Time Marches On Through the Prism of Illustrator Tim O’Brien

Artist's latest cover for Time magazine is one his best

What a difference a few decades can make. In the fall of 1996, the choice was between a Clinton and a Dole. For the Nov. 4 edition of Time magazine that year, illustrator Tim O’Brien etched a striking cover illustration.

O’Brien has done numerous covers over the years for Time, but when all is said and done, this week’s will be remembered as one of his best. It comes on the heels of another “choice,” between a Clinton and a Donald, and suggests that the 45th President of the United States is oblivious to the chaos surrounding him.

There’s a second great bit of video for this week’s issue. In a behind-the-scenes vignette,  O’Brien details his process. The artist, whose first cover for Time dates back to 1989 and Osama bin Laden, tees up a great game for the weekend (Caption and Title That DJT Movie):

“Painting this cover was like imagining a movie. I see it all in my head, the swirling rain, the wind blowing papers across the desk, the splats of the heavy raindrops on the desk. The e-mail from [Time creative director] D.W. Pine asked if I could paint Trump in a storm. As soon as he asked I saw the image.”

“A cartoonist might get the subject to react, to animate, hold on and grimace in the face of the wind. I saw it more as a deadpan look at us. In paintings, it is the contrast that creates the interest; in this case, the calm and the chaos.”

Don With the Wind? All the President’s Mien? Regardless of political affiliation, the possibilities here are endless. At press time, the animated cover video had accumulated more than three million Twitter views and 500,000 Instagram plays.

By the way, that Clinton-Dole cover is one of two Time works by the Brooklyn-based O’Brien residing at The Smithsonian. The other, etched earlier in 1996, is also of a political nature.