The National Cartoon!st Issue 3

Page 22

Keep drawing those funny pictures


The following is a transcript of Patrick McDonnell’s commencement speech for the inaugural graduating class at The Center for Cartoon Studies, in White River Junction, Vermont. ............................ .

By Patrick McDonnell

am honored and happy to be here with you today on such an historic and special occasion — the first graduating class of the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, an institution that acknowledges the ascension of comics as a legitimate art form. Bravo. Like all of you, I have a total passion and love for this medium. Cartoons, comics, graphic stories, visual narratives, sequential art — we’re not sure what to label it. I call it magic. Little scribbles that come to life to tell stories that make us laugh, make us cry, make us think. Little doodles that touch our lives and become a part of us. Pure magic. Today we celebrate 18 young pen and ink magicians who have studied the old tricks and are now on their way to mystify us with some new ones. Now, first of all, feel free to space out and daydream during my talk. You wouldn’t be true cartoonists if that didn’t happen. I’ll try my best not to do that for the next 20 minutes, but there’s no guarantee. When I started to think about this speech, I tried to remember my own graduation. I went to the school of Visual Arts in NYC. It too started out as a cartoon college. I tried to remember that day’s commencement speech. No luck. Then I tried to remember who the commencement speaker was. Blank. No idea. But I do remember that my graduation was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue in the Egyptian wing. I do remember looking at all the wonderful hieroglyphics and thinking about how they might be the world’s first comic strips. And that telling stories with words and pictures is such a rich part of human history. And that I might be on my way to becoming part of that history. And then I started day-



dreaming of mummies, pyramids, and cat gods and Cleopatra floating down the Nile. And about how cool it would be if our diplomas would be inscribed on papyrus to honor these Egyptian roots — and, of course, when I came to, the commencement speech was over. This is something to watch out for. As artists we live such rich inner lives that sometimes we miss out on the moment. You know how when you are making your art, drawing your comics — you are totally there. You get in the zone. Your mind and heart are working together. You are following your instincts and just letting go, letting go. Time stands still. Your ego disappears. You are part of something bigger than yourself. You are right here, right now, in the present, and all is beautiful. Well, now ... Practice doing that when you are away from your desk.

Cartoon Life Lesson No. 1 While creating great art, don’t forget to also create a great life I believe cartooning is something you are born to do. I’m a member of the National Cartoonists Society. I was once part of an online chat with a group of 12 other cartoonists, including Will Eisner and Bill Mauldin. We were all asked when did we know when we first wanted to be a cartoonist? We all gave essentially the same answer: five years old, four years old, as far back as I can remember. I’m sure it’s true for most of you. You followed that early dream and it brought you here. Some of my earliest memories are looking at my Mom’s

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