The following is my research paper on Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts.
Inspiration of Charles Schulz
Full Sail University at Winter Park, Fl
Charles Schulz is a cartoonist, one who has mastered their craft as evidenced by the popularity of Peanuts. The author of this paper seeks to compare their journey to mastery by comparing the journey to Charles Schulz. this paper will discuss the creative task, strategies, breakthrough, emotional pitfalls, and compare Schulz with other masters. The aim is to demonstrate the similarities of masters and how to become one in one’s purpose. Schulz serves as an inspiration to many cartoonist and especially this author.
Charles Schulz is a cartoonist who is best known for his comic strip Peanuts. This famous strip brought us beloved characters like Charlie Brown, Woodstock, and Snoopy his beagle pet. Peanuts have become so famous, that producers created televised specials for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween. In addition, there have been many licensed products based on the characters. This paper will discuss in detail the creative task and what inspired him to pursue cartooning. The creative strategies he used to help make his project become finalized. The moment he had his creative breakthrough. The paper will also explore the emotional pitfalls and how he compares to others as a matter of his craft. This paper will also discuss how the mastery journey of Charles relates to the author of this paper. Charles Schulz is an inspiration to many cartoonists and his journey is one with heartbreak and determination which are skills that are needed to become a master in one’s field.
You must begin by altering your very concept of creativity and by trying to see it from a new angle (Greene, 2012 pg 179). Greene believed that others thought of creativity as an intellectual pursuit. To be creative takes more than intelligence. Every part of an individual goes into their creativity, from emotions to our minds. To create any project that essentially relates to the public, good or bad, takes a certain amount of sweat, dedication, and determination. This is often accompanied by successes and flashes of brilliance. There are also low points such as failures and setbacks. In order to overcome these low points, a creative individual must believe in their creative task. There must be a source of inspiration that this task, much like one’s purpose, is important and primal.
“I think that the comic strip is better than a lot of things around that they art, but I don’t think that it’s as good as anything Picasso did” (Clarke, 2017). M.J. Clarke as part of his contribution to The Comics of Charles Schulz explained that Charles Schulz had an appreciation for fine art, but believed that the comic strip had its own brand of elements that made it viable. Charles even stated that Picasso’s work is good, but also infers that Picasso couldn’t have drawn a comic strip. Charles is considered by many comic strip artists as a master of this field. He clearly thought of his field as a piece of art that is no different from painting and sculpting. He dedicated himself to the comic strip, as a cartoonist, as his creative task. His purpose in life.
From the beginning, Charles Schulz intended to draw cartoons (Gherman, 2010). Gherman in their book Sparky: The Life and Art of Charles Schulz, goes on to tell us that Charles was always drawing. There was a primal need to draw, no matter where Charles found himself. His environment, also played a key part in him becoming a master of the comic strip. Everyone around him read comics, including his parents, who encouraged him to follow his dreams. He was a great artist who loved comic strips and would go on to pursue his purpose, to make comic strips.
This author can relate to Charles for many reasons. Like Charles, the author could always be found drawing and writing if he wasn’t studying or playing sports. instinctively, the author knew he wanted to work in the field of comics, but didn’t know what his calling was. With the fear of failure the author went on to pursue other professions, but after successes and failures, he decided to come back to their inclination. The author’s creative task is to adapt his stories into comics and other visual mediums. A task that is realistic and takes a level of faith, letting go of comfort and security.
The only antidote is to enact strategies to loosen up the mind and let in the alternative ways of thinking (Greene, 2012). In Mastery, Greene explains that once an individual knows his purpose and sets about doing a task, that we stick to the familiar. For instance, part of achieving the dimensional mind, where one is able to balance mastery and creativity starts with our apprenticeships. This is when we learn the basics, the tools, and techniques of our craft. We become reliant on this rigid set of skills. To become a master requires being creative and breaking away from those skills and the comfort of the apprenticeship. We must become fluid and flexible. Greene goes over several strategies. The first being cultivating negative capability or letting go of one’s ego to embrace the unknown. For example, he uses Mozart’s music career. Mozart absorbed different genres and made them into his own style. He stopped judging the genres and challenged himself to create something new. Allowing for Serendipity, Alternate the Mind through the current, altering your perspective, and reverting to primal forms of intelligence are all strategies that can be used to become flexible.
Schulz’s conflicted feelings toward comic art also inflected his attitude toward the fate of the physical artifacts of his own strips and the original drawings that were reproduced to create them (Clarke, 2017). When Schultz created his comic strip Peanuts, all he wanted to do was make comic strips and hopefully enough money to support himself. He never imagined the possibilities that his creation could lead to endorsements and licensed products. He even thought that comic artists’ art would not be good enough to be in art museums. Schulz had a grim outlook on what he was creating. He couldn’t see what his Peanuts could be, only what it was, a cartoon and a job. His mindset was complacent, but his love of drawing pushed him through this. His dedication to Peanuts would pay off on its own. An example of this is a picture of Charlie Brown being auctioned in 2007 for $114,000. Schulz’s dedication to his craft helped paved the way for comic strips and art to be considered art and not simply just for kids. Several televised cartoons were licensed and Charles found himself altering his perspective. Now, to this date, beyond his death, his creation is still popular. In fact, one of Schulz’s exhibits is of Snoopy as a World War I Flying ace. This exhibit showcased the origin, development, and cultural influence of one of the best-known characters and themes in Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip (Reznick, 2009).
