An Expensive Course of Action

12 Apr

Just for the fun of it, here’s a slimmed-down version of my college life and what it’s done for me.

Yes, to the surprise of many, I went to school after kindergarten, middle and then high.  I thought I’d better get in the door of a university to at least get that piece of paper.  And when I started, it was an awkward time.  I actually considered going in for nursing off the bat.  Believe it or not, I saw how much they made (my mother was a nurse) and being single, I knew it was mostly females in that profession, so I thought I’d have a good chance of meeting several young ladies.  Of course I was still going to pursue cartooning, but you know.

The whole nursing idea only lasted a month or so (especially after I saw the courses needed taken).  I thought about acting as well, but that idea also was very modest and lasted very briefly considering my acting talent was nil.

So, I dropped that idea and went for the obvious choice – art.

I started at Wright State University’s Lake Campus in Celina, Ohio.  A very rural, small and scampi school.  I thoroughly enjoyed it though during that time.  Obviously, it wasn’t a big name college with fraternities, parties or anything fun that would get me in trouble.  It resembled a high school cafeteria at best.  Definitely a commuting school, meaning anyone that went there drove there from a range of 0-50 miles or so (mostly through farmland).  Being in the area at the time, my commute was roughly five minutes.  Not too shabby, if you ask me.

It was nice because I knew people there as well.  It was small, so professors actually talked to their students (like me) and did everything to help you out.  Basically, I did pretty well there.  If they read this, I’m guessing they would think I’m giving them some good PR.

Their courses were limited, so I stayed for roughly a year and then made the leap down south to Dayton, Ohio, where Wright’s main campus was.

Above:  Some more good PR, Wright State.  Your logo!  You can pay endorsements to Nate later.

My school career in Dayton was a four year extravaganza.

I can’t explain it, but it was worth the money to take the art classes.  (I can’t explain it because the cost of taking them was phenomenal.)  No, I didn’t learn to draw there.  I always could cartoon – or scribble – but I kind of fine-tuned a lot of my craft and learned a few new tricks.  I took the drawing, painting, history – all the essentials – and basics.  I churned up some good work, I must say.  I was actually quite competitive in the art classes considering after each project, all the students work would go to the front of the classroom for a critique.  Some were brutal (critiques), so that’s how I got my strong backbone for rejection letters and harsh criticism (which accompanies a path in cartooning).  So, I always set out to have the best project out there and blow the other students away.  Sometimes I had success – other times not.  There was one student in particular I was always in silent competition with.  We never spoke of it, but you could feel it between us that we were competing.  Who was better?  Me or him?  That was my mornings during critiques.  I didn’t really care about an ‘A’.  Mostly, I just wanted to watch the other guys reaction when I received rave reviews.

While in school, I became the cartoonist for the school paper, The Guardian.  I was labeled a ‘graphic artist’ for the paper, but quite frankly, all I did was two comics per issue and an occasional ad or two.  I’m not sure how I got the job, because my cartoons stank.  They were awful.  At the time I believed they were great.  Looking at them today it’s remarkable I’ve had any success (let alone got that job).  I’ll post them up here one day when I feel brave enough and can muster up the energy to be laughed at.

Alas, my art major was always what got me my internship at MAD Magazine in New York.  I mean, that’s worth everything right there.  Those awful cartoons (yea, the Guardian ones) actually landed me that.  Shocking?  Yes, indefinitely.  But, there must have been something in them that struck a chord.  Once again, making me think my work was better than it really was.  But hey, good or bad – my opinion didn’t matter then.  I was happy to get it.

Above:  Where MAD is and where I learned the fine-art of stupidity for awhile.

So, after my internship, my intentions were to “make it” in New York and stay there.  Nope.  That didn’t happen.  I quickly realized that when I found myself waiting tables at the local Pizza Hut.

I headed back to Dayton and started up again at Wright State.

Now, at this point in my college career, I wasn’t really focused on the classes as much as I wanted to just start cartooning.  You don’t need college for cartooning, you know.  I figured I took all the meaningful classes (my arts) and the rest was things I hated (math, sciences, etc.).  But, I kept pushing forward, determined to do it.

Well, what it boiled down to was, I wasn’t really college material.  I was fantastic, scored great grades at my arts, English and communication.  Stuff I was good at.  However, when it came to the basics of the other things, I was horrible.

I didn’t make it.

I knew I was done with college when I spent 10 hours straight studying fora  Spanish test.  I never took Spanish in high school, so I was already at a disadvantage.  But, I did study.  And I felt good about it.  I was ready to ace the test.

I took the test.  F.

It really dampened my spirits.  I’m guess I’m kind of a moron with the basics.  That’s all I can boil it down to.  I spent my life studying for these test only to fail.  Spanish wasn’t the only one.  Just about every math course was a failure as well.

Above:  A Spanish book I probably flunked.

So, I went and had a talk with my adviser.

“What should I do?” I asked.

“Well, Nate, I have to be honest.  Some people are not made for college.” is what I was told.

And goodbye.

I left, without a degree.   I spent five years in school.  But you know, it was worth it in many ways.  Even though I have mountains of debt due to student loan payments and am poor, I couldn’t be happier about all the GOOD classes I took and experienced.  Also, my internship.  And the people I met along the way.

It’s just funny how now – seven years later – I still feel like an idiot for not getting through it.  But, on the other side, I devoted a lot more time developing my drawing and cartooning.  (A lot of smart kids can’t draw.  Take that!)  However, now I’m in a profession where I’m still unclear what my outcome is going to be.  I’m syndicated, yet, where can it go from this?  Newspapers are out.  But, as I always mention in here, I’m optimistic.  There are new trends coming about (iPad aps, greeting cards, etc.) where my work can fit in accordingly.  Throughout college, I never imagined cartooning disappearing like it seems to have as of late.  Who would have thought?  That’s why I wasn’t worried as well for a ‘backup plan’.  I always thought backup plans were an excuse not to make it.  So, I never had one.  And still don’t to this day.

So, if you’re in school, I can’t say you belong there.  I hope you do.  But, you might be a moron like me.  A lot of artistic people suck at the basic courses of those institutions.  But, good luck.  I envy people that graduate and have a degree doing something they wish.  I often times wished I would have born without the desire to pursue cartooning.  Just get a normal job, make a paycheck, buy a  house with a white, picket fence and live.  However, I’m still working out the kinks.

With my career in the abyss,I sometimes question other professions.  No, I doubt I would ever do it.  But, I do question it at times.  And when I do, I sometimes feel like I did right before college:  What am I going to go into?

My guess is something that doesn’t involve Spanish or math.


2 Responses to “An Expensive Course of Action”

  1. bearmancartoons April 12, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    I may have mentioned this but my last drawing class was a Beginning Art class my freshman year. I was so turned off by the entire department, I never took another class. Maybe it shows in my work.

    • w101njf April 12, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

      There were some pretty awful classes as well that I didn’t mention. However, 90% of them I was happy with.

      You might not be drawing AT ALL if you would have continued with lousy classes!

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