This I Believe

Richter, Mischa, 1910-2001


  • Mischa Richter describes his youth and early career as an artist and the importance of generosity and humor.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Once, when cartoonist Mischa Richter was asked what things he liked, his answer was painting, ideas and laughter. In his own life, he has achieved all three things. He has been painting since his early childhood in his native Russia. He has brought laughter to millions as a King Feature Syndicate cartoonist, the creator of Strictly Richter. And now, he expresses some of his ideas through his personal creed.
I started drawing pictures at the age of 2. The first one I ever made showed a bull chasing a man across a wide field. Even in those early years, there was no doubt in my mind that drawing was fun, and that one day I'd be an artist. My folks were of modest
means, but that did not stop them from doing all they could to encourage my leanings. I recall there were always plenty of art materials around the house. My drawings and watercolors circulated among our friends. There were frequent visits to the museums, galleries, and bookstores.
When I started looking for work soon after graduation from college, I faced a new world. The days of smooth sailing were over. There was the usual period of walking around from office to office with my samples. Occasionally there was a mural to do, a landscape for a living room, a portrait of somebody's aunt, one or two sales to some magazine. During this time, I was married. Even though it took seven years before I clicked, my wife stood by me. There were times when we skipped a meal, but we never lost hope.
I mention these things that happened to me because I realize that circumstances and people contributed to the progress I made. And I began to lose my conceit. I believe that I owe something to others, and that none of us spring into being like Juno from Jupiter's head: well formed, developed and mature, ready to shower the world with our radiance and wisdom. Had I not been given freely of this encouragement and opportunity to study and develop as a child, I may not have stood up before the pressure of post college years. Conceit, acquired in childhood, turned into much needed self-assurance.
I believe this about education in general. In some way, and in a varied degree, it applies to all of us. I believe that things depend on each other. I am what I am because of what happened before me. The past bequeatheth its experience to me. Art is a form of giving. Art teaches me that a fuller and happier life can be achieved only in giving of myself to others. My development as a human being and artist shall grow in direct proportion to that understanding.
All of us are good at something. The selection of one's work, and the opportunity to develop it, once the choice is made, is the right of everyone. The inner calling is the true calling. I chose my work on that basis and not because I wanted to try to make a lot of money.
I believe in humor. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be a cartoonist because laughter is a much-needed commodity. It is an equalizer and a balancer: equalizer because people in all walks of life like a good joke; balancer because it enables us to view life without bitterness. An effective, well timed, humorous observation--verbal, pictorial, or both--cuts through any collection of windy, tired cliches and platitudes.
Finally, and most important of all, I believe in people. It gives me untold joy to be able to add a little laughter to their lives.
That was cartoonist Mischa Richter, who has devised his own formula for a happy life, and lives it in Darien, Connecticut.