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.


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.



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.


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.

Art Lien

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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23 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 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 – – me images of those drawings I should be able to tell if they are Brodie’s.

    Thanks for your comment,

  7. terry sloan says:

    did mr. howard brodie ever do drawings of sports events? i have 6 signed by a howard is gene sarzen, roger bannister, babe ruth hitting 60 th home run,man o war,four horseman of notre dame,the last is jack demsey and tuney. are these the same howard brodie’s ? thank you..terry

    • Bruce Brodie says:

      Hi Terry, would like to see the drawing of gene sarzen I’m a golfer too & the son
      of Howard it would mean a lot to me

  8. Art Lien Art Lien says:

    Yes, Terry, Howard used to do sketches for the sports section of the San Francisco Chronicle. Lucky you, to have those drawings. -Art

  9. Jack Fellows says:

    Art, like your first commentator on this thread, I ran across Howard Brodie’s stunning artwork whilst researching an aspect of the Guadalcanal Campaign. Sgt. Brodie was paired with a Yank (magazine) writer named Mack Morriss and the two were fast friends during this period. Morriss wrote a number of insightful comments about Brodie, a man whom Morriss admired immensely. These comments are contained in a diary kept by Morriss which was published in 1996, three years before Brodie died, I believe. The title is SOUTH PACIFIC DIARY – 1942-1943. The book was published after Morriss’ death , edited by Ronnie Day, and contains considerable footnotes. Like Brodie, Morriss was a sensitive man and a consummate practitioner of his craft.

    Thank you for paying homage to this extraordinary talent, Howard Brodie was a shining example of the old-school illustrator tradition, something which has all but disappeared.

  10. Bruce Brodie says:

    Dear Art, I’m new to the digital world and just visited this web site honoring my
    father. I am so happy and proud it’s so wonderful to see and read. As you knew Howard he would have loved what you have done as I do.
    All best to you a great artiest and human being in your own wright.
    Thank you all best always
    Bruce Brodie

  11. EagleTimmer says:

    Howard Brodie was my life drawing instructor at the academy of art in san francisco in 1968. he was a fabulous instructor. i’m so sorry to hear he passed. he made a lasting impresssion on me and everytime i draw a leg i remember him showing me how to make them look like flesh instead of wood. i’ve thot of him alot lately as i’m rejuvenatijg my love of drawing and painting. i did a search on him tonight hoping i would find some of his drawings to re-inspire me. a grwat loss to many. a wpoonderful guy. God Bless him and Protect him always~!

  12. Jeff Schulken says:

    I have a sketch of my Great Grandmother that Howard did in 1952. The story that was told to many years ago is that he was passing through Boulder Creek, CA., where my Great Grandparents lived. According to the story, they spent some time together and Howard sketched my Great Grandmother and gave it to her as gift. I have it proudly hanging in my living room.

  13. Jeff Schulken says:

    Hi Mr. Lien,
    I sent you an email with a scan of the drawing. Sorry I took so long. I need to take it out of the frame.

  14. David Dennis says:

    I have what I believe to be the original Mr. Howard Brodie did of Marion D.Gray (DOGFACE).MY Piran CSGM Enrique Avalo served in the Korean War with them.

    • john eicher says:

      My name is John Eicher. I am Marion Gray’s only living relative. He was my grandfather. He was MIA right after this drawing. How did you come across it. I was wondering because he saved his platoon on 4-21-51 and only received the Silver Star. I was looking for info on a way to get this medal upgraded.

    • john eicher says:

      To: David Dennis

      That original that you have was mine. My brother either sold it to you at a ridiculous price or someone stole it. It was at my grandmother’s funeral. Marion Gray was my grandfather. I would like to buy it from you. my e-mail is

    • john eicher says:

      Please give me this drawing back. It belongs to me. I don’t how it got in your hands

  15. Sandra McPherson, Professor Emerita, UCDavis says:

    I’m searching for sketches he did of San Jose State athletes. I have a Xerox of some he did, including one of my dad, Walt McPherson, and another of Lloyd Thomas, both from around 1938. I’d like to find more, including originals. Can you recommend a source or archive? / Thank you very much for your article.

    • Art Lien Art Lien says:

      Very sorry for the late reply, and I’m afraid I can’t help you very much. What you are looking for is Howard’s early work before the war. The Library of Congress has quite a few Brodie originals but they are mostly war and trial sketches. Have you checked with the San Francisco Chronicle?

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