"Cartoons and graphics are not real art. You'll never go anywhere with this kind of crap."
That was the final summation by the Program Director of a magnet high school art program I was interviewing for in suburban Maryland. I was a teeny 8th grader with a scrappy "portfolio" (that would be a high compliment) of comic strips with emphasis on funky bubble typography.
I was never good at realism; I grew up re-drawing my favorite comic strips and carton characters since before I can even remember. I was drawn to their graphicness, simplicity, stories and character personalities.
I left feeling offended, confused and lost.
Lucky for me, I returned to my 8th grade art class next week to Career Day, where our teacher, Ms. Mullican (who pushed me to apply for the magnet program in the first place), brought in a professional who created things like books, illustrations and logos. He was what was called "a Graphic Designer". My mind was blown. "Wait - there is a career that combines drawing and these letters I have some strange affinity for? Someone got somewhere with what I was told last week was crap? There is a name for that?" That was it, I was in.
But as much as I felt kind of crushed by the brashness of that Old Curmudgeon Program Directors words I felt equally challenged. Not in an F-U kind of way. I transformed that challenge in to the drive for another challenge. Several, actually.
The challenge to make something that "cant be done", or a client can't realize on their own. The challenge to make something real, tangible, that exists at first in the mind and eventually as a tangible product. Challenge to use graphics, simplicity, story-telling, personality and problem solving to go somewhere; to enable a product or service make a real difference to the people who it is meant for.
A decade and a half later, I am still grateful for Ms Mullican and the Old Curmudgeon.