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Tim OBrien
April 2011
Three Tears for Time
posted:

Tears for Time
 
A loyal client is the brass ring in an illustrator's career, perhaps in any career.  Time magazine was a dream client of mine back in 1989.  At that time I was a busy book cover artist hoping to move into editorial. I was trained as a trompe l'oeil painter at Paier College of Art as well as a portrait painter.
One day in '89 I got a call to do a TIME cover. They had a Gilbert Stewart portrait of George Washington that they wanted a tear on. Rudy Hogland was the head AD at the time but I worked with Arthur Hochstein. I said that I needed to paint many tears so that they could drop the correct colored tear down on the portrait. Photoshop was not yet a tool commonly used. So, I painted around 10 tears on a panel. One was chosen and I had my first cover of Time, shared with Gilbert Stewart. The tears are in the National Gallery. It took a while to get TIME to consider me for more than a tear until I began doing covers in the early 90's.
When you have a strong track record with a client they trust you and grow with you.  They also turn to you for what you specialize in, hopefully.
Arthur Hochstein called again in 2007 for me to put a tear on Ronald Reagan's face.  This was for a new redesigned cover of Time and at the time raised quite a stir amongst conservatives and those who react before thinking (or reading.)  The tear on Reagan's face was for a cover story on how Reagan would not recognize the then current republican party.  It was, in fact, a strong article about the principles of Reagan.  Still, so many read it as some sort of slight of the masculinity of Reagan that I was inundated with hateful e-mail for days and Drawger was swamped with most of it.  It's quite a thread and here for those who want to take a look.
 
Much has happened since 2007.  We have continued to fight wars while cutting taxes for the rich.  We elected Barack Obama to the White House, and watched the republican party continue its march to the right.  That march is so steady that one branch of the party, the tea party harkens back to an earlier time, to a framer's constitution.  The republican party yearns for a return to a 'real' American and promised to 'take back' the country. 
One thing most troubling with the dizzy dream of a better time is the willingness to white wash or ignore historical and scientific facts. 
We have seen textbooks in Texas and across the country re-written to remove the significance of Thomas Jefferson and other revisionists cloud the reasons for the civil war.  This rewriting of history is troubling to many and Time Magazine takes on this issue this week in a cover story by David Von Drehle entitled, "Whey We're Still Fighting The Civil War" The endless battle over the war's true cause would make Lincoln weep.
My first Time cover, 1989. The tear is a more traditional graphic tear and of a key I didn't think worked exactly right. Still, I was thrilled.

Some things never change. In some ways the Tea Party pines for the Reagan years and I think we all would love the tax rate on the rich to return to the place Reagan put it. Reagan 50%. Clinton 39% W 35% Obama, wanted 39% but caved to 35%

So, I went to the well once again and created several tears for them to choose from.   It’s worth noting that a portrait of a politician is often less studied and picked over than the impact of a tear on a portrait.
Each time I’ve done this I’ve done numerous versions.
 
A water drop is a formula and if you need to place one on a photo in 2007, Photoshop is the way it is done.
 
When I was at Paier College it was a common past time of my pal Steve Brennan and I to paint trompe l'oeil gags around the studio. I did a successful wall outlet that may still there 25 years later. Another thing was painting holes in the walls, pencil shavings on the floor and a quarter. Watching the custodian sweep over and over the pencil shavings was the highest form of praise a realist can get. I still find great joy out of fooling the eye.
 
So this trick of light and shadow and shallow depth is something I'm well suited for.  My guess is before I through I will again paint a tear on someone's face.  The only depressing aspect of that possibility is that it will be because something will be going on that would surely make someone cry.  You can count on that.


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

This is a clip of my cover being revealed on Morning Joe.  Rick Stengel called me an 'Artist.'  It's official.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I added this last clip which mentions the cover after a tip from Mr. Kroninger.
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