January 18, 2018
Art, politics, angels, demons . . . and righteous dogs.

Pico, a Cruise and Me

This month Conde Nast Traveler asked the wonderful writer Pico Iyer to write about his first cruise experience, and asked me to illustrate it. As it happened I had been to some of the same places he had! Here are some of the drawings and painting done for the article as well as some photos of those places.

Here’s Iyer in the dining room of his ship. I used some of the same decor of the ship’s dining room that I recalled.

The dining room decor and lighting were suggested by our snaps.

This the main road in the 2,500 year old city of Ephesus,Turkey a site of  technological and religious significance. I put Pico into this setting, sans all the tourists!
His mother, religious scholar Nandini Nanak Mehta, now 80, needed a cruise as her walking was now affected by age.  However at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg she found the energy to zip up the stairs.
My memories of the Hermitage was of the stairs like these and the statue-like ladies who “mind” the art.
Pico appreciated the time that the long days at sea afford for reading and reflection. I did too, but also found moments to drift away. Not bad either!


  1. ALEX MCCRAE says:


    Just a marvelous ‘suite’ of cartoon ‘illos’ for the Conde Nast Traveller Pico Iyer ‘maiden-voyage’ piece.

    I love the swirling, warmly glowing ambiance you’ve created of the posh cruise ship dining-room interior w/ the beaming iyer, surrounded by his reveling entourage, and doting waiters.

    As a cartoonist/ caricaturist myself, in seeing your superb Iyer cartoony pieces, I couldn’t help but harken back to a delightful, humorous travel tome from the late ’40s written by the masterful wit, S. J. Perelman, titled, “Westward Ha! or Around the World in Eighty Cliches”, masterfully illustrated by the late, great Al Hirshfeld.

    Perelman and Hirshfeld, life-long buddies, take an actual whirl-wind cruise around the globe, visiting innumerable exotic locales; Perelman chronicling their madcap experiences in prose, and Hirshfeld in his signature caricatured illustrative style—- that Arabesque line, and mixed-medley of fun pen-and-ink textures. Definitely a must-see for any diehard Hirshfeld enthusiast. (Not to sell Mr. Perelman’s engaging, witty writing too short.)

    Frankly, IMHO, Steve Brodner, you are today’s heir-apparent to Al Hirshfeld. But where Hirshfeld’s milieu was basically limited to live theater, film, and television fare, yours runs the entire gamut from politics to pop culture, and seemingly everything in between.

    When I first discovered and ‘devoured’ your book, “Freedom Fries”, some years back, i realized, in short order, i was in the presence of caricaturing genius……. and I don’t use that term cavalierly. (You can stop blushing now. HA!)

    Interestingly, i’m hoping to attend an upcoming ‘evening-with-Pico-Iyer event’ here in L.A., in the continuing “Live Talks Los Angeles” series of celebrity interviews. Your splendid Iyer ‘illos’ will have just sweetened the experience.

    Keep up the outstanding work.


    P.S.: —I felt your take on Pico Iyer in that initial illustration had a bit of a Salman Rushdie ambiance about it. (Heavy eyelids, the narrow eye ‘slits’, perked-up, angular eyebrows. And then your note that his mum’s last name happened to be “Mehta”—-a fairly common Indian surname— could account for a slight ‘sub-continental’-type visage. You managed to capture Iyer, nonetheless.

  2. Steve says:

    Very grateful for your very thoughtful and generous note. Though I don’t measure up the the great Al, but I completely accept the good feelings behind what you said. He was a god to many of us and I had the privilege to meet him a couple of times. Once he played a pivotal role in my career, as you see in Freedom Fries. Drawing Pico’s story was such an enjoyable experience as I shared so much of this. Hey maybe he’ll call me to come on the next trip! In any case, say hi for me.
    All the best and thanks,

  3. ALEX MCCRAE says:

    Hi (again) Steve,

    IMHO, your sheer effusive talent, and unique satirical ‘bite’ are only eclipsed by your refreshing modesty. (Humility, especially for us creative types, is hopefully a virtue.)

    Thanks for your quick reply, as well. It all basically comes down to timing, right?

    In rereading my initial commentary, I discovered an unwitting repeated error. I managed to omit the ‘middling’ “c” in Hirschfled’s name, i.e. “Hirshfeld”. (Doh!) Forty lashes w/ a loaded crow-quill pen pour moi. (The pen, as they say, is far mightier than the sword. Groan.)

    Maybe I should have just gone your informal route, and referred to the universally-recognized dean of modern caricature as “the great Al”? HA!

    Steve, …….”On The Great Briney With Iyer and Brodner”, could be a cool working title for the forthcoming book you two bon- voyagers would ultimately collaborate on, post-cruise, no? (Maybe not?)


    P.S.: —Steve, just finished checking out your Treayvon Martin/ Zimmerman visual-and-written commentaries. Brilliant analysis, very cool drawings, plus sound supportive ‘attachments’.

    This apparent travesty of justice has clearly struck a huge chord w/ countless concerned folk around the nation, dare I say the world. Your caricatures of the assailant, Zimmerman, I felt really captured the evil intent of this self-appointed urban vigilante. This complex case has more circumstantial evidential twists-and-turns swirling around it than a typical one-hour “Mad Men” episode. Just sayin’.

    Demonizing the victim, and painting the obvious ‘killer’ as (literally) a former choirboy, and all-round upstanding, law-abiding citizen, is such a sadly predictable, devious, desperate legal defense strategy. But I digress.