I was five years old and in my mother's way as she worked around the house. So, plopping me and my 3-year-old sister down at the kitchen table, she gave us pencil and paper and said, "Draw!" That's when I discovered a love for drawing. She never told us to quit, so I've been at it ever since. The next year, the first-graders at Nauvoo (AL) Elementary would gather around and watch me draw. To this day, I can outdraw any group of first-graders anywhere.
My wife says I'm the oldest person in the world whose mother still puts his artwork on the fridge. Sometime around age 30 and in my third pastorate, I began submitting cartoons to denominational (as well as a few secular) publications, and ran into the reality of editorial censure.
"We couldn't run that, Joe," I would hear. "I'd be out of a job in an hour."
It's not that the drawings or the messages were "bad." They were just taking sides on controversies over which good people were differing and trying to find the way.
One thing religious cartoonists learn quickly is that if no one is going to print your stuff, there's no point in producing it. So, after a couple of editors began working with me to take the hard edge off, they began printing my cartoons.
Looking back, I see now that my early humor tended to be sarcastic. I specialized in putdowns and ridicule. Not good for anything, not for sermons or polite conversations or cartoons.
At one point, sometime in the early 1980s, I quit drawing. I said to the Lord, "It's all yours. If you have no use for it, fine. If you choose to use it, here am I."
He gave it back to me, big-time.
In the 1980s, we worked with a Christian publishing house to produce 8 volumes of cartoons for church newsletters which sold 300,000 copies. These days, the drawings appear daily at our denominational news website, www.bpnews.net (alongwith the work of six other artists). Editors and church secretaries download them and run in their publications. The money involved is miniscule, in case anyone wonders. (Smiley-face goes here.)
What about freedom in my cartooning? I have all the liberty I want or could ever need to serve the Lord using this medium. In fact, I pray as much about my cartooning as I do about my preaching. And the Lord seems to blessing one as much as the other.
When I was in the 7th grade, the teacher asked each pupil, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The answers were the usual: teacher, fireman, president, politician, farmer. When I said, "Cartoonist," everyone laughed.
These days, at class reunions, I'm the guy in the center of the room sketching everyone, having the time of my life. Freedom? You bet!
Today's post was authored by Dr. Joe McKeever, preacher, cartoonist, husband, father of three and grandfather of eight. To learn more about him, visit his blog at http://www.joemckeever.com/mt/