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Tim OBrien
August 2011
Gaddafi for Time
posted:

I love caller I.D.  It gives me a second to collect my thoughts as answer the phone without having a mild heart incident.  In recent years, the first contact from a client can come via e-mail and with this one, I short e-mail from TIME's D.W. Pine read, " are you around?"  Soon after, my caller ID read 'TIME'.
I know in the 2 seconds it takes for me to read an e-mail or to pick up the receiver that it is a rush job, everything I planned on doing in the next 2 days is altered and my adrenaline will shoot through the roof.
I knew that this news cycle of the end of Gaddafi meant that Time would do something on him, though he's so elusive that a definitive ending might not happen to fit Time's weekly closing.  How inconvenient.
Would Gaddafi's capture or end justify an X?  There were many decisions that had to be made but one thing was sure, they needed a portrait.  I started the search and of course the need is for a head on shot of him not making a weird face, talking or smiling and it should be recent.  This throws up many hurdles for finding the right reference so what I ended up doing is using bits and pieces of similarly positioned head to build a portrait.  One thing I had in the bag was the crazy hair.  One look in the mirror most days and I think I might be able to play Gaddafi in a movie some day.
Did you think I was going to show you my goofy, Gaddafi expression? No chance. Hair reference.
Here is a funny shot. It's a white board on my chair that I used to shoot my head against white. It's sort of a TIME Magazine electric chair for bad guys. Note the as yet unshredded stuff all over the floor next my my shredder. I procrastinate about EVERYTHING.
I was provided reference for Gaddafi from Time and used other images to build his likeness.  In the end, I needed less of him than usual. 
The process of doing sketches can range from frustrating to wonderful.  Sometimes you are given parameters that are too tight and set to work with OR you are given none and are faces with too many options.  I liked this one because if he did not get an X, what could it be?
After my Bin Laden cover a few months ago, there were some interesting cover solutions I saw online compiled by SPD.  The New Yorker did an erased out face by Gurbuz Eksioglu and Edel Rodriguez did a painted out portrait for Newsweek amongst other great solutions on other magazines.  Great, now I have to figure out a way to come up with an original idea or at least MY TAKE on an idea.   I did one cool idea but I am not going to share it here because it's probably going to be used for someone else at some point.  No need to take a future job away from myself OR remove an option for them.
I thought of time running out on Gaddafi and came to the idea of an hourglass.  I've painted them before and know they can work well, but you need to figure out what kind of design it would be and how to put his head into that space. 
This quick digital sketch attempted to work out how it might fit on the cover and whether or not it would read as Gaddafi.  I actually thought that removing the eyes and hair meant you would lose the likeness but I had to try it out.  The great part about doing sketches is how you arrive at new solutions because of how your pencil moves.  Stopping at the right moment can make a new idea.  In doing this hourglass sketch I saw that he would work with his face as sand.  It was a lucky moment and now I could send in a batch of sketches that gave them several options.
rough sketch for me to work it out.
Digital sketch I sent to TIME.

Thankfully they chose the Gaddafi blowing away sketch.
What you hope for as you do a cover for TIME is that the news cycle stays consistent and that the cover story you're working on is viable up to the closing of the issue.  I had a Wednesday morning close so on Monday I watched the news in Libya when suddenly my son, who had a friend over started jumping off his bed.  I readied my voice for a shout downstairs when suddenly my house moved up and down.  I went to the window to feel the 3rd floor of my 100 year old Victorian sway.  What just happened and uh oh, there goes the news cycle!
Gaddafi on the board as well as an unfinished piece but on the TV the potentially (heart) breaking news.
Thankfully with a hurricane far away, an earthquake that shook but did not ruin much and a Libyan leader still on the loose but not in control, my cover was at least still in play.
Word came on Wednesday after some sand tweaking back and forth that the cover was running domestically as well as internationally.  D.W. was kind enough to suggest that the cover art helped keep the story on the cover domestically and that was so great to hear.
Thanks to D.W Pine, Skye Gurney and Rick Stengel for this wonderful moment.




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

This is a wonderful announcement of the cover on Morning Joe on MSNBC this morning, August 25th.  Last time a few people noticed that for the Bin Laden cover Mr. Stengel referred to me as the artist but did not mention me by name.  In this clip he mentions me both at the beginning and end.  Thanks Rick.
Tupac at 40
posted:
Tupac at 40

September 13, 2011 will mark the 15-year anniversary of Tupac Shakur’s death. XXL pays homage to the rap legend in the magazine's forthcoming September issue.  For that issue I was asked to paint Tupac Shakur if he were alive today.
He died smooth faced and young, so I had to think of how he would have aged.  Not just like adding tiny wrinkles everywhere, each person ages differently (don't I know it.)  Looking at his face I thought of the young and handsome Marvin Hagler.  He was a great middleweight and sported a smooth bald head and a lean and lethal look.  Today he's an older man, living in Italy.  He looks almost jolly.

He started to wear some weight in his face and cheeks.  Skin becomes more bumpy and pours are more evident.  Of course grey hairs start to come out.
I think Tupac would have had some evident eye wrinkles based on how he looked then.  Considering all of this, I came up with this sketch....

The reference I used was quite helpful but I needed a bit of clothing that was less 1990 and even a bit understated, as if he were in cognito.  That was what I was going for.
Final sketch

I painted Tupac at the time of he passing the The Source Magazine.  This image pops up as a million avatars all over the web.  Every time I would check to see who was visiting my old website, most of the traffic was swiping that image.  That's my I took it off of the site.  It's a nice portrait though and more smooth and refined.
Getting old is a brutal process for most of us.  Skin sags, gets bumpy.  Hair goes grey or thins and weight is a constant issue for most.
I was kind to the late Tupac and imagine he lived a decent life, not eating himself into oblivion and basically keeping his famed look.  There is the slightest hint of anxiety I added to his face which I felt made him look less posed, less comfortable with being seen.  I have that look when someone takes my picture in 2011.
The alternative to is be eternally young through an untimely passing.  It ain't for me.
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