How did I become a cartoonist?

Believe it or not, being a cartoonist never crossed my mind until I was much older. In fact, before I ever thought about being a cartoonist, I had accidentally become one! I loved to draw from a very early age, but by the time I got to college, I had lost most of my artistic expression. I had lost my confidence. At this time in my life, I wanted to be a horticulturist. I loved to grow things, especially flowers.

Things started to take a detour when I met a landscape architect while working at a landscape nursery. After two years at a junior college, I began looking into the horticulture program at Mississippi State University. During a visit to the campus, I stumbled upon the Department of Landscape Architecture. I decided to check it out, and after meeting with the head of the department, was persuaded to pursue landscape architecture instead. From this point forward, my artistic expression was confined to a drafting table. I continued down this path for many years, completing my masters in landscape architecture,and going on to work for a few years in residential landscape design. One day, I realized my heart just wasn’t in it. I wanted to pursue other forms of creativity. Fortunately, when I told my hubby my feelings he replied, “Don’t wait until you are an old woman to figure out what you want to do.” So I quit landscape architecture, and I never looked back.

At first, I had visions of being a great painter. I was particularly fascinated with the idea of painting huge murals on the side of tall buildings! I didn’t know what my message would be, but it would be BIG! I imagined myself on large scaffolding creating giant masterpieces. I looked to ocean conservation artists like Wyland and Lassen for inspiration. Their huge whale wall murals were amazing. I thought I would do something similar, but with a spiritual theme.

To get started, I bought some paints and large canvases. The only problem was I really didn’t enjoy painting. I tried to make myself enjoy the process, but it was painstaking and slow. I thought about painting a lot, but rarely got motivated to actually paint. On a few occasions, I was inspired to paint for individuals I knew. I would see an image in my spirit that I felt represented something about their life, and I would create that image on canvas, and give it to them to encourage them in their spiritual journey. Another thing I struggled with was the fact that I could not paint realism. I would compare myself to other artists, and always felt my art fell short. It wasn’t fine art. It was much more childlike and simple. I wanted to let go of this whole painter notion for a very long time before I actually did. The huge collection of blank canvases, unopened paints,and unused brushes made me feel guilty. I did some sketching at this time, but never really took anything beyond the rough, unrefined phase. I also had many preconceived ideas about what spiritual art should be. Again, I was comparing myself to what I saw others creating.

It wasn’t until I started doodling in my personal journal with no artistic goal or preconceived notion in mind that my real voice finally began to speak up. I had buried my artistic expression for years, and excavating it was a process. Of course, I painted my first cartoon like drawings on paper. It wasn’t a relaxing process. Finally, I realized my favorite thing was the sketching and coloring part. It was when I tried to take things beyond that phase that I lost the joy and happiness. I rediscovered my childhood love of pencils, markers, scissors, tape, and paper. When working with these things, I felt relaxed and happy.

When the character Lisa Lightheart showed up, that happiness was multiplied. Over time, my doodles and musings started to pile up eventually becoming a book! I was a cartoonist! The funny thing is much of the graphic design techniques I learned in landscape architecture school became part of my signature style. Who knew you could go to school to be a landscape architect and become a cartoonist?

It was still a number of years before I yielded my painting aspirations. I gave most of my canvases, paints, and supplies away, but still held on to some. I don’t know exactly why. Every now and then I get the notion to paint something, but it never lasts. Maybe, one day I’ll have the courage to totally let my painting aspirations go. It’s possible. I still laugh at how far I’ve come from those first grand thoughts of painting gigantic murals around the world! I know God must be laughing, too. I will never be a fine artist, but I will be the best cartoonist I can be!