This one is an homage to the Chinese philosopher, Confucius.

I don’t much know the history behind that ancient character, but he has become known for his wisdom and for his sage sayings. So, how could I not honour him with a KerDoodle version? I named him Kerducius. I drew him one time, like a template, and featured him often with such trite, comedic, absolutely essential observations as the one you see here.

I thought about re-drawing him after a couple of years, but changed my mind, because, ultimately, I like him just the way he is.

Ok, let’s get maudlin. Serious artists leave me in the dust – I think we can agree on that – but that doesn’t mean I can’t emulate them and so show my appreciation. Edvard Munch is one such artist. In 1893 he painted the work which has become known as The Scream which is thought to portray the anxiety of the human condition. Well, if the KerDoodles are a tongue-in-cheek mirror image of the humanity, then I feel there absolutely must be a KerDoodle rendition of Munch’s classic work. It’s not a matter of choice, really. It simply must be.

Another classic which I felt the need to celebrate is Rene Magritte’s work from 1964 – The Son of Man. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because I watched The Thomas Crown Affair; or maybe I was intrigued by the weird juxtaposition of objects in the frame. All I know is I felt the need to acknowledge it as a foundation of modern culture. Here it is. What do you think? It’s faithful, but definitely KerDoodular. It’s an homage. An honorific. It’s done with love.

Next is another iconic work. American Gothic, by Grant Wood, was painted in 1930. It’s widely recognized, and when I saw it one winter morning I quickly saw the KerDoodle version in my mind. The faces of those two rural residents absolutely demanded respectful reproduction. I’ve long prided myself on being able to make my characters emote, and, well, I thought they should be given a chance to be farmers.

When I do these homages I have the original work in front of me, and I… KerDoodle-ize them. I give them the KerDoodle treatment. Of course, today I note that the lady here is mauve, like the male, so I can use that particular carbon-dating tool to place this work before the much-vaunted pink period – the time, if you will, before women were women. Either that or I just made a mistake.

Another form of cultural expression which I often felt demanded appreciation was the movies. I’m like just about anybody these days: I like a good movie. Too bad there aren’t very many any more.

The first I’ll show you here is South Pacific. Based on the 1949 musical, the movie is what inspired me. With musical hits like, “I’m going to wash that man right out of my hair,” and “Bali Ha’i”, it truly is a classic. I’ve mentioned before, I think, that the KerDoodles are very musical, so it seemed only right that they honour a classic musical movie.

I think this was my first attempt to draw palm trees. I like the way the sand meets the water, and how the mountains rise up in the background. It’s minimalist. But hey, it’s about the music.

The next movie I honoured was Rear Window, a Hitchcock classic. I’ve long enjoyed Hitchcock’s take on suspense, and Rear Window (1954) was no exception.

The movie starred Jimmy Stewart as a man who is forced to stay home to heal after breaking his leg, and who, while home, observes all sorts of strange incidents in the area he can see from his apartment. These incidents include murder, though no one will believe him. The movie is quite intense and it’s worth a look. That’s why I honoured it with a KerDoodle version.

Here we see our hero, with the cast on his leg, looking out the window. There’s no TV – such things were not common at that time. I know, that’s a sixties chair – I guess my continuity people let me down there. Outside, life is continuing apace – someone is out on the fire escape, taking the air. Over on the right we see a couple having an argument in their apartment, while a lady below them looks a little disturbed by the commotion. I don’t know about you, but with the brick, the orange sky behind, the skyscrapers in the distance, I can almost feel the heat of the summer evening as the hero in his forced convalescence observes the world around him.

Another Hitchcock classic is North By Northwest (1959), with Cary Grant. Mistaken for a government agent, the hero goes on the run to escape numerous attempts on his life. This is my rendition of a most iconic scene from the movie in which the hero is dive-bombed by a small plane which ultimately crashes into a fuel tanker.

You can see I’ve named it North By Northeast. That was a tongue-in-cheek way of acknowledging it whilst keeping the original at arms length. Cary Grant was better-looking than my KerDoodle, of course, but my guy does look dapper in that suit! I didn’t stress about drawing the corn in the fields, but I think I caught the angst of the moment quite well.

Another honorific I felt compelled to draw was The Addams Family. What an iconic family they were! Yes, I borrowed one of their many family portraits for this one, but they are all one hundred percent original KerDoodles. I think granny’s hair is the first time I used the ‘fluff’ tool in a project. I think it’s also the first time I tried to draw a bat. What do you think? Did it work?

Next up is the long-time favourite, Lost In Space. I watched the TV series from 1965 as a child, of course. Who didn’t? (“Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”) Of course, my treatment of the subject was a little different. In fact, the only common element in my drawing – which only came a about after I invented the KerDoodle alien – is the show’s title – which I unashamedly, in the interests of legitimacy, lifted from a poster I found.

No, my treatment shows an KerDoodle alien flying aimlessly around in his spaceship, scratching his head as he looks around and realizes that he is, in fact, lost.

