Live from the ICSA Convention

November 5th, 2009 | Posted in General

MAD Men!
Hermann Mejia, me, Mark Fredrickson and Sam Viviano

For the past two days I’ve been having fun at the annual International Society of Caricature Artists‘s convention, held this year in Sandusky, Ohio at the Kalahari Waterpark Resort.

Every year this convention is something special, but this year they had four guests of honor/speakers, all from MAD Magazine. They included MAD art director and longtime MAD artist Sam Viviano, MAD cover artist Mark Fredrickson, MAD illustrator Hermann Mejia and myself. I was greatly looking forward to not only seeing my good friend Sam and many other friends for the ISCA, but as I had never met Mark or Hermann before this would be a great treat.

Mark and I led off the speaking presentations on Tuesday the 4th. I started and gave a rousing presentation for which nearly everyone in the audience stayed awake.

Hey, you in the second row… WAKE UP!

Mark’s talk was next and he had a gigantic number of slides ranging from his early work through his heyday as THE airbrush illustrator to his current success in fully digital illustration.

Mark Fredrickson

Mark's work...

The enthralled crowd
The enthralled crowd

I have been a huge fan of his since the 80’s when I was doing a lot of airbrush work, and recognized many of the pieces he showed from those days. It was fascinating to hear his outlook on illustration and the airbrush. I had heard from other sources that he had gladly given up the airbrush when digital painting tools had reached a point that allowed him to do his work on the computer, but it was still surprising to hear how much he disliked the mess and process of physically airbrushing a piece. He said he was contemplating quitting the business before the computer came along and he was able to toss out his airbrush for good. His later digital work is as impressive if not more than the actual paintings from a while ago were, so he made the transition successfully.

On Wednesday Hermann and Sam did their presentations.

Hermann Mejia
Hermann Mejia

Hermann’s name has long been bandied about as a guest speaker for these conventions because his work is on a whole different level of awe-inspiring greatness than mere mortals. He really is a rare talent, and his presentation was stunning. He shared lots of his paintings, both digital and traditional, as well as his fantastic sculptures.

Great stuff!!
Great stuff!!

His sculptures were just as amazing…

I was surprised at how he combines digital and traditional mediums so seamlessly. He showed some originals that demonstrated how we would paint figures and elements separately and then scan and combine them to make his amazing parody splash pages.

He concluded his presentation with a video of him doing a drawing/painting of Willem Dafoe which was amazing.

This video will hopefully be on YouTube soon…

Sam’s presentation was a nice combination of a history of MAD and the story of his own career. He knows a lot about MAD and it’s long history, and put together a great show about MAD’s origins and how his work and career paralleled and eventually collided with the magazine.

Sam Viviano
Sam Viviano

Some Sam MAD work...
Some Sam MAD work…

Some other work of Sam's
Some other great work of Sam’s

Sam’s very humble in that he doesn’t give himself enough credit for the visual impact he’s had on the magazine in the last decade. It was great to see his work, both the MAD stuff everyone is familiar with and his other work.

We wrapped up the evening with a panel Q&A with all of us. Sam answered 95% of the questions and we other three played cards.

Panel of Idiots
Panel of Idiots

The rest of the time we spend meeting and chatting with attending artists, drawing and getting drawn. I was a little shocked to find Sam, Mark and Hermann suddenly get inspired to sit down and do some drawings on Tuesday night, but it was great fun.

We also signed the original art that was done by artist Glenn Fergusen for the cover of the ISCA’s Exaggerated Features magazine… a great piece.





With Glenn and his signed art
With Glenn and his signed art

These conventions are always a blast. If you do caricatures for a living or as a part of the illustration/cartoon work you do you owe it to yourself to attend one of these someday.


  1. George says:

    Tom, thanks for sharing this great occasion with us. Its a long way from Oz to there so seeing your take on the event was great.

    Cheers George

    P.S. Lobster vending machine…only in America!!!!!

  2. Mugshotz says:

    What a great time. Everyone at MAD was so generous with their time. Definately the best Convention I’ve been to. I was sitting next to Glenn as they gave out the awards, you should have seen him. I certainly hope you get to see Glenn’s acceptance speech sometime. It was very heartfelt. Look forward to next year.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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