Howard Brodie Remembered

Blackmun  Howard Brodie, one of the greatest sketch artists ever, has passed away at age 94. He was generous, gentle and honest.

I met Howard when I was trying to land a job with CBS News in Washington. He was their regular artist, had covered the Watergate trial and was currently sketching the Panama Canal Treaty debate in the Senate.  He graciously let me tag along as I tried my hand at sketching the Supreme Court.  We then went over to the Senate where I was overwhelmed by the task of sketching the chamber with all it’s senators milling about.  Howard told me that it was the hardest thing he had ever had to draw, and that gave me some comfort.


Brodie1

I started freelancing for CBS, although Howard still flew in from California for the big stories.  At the CBS bureau I had access to Howard’s drawings which I studied, and I tried to copy his style.  At dinner one evening when he was in town Howard remarked that his wife had seen my sketch of congressman Dan Flood, then on trial in District Court, and  thought it was Howard’s.  I was both thrilled and embarrassed.  Howard wasn’t upset though, but continued to give me encouragement.

 

Brodie2

There are many stories about Howard’s compassion; here’s one : during  the Watergate trial Howard came upon a pigeon with a broken wing.  Facing a tight deadline he didn’t have time to take the crippled bird to a veterinarian himself, so he hailed a cab and gave the driver money to cover the pigeon’s fare and care.

HowardBrodie

When it’s a slow day at the Supreme Court  I sometimes walk over to the Library of Congress, where Howard has donated most of his drawings.  I fill out a slip, give it to a librarian and pretty soon I’m once again getting fresh inspiration his amazing, strong drawings.

Thank you, Howard!

Howard Brodie’s obit in the San Francisco Chronicle can be found here.

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About

Courtartist is me, Art Lien. I've been sketching the courts since 1976, and for most of that time the U.S. Supreme Court has been my regular beat. I've been working almost exclusively for NBC News since 1980. Courtroom sketching is a form of visual journalism or reportage drawing that is slowly dying out. Where once upon a time news organization each had their own artist covering a story, today a "pool" artist often sketches for all. It is a demanding and stressful discipline where the drawing is often done directly and under tight deadline.

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6 comments on “Howard Brodie Remembered
  1. Elaine Rentz says:

    I just found the drawings by this artist extraordinaire at the Library of Congress archives while doing research for WWII Guadalcanal campaign. He was so talented, his drawings brought the trials of the battle to life. What a distinguished man and celebrated career. Thank you for giving more insight into his character. He seemed like a great man!

  2. DIANE says:

    I have, and treasure a rare watercolor of Mr. Howard Brodie, INSCRIBED IN INDIA INK-HOWARD BRODIE-37-TO WENONAH O’BRIEN=WITH EVERY GOOD WISH=HOWARD BRODIE.

  3. John Hodapp says:

    Howard was a wonderful man, an incredible artist and a great teacher. He made you feel like an old friend… not just a student. And the stories he told in class and on those occasions we had coffee together, made me laugh and cry. That man in black turtleneck and camo will stay with me forever. I have always been in awe of his effortless ability to capture action and subtle features with those prismacolor pencils. I’ve refrained from using them in my repertoire as an illustrator, out of respect for his mastery of them. Nobody drew like Howard. Nobody.

  4. Anthony Mata says:

    I met Howard Brodie once before he past away. It was a drawing event at the Academy of Art in SF. One of my favorite artist I followed since high school. I was super excited that Howard is doing a one night drawing session. It was great, three hours of drawing! He was telling us his war stories during World War Two. The one story that t remember the most when he covered the Charles Manson trial. Howard was drawing a portrait of him. Manson holding up a note pad, with a drawing of Howard…He mentioned it freak him out.

  5. todd mastos says:

    I have a scrapbook from the forties WWII and it has 3 pencil sketches of people in it.one in right corner appears to be signed HB and two others are unsigned.i find them very odd to be in this scrapbook with some of his printed work in it.these are original.did he ever sign with hb or do any work unsigned?thanks for you time!Todd

  6. Art Lien says:

    Todd, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sketch signed HB, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t. If you send – courtartist@gmail.co – me images of those drawings I should be able to tell if they are Brodie’s.

    Thanks for your comment,
    Art

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