I like the double-entendre as a comedic device. There’s a head-on meaning and a blindside meaning at the same time, and together they catch a reader unaware.

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.

Marketing

After a while I started to think in terms of marketing. I know, incredibly optimistic, but whatcha gonna do? I had some mugs and calendars made up for friends and family, for Christmas, and darn it all if that didn’t actually lead to some orders! The response was quite positive (GET YOURS TODAY!!), so I drew this thing by way of seeing if the familial loyalty translated at all to the readership.

Sometimes I think my ironic mind is a little overpowering for the cartoon audience. I don’t know – I guess that’s up to you. All I know is that as the idea occurs to me so must it come out. This, of course, was a shameless, though subtle – and failed – attempt to drum up enthusiasm for a product. My ironic attempt to inspire confidence collapsed utterly. You can probably tell that I’m not a professional marketer. Heck, I’m not even a professional KerDoodler! But I am the only KerDoodler in the world, so that’s got to be worth something.

About this time I started thinking a little beyond the simple, KerDoodular moments of life – the pastiche, the montage elicited by the mundane. I started to think in terms of their lives. If, as the presumption goes, they are like us, surely this should be acknowledged in my little creations. Surely, all aspects of their temporality should be recognized – the good, and the bad. Life is life, after all. It comes with bumps and bruises, joys and pains, loves, challenges, urges – and ends. Surely all of that needs to be recognized. To me the KerDoodles are far more than mere cartoon characters. They are the best of us, they are our sweetest, softest centre – and I mean despite the pains they endure, or perhaps even because of them. They demonstrate who they are in all sorts of times, through all sorts of events. They show their kindness, no matter what. They cannot change who or what they are merely by being forced to endure adversity. On the contrary, adversity is what makes them who and what they are. And surely, that’s true of humans as well. We show what we are by how we respond to our experiences. We learn, and teach, and understand, and feel, and pass along our knowledge based on what we go through. We are all conflicted, irresolute, tenacious, frantic, limited, loving, caring KerDoodles. At least, I know I am.

In this one there’s been a death. There they are, outside the village walls, laying one of their number to rest. Do KerDoodles die? Perhaps it’s not the act or the fact of dying that matters, but the concept of ending. Ending and beginning. Give and take. Purpose. Function. Perhaps what’s important is the perspective we get – on life – when someone close to us dies. Perhaps, the act of understanding death is what’s truly important – not the emotions we feel when we go through it. The pain is real – I would never dream of trying to diminish it – but the observances are in aid of the living, not those who have passed.

All of these things and more passed through my mind when I contemplated drawing this one. It’s inexpert, as all the early ones were, but I think it shows, in a relatively sweet way, what I was thinking about at the time.

Inevitably, part of thinking about beginnings and endings is history, and pre-history. How long, I wondered one day, have the KerDoodles been around? Are they a recent discovery – coinciding with my desire to draw them – or have they always been there – through history, through time? The cave men expressed their creativity, and recorded their lives, by decorating their walls.

So I started wondering if at some point a cave KerDoodle hadn’t drawn caricatures of himself – if perhaps sketches of ancient, KerDoodle history, weren’t still to be found on the wall of some cave in some ancient country, somewhere near the village. I started to wonder. And to visualize. And then I started to draw. See the next page, then come right back.

This is definitely in the inspired column. I saw this, including the rough text of it, long before I drew it. Once I started drawing, it took only a few minutes because by their very nature as something crudely sketched on the wall of a cave they were allowed to be imperfect. I felt elated as I captured all the actions and emotions of these ancient KerDoodles. It’s a kind of KerDoodular version of a sacred text. I’m pleased with the results. I think it’s sweet, and subtle, and funny, and it gives context to a subject which might otherwise seem fundamentally anchorless.

Visitors, and so on

Did you ever have a visitor who felt like he belonged with you? That was the basis for this effort. This fellow is clearly just arriving. The taxi is leaving, so there’s no escape now. He’s brought a raft of belongings, of pooch-food, and so on, and it’s obvious that he’s getting ready for a long visit.

Let’s face it, he’s moving in.

Does that thought fill you with dread? You are the person who has opened the door. You are related to this visitor. Everyone likes company, having folks over for dinner, for a party, and so on. But do any of us want that person to move in, to take over, to actually join the ebb and flow of our life? If we meet someone we like, and we invite them into our life, that’s one thing, but is there anything worse than the permanent visitor?

I don’t remember what led to this one. It might have been something I saw on TV, or maybe I was having guests over and my mind wandered. I don’t know. But it raises a question. And it shows us interested types that KerDoodles, who unequivocally exist, are just like us. They have their mooches too.

Whoo – that was deep!

How about a little relief, then, from the comics – a little comic relief? This one is, I think, fairly self-explanatory, and extremely minimalist. I got a kick out of it. Yes, I was thinking of Pinocchio at the time.

