Reflecting on ISCAcon30

Updated: Mar 1


ISCAcon30 Poster
ISCAcon30 Promotional Poster. Design and Layout by me. ISCA logo by Beau Hufford. ISCAcon30 graphic by Jamie Rockwell.

For the past 6 years, I have served on the board of The International Society of Caricature Artists, a non-profit trade organization with members across the globe. ISCA, as it's known, is the premiere resource for caricature artists looking to improve their craft and network with others in their field. Once a year, members meet up at the annual ISCAcon, a weeklong conference in which the world's top caricature artists can learn from and compete against one another. The artist who is voted #1 Caricaturist of the Year takes home the top prize - the prestigious Golden Nosey!

In 2019, I was elected president of ISCA, a title which I held through November of 2021. A lot goes on behind the scenes as a volunteer running an international organization. But I want to talk specifically about the ISCAcon itself. My plan in 2019 was to stay on as president for one year, and step down at the 2020 conference. Well, we all know by now what Covid thought of people's plans. Though we weren't able to hold the con in person, we managed to successfully pivot to a virtual format, and I stayed on as president for another year. The hope was that by November of 2021, we could resume to business as usual and host the con in Las Vegas, as was the plan for 2020. Not only would this be the so-called return to normal, it would also be the 30th anniversary of ISCAcon!


The Bronze, Silver, and Golden Nosey
The Bronze, Silver, and Golden Nosey

In reality, it wasn't quite normal. After the Covid vaccine rollout began here in the states, we made the decision to host the con in person, with a hybrid virtual option. We were betting it would be relatively safe to gather by the fall, but realized some folks would be unable to attend for a variety of reasons, but largely due to the uncertainty surrounding international travel by that point. Keep in mind, we were playing a waiting game for the first half of the year. By the time we made this decision and signed all of the paperwork, it was right around June. So we had just a few months to put together a con that usually involves a year of planning. A lot of talented people worked really hard to make ISCAcon30 a reality, all without really even knowing if this hybrid format was going to work or not.

The team that made it happen. Clockwise from left: Jeff Redford, Garret & CeCe Holt, Guest of Honor Lindsey Olivares, guest speaker Kevin Nealon, Christopher Tamlyn, Robin Schwartzman, myself, Ben Bloss, Erik "Rowdy" Roadfeldt, and Kara Mundy
Some of the ISCAcon VIPS Clockwise from left: Jeff Redford, Garret & CeCe Holt, Guest of Honor Lindsey Olivares, guest speaker Kevin Nealon, Christopher Tamlyn, Robin Schwartzman, myself, Ben Bloss, Erik "Rowdy" Roadfeldt, and Kara Mundy

By August, we had just about all of our guest speakers locked in and all of our promotional materials laid out and ready to publish - and then the Delta variant emerged, proving to be a much more transmissible virus that can be spread even by people who had been fully vaccinated. With just a few months to go, we had to reassess the safety of what we were doing. By September, after weighing our options (either keep the hybrid format or cancel, risking our deposit, and host the entire event virtually again), we made the call to require proof of vaccination to attend in person. We weren't sure what kind of effect this would have on attendance, but by this point our main concern was safety.


Introducing one of our speakers at ISCAcon30.
Introducing one of our speakers at ISCAcon30. Photo credit: Sue Ahn

In the end, we managed to host ISCAcon safely with about 100 attendees on site with us and around 100 more joining us virtually via our Discord server. We had a world-class lineup of speakers, including our Guest of Honor Linsdey Olivares, who served as Production Designer and Lead Character Designer on The Mitchells Vs. The Machines. Also joining us was notable caricature artist and SNL alumni Kevin Nealon! The rest of our lineup included local Vegas folk hero and street artist Larime Taylor, professional paper cut artist Kristy Edgar, cutting edge digital painter Ash Stryker (speaking on behalf of Women in Caricature), comedy and horror comic artist Ali R. Thome, caricature historian Zach Trenholm, and Kira Layli Moore delivering the annual Caricature 101.


Despite the Covid concerns, I'm grateful that I was able to take my final bow as president at the ISCAcon 30th anniversary, after having attended for more than a decade and having been part of the planning team since 2015. I'm proud of the work I've done for the organization, for our members, and for the conference. Though as I mentioned, it took a lot of people doing a lot of hard work, and I owe everything to the dedication and commitment of my fellow board members and all of our volunteers and contributors who've helped out over the years. You know who you are, and I thank you for putting in the work to achieve a shared vision. And a HUGE congrats to Hitomi Ishihara, who won the Golden Nosey while competing from Japan!


Though I am no longer serving on the ISCA board, I will remain a member and intend to continue volunteering. If you wish to become a member yourself, you can join here.


If you want to learn more about ISCAcon or what it takes to be a caricature artist, you can watch American Caricature, the film I produced with Joe Ciomek, here!


Myself and Kevin Nealon sporting our American Caricature tees and wishing we were anywhere else besides Fremont Street.
Myself and Kevin Nealon sporting our American Caricature tees and wishing we were anywhere else besides Fremont Street.

Rob Hren and myself at the Neon Museum, mere moments after my return flight home had been cancelled.
Rob Hren and myself at the Neon Museum, mere moments after my return flight home had been cancelled.

Since my flight was cancelled, I had to make my own way home. Taking a brief respite from the elements. Photo: Sam Gorrie
Since my flight was cancelled, I had to make my own way home. Taking a brief respite from the elements. Photo: Sam Gorrie

Alright, that's all for me for now. Enjoy your day.

-Tom

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