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While preparing a recent essay on fake news, I turned to Victor Juhasz to illustrate my theme that "a tsunami of lies" is heading for Canada just in time for the 2019 federal election campaign, and that it poses a real threat that we should all be ready for.
You may recognize Victor's work from the covers of Rolling Stone or The Nation. I've had the pleasure of working with Victor for years now. Some of his best illustrations for National Observer were published during the 2015 federal election.
He portrayed Stephen Harper in front of the oilsands for a piece by Bruce Livesey.
Victor also portrayed the clash between the Liberals and the NDP in their struggle to win the progressive vote. Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair draw swords (and blood) while Stephen Harper stands to the side preparing his own.
Remember the period when it looked like the NDP was poised to win the election? Victor drew Mulcair surfing an orange wave.
Curious about how he creates these pieces, I asked Victor a few questions.
Victor: While I appreciated the visual of a tsunami of lying "news" sources, the problem had to do with my inability to make the leap visually. As the U.S. and Canada are mostly connected by land I couldn't visually make a land border tsunami make sense. However, what does travel over land — locusts. They move from location to location destroying everything. That worked logically in my mind. As the article addresses the fraying of American news and information spreading to Canada, locusts seemed like a perfect metaphor.
Q: What were the elements you started with?
Victor: As we were going to portray actual fake news crazies and their financial backers, I had to get reference. Reference is always the key. Good reference, good illustration. It usually takes time to find the right poses or expressions. But 97 per cent of the time, with enough patience, Google will deliver a reference shot (or shots) that does the trick and which you can base your portraits on. I have also realized that YouTube is another great source. If you can find video of the person you stand a very good chance of freezing and getting a screen shot of the right expression. After that, it's just a matter of trial and error (usually many) before arriving at a drawing that feels satisfactory and can be colored/rendered. I have lately given up my Luddite ways and will use Photoshop to tweak a finish that's been scanned, before sending to the client.
Q: What inspires you the most?
Victor: A satisfactory drawing. Something that catches nuance and spirit, even if it is satirical and maybe even absurd. Also, command of one's skills, regardless of the artistic mode of expression. Ferruccio Busoni, the great pianist, said "Technique is everything." That's pretty true, but marry vision with command of technique and you have awesome.
Q: What are you working on now?
Victor: Over the next few months I'll be dividing time between paintings and drawings based on my mini-embed with U.S. Marines in the Mojave and a private commission entailing a nice handful of editorial-style illustrations focusing on American presidential campaigns, when not doing work for Rolling Stone or The Nation or whatever client seeks me out.
Q: What is your favourite illustration that you've ever done for a magazine or news publication?
Victor: The one I haven't done yet.
I'm a very harsh critic of my work. There are pieces hanging on the walls of my house and studio but they represent a minuscule percentage of the work I've done for almost 45 years.
Q: What am I forgetting to ask?
Victor: My preferred wine while working — Cooper and Thief red blend aged in bourbon casks.