January 20, 2018
Art, politics, angels, demons . . . and righteous dogs.

Latest for Need to Know

Here are three of the films done this year for Need to Know, the news magazine hosted by Jon Meacham and Alison Stewart that began in May. Doing Editorial work for TV and the web is a challenge because you have to invent the form as you go. But what’s better than that? Thanks to Shelley Lewis, Tom Casciato, Stephen Segaller,  Andy Halper and everyone there for the great work on the series and their support of my project. And the production at Asterisk and The Refinery for making these possible.

From The Daily Heller

Steven Heller, esteemed art director, educator and all round design guru blasted scenes from tomorrow’s film by me on “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” all over his Daily Heller this morning.  I will post that film asap. Many thanks to Mr. Heller and the guys who work on this project.  More on them soon.

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah

by Steven Heller · 0 comments

Need to Know is a weekly PBS news magazine hosted by Alison Stewart and John Meachem, covering the week’s news with longer perspectives than a daily show. It airs Friday nights at 8:30 in NYC.  Since May, Steven Brodner has been a regular contributor of an animated illustration commentary. His latest segment (watch it tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 19) takes aim at the former governor Sarah Palin’s new eponymous TLC reality show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” wherein the branding of Mrs. P continues, or as Brodner says, “politics can be completely divorced from policy.”

I asked Brodner to tell me about his reasons for creating this caricature-commentary:

What prompted this video? This video was prompted by a New Yorker assignment actually [below bottom].  I was asked to draw Palin for [TV Critic] Nancy Franklin’s recent review.  For this I saw clips of the [reality] show.  My reactions found their way into the NYr piece as well as the ideas for this film.

You mean Palin is not your favorite politician? Palin may or may not be a revolutionary politician.  The ways in which she is different from all the others are ways which seem to make her more popular with her base.  This suggests a kind of genius.  She may be perfect for the content-free, reality show world, where celebrity trumps all.

Have you developed a method of capturing her likeness, or will you be evolving this as time goes on?
I feel I am beginning to find my Palin. But she is a work in progress too.  We have perhaps that much in common!  We don’t know really what her face “means” until we see where she goes. Enough to want to stay tuned. Keeping lots of Pepto on hand, however.

Here is a previous episode. (The Refinery is the production house for this series /DP Jacob Williams, animator/editor Bryan Brinkman.)

The Sound of Sarah published in The New Yorker

Victor, Franz and Me

Recently Victor Juhasz, one of my very favorite artists and people, and I caught the show of the 21 heads by Franz Xavier Messerschmidt at the Neue Galerie.  These are mysterious heads.  They are all of faces in extreme discomfort or anguish of some kind. Messerschmidt was a German sculptor who was rising in prominence, doing commissions for the court.  At one point his world went sour and he found himself without commissions and even a teaching job.  He withdrew into his own world and did these “character heads” for the rest of his life.

“Character heads” is something Victor and I do for a living.  The idea of exaggeration for the sake of an idea.  This is called caricature but that is too blunt a word, most of the time.  Teasing truth from imagery is a tool in every artist’s box.  An astonishing thing about Messerschmidt’s heads is that they feel very direct and modern . . . for the 20th century.  And these were done in the 18th!!  There is nothing before him or after him in the history of sculpture that this connects with.  He is just out there listening to whatever music came to him. And in madness, or inspiration or an alloy of the two, this work appears.  And speaking for myself I recognize all of them.


“These sculpted heads by Messerschmidt proved to be an unexpectedly exhilarating experience even as they challenged a number of assumptions and tendencies to short cut in the drawing process.  You couldn’t.  Paying attention was crucial when trying to interpret on paper what he did so magnificently in 3-D.  Many of these heads were already caricatures, hyper realistic animated caricatures.  Messerschmidt’s complete command of detailing the logic of muscular functions and their intricate relationships to every other muscle in these extreme facial gestures forced me to be extra aware of my shading and direction of line in the drawings.  I felt like I was looking at squinting eyes, creases in the face, furrows in the brow,  flarings of nostrils and bulging of eyes for the first time.  It’s very easy in the studio environment to fall back on tried and true predictable solutions (in other words- bad habits) in drawing and be guilty of not thinking all the time what you’re actually saying about anatomy.  These sculpted heads forced me to think about every mark I put down, the weight of the darkness in the shadowing and how getting one thing wrong, from lazy observance threw everything else off.  I was humbled by realizing how much I didn’t know.  Returning to this exhibit is a definite.  I could draw these heads all day and not be bored.”

Below is a group of sketches we both did that day.  My work is up here to look closely at his and learn a thing or two.

PS: Vic is off to sketch the troops in Afghanistan next week.  I’m sure it will be an amazing experience.  We all wish him a safe and art-filled journey.  Hoping he can post some of the pieces when he gets back. Meantime Vic, give them our best.

Opposite Day

In politics every day is Opposite Day.  My latest for Need to Know.  My first as writer/director.  Thanks the Refinery studio for making this transition much easier than I imagined.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.