Houses with antenna


Outside the Lines

June 14, 2015

I’ve always been fascinated by how people choose their professions. Some go to school to learn a trade; some take a job, discover that they’re good at it and decide to make it a career; others simply fall into something and stay with it for lack of a better option. And some of us don’t have a choice; our calling chooses us. Almost every cartoonist I know says the same thing: we cartoon because we can’t help doing it.

For me it started in the third grade, in Ms. Mayes’ class at Hillcrest Elementary. I previously posted the story (“I Can Draw”) about how sketching a duck in a spelling book launched what became a lifelong passion, and led ultimately to a quite satisfying forty-year career.

The path from that first drawing to editorial cartoons and comic strips was anything but smooth. It must have been difficult for teachers to cope with those of us who were simply wired differently, and insisted on doing things our own way. In last week’s story (“Big Crayons”) I wrote about the frustration of having a creative vision that didn’t match the teacher’s expectations. Several readers with artistic bents wrote about having similar experiences.

I was lucky. I had a succession of teachers starting in third grade who supported and encouraged my drawing, and parents who, despite certain misgivings (and a shortage of money), managed somehow to provide me with pencils and paper, paints and brushes and art lessons. I think it was evident from an early age that I was obsessed with learning how to make pictures. I suspect that Mom and Dad would have been a lot happier had I been crazy for medicine or the law. I’m sure they breathed a huge sigh of relief when I finally–nine long years after graduating from college with a seemingly useless degree in fine arts– found a job that actually paid me to draw cartoons.

All these years later, when it’s tempting to call it a career, I’m still at it, and for the same reason I started cartooning in the first place. Evidently, I can’t not do it.

Thank you for reading it.