Did you have a hero you idolized when you were growing up? We’ve all had people we admired or wanted to be like. I was an avid tennis player as a kid and dreamed of being just like Jimmy Connors. I also loved to draw and became a big fan of fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. I never dreamed I’d be able to contact any of these people. They were seemingly out of reach.
I was an editorial cartoonist in high school and college. There were certain cartoonists I looked to for inspiration. People like Jeff MacNelly, Jules Feiffer, Berke Breathed and more. One Pulitzer prize winning cartoonist I admired was Jim Borgman. He drew editorial cartoons for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Some of you might be familiar with his popular comic strip “Zits.” You can view his comic strip HERE.After college I became a police officer but moonlighted as a staff editorial cartoonist with my town newspaper. One day I got up the courage to literally phone the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper and ask to speak with Jim Borgman.
I really wanted to ask him some questions about cartooning and find out if he critiqued the work of aspiring cartoonists. To my shock I was transferred to Borgman’s office and he answered the phone. He was gracious and addressed all my questions. He also agreed to critique my work. I mailed off a stack of cartoons and a few weeks later the envelope below appeared in my mailbox. It was a thick envelope and I was thrilled.
Jim Borgman had sent back all my cartoons with various comments on each. He told me what he liked and where there was room for improvement. He also sent some articles about cartooning and a nice letter where he went into even more detail.
At the time he had just begun his new comic strip “Zits.” A few years later he retired from his editorial cartoonist position at the Cincinnati Enquirer. Zits went on to become one of the most popular comic strips since Calvin & Hobbes. Naturally I cherish Borgman’s letters and comments.
Many years later I got into landscape painting. As I became more and more addicted to plein air painting I started paying attention to artists I admired. Scott L. Christensen was one in particular whose work just amazed me. When I discovered he offered workshops I signed up.
My earlier experience with Jim Borgman taught me that you risk nothing by reaching out to the people you admire. My subsequent workshops and salon with Scott Christensen proved to be immensely valuable. I’ll never forget it.
So here’s the deal. Reach out to your heroes. Send them an email, letter or phone call. Worst case scenario they don’t respond. Best case scenario, you’ll connect and be enriched by the experience. Life is too short to deny yourself the opportunity. And should you be the hero someone is calling, be gracious and helpful. One of the greatest rewards in life is helping another person along their path.