This comes my brilliant buddy, Jeff Koterba who is the staff cartoonist for The Omaha World-Herald newspaper. Visit Jeff’s archive, visit Jeff’s Favorite Cartoons of the Decade, and read Jeff’s post about Cartooning with Tourette’s Syndrome and Jeff’s post “I Owe My Cartooning to the Moon.”
As a kid I loved the shapes of states and countries. Especially the really interesting ones like California, Texas, and Nebraska. In my grade school classroom we had a really big map of the United States, which reminds me of that joke by the comedian, Steven Wright: “At home I have a map of the United States. Actual size.”
So, okay, the map at school wasn’t quite that big, but it was large enough to constantly distract me from paying attention to my teacher. Mostly, I found myself focusing on the middle of the map, on the city in which I was born and raised —Omaha, Nebraska.
Like most kids, I believed that the world revolved around me. And to reinforce this idea I was at the center of all things, it didn’t help that Omaha was at the center of that map, smack dab in the middle of the country.
As an adult and as a cartoonist, I have remained fascinated with maps. And whenever the opportunity arises for me to include a map in one of my cartoons, I’ll certainly draw one in.
But in adulthood, something would shift from how I viewed maps in childhood. This shift began when I first traveled to Russia one cold and snowy January and found myself feeling disoriented. I felt like I was on the Moon. To ground myself I studied a map of Russia and found myself looking to the middle of that map, fully expecting to find … Omaha. You know, just east of Moscow.
But it wasn’t until a few years ago, when, for the first time ever, I moved away from Omaha for nearly two years and found myself living in Innsbruck, Austria. That’s when my world —and my view of maps —literally turned upside down.
So much so, I gave a recent TEDx talk on the topic:
And if you missed it the first time around, here’s my previous TEDx talk on how embracing one’s vulnerabilities can increase one’s creativity—in my case how my having Tourette Syndrome helped me to become a better cartoonist:
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