The author of his paper had similar strategies that as of now, still have not succeeded. In order to break out of the mold and following false paths, the author decided to go back to school and learn graphic design while also learning on his own how to write novels. The author started with a comic book script, but after talking to a friend who suggested to adapt the script into a novel, he realized that there was more than one way to release his story. Once stuck with feeling comic books was the only viable way to write his stories, the author has now generated interest with non-comic book fans with his novel adaptation. The author had to let go off his ego and stop comparing himself to masters in his field and instead start absorbing what he liked about those masters in the comic book, novel, and film industries. To see the possibilities of what could be instead of what is, has been difficult, but also serves as the optimistic force behind the creativity of the author and is like Charles, who also had to see the possibilities and cultivate his own negative capabilities.
Masters, like Charles, have similar paths. They begin a project with an initial intuition and excitement about its potential success (Greene, 2012). Greene explains that masters start with optimism and enthusiasm. Then something happens, a setback, that derails the momentum. Often this is as simple as responsibilities and duties to family, friends, or an occupation that isn’t related to the project. At some point, some of the masters even quit their projects. Then while working on another project or simply on vacation, the solution to their creative problem hit them. For example, The Wright Brothers, who were cyclists, figured out that to make a plane, that the engine and design should be similar to riding a bike. Focused on maneuverability instead of stability, which aeronautical engineers thought would be best. The brothers with their own background brought something new. They brought excitement and could see possibilities without being bogged down like the engineers who stuck with what they knew.
Charles is described by Gherman as a great talent that even his teachers were impressed. His mother brought home an ad about “Do you like to Draw” and he filled out the application. As a senior in high school, a man from the correspondence school came and told Charles and his family it would be $170. He lived in the same state as the school but was afraid his own artwork wasn’t good so he opted to mail it in. He eventually graduated, but the second world war became a complication as he was drafted. He would spend time in the Army becoming a machine gunner, but after his peers saw his drawings they would request for him to decorate their letters. After being discharged he sought employment as a comic artist with newspapers but had to settle on becoming a letterer and evaluating art. During this time he would draw little kids and name it Lil Folks. He borrowed names from people he knew such as “Linus” and “Charlie Brown”. His single-panel cartoons would be bought by a magazine. Eventually, the United Feature Syndicate had him come and they renamed the cartoon Peanuts, which Charles didn’t like, and told him he had to use his real name. Without a fight, he took the offer and finally made his breakthrough as a cartoonist.
The author of this paper experienced his own breakthrough. While the author always practice his craft while pursuing education and military careers, he would design characters based on his friends. In 2008, while deployed in Iraq during Operation: Iraqi Freedom, the author wrote a comic book script for a five-issue mini-series called Scarlet Knights. He drew the character designs and tried to find a better artist for the project. Although the project hasn’t been officially published, it serves as momentum for the author in pursuing the possibilities. Every time the author takes a break for a new concept or skill comes to him that can be used in making his projects better as he pursues mastery.
We will grow insecure, overly anxious about people’s opinions, or excessively self-confident (Greene 2012). Complacency, conservatism, dependency, impatience, and grandiosity are all forms of emotional pitfalls that can happen with creative individuals. Overcoming these pitfalls requires determination and enthusiasm to push past those pitfalls.
One of the emotional pitfalls Charles experienced at first was conservatism. As stated earlier, Charles didn’t believe that there were any more opportunities for being a comic strip artist. This pitfall happens more or less with most people during and after their apprenticeships. They begin to rely on the strategies taught to them and afraid to take risks.
The author of this paper suffers from complacency too. Once he learns a new system, for example, the methodology of Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, the author of this paper would stick to those ideas before learning how to break away to allow for more creativity to finish one of his novels. Overcoming complacency, meant breaking the comfortably, which was needed to finish the novel project.
In Mastery, Greene covered several masters from different fields. Schulz’s inclination for drawing is similar to Martha Graham’s experience. Her father took her to Los Angeles and after seeing a performance by Ruth St. Denis, decided she wanted to be a dancer. Influenced by her father, she was intrigued by the ability to express emotions without any words, strictly through the movement of the body (Greene, 2012). Unlike, Schulz, who had a natural power for drawing, Graham wasn’t a natural when it came to dancing. Some of her pitfalls included not being able to memorize choreography fast, she didn’t have a dancer’s body, and she was shy.
However, like Schulz, she would eventually become a great dancer in her field. St. Denis compared her to “a young tornado”(Greene, 2012). She became complacent with dance, much like Schulz who didn’t see any other progression beyond where he was at. Then she left and after given an ultimatum she had to think outside the box. She started her own studio and dance style and went on to become a creator of modern dance. Like Schulz, who became a master of cartooning and is considered by many to be one of the most influential cartoonists They both had to overcome pitfalls and dedicate their energy to their projects.
Charles Schulz’s journey to being a master in his field was instilled in him from when he was a child. His natural inclination for drawing and observing impressed his family and teachers. This inclination and primal need helped in him in having the energy to achieve becoming a cartoonist. To create cartoons was his life goal and despite the hardships, such as his mother dying from cancer and being drafted in the Army, his passion for his purpose led him to achieving mastery of his field. To this day, Peanuts is highly celebrated and has had a computer-animated movie. Balloons of Snoopy are used every year in the Thanksgiving Macy’s Parade. His art is sold in auctions and displayed in museums. Most importantly, Schulz’s mastery of his craft has inspired others to pursue cartooning, one of which is the author of this paper, who is forever grateful.
Gardner, J., Gordon, I., & Clarke, M. J. (2018). The comics of Charles Schulz: the good grief of modern life. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.
Gherman, B. (2010). Sparky: the life and art of Charles Schulz. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
Greene, R. (2013). Mastery. New York: Penguin Books.
Reznick, J. S. (2009, April 15). Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace. International Journal of Comic Art, 554–556.