"On Career Day in high school, you don't walk around looking for the cartoon guy." - Gary Larson
So I was invited last Friday to visit North Pole High School for "Career Day": my hosts were Anneli Gadamus, who is a post-baccalaurate intern under the school's art teacher Laurel Herbeck. She's going for the same certification as the previous group of students who interviewed me just last week, except a different grade level.
En route to the first of two classes (a 20 minute drive) I was to give a show & tell the news broke over the radio about President Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Needless to say, any of the dubious apprehensions I had about selling a career in cartooning or the arts vanished in a haze of audacity and hope.
There were two classes of freshman I gave a show & tell to, and they had both been previously polled about what career interests they might have in the field of arts. One of the reasons my presentation fit the bill was the cross-discipline nature of the medium: animation, graphic arts and computer arts (which were some of the top draws on the poll) are all skills that overlap into a career as a cartoonist or comic book artist. Which translates into marketable skills for the day job while one is trying to get a feature built up enough to the point it's profitable and not just a glorified hobby. And sequential arts cover a wide range of fields as well; creators of children's books, storyboard artists and more are also covered under the term (a lot more info on all this is covered also on these two previous posts, here and here).
Arriving early (the first class was at a familiar 8am) I got to eavesdrop on a faculty meeting where they were brainstorming strategies on how to increase relevancy for materials taught in the classroom with the "real world." I had a moment of sincere empathy when ambitious grand educational theory kept getting brought up short against the very same nuts & bolts of what I go through even at the college level - mundane matters such as attendance seem to pervade and interfere with the noblest intentions. And once again I was reminded of the unsung heroes down in the trenches with the kids - this community has some seriously awesome teachers out there.
The students seemed like they were into it, aside from not getting a lot of the jokes, and overall it went over okay enough - at the very least they got to hang out for a class and look at funnies, which is not a terrible way to spend an hour. Wish I'd had a class like that when I was in school, maybe my life would have turned out different. Oh wait, nevermind. And just maybe a few students accidentally learned something too, besides about basic hygene. I might not be the most attractive poster-boy for preaching the cartoon gospel, but hopefully some inspirational seeds got scattered. Actually I told 'em all to just take one of my classes, that'll guarantee results. Of some sort.
And again, given my personal history as a dropout with flunking high school art classes because all I wanted to do was draw comics, I'm a total sucker for the irony of visiting any classroom that asks. I just keep my mouth shut about my dark, sordid past and instead focus on showing off the immense power and wealth I've accumulated since.
Math and science kids, math and science...
This panel from the Comics Journal message board sums it up pretty good (posted originally by cartoonist/historian Russ Maheras):
"I believe entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot." - Steve Martin