Success in cartooning speaker: Ed Steckley

Ed Steckely is a professional illustrator in New York City who contributes to MAD Magazine. He talked about how the majority of his income is now in advertising illustration and what that all entails.


  • 80% of income now is advertising illustration
  • Was a caricature artist at theme parks
  • Stressed the importance of learning to draw live, but personally would rather go to beach or museum to do live drawings rather than study a studio model
  • Earned a degree in graphic design and got out as soon as he could
  • Responded to ad for Valley Fair theme park doing live caricatures and learned from others including Tom Richmond
  • Would draw every summer at theme parks and make enough money to get through the off season chasing other illustration work
  • Theme park caricature artists have to develop certain skills: work fast and deal with lots of distraction – just like working with an advertising firm

His suggestions for caricature artists:

  1. Learn by practice, practice, practice

  2. Draw fast and efficiently. No sketching. Practice turns to ability and ability into confidence

  3. Draw under pressure

  4. Keep your ego in check. Not everything drawing is going to be perfect.

  5. Draw more.

  6. Did I mention drawing?

  7. Started doing more and more advertising story boarding

Essential skills for drawing in advertising

  1. Drawing
  2. Drawing fast and efficient
  3. Drawing under pressure
  4. Keep your ego in check – you work for the client, they don’t work for you. They have final word

Ed does a lot of on site illustration with clients preparing ad pitches to clients. Typical work includes:

  • Idea boards/story boards – visualizing ideas from people in meetings/conference room
  • Beauty Boards – higher quality illustrations to show to the client
  • Animatics – Once a concept has been accepted, Ed has to take the art and sequence it using layers in Photoshop so animators can use it to fill in the sequence and produce the ad.

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