There are inflection points in life that, for better or worse, send you on a new path, and I was about to arrive at one. My high school art teacher, Jim Mateer, used to hold open sessions for his students in his art room on Saturday mornings. When I was his student, he’d never let me work on cartoons in class. He had various explanations for this, but I suspect that the real one was that he intuitively understood that telling me I couldn’t do something was the best possible way to motivate me to do exactly the opposite. Along with being an expert practitioner of reverse psychology, Jim was also a great teacher in the best and broadest sense of the word. Sure, he taught us art, but he also taught lessons about life. He had theories about almost everything, which he delivered in fascinating down-to-earth homilies that were generally right on the money. In my hour of wavering, I found myself heading to his open art room one Saturday morning to seek his counsel.
We spent the morning talking, and, over the course of our conversation, Jim presented his general theory of how people end up doing what they do in life, all the while taking great pains, of course, never to tell me directly what I ought to do. He described the various ways people tend to make decisions or the ways people let decisions make them. “And then, of course,” he said, “there’s the bulldog approach, where people focus on one goal to the exclusion of everything else.” I left his art room that morning having been cleverly nudged back onto the bulldog track. Careerwise, cartooning and only cartooning was where I was going to expend my energy. Sorry, Eastern Heights Junior High.
*From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One