I had just settled in to work on some projects Sunday night when I heard the news that the president was going to make a major national security announcement. My first thought was that there was a major threat of some kind. I started scanning a lot of online and cable sources and slowly the news that Bin Laden had been killed came into focus. Having worked at a news magazine for so many years, I had become a bit of a news junkie, so I stayed up until 3 or 4 am reading all the reports.
The next morning, Monday, I woke up a little groggy to a message in my inbox titled “Newsweek / Urgent / portrait commission”, and wish I hadn’t stayed up so late the night before. The magazine was going to publish a Special Issue on the historic event and they needed the portrait the next day.
I immediately started sketching Bin Laden, trying to come up with an idea that would capture the moment. While drawing his face from the reference photos, I instinctively painted over his eyes, and this ended up being the sketch that made it to the cover. Some of the sketches and details of the process are below.
I worked in Manhattan the days after 9/11. I still remember the smell of smoke that lasted for days, maybe weeks, and the strange feeling that something worse could come down upon the city at any time. I was working on this cover nonstop for the last couple of days, so the sense of history hasn’t hit me. Maybe I’ll look back on it someday and the moment will make more sense. The one thing I am proud of is that I’ll be sharing the newsstand with my good friend Tim O’Brien’s TIME cover. That, for me, is a nice personal moment, great that both newsweeklies will have art on the cover by artists who have known each other for so long.
Thanks to Newsweek editor Tina Brown for her support of my work over the years, Design Director Dirk Barnett for the assignment and sharp cover design, and art director Lindsay Ballant for all the help along the way.