When I was little my Mom used to tell me that she knew when I was lying. “How do you know that, Mommy,” I’d ask, and she’d reply, “because your eyes change colour.”

Of course, that’s not true (love you, Mom) but how else do you explain intuition, logic, and inference to a child? The growing nose of Pinocchio, too, was a fanciful way of telling a child that there are signs that lead an adult who is paying attention to the conclusion that a child is not being one hundred percent veracious.

This one was a response to that thought, that day. I don’t know what triggered it. At that time there were so many ideas flying around – it’s hard to pinpoint precisely what led to each and every one of them. But I like it. I like him. If he’s a downright fibber, at least he’s a happy downright fibber!

And now for something completely different.

This comes from the inspired list. I saw it in my mind, and set about drawing it. It’s rough. It’s early work, for sure, but I think the concept is sound. It should be evident that it’s a submarine. They’re in uniform, they’re evidently very active. There are two – count ‘em, two – flashing red lights in the frame – that’s got to tell you something. There’s pressure here. Tension. Heat. Are they under fire? Are they getting ready for an attack? Certainly, everyone’s busy at their work. And even as this is the case, the Captain – the one with the hat – is suffering a moment of reflection.

I like it. It rings true, somehow. I’ve often wondered what people think about when they’re under pressure – even highly-trained, important people like nuclear submarine commanders. He’s cute – vaguely effeminate. He seems a little out of place.

Next, music. Music has always been a part of my life. I am not a musician – by any means – but because of my schooling and my upbringing and my mother’s status as a permanent, card-carrying operatic Diva, I do have an appreciation for music and musicians. So it should come as no surprise that I’ve drawn a number of cartoons in recognition and celebration of the role of music in our lives.

Whether you read music, or write it, or just listen to it, you have been affected – perhaps even profoundly – by the presence of music in your life. At the mall, in the car, in the supermarket, in the shower, in the concert hall – or perhaps only while watching a movie – your life is in tune, whether you know it or not, with the rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic outpourings of the few selected by the cosmos to harbour such talents.

I love music. My tastes are eclectic – I connect with my nature in all sorts of ways. As long as there’s an actual melody, and some kind of attempt at structure, I’m fine with it. I respect the abilities of the creatives of the world.

Remember the barbershop quartet of way back when? I saw those guys just as clearly as I saw these. But while they were colourful, singing about a young lady, these fellows are resplendent in their black cassocks whilst singing their own particular praises. They really look like they’re in tune, don’t they? I didn’t need to draw the church, or the concert hall, behind them – I think you can see it anyway. The way they emerge from the blackness, I think, evokes a real sense of reverence and awe. Do you see it that way, too?

We’ll see some more musicians a bit later. Stay tuned.

Russian Doll

First, a little rapid-fire…

A happy medium. Get it?
I drew this one somewhere around Halloween. Junior is a little scared, but mommy is concerned about her circadian rhythms.

Now, this one deserves a little bit of a closer look.

I notice for the first time that in completing and publishing it I forgot to specify the year. Does that mean that the copyright is eternal? I don’t know, but a lawyer might. I drew it in the summertime, when thunderstorms are top-of-mind. You can see the big black cloud bearing down as the passengers wait on the platform. The nearest guy has an umbrella in his hands. He’s looking up at the sky – he seems to be the only one who sees what’s coming. The second fellow – the one in the white shirt – is leaning up against the wall, looking at his watch. The fellow in yellow appears to be reading a pamphlet – perhaps he’s looking over the train schedule. The green-shirted dude is just taking a nap – I imagine there are bird noises and other soporific sounds lulling him to sleep. Finally, if you look closely, you’ll see another fine fellow in the shelter there, peering out. I’ve just noticed he isn’t wearing any clothes. Clothes were still new to me at the time (and therefore new to them) so don’t read anything into it. I probably just forgot to give him a shirt. I don’t know what he’s doing in there. He might be hiding from someone, I suppose, or he could be deathly afraid of storms. Heck, he could even be watching someone out there, wanting to stay out of sight. All I know is when I drew this piece, he was there. And he wanted to be included.

But for one little detail, that’s about it. The detail is the poster on the wall, which purports to be an advertisement for a movie, but which is actually a complete re-rendering of the scene before us. It gives the piece a sort of ‘Russian doll’ quality, I think, especially because there’s another poster inside that one, and so on, and so on, and so on.

I’ve found over the few years I’ve been drawing that the audience often doesn’t see details like that. I’m not sure why, unless it’s that they’re in too much of a hurry or they’re only viewing the image on their phone. But it’s disappointing to me because little details like that take a lot of consideration and thought and imagination, and if the viewer doesn’t notice them then it makes me sad that they’re missing things. That said, the notion that my audience might occasionally be inattentive never once made me want to stop drawing. The KerDoodles wanted to be drawn. They needed to be drawn. And I, amazingly enough, was the one chosen to get it done.

