American Illustration Profiles: Tim O’Brien
Tim O’Brien is a modern master of illustration, and one of the pre-eminent magazine cover illustrators of our time. He modestly describes himself as a “traditional oil painter,” which doesn’t begin to highlight the full range of his talents. As the most dominant Time magazine cover illustrator of this century, Tim has been the go-to artist for moments of historical import. From the overthrow of Saddam Hussein to the death of Osama bin Laden to the U.S. Presidential election, Tim’s covers have helped to define the public conversation and historical record. In the tradition of the classic Time covers artists of the 1940s-60s—Boris Artzybasheff, Ernest Hamlin Baker, and Boris Chaliapin—Tim has not only created compelling and engaging cover imagery, but has been part of the visual identity of the magazine (although he has a long way to go before he matches Chaliapin’s 413 Time covers!). But of course Tim’s body of work extends far beyond what he has created at Time, including covers and editorial illustrations for countless magazines, stamps, posters, advertising imagery, and numerous book covers (my kids were excited to learn that he did the covers for the Hunger Games series!). Recently he has been creating a brilliant new legacy of cover illustrations with art director Maria Keehan at Smithsonian magazine.