You know what’s fun? Career Day at the local schools. You set up and kids come around and see Doctors and Lawyers and Bomb Squad Officers and Recruiters and Engineers and a cartoonist. Many of them are happy to see a cartoonist. We’re like the crip class of career day. They rush up and begin to read the questions printed on their handouts at me. “Do… You… Have… To… Go… To… College… For… Your… Job?” I then, in rapid patter, explain to the crowd that any one of them are allowed to ask me any questions they like and I’ll do my best to answer, but on NO account will I reply to any question that’s being read at me. When that happens, I tell them, they “don’t remember the questions or the answers and that’s not in anyone’s best interest.”
Then they perk up a little and ask if I can draw Spongebob. (or whatever the hot cartoon character is this month… Ang or Muscleman or you get the idea) I answer “Yes, I can draw anything that clients ask me to. But I have to have reference.”
Then I have to explain that being “Able to draw Spongebob” doesn’t mean “Having memorized how to draw Spongebob.” The quickest way to that point is to say that if I asked any of them (as clients have asked me) to draw a particular kind of airplane, I wouldn’t expect them to do it from their heads. I (like my clients) would provide reference of said plane, and specify what I needed it to look like or be doing.
To a youngster, that sounds a lot like cheating, but they sorta get it.
The next horror comes when they really do ask if I ‘have’ to go to college to do my job. I tell them that I did go, and that I got a Graphic Design degree, but I might have been able to do the job with a Fine Art degree, and that there are probably Illustration degrees and there are certainly Animation degrees to be gotten. I then tell them that I know cartoonists with Journalism degrees. They seem a little put out. Some of them seemed to think that they might skip college and go straight to the big money of Cartooning (the old myth is that there’s big money in cartooning. There is, but only in the same way there’s big money in Football- only for the lucky few. Everyone else gets their heads broke) I tell them that they’re welcome to give that a shot, but here’s what’ll happen:
You get wind that a potential client (ad agency, book author, auto body shop, etc) is looking for a cartoonist for a project they have. You and one other person show up. You taught yourself to cartoon really well, and the other person went to college where dozens of teachers and other students taught them for a few years to do any number of techniques and processes. Now, who’s more likely to get the job? Then I tell them there’s all kinds of grant money and student loans and whatnot and they can get some of that for college, and it’ll be okay.
I remember being horrified at the thought that I’d have to take four more years of school, but I think some of these kids have always assumed that college was for someone smarter or richer or … I dunno… something other than what than they feel they are. I try to let ’em know that they can go, and they can do great- something some of them don’t get to hear otherwise.
And then I give ’em free stuff. Xeroxes like the one below, or stickers, or an occasional comic book for someone who’s asked a particularly penetrating question.
I also have a handout with a long list of cartooning jobs- Caricaturist, Comic Bookie, Comic Stripper, Greeting Carder, Advertising cartoonist, Animator- for movies or TV and/or Web, Character designer for animation, dozens of in-between type animation jobs, Video Game Illustrator/designer, Airbrush jockey, T-shirt designer, Editorial Cartoonist, Storyboarder, Children’s book illustrator, magazine cartoonist, etc. on and on. Most of them (like me in school) don’t realize how many options there are.