As I’ve said, a lot of times what oozed out of my stylus was a tableau that just needed to be expressed. It came unbidden. Unexpected. Sometimes though, humour was the goal. A punchline occurred to me, and I followed it through.

Here, for example. I was sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting for a scan of my knee after a slip-and-fall. Anyway, while sitting in the waiting room a vision of this one flitted up into my mind, perched, and squawked at me. What if I left, I thought, and didn’t go through with the test? How would that look to the nurses? Well, this is what I came up with.

You can see that the nurse has come to get “C.K.” (that’s Clive Kerdoo) – as it’s his turn to go through the test. He’s gone, though, having left her a note – this nurse of the Nuclear Medicine department – that says simply: “Sorry. Gone fission.”

This next one is a variation on a theme. Remember on page 48 when the KerDoodles were spotted by the ghost hunters? Well, this is the same idea but perhaps a little more cleverly expressed.

You can easily tell it’s from a year later. The clothes, of course, but mostly the confidence in the drawings – the certitude. The faces, too, were becoming more interesting. Here, a group of eight KerDoodles in the dark show significant surprise when the ghost Hunter takes a flash photograph. I like it. It’s minimalist, and it has textures in it which I hadn’t used before. It shows how quickly my efforts were maturing, and how I was growing in the role of ‘chief kerdoodlator’?

A Short Historiographic Elucidation

Next, I started to write, er, draw, er, write… 🤔 a little historiographic elucidation of Clive’s existence. How had he come to be where he was in life? What even was the course of his life? The project was a highly stylized, wispy, hazy type of thing. A retrospective. I won’t reproduce the entire thing here, but I’ll show you the first one, of which I was really quite proud at the time.

The drawing is a response to the question, ¨If you could remember your birth, what would it look like?” I imagine that the first thing you’d see at your birth, if you could register it, would be the nurses, watching you emerge from your bodily cocoon, ready to grab your head, smack your po-po, check your vitals, and send you on your way. Of course, your eyes were probably not up to much in those first moments – blurry vision, etc, and time adds another layer of mystery and obfuscation, wrapping the world and your memories of it in an even more hazy and uncertain mist.

This was definitely an inspired drawing – I saw this in my mind long before I picked up the stylus. This is one of those cases, though, where I got to feel some pretty strong gratification at the result. Hey – look back. It’s just about as close to ‘art’ as I had come in that first year. Heck, it’s just about as ‘artsy’ as I’ve been able to get in the four and half years since! So, needless to say, I was quite pleased.

As a stand alone piece it doesn’t seem to mean anything, but in the context that I’ve given you I hope you like it.

I like this next one, too. For a long time I’ve been interested in the supernatural. Ever since my kidhood I’ve had experiences that strongly inferred a spiritual plane. You can believe what you like, but I have no doubts. Anyway, I’ve watched a few of those ‘ghost hunting’ shows over the years – not because I believe them, particularly, but because I believe that in every investigation there’s the potential to learn something probative about a very interesting subject.

In this piece the ghost hunters are in the KerDoodle environment. They’ve heard something and the KerDoodles are there, lamenting that people are more ready to believe in ghosts than in KerDoodles. I mean, ‘whaddup wit dat, homes?!

You can see that the imagination is starting to match the delivery. It’s still fairly early on – 2018, but the way I handled the environment in this one is really starting to show some deliberation. There’s depth here. There’s a real sense of the up-close, and the far off. The ghost hunters are suggested by the lights in the distance – I didn’t have to attempt to actually draw humans to make this work. They are a part of the equation here and I for one like how they present.

Around that time I really started figuring out how to work with light. Light gives any subject life – it adds to, and takes from, the subject so that it shows in a unique way. You can see that I’ve learned, by this time, that erasing part of a dark layer ‘reveals’ the subject behind in a very effective way that creates mystery.

Here, for example, a KerDoodle is holding a candle in the dark – revealing his face in a pitch-black environment. There’s fear there – or at least concern. Who knows what nasty little surprises await him in the dark? In retrospect I think I could have brightened up the area near the candle a bit more, but… learning curve.

You’ll notice the ‘dark reveal’ more often as we go forward from here. I found it a very effective, artsy-fartsy way of creating mood in a drawing. Of course, I don’t go dark all the time, only when it’s called for, but it’s nice to know that the technique is there when I need it.

Like in this next one. This was definitely ‘inspired’. I was driving the school bus by this time and my daily interactions with the kids on board did provide a few KerDoodle ideas, and this was definitely one of them.

I told you earlier how most of my KerDoodles, when they needed a name, became Clive. I’m not sure why, but for some reason this fellow became Wendal instead. The name, of course, is not the important thing. Identity is important, but the actual name is not. I saw him before I drew him. He’s smiling and waving at the kids, and for some reason they’re scared of him. Care to guess what that reason is? It could have something to do with the shadow he’s casting. That’s a pretty terrifying shadow – even to me!

