The National Caricaturist Network’s annual convention is fast approaching, Oct. 1st-5th at the Holiday Inn Hotel, International Drive, Orlando, FL. Usually taking place in January or February of each year, this year the NCN board decided to move the convention back about 8 months to have it in the fall of the year. As such, it’s been about 20 months since the last convention, and members are very excited about it finally coming around. I wrote this blog post about the NCN and my history with it back in July.
I’ve been a member of the NCN since 1998, and it’s a fantastic organization of professional caricaturists. In order to qualify for membership, you need to be a professional caricaturist (earning some of your income from caricature art either via party work, retail or theme park work or illustration). That’s it. There is no panel of experts who reviews your work and deems you worthy or unworthy. As long as you can demonstrate you earn some of your income on an ongoing basis from the art of caricature, they welcome you with open arms.
The organization itself is an unincorporated, non-profit trade association (501(c) 6). About 500 members strong, it has many benefits including: a slick, quarterly magazine chock full of articles, how to’s, pro advice and artist profiles; a web-based member directory and website; a member’s only message board forum that is like an on-going convention 24-7; and the fellowship and networking of members with other members. That last benefit results in opportunities for work, resources for bettering your skills and your business and just plain meeting people who do what you do. All this for a whopping $55.00 per year, or about what the average caricaturist earns for 1/2 hour of party caricature work.
Many believe that the best part of membership is attending the annual convention. This is a gathering of as many as 150 artists who spend four days attending seminars and classes conducted by the best artists in the business, meeting and hearing big-name caricature illustrator guest speakers, and best of all setting up and drawing each other in competition for a variety of category awards from Best Color Technique and Most Humorous all the way up to “Caricaturist of the Year”, otherwise known as the “Golden Nosey”. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere that is created by so many caricature artists together in a giant seminar hall drawing 24 hours a day for 3 days straight. Each artist has a taped-off area with their competition number on it on the walls that surround the vast hall, and as the days go by these walls are filled by literally over a thousand drawings in every conceivable technique and style. The sheer amount of creative energy in the place is addictive. Seeing the sometimes awe inspiring work on those walls is humbling and really recharges an artist’s creative batteries. I always come away from the convention full of energy and inspiration, ready to redouble my own efforts at the drawing table. It can be overwhelming and very deflating for someone who struggles with their self confidence, however. Nobody comes away from an NCN convention feeling superior, even if they win the big awards… there is just too much talent there. An artist needs to go with the attitude that they want to learn and improve, and it will be nothing but positive. Everybody is very supportive from the most amazingly talent to the greenest of young artists.
This year’s convention features guest speaker David O’Keefe, a terrific caricature illustrator and sculptor. There is still time to attend if you are a caricaturist and can swing the time to go to the convention. You can register and join the NCN right on-site (you must be a member to attend). I cannot more strongly recommend NCN membership and especially attending a convention if you make any part of your living doing caricature art. Going to a convention will change your entire outlook and focus on your art. It is that great of an experience.
Sadly the change in time for the NCN convention to October made it impossible for me to attend this year. It will be only the second convention I have missed of the last nine. Good news, though! It turns out I will be making a brief appearance there anyway, but only for one afternoon/evening. I made arrangements to interview a potential manager in Orlando, so I’ll be popping my head into the convention on Monday the 2nd at some point. Wish I could be there the whole week, but that just isn’t going to happen this year.
You can get more information about the NCN and the convention on their website.
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