Like most kids I used to love cartoons.
My favourite pastime was drawing doodles, inspired by British comics like the Beano and Newspaper strips like Calvin and Hobbes.
For my tenth birthday I received a book “Make Your Own Comics” a rather simplistic how to draw book which was inflated in price by the dozen template sheets of A4 with pre-printed boxes to draw your ideas.
A friend and I had a great time amusing ourselves creating silly stories and in terms of audience, because it was filled with private in-jokes, the only two people who could possibly find them funny were the two creators.
We were not ones for patience, so the comics were simplistic affairs, with panels consisting of crudely drawn objects designed to advance the story rather than creating great works of art.
One rather simple concept we came up with, was about a character called “Stick-man” who, you guessed it – was a stick man. In our naive pre-adolescent genius, we created something way ahead of it’s time, writing hard-hitting stuff about an ordinary stick man’s struggles to fit into an everyday human world.
Next time you talk about privilege, remember the plight of our hero as he faced adversity in every simple situation, such as being unable to cross the road without accidentally falling through a drain.
Because of this relentless scribbling, art was one of my favourite subjects at school. I knew I was not one of the best drawers in class, there were people who seemed to just have the natural talent to manipulate pencils and paints with such style and grace. They would craft visual masterpieces, while my pictures, in comparison, were usually of some crude looking cartoon alien.
This one time we were tasked with pencilling a classmate’s face. I was partnered with this girl I quite liked, and what a better way of impressing her than capturing an image of her beautiful delicate face in an A3 sized portrait?
That didn’t quite work out, as I went a bit too detailed, applying too much shading on her clean, youthful complexion. I went heavy on the eyes to try and emphasise her blossoming feminine gaze, but instead it looked like she had big graphite bags under her eyes.
The rest wasn’t much to look at either, I’d managed to make a 13-year-old girls skin look cracked, like she’d smoked two packs a day for the past forty years, and her long flowing locks looked like the perfect place for a small rodent to live.
It goes without saying, she wasn’t keen on it…
Although not the most talented, my teacher – Ms. Read saw the passion I applied in everything created, and recognised I just needed some gentle coaching to turn those splurges on a page into something a bit more appealing.
When it came to my options, the school felt because of my claustrophobia that I should do a GNVQ in Business Studies, because they didn’t think I’d cope with the pressure of sitting exams.
That meant dropping Art and History, the only two subjects that made going to school bearable. But rejected what seemed like the option for the academically challenge and would get to continue to express my enthusiasm for illustrating at a GCSE level.
Because I was on the average side of drawing, that meant saying goodbye to Ms. Read, who got the top class, and hello to Mr. Heath, a baldy, bohemian looking, bearded tit, and epitome for the stereotype teacher who fell into the profession because they didn’t know what else to do with life.
He didn’t quite have the same appreciation for my vision that I would one day be a professional cartoonist!
It was under his tutelage, I began questioning my abilities as an artist – was I actually any good?
Although he never told me I couldn’t draw, he didn’t need to, the apathy towards my work in his actions represented what he thought of my abilities.
Unlike Ms. Read, he never saw spending time with me as a worthwhile investment, so I floundered and all the dreams I had of doing something creative with my life, spiraled down to nothing.
I left school getting a ‘D’ in GCSE Art, which for those not from the United Kingdom, that’s basically the best-worst grade you can get.
Leaving school I was now a lost young adult. I went through the motions enrolling at college because you were supposed to, where I did IT, not because I had any passion for it, but because I had been told computers was where all the money was.
My creative mind could never escape me though, although the course was a piss around for me, I’d excel in creative tasks –designing logos, presentations and websites.
When it came to the more “technical” areas like coding, I’d phone it in, usually too occupied creating animations, where I constantly harassed the website Newgrounds.com with my flash animations, to zero reception as the world continued to misunderstand my genius.
I narrowly avoided being kicked out and managed to barely scraped through with a middle-ground pass.
Now I was working during the day and creating cartoons at night. My drawing wasn’t that much better, and my ability to write good stories was dire.
At this point, I realised I needed to work on my writing abilities, if I could write a good story, I’d be able to create that big hit to animate.
The next day I signed up for night class doing creative writing, where for the next three years I dedicated my spare time writing stories, as I did, I spent less time drawing and more time crafting words together.
It was here I realised how passionate I was about writing. I continued working my way with the written word and many years after finishing university I started a blog called Perfect Manifesto.
Imagine if I’d been a sporty kid who’d rather have been outside kicking a football, rather than the boy who used to draw silly cartoons.
Or what if I’d never had a teacher who didn’t rate my abilities as an artist? Or what if I never posted to Newgrounds, and listened to the comments of angry teenage boys who said I should just quit.
What if I’d never decided I needed to be a good writer to achieve my cartoonist dream?
Then I’d never be writing here today.
The small decisions we make in life can lead us anywhere!
I’ve never really wrote anything about my schools, so it is was totally unintentional for me to write about those days two weeks in a row. If you missed that post check out What Are Your Fears?
Wishing you the best in your success.
James @Perfect Manifesto