I’m quite pleased with this as another experiment in the use of light and shadow. Somehow, don’t ask me how, I drew that shadow behind him in only one take! It’s smooth and actually fairly accurate, and even at the time I remember I was quite pleased with it. Yup, he’s still naked. But that’s natural, and you have no reason to worry. You will never, ever, see a KerDoodle’s doodle.

Tomorrow… some rapid-fire, and a bit of a Russian doll.

Graduation

As time went by the KerDoodles developed. As my skills progressed, so too did my ability to accurately express what I was seeing in my mind. Oh, there were moments – there still are – when the right line just wouldn’t come, when the right shape just won’t manifest. But in general my skills were greatly improved. The roughness of the early days was gradually giving way to a greater sophistication in subject and technique. Eventually, I was pleased to label some of my works as being beyond mere cartoons. I actually started producing KerDoodle art. But more on that later.

In the graduation phase I became better at eliciting a mood. My ability to show, or infer, movement improved, too, and more and more often the actual completion of the drawing was tremendously rewarding, spiritually. I got into a high-paced routine of drawing them, finishing them, and sharing them.

At this stage I still hadn’t come around to putting clothes on them all the time. They still had not learned the kind of modesty that requires them to cover themselves. To me, this is evidence that they were still more ‘in my mind’ than ‘of the world’. It’s okay, though. Plenty of time for shy and demure later on.

Here’s another homage. I’ve long been an enthusiast of the rock band, Pink Floyd, and this is a peek at one of their albums – The Wall. This little moment in time captures a KerDoodle listening to music which is much too loud to be good for him. As Pink Floyd’s album did, this speaks to the collective habit we have of submitting to our environment, and of immersing ourselves in the sensate and the evocative. In drawing it I wanted to point out, if only subconsciously, my appreciation for the critique. I know, it’s pre-clothing. Or, perhaps he’s just a rad kerdood lounging around his home with nothing on, to signify his resentment of the repression of ‘the man’.

This next one came to me in a flash, on – you guessed it – a windy day. I think you can see how the KerDoodles have developed by this time. It’s ©2019, so it’s probably about a year later than the Pink Floyd homage. I can see at a glance how much more confident the drawing is. Two different colours in the background, hand-drawn signs (meaning, I didn’t use the ruler tool), and a sure and positive KerDoodle suffering the effects of a very strong wind. Not only him, though. His little canine friend is tied on to the post because it’s taking both hands for the KerDoodle himself to stay tethered and not blow away.

Have I ever mentioned that I love the English language? I suppose I must, since my two little ‘pieces of paper’ relate heavily to it. One of the things I love about it is the opportunity it provides for linguistic play. ‘Word play’, as they call it, is the use of a word in a way that was not originally intended for the purposes of creating irony or a punch line of some sort.

By now, of course, you’re fully in tune with the ‘humour of some sort’ I like to hit you with. I like nothing better than to catch you off-guard with a linguistic witticism. A marriage of ideas, a dance of meanings. I don’t know if doing this makes you laugh, or groan, or throw things, but when it happens you can safely picture me somewhere in the room, tossing my hat in the air with glee. The need to do this led to this little thing, and to the creation of the KerDoodle horse.

Surely we all knew that sooner or later there would be critters in this village – in this KerDoodle world – that reflect our own wider experience. By this stage I’d already drawn dogs, of course, and cats. I’d messed with rabbits and birds. So why not horses? Anyway, all in support of the play on words (horse, hoarse – get it?) I started drawing a few equines.

In my mind I saw Thelwell. You remember him – a real artist, drawing cartoon horses, kids, adults, showing the world of equestrianism as he saw it. His art was brilliant, complex. His work was just right – ironic, subtle, often hilarious – and I’m still a fan. My horses looked like his in my mind, but once it came time to drawing them they seemed to be a little bit more… innocent. But that’s ok, because that’s what I can draw, so that’s what they are. This one’s a play on words. I got a chuckle when I drew it. Yes, I tossed my hat in the air.

Back and forth, and back and forth! Another early one, but one which I think deserves to be included. This one is me being witty. The quickie joke of course is that saying that all generalizations are false is in itself a generalization, therefore it’s a falsity. It’s a self-defeating affirmation. As for the KerDoodle, you can tell it’s an early one because…? Because he’s totally naked, of course.

More photo stuff

At a military museum near me there’s a fighter jet mounted on a pole. Well, I had the idea one day to take a picture and give it a pilot, and this is what I came up with. I airbrushed the pole out of the exhaust area (rather expertly, I think). Then I lay the jet on an exciting blue background, and popped in a happy pilot. A relaxed pilot, too, as you can see from his having his arm up on the window sill. That’s one cool KerDood.

There’s nothing more to it than that. At that time I was seeing KerDoodles everywhere, so it just felt appropriate for there to be one in a jet plane too. After all, they can do everything we can do, so why shouldn’t they fly?

