Why I Make Creatures, Part 3, The Practical Side

Posted: February 9, 2018 in cartoons, Thoughts on art ministry and life
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One day I had a great idea. It was a gag for a cartoon and it was funny. “If vegetarians eat only vegetables, should we be afraid of humanitarians.” I drew a head hunter standing in front of a huge boiling pot, ala the Tarzan movies and posted it, waiting for people to start complimenting my comedic genius. That’s not what happened. Instead I got a very kind note from an artist friend. Now my friend is African American, and he started off so kindly and patiently and said something to the effect of, “Today, a lot of people see images like the one you just posted as racist. I know your heart, and I know that’s not want you meant, but I thought you should know.” Now I’ll confess part of me wanted to get mad. I really liked the cartoon. It was funny andThe drawing came together really well, but my friend spoke the truth in love to me, and I respected him enough to take the comic down. That’s the other part of the reason I draw creatures.

You see my creatures are unique and different and they don’t look like anyone, and because they don’t look like anyone, they can represent everyone and that’s huge. The truth is, I don’t do these things, especially my cartoons for my health. I do them to communicate, and I want to cast a wide net. I want people to mull over the messages and maybe, just maybe apply them or at least consider what I’m saying. The messages do sometimes have an edge to them and I don’t shy away from controversy, but I want to be heard. The creatures are less offensive and so they don’t create a barrier. It’s another reason I use the creatures. Offense builds walls where I want windows.

I share this message for two reasons. First of all I wanted to use my friend as an example. He cared enough to share what could have been a very hard truth. We artists tend to take our work pretty personally. Add to that the fact that he saw a meaning I never thought of, intended, or even considered and it could have been touchy. He was looking out for me and he validated me while showing me an unintended, potentially hurtful consequence and I received it, largely because of the heart with which he shared it.

Lastly, I am fully aware that we live in a world that, at times, seems way too touchy. Those of us who sometimes deal in humor, have to be especially aware of this. At the end of the day though, if we are going to be communicators, we have to be willing to look for barriers to the message in our work and tear down as many walls as we can. This is not to say we shy away from truth, but rather that we speak the truth in love. In my case, the image was well done, and the gag was funny, but a funny gag and a well drawn picture is not worth as much as my credibility, when I’m saying something that’s important. Now to be clear, you will never avoid offending everyone. I’m sure even my creatures offend some, but to maximize our effectiveness, we should work hard to minimize offense. My rule of thumb is the gospel will offend, but it’s message is still the truth that sets us free. It’s the hill I’d die on, everything else is negotiable.

That’s why I draw creatures. Why do you do what you do? Investigating that and knowing the answer is important.

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