Q: Sebastian Kruger was the guest speaker at the International Society of Caricature Artists’ annual convention and competition. Does the National Cartoonist Society conventions have special speakers? If so, who does the NCS turn to for inspiration, seeing that each member is (in my book) already an inspiration?
A: Just some background for readers: The International Society of Caricature Artists (formerly the National Caricaturists Network) is an organization of professional caricature artists from around the world. Each year the ISCA has a convention and competition where anywhere from 150 to 250 caricaturists gather at some hotel somewhere and draw each other for four days. Then the resulting work is hung in a big ballroom and the attending members vote in various categories like best color, most humorous, most exaggerated, etc. The big award is the “Golden Nosey” for “Caricaturist of the Year”, with runners up getting silver and bronze, and recognition for the others in the top ten. Lots of awards. They also, as Erik mentions, have guest speakers. I was president of this organization in 1999-2000.
The National Cartoonists Society is a similar organization in that its members are professionals but in the cartooning field. However, the NCS’s annual Reuben Awards is a very different sort of gathering. Awards are given out but there is no onsite competition, the work being recognized and honored is from the entire previous year. And yes, the NCS does have speakers during the Reuben weekend.
It’s interesting you ask who members of the NCS turn to for inspiration. That’s an easy answer… those who do great work. The NCS is filled with excellent cartoonists and some of the most famous in the business, but the majority of members are simply hard working cartoonists that make a living in the field but are not household names with well-known properties. For every NCS member as famous as a Garry Trudeau there are ten cartoonists in the NCS who you have probably never heard of but still make a living as a cartoonist. These are the backbone of the organization, and they are both those who are inspired and those who DO insipre.
As for speakers, having been president of the NCS for the last three 1/2 years, I’ve been the guy who has put together the speaker line-ups the last three Reubens (one more to go). I try and assemble a mix of the famous, the interesting, the up-and-coming, cartoonists from different areas of the industry, those who honor the past and those who embody the future. Here was last year’s NCS speaker line up:
- Eddie Pittman– Animator, illustrator, creator of the online graphic novel Red’s Planet
- Chris Houghton– Animator, comic artist, illustrator, 2009 winner of the NCSF Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship
- Greg Evans– 2003 Reuben Award winning creator of the syndicated comic strip Luann.
- Suzy Spafford– Creator of Suzy’s Zoo, greeting card/product/licensing entrepenuer
- Sandra Bell-Lundy– Creator of the syndicated comic strip Between Friends, which is celebrating 20 years in syndication.
- Bunny Hoest Carpenter and John Reiner– Recipients of the 2014 NCS Gold Key Award (The NCS Hall of Fame), creative team on the syndicated panel cartoon The Lockhorns
- Russ Heath– Comics legend and recipient of the 2014 NCS Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award
Eddie and Chris represented current and future cartooning perspectives, Greg and Sandra were my current superstar speakers, Suzy is an amazing success story from an area of the industry not usually thought about: licensing, and Russ and Bunny & John were celebrations of long and tremendous careers. A good mix, I thought. I do try and find a couple of cartoonists from the local area of where the convention is being held, as a local flavor is a good ingredient.
2015’s speaker line up will be announced early next month… there are some exciting speakers. I’m hoping to go out with a bang with my final Reuben Weekend.
Thanks to Erik Johnson of Bellingham, WA for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!
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