Did I not just now say that at that time I was seeing KerDoodles everywhere? Well, here’s an example of that. Another photographic backdrop (photo credit, yours truly), and boy were those guys industrious! There was painting going on, as you can plainly see, and the bridge was closed. “No pedestrian traffic at all, ma’am,” as the official-looking fellow in the front is probably saying. Somewhere there’s a carpenter, as evidenced by the planks ready for installation. And there, on the left, working on a ladder and on the ground, are some other workers painting the walls. At the time I thought it was rather clever of me to draw the brush marks up to the point that had been painted already – the white down below, and the darker colour above. The No-entry sign also has a distinctly KerDoodle-esque flavour to it. And the roofers are very clearly and cleverly strapped on for safety. After all, it is windy out there, and no one wants to get hurt.

Now that you know basically what’s going on behind the scenes, how about a little rapid-fire before we move on?

A hitch-hiking KerDoodle with no pants? Risky! But that’s what we have here. All on a rural Alberta backdrop.

On the day of the long walk in Toronto I also saw these fellows. All hard at work, though I think it was lunchtime.

Obviously, I didn’t draw that planet, but I did draw the KerDoodle. The statement being made is that they’re everywhere. And they are. They really are.

If you have ever wondered whether there are UFOs, take a look at this. Those little lights in the sky? Probably a KerDoodle, having a little fun.

Drawing Over Photographs

So I’ve already shown you a couple of drawings which I placed over a photograph – the homage to Titanic, and the skydiving one. For a while, as I was honing my skills, I used photos as a backdrop on quite a few images. As I’ve explained before, this was quite deliberate. I knew I was learning, and I knew the best way to improve was to give myself the gift of perspective. The perspective which the photo backdrops allow is what kept the KerDoodles grounded in reality. They are just like us, minus all the negative stuff.

So in this chapter I’m going to share a few of the ‘drawing on photos’ things I produced early on. Some of these I could have included in the last chapter – Early Works – but as I look at them I think the largest part of what they are revolves around the photograph they’re on, and how I’ve used that to portray the business of the KerDoodle.

Let’s begin!

This was an early work, to be sure. No clothing, rough drawings. But the background of the ice hockey arena is telling. It was drawn in response to the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash of April 2018. Being a Canadian, and a hockey-loving Canadian to boot, this was one world event that hit close to home. I didn’t know anyone involved, of course, but I still felt it, and I felt moved to respond to it in the best way I knew how.

The adventurousness in this one is shown in the actions of the KerDoodles skating on the ice. Yes, I know, they’re naked – that’s the first clue that this was an early work. The motions are also quite rudimentary, and the copy and paste I used to create the crowd is by today’s standard quite lazy. But, that’s where I was at the time. In April 2018 I had been drawing for only five months, so if you think about it, this effort really was quite ambitious. In fact, I remember when I started working on it how overwhelmed I felt at the prospect. I had a sense of all the work that would be involved, and that was quite daunting to me, but I was determined to do something to show my unity for the victims of the crash, and this is what I came up with. I know, it’s not up to much, but it’s from the heart.

This one was fun. Also somewhat early, it stemmed from my long-time love of reading crimmies (crime novels) and watching whodunnits on TV. This one shows the murder victim and a Sherlock-esque detective checking the area for clues. Believe it or not, this one grew out of the magnifying glass. I wanted to draw something through a magnifying glass. Let me rephrase that: I wanted to see if I could draw something through a magnifying glass.

I don’t know if anyone looking at it even notices that his left eye is bigger than his right – and the line between his eyes is bigger within the magnifying glass than without. Even the part of the nose inside is distorted as it would be at the edge of the glass. So this entire drawing flowed from wanting to see if I could draw the distortion within the glass. Did it work? Ask yourself, when you first looked at it, what did you notice? It was an exercise. An inspired exercise.

In this next one, what do you see?I posted it to my blog at the time under the heading, “How Many Ghosts Do You See?” It was an exercise meant for kids, but it also demonstrated a new tool I had been learning about: opacity. I learned that by adjusting the opacity of an object in a separate layer I could draw something solid which you could actually see through.

In the fall of 2017 I was in Toronto visiting family, when I went with a cousin for a very long walk. It was raining as we toured a few of the older buildings of the University of Toronto, rambling around downtown. My feet got wet, my camera got wet, but that was okay. At the time of this walk I had only just started drawing the KerDoodles. This was the time of the first experiments with the wall and the flower. But a year later I pulled those photos out and had a look at them, and the things I had learned about hauntings at the U of T resonated again and I decided to draw some ghosts.

So how many ghosts do you see?

Comic Relief

Ok, for now let’s finish the ‘Early Works’ section of this little exposé with a look at “Poker Face”. This was an ‘inspired’ piece. I saw it in my mind before I started drawing it. I know it’s an early work for four reasons. First, I was there, and I remember it. Second, the format of the © assertion is definitely early days – it pre-dates the cartoon windows I created for later use, which had the copyright notice built in. Third – those arms! The guy on the right especially, the one who’s praying for a good hand – those are definitely the lines of a drawing guy who can ‘see’ it, but who hasn’t yet figured out how to produce it. Fourth – they’re naked. This is pre-clothing. There are three layers there, but at this point in 2018 I hadn’t yet started to think about clothing.

