The GoComics “Meet Your Creator” series brings you firsthand insight into the lives and careers of your favorite cartoonists. Each week, we hand over the keys to one of our talented creators, who share their inspirations, achievements, creative processes, studios and more! Read on to hear from this week’s featured cartoonist: Scott Hilburn of The Argyle Sweater
How many of us can recall the moment that influenced our career choice and, inevitably, shaped our life? I can.
That moment, for me, came at the age of 7. I was in second grade, and my teacher had chosen a circus theme for our open house. So, for our first open house project, we were tasked with illustrating our favorite circus act. For me, that was an easy choice. Some kids chose the lion tamer. Some kids chose the trapeze artist. Some kids drew circus animals. Not me. I was going to draw my favorite clown. But Kanye West hadn’t been born yet, so I settled for drawing my second-favorite clown – Emmett Kelly.
As we were busy creating our masterpieces, my teacher, Mrs. Carlton, walked through the room to check on the class’s progress. She approached my desk just as I was putting the finishing touches on my magnum opus. Upon seeing my work, she stopped to offer a compliment, “Very good, Scott.” She was standing behind me so I couldn’t see her reaction, but I’m convinced she was clutching her chest with one hand while propping herself up with the other, and possibly even taking a moment to catch her breath and thumb through her Rolodex to search for any contacts she might have had at the Louvre.
Anyhow, the conversation that followed is one that would have a lasting impact on me:
Mrs. Carlton: So, do you want to be a cartoonist when you grow up?
Me: What’s a cartoonist?
Mrs. Carlton: You know, a person that gets paid to draw cartoons … like in the newspaper.
Me (mouth agape): Wha? People get paid to do this?? How much do cartoonists make?
Mrs. Carlton: Hundreds!
That was it. That was the day – the moment – that I decided what I wanted be when I grew up: a jazzercise teacher and spandex model. Of course I was young and naive to the difficulties of breaking in to the very specific and highly competitive instructional exercise/dancewear scene, so, like many others in my chosen profession, I settled on being a cartoonist.
Between then and now, depending on my age, stage of maturation and humor, I’ve read, enjoyed and admired a variety of comics and cartoonists. Early on, some favorites were Blondie, Snuffy Smith and Tumbleweeds. As a teen, I fell in love with The Far Side. Years later, my tastes evolved to include New Yorker cartoonists like Sam Gross, Tom Cheney and Leo Cullum, as well as the work of my friends and peers, Stephan Pastis, Mark Tatulli (Lio, Heart of the City), Paul Gilligan, Corey Pandolph (Barkeater Lake, The Elderberries, TOBY) and so many more.