CoviDiaries: Legendary Illustrator Steve Brodner Bears Witness

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In order to make the creative world feel a bit less lonely and a bit more connected in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been publishing a new blog series—CoviDiaries—that brings us into the homes and minds of various designers, illustrators and other professionals, to see how they’re coping. Today’s dispatch comes from illustrator and caricaturist Steve Brodner in New York City.

As an illustrator you want to bear witness to this story, but where to begin?

This story is the biggest of our lives, and as of today we have no idea where it is headed. Megadeath; depression; far-right takeover; insurrection? And what else? Nothing about this seems clear, especially the politics. If there is really no place to begin, you might just jump in and render some “telling” parts. You try to hit the bullseye.

And maybe edit later.

From the start I felt the need to render the faces of the dead. There is no apology for them. No excuses. Only tears. And not just for beloved figures in American life—John Prine, Terrence McNally, Rabbi Cohn, etc.—but about 40,000 more that nobody’s ever heard of. Many nights I just sketch them in a pad and post them. I’ll continue to do this.

Some nights this is extremely difficult to do.

All this rises up into anger. The Trump Mob’s gross insensitivity and incompetence has gotten me posting the following cartoons. This animation is on the speed of death, called “Flattening the Curve” (gif by Kayleigh Waters).

Below is a piece called “It’s for you,” about the bill coming due for the Trump Cult.

The Columbia Journalism Review and I found some of the most fraudulent quotes so far and illustrated them. (Gifs by Kayleigh Waters.)

“Even if virus gets into your mouth, drinking water or other liquids will wash them down through your throat and into the stomach, where acid will kill the virus.” —Geraldo Rivera, Fox News

“This is impeachment all over again.” —Trish Regan, Fox Business

Teaching online has been a challenge. The Zoom platform works, but not everyone is adapting at the same rate.

Every night at 7 p.m., the city stops what it is doing and cheers the people on the front lines: medical, food, transport, volunteers. The poor who can’t isolate. People in prisons, nursing homes with no way out. With no levers in government available—held, as they are, by the morally and mentally bankrupt.

This footage was shot at 9th Avenue and 43rd St.:

Every tragedy brings new awakenings. I’m looking forward to ours. As John Lennon said, “If we want it.”