As rough as it is, though, I like it. There are a lot of emotions here. I see worry, consternation, dependence, invocation, disappointment, and of course tremendous happiness on those KerDoodle faces. That the nose lines (the one in front of the eyes and behind the nose on the side view critters) are so thick also tells me how early this drawing was. Later on I figured out that a much narrower line was just as functional, and occasionally I’d even go out of my way to lose the line altogether. The title is also a little ironic. “Poker Face” means something other than is going on here. These guys are showing all their tells. They aren’t fooling anyone.

So that’s just a sampling of the early stuff. Remembering that I’m my own harshest critic I’m going to go out on a limb and say that some of it is, quite honestly, embarrassing. Some is good. All of it shows progress, and learning, and desire. I can say that I’m very pleased with the evolution of the KerDoodles at this stage. But I’m most pleased about what the KerDoodles are. They are flawed, sweet, kind, loving – occasionally irritable. They are what I think the ideal human should be. They hold no grudges. They have no preconceptions. They don’t pre-judge anything. They are full of the milk of human kindness, as I wish actual humans would be.

One last story before I move on. One day, again on the school bus while waiting at the school, I had a little junior approach me. I’ll call him Tony. He asked me if I’d draw him a cartoon. Well, knowing that inspiration is the largest part of my muse I asked him what kind of cartoon he’d like. He started to tell me what was in his young mind: a tall guy, big muscles, huge guns, camo unis, facial hair, a big scowl. These are not his words; I’m describing for you what he told me he wanted. I told Tony that I would think it over and let him know. He gave me some samples of the kind of thing he was thinking about, and that night I went online to look it up.

I was horrified! Absolutely horrified! I quickly told myself that big muscles, huge guns, camo unis etc could in no wise ever emanate from my proverbial pen. There was no way. That’s just not who I am. So the next day while waiting to set off we chatted again and I explained to him what I draw. “I draw love,” I said. “I draw sweetness and kindness, and caring. I draw funny. There’s no anger in any of my drawings,” I said. “There’s only understanding and curiosity and concern.” I apologized, but told him I’d be happy to draw him something from my heart if he’d like. He said, “sure”, and that was the last we spoke of it.

Later on I did draw a picture for him. I doubt he ever saw it, but this is it.

Perhaps I disappointed little Tony, I don’t know. I like to think that, instead, I introduced him to some softer, kinder words and thoughts than he was being shown already. Maybe I gave him a chance to avoid the incipient violence of our age.

Wouldn’t it be nice if my little drawings could do that?

More Early Stuff

Ok, all that said, how about some comic relief? A few more from the early works.

In brief, I think this was my first little sashay toward the fourth wall. You know the one. In theatrical speak, the fourth wall is the audience itself. In normal circumstances the fourth wall is ignored – the story plays out despite it, for it, not with it. This is a rule of sorts – the people in the play aren’t supposed to know the audience is there. Television and movie actors must never – ever – look into the camera. It’s a rule.

Of course, rules are meant to be broken, and in circumstances where the audience plays a part, or where the purpose of the story is inculcation, it is permissible to address the audience directly – to interact with the fourth wall. That’s what this KerDoodle is doing. “Hello, you there in the audience, wouldn’t it be nice if it was this easy to lose weight? Yes, you know what I’m saying.”

I believe it’s important to involve the audience, even if only obliquely, in the cartooning process. After all, the messages are for them. It’s the audience – the reader – who is to benefit from the laying out of ideas, so if they aren’t occasionally involved in a slightly more assertive way, isn’t something somewhere being missed?

This one is a joke for the sake of a joke. Sorry. It’s corny as heck, as all the best jokes are. It’s a play on words, as most of my actual jokes are. It’s quick, and it’s simple, like all the best cartoonists!

Next is an homage to Lady and the Tramp. Now, I talk about homages later on, but I’m dropping this one in now because there’s another issue that I feel needs to be addressed. Once upon a time, I drove school bus. One day after school while I was waiting for the junior cargo to climb aboard, I watched in the big mirror as some of the kids wandered up and down the bus looking at a few of my cartoons. (I’d turned the bus into something of an art gallery, for their benefit). One of them, in conversation with another, happened to say something that caught my ear: he said, “they look like dogs”.

Now I found this quite interesting. First, because of the Snoopy angle I mentioned previously, and second, because I had never actually considered that I was drawing dog-like creatures. But I was, really, wasn’t I? The more I look at them the more I realize that – facially at least – they do have the features of a dog. Big nose, often with a black tip, long, dangly ears. True, they walk upright and they don’t sport a tail, but in the face at least, there is a certain similarity. It was a truth I didn’t mind, too.

