On the night that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump went head to head in the first debate, Steve Brodner, who teaches in FIT’s Illustration MFA program, was a very busy man. He sketched the debates in real time for Esquire (above), and the drawings were due in the morning. That’s how it goes when you’re an artist of Brodner’s stature, with 40 years of experience and regular publication in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, among many others. The guy is in demand.
Brodner has been drawing Clinton and Trump for a while. In July, he sketched them (above) for a Times feature about how the candidates view the press: “Trump’s an egomaniac; Clinton is paranoid,” he says. This election has been a teachable moment for the media, he notes; news outlets have had to learn to be tough on candidates. In his opinion, journalists have been too slow to challenge Trump on his “birther” claims, for example, and only recently has theTimes referred to birtherism as a lie. When the media goes soft, Brodner says, they portray a “false equivalency of the candidates—though my drawing does give them a kind of equivalency, so I’m part of the problem,” he laughs.
Some of Brodner’s subjects take offense at his sharp, satirical style. The CEO of a certain prominent lifestyle brand became “unhinged” at the way he rendered her. But politicians think of the cartoons as proof that they’ve attained mainstream recognition. “It’s a high point for them,” he says. “I’ve never been asked to dial back a drawing.”