Brian Stauffer
May 2008
About today
This image was a personal piece that I submitted to the Nation back in 2006.  They ended-up running it as the cover art for their issue commemorating the 3rd anniversary of the war. I posted it a long while back but thought it was a good one for the day.

Today was a great opportunity for me to get my kids thinking about the holiday and what it means.  I told them the story about how back in 1966 when my parents were searching for a name for their new baby boy, my dad chose to honor his best pal, Brian Medford, who was serving in Vietnam at the time.  Brian was shot 8 times in the stomach and legs by a 10 year-old Vietnamese boy with a machine gun.  Members of his platoon shot and killed the boy.  Brian survived his injuries and returned home, needing to learn to walk again.  I vivdly remember meeting him in 1973.  He wore cowboy boots and walked with the aid of a cane.  My father lost track of him a number of years ago.  I think about him every Memorial Day.  I hope I get to meet him again some day.

On a side note, my 6 year-old asked me why they have so many "sales" on memorial day.  I have to admit, I was at a loss for a good answer.
In Memory Of
Personal piece, Memorial Day Weekend, 2008
On May 6th, a relatively little discussed hearing was taking place on Capital Hill to discuss the alarming rise in soldier suicide attempts and the VA's complete lack of response to the crisis.  With over 1000 vets attempting suicide each and every month, the militarys response was to relieve the doctors who completed the study. WHen pressed, they relented and admitted that more should be done.  read story here.

An acquaintance of mine who recently returned from Afganistan explained to me the often bottomless sense of loss and disconnect that soldiers feel when trying to reconcile the world they've experienced with the relativley superficial and petty existence of everyday life in the states.

As much as they want to rejoin "normal" society, their eyes have been opened to a level of life and suffering that most of us actively suppress in order to maintain our comfort zone.  This is not meant as a criticism of our everyday lives, but rather as a reminder that the casualties of war go far beyond life and limb.  I do suspect that this crisis is directly related to how much we as a society engage with the reality of the wars in Iraq and Afganistan. What is lost by many is a belief in the value of their very existence previous to their service in combat.  The worlds are so different, so how could they both represent reality.  For some, they cannot both be true.

When we look at the numbers, it seems that the chasm is widening and deepening.  For a growing number of those who have served our country in honor that gap is too far to bridge.  When pressed about what we can do, the simple answer was to reach-out to these vets and listen to their stories.  Close the gap by letting them know that on some level they are not alone in knowing what they now do about the wider world that we live in.  Often vets worry about protecting their friends and family from the harshness they've experienced but this is thought to be the first step towards isolation.

What will I do?  Remember them.  And then I'll go and hug my children. I'll try to keep my eyes open to the world and remember what I see in the hope that the collective knowing of the truth about these events will in some way make us less and less interested in sacrificing so much beauty, life, and innocence in the future.
Myanmar Op-Ed
In the Myanmar cyclone disaster, the difference between life and death was only a few feet in elevation.  The assignment, from Brian Rea at the New York Times, was  for an editorial that discussed the  tragedy within this recent tragedy -  that the need to heed early warnings, particularly in this low-laying region, is crucial as the storm surge submerged 2000 square miles.  The use of a topography map felt like a nice way to bring that across.

In recent weeks, I've been working some of drawn elements from my sketches into the final illustrations.  This Op-Ed as well as the piece below are the beginning of more and more line work being infused with my textures and scanned elements.
line drawing detail
the original sketch
For the Phoenix alt weekly, New Times, is an illustration for a story about a home for the mentally retarded.   It seems that a particularly slimey realestate developer has his eye on a prime piece of AZ property that just happens to be the site of a 70 year-old home for mentally retarded peoples.  The facility, which has received high marks for quality of life, has been the lifelong home (from infancy to senior adulthood) for it's inhabitants.  It the only home they know.  The developer has been accused of trying to have the facility closed due to poor care.

Both the bear and backhoe scooper are texture-filled line drawings from the original sketch.
Bear detail
Genetic Discrimination, For TIME
Congress passed legislation this week making it illegal for insurance companies and employers to use genetic data gathered during routine blood testing as a basis for choosing who to hire or cover.

In this week's TIME, Michael Kinsley explores this new law and the many questions it raises.  The issue is anything but clear-cut.

You can read the article onlline here, but you will notice that once again, and for reasons that defy reason, the online edition didn't run the art.  They used a corbis stock DNA strand-in-a-pill image that has no relation to the topic.  Way to go!
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Stauffer is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!