After all, I love dogs, and it’s true what they say – dogs are a man’s best friend. Loyal, kind, loving, (when taught to be that way), eager, and welcoming. So if the kids wanted to associate my little creations with canids, well, I was fine with that. Of course, it wasn’t my intention that they be dogs. They are, to me, people with long ears, big eyes, a relatively big nose, and a heart as big as Canada. They run their village in much the same way that we do, but with kindness and charity at the root, not avarice. They show many of the same characteristics as people. But not all. There is no hate in them. There is no intolerance – ever. There is confusion, occasionally. Puzzlement. Wonderment. Enthusiasm. But there is never hate. Even if there is distrust in any given situation, it comes from a position of understanding – or at least, of the desire to understand. And after all, isn’t that the way it should be? You know what? That’s the way it is for kids. Kids, when left to their own devices, don’t hate anyone. And we adults could learn a thing or two about that, couldn’t we?

Moving on!

This one was in the inspired category – I was inspired by the ability to cheat a little, by including a complete photographic background. Believe me, someone else did the jumping, I just did the drawing. The photo for this one I found online – I only ever looked for images that were listed as ‘free to use for any purpose’. I have occasionally used photos that I took personally, but not this time. For some reason I have always had a healthy respect for gravity and I’m pretty unlikely ever to go out of my way to check first-hand how it really works.

All the KerDoodles are original drawings, of course. This one I had a hard time with. “It’s just one line next to another,” I told myself. But it’s more than that. I was trying to get the perspective right – of his legs flying up behind him, but I think the head was so big there was no realistic way his legs would ever be visible, so his legs hang down, his ears flop up, and the movles show which direction he’s going. Silly me, though: I didn’t put goggles on him. Lord knows how many flies he hit on the way down, but I forgot to protect those big, big eyes.

Tribute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Little Secret

Ok, time to let you in on a little secret.

One of the greatest difficulties I have had throughout my time drawing the KerDoodles is duplication. Let’s face it: I can’t draw the same character twice. I just can’t do it. No matter how hard I try, the ‘pen’ just won’t glide the same way again. Heck, quite often I can’t even draw matching feet, such is my handicap, so you can imagine my consternation at trying to draw the same complete character over and over again, in an actual comic strip.

This cartoon would seem to belie this, but I owe it almost entirely to copy-and-paste. As with layers, the day I discovered copy-and-paste was liberating, for me and for the KerDoodles. That tidy little function has allowed for consistencies which my rotten hand would otherwise have denied me. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I have a cartoonist’s eye, but the hand doesn’t always follow the brain – mostly, the hand goes its own way.

The day I discovered the power of copy-and-paste, I decided to put it to the test on a little positive affirmation. All I changed with each version of this KerDoodle was the limbs and the face. The rest was layers, and copy-and-paste.

There’s a little bit of copy and paste in this one, too. I built myself a few different kinds of strip boxes – from one window to four in a square, and four, side-by-side. These gave me the option to do different kinds of cartoons. Here, the male KerDoodle (dad) is clearly C&P’d in all three windows, the son (the Kidoodle) is also copied, though slightly modified, and the mother is different in the first window, but copied and modified in the last two. Nope. I just can’t do it. I can’t draw the same character twice without cheating. (No, James, it’s not cheating. It’s being solutions-oriented. It’s pushing for the best possible result, using the tools at hand.)

I hope this knowledge doesn’t lower your opinion of me, or of the KerDoodles. But if it does, all I can say is, oh well. I work with the tools that Gosh gave me, and one of those tools is Copy and Paste. Another is tracing, but that’s a story still to come. So what’s new in these three images? Confidence? Sure. Imagination? Absolutely. But if you said clothing then you get the silver fig leaf.

The discovery of layers brought the ability to put clothes on the little blighters, and boy were they grateful! On cold days, you gotta have clothes – even if you’re a KerDoodle. In public spaces? An absolute must – for propriety’s sake alone! Androgynous they may be, but sexless they aren’t, and they suffer all the same shame and shyness that people do, and more. More, because they are sweet and light and kind, and without guile (for the most part) and because they are reflective of we human beings, whilst also above and beyond us. The early ladies, well, they didn’t know any better. But with progress comes responsibility so they soon started wearing dresses. The men? The purple ones? Today they wear pants, but it wasn’t always thus.

And look at those movles! I learned that from every cartoon I ever read, growing up. When you want to portray motion in a drawing, you add ‘invisible’ lines that signify direction and vigour. So look at our young lady dancer go, as she shakes her booty round and round. This one is so very simple, but it definitely goes in the ‘inspired’ list. I saw her in my mind before I ever picked up the iPad. The smile, the wiggle, the movles. It was all there before it was there. No background, just a picture frame with a matte, and a happy, jittery young lady.

Around this time I started to appreciate the role photos could play in my work. The little table I drew, freehand, in the kickboxing strip should tell you how desperately I need such crutches. I make no apology. I think everyone should learn from this – use the tools at hand to get the results you want.