Alumnus Jim Davis returns to the Ball State University campus this month with more lessons from his life as creator of America’s favorite cartoon cat.

He’ll discuss “The Business of Garfield” at 7 p.m. Feb. 15 in Sursa Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

The lecture is a continuation of Davis’ ongoing relationship with the university. Davis, ’67 LittD ’91, made his teaching debut at Ball State last fall, speaking on campus and leading a series of master courses for the School of Art.

Davis (left) talks with School of Art Director Arne Flaten at Paws, Inc., in Albany, Indiana, the business and creative home to all things “Garfield.” (Photo by Michael Hickey)

In October, he delivered his first lecture to a packed crowd at Sursa Hall, speaking about the history and development of “Garfield.”

“Anyone in the audience that night could see how much fun he was having,” said Arne Flaten, director of the School of Art. “He’s talked about these topics a hundred times but still finds a way to keep them fresh. You can tell he enjoys sharing the anecdotes, the gags, the stories of his failures and the lessons he’s learned along the way. He’s a natural storyteller.”

During the fall, Davis taught the art of cartooning. This spring, he’ll lead several master-level classes on visual narrative.

As a veteran cartoonist — his comic strip has been published for almost 40 years and is one of the world’s most widely syndicated — Davis said he wanted to teach at Ball State for the chance to learn from students as much as they might learn from him.

“I can talk about the skills it takes to do this job,” Davis said when he agreed to lecture at Ball State. “But what I want to know more about is: How can we as artists apply those skills to working in a digital era? So I want to hear from them about their experiences and how they tell stories in 2017 and beyond.”

Davis said his teaching style is “laced with a lot of humor because that’s what I do.”

While on stage during his October lecture, Davis drew a version of the cat that made him famous, discussing the ways his animation style has changed over the years. (Photo by Domenic Centofanti)

One of the mottos at Paws Inc., which Davis founded in 1981 to handle the creative, legal and business aspects of the Garfield brand, is “Are we having fun yet?”

“So that’s definitely something this lecture series is about, too,” Davis said.

Flaten said Davis is a perfect fit for an institution that prides itself on encouraging students to take creative risks and graduate ready for real-world challenges and opportunities.

“Jim’s managed to turn a doodle of a cat into a billion-dollar industry,” Flaten said, “but his story isn’t about talent or skill or luck.  It’s about hard work, following your dreams and never losing faith despite the rejections and obstacles you face. Success in your field doesn’t just happen — you make it happen, and he’s the poster child for that ideology. If Ball State students enter the real world with that kind of confidence, they’ve already won half the battle.”