Before photography became the most commonly used medium to capture a single moment in time, painting and illustration were the only visual tools widely available. Though photos and video have flooded most media outlets, illustration as a whole has not been replaced. It’s still used to this day because of its unique ability to convey emotions and integrate a single moment within a broader context.
Tim O’Brien started his career in 1989 and continues to utilize his skill and passion for illustration. His drawings are featured on more than two dozen TIME covers, recently ‘Nothing to See Here’, and books series like Hunger Games.
O’Brien works alongside an art director. They collaboratively decide what to illustrate and what perspective to work from. Sometimes he only has two or three hours to create a piece and must work quickly to meet deadlines––weighing timeliness with artistic vision. As an editorial illustrator, O’Brien is careful to stay up-to-date on current events, eliminating any additional time spent researching a piece’s backstory.
Illustrations are featured everywhere, including postage stamps, emojis, currency, science fiction covers, etc. As president of the Society of Illustrators in New York City, O’Brien loves to promote the importance of illustrators in documenting our history, present times, and the future. He believes illustrations and paintings are and will continue to be a vital part of our culture.
Check out a video of O’Brien creating a TIME cover: “The Story Behind TIME’s Trump Chaos Cover”
- Tim O’Brien, illustrator