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Cartoonist, Behrend alum David Blazek speaks leadership, creativity

4-23-2019

Cassandra Wuerstle, News Editor

On Wednesday, Penn State Behrend alumnus Dave Blazek came back to Behrend to talk with students and local community members about his success as a cartoonist and creative leader in the marketing, advertising, and print industries.

Blazek, an Erie-ite himself, attended Behrend for two years before transferring to University Park, where he graduated in 1979 with a degree in journalism. Since graduating, Blazek has been able to build a stunning career for himself, accomplishing jobs as an illustrator, writer, animator, TV and radio producer, and reformed standup comedian. Blazek's career as a creative in advertising has earned him more than 120 creative awards, including several ADDYs.

During his day trip to Behrend, Blazek was able to share some of his advice and experiences with students. He kicked off his visit by talking to Behrend’s marketing students about surviving in a creative environment.

Blazek shared his experience of graduating from Penn State as a hopeful college student before coming to the realization that there were no jobs for the taking. He shared with students what he considers to be one of the low points of his life, shoveling ink in a local factory and being away from his girlfriend of the time, who is currently his wife.

He used this story as a way of telling students not to get discouraged, and even when at the lowest points in a potential career it’s important to look around for all the things you can still do. He joked, saying, “If you’re out there wondering what your going to do, don’t freak out. I’ve been under the pit. You’ll be fine.”

When delving into his career path, he explained that when he looked around at those in his life, he dreamed of bigger, better things. “My dad was...at General Electric. He was the Excel of the time. They didn’t have Excel, so they would need guys like my dad who would come home with these sheets of legure paper and a mechanical pencil, and obviously someone said, ‘what would happen if we changed the price on bolts’, and where now someone would just run it though Excel, [my dad] would come home and pencil in every column, and my brothers, whom I love dearly, were in the insurance business, but they would ask ‘why are you doing this?’ Because I watched what everyone else did and there didn’t seem to be a lot of joy.”

With a desire for more, Blazek found inspiration in the old Dick Van Dike show, where he saw people making a living out of gathering in an office with a piano and writing jokes and music. “At some level, I’m this thirteen year old kid in Erie thinking, ‘Somewhere, there’s a job where you go to work and write jokes and play music, and then on the weekends all those people come to your house and then all this music would break out.’ Now those people come to our house and we break out the guitars and people tell jokes and play music.”

When it comes to his success with his hectic creative career paths, Blazek credits his imagination and energy along with specific standards he holds himself to.

Blazek explained that the success behind his comics is in the strength of a good idea: “Once you’ve trained yourself to get the idea, the joke, or the creative piece and that way of thinking, then you’re like the super utility Swiss army knife person. You can learn the rest! You can learn how to edit, you can learn how to get a paper out, do a layout and design, or an excel spreadsheet ...but training yourself to stare at that blank wall and develop your creative chops is _____ I’ve found incredibly valuable.”

Blazek had a few tips he shared with students to ensure success for their future.

The first was to never pass on learning something new. Like he stated earlier, everything can be learned, but nothing should taken for granted.

The second was not underestimating the power of ‘nice’. Blazek explained that certain practices and niceties stand out to people and that they should never be something left behind in the workplace.

The third was to understand that deadlines and timeliness will get you through life if you make them.

Lastly, he explained that there should always be a small voice in your head telling you “don’t forget, you never know who is watching.”

Blazek finished the long day at Behrend with a public conference where he shared similar stories and tips and gave the audience the chance to purchase his book for $10. Blazek offered up a fresh and inventful point of view for all who came into contact with him at Behrend, and will continue to offer up his unique thoughts in his comics for decades to come.