Illustration Prof Is 'Hunger Games' Artist

Tim O'Brien creates 'mockingjay' image for best-selling book series and movie

March 20, 2012

Illustration Professor Tim O'Brien is already well-known for his portraits of the famous – from the Time magazine cover image of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to The Wall Street Journal's final portrait of Steve Jobs.

But with this week's opening of the highly anticipated movie adaptation of the best-selling book series, The Hunger Games, one of his illustrations – the image of the "mockingjay" brooch (left) that plays a key role in the plot as well as appearing on the books' covers and as the movie's ubiquitous logo – the Brooklyn-based artist's work enters the highest level of pop culture.

O'Brien's prior cover illustration work with Hunger Games publisher Scholastic Inc., which holds the copyright of the image, led him to collaborate with designer Phil Falco on the book covers for the popular series, set in a post-apocalyptic world where children are forced to compete in a deadly contest that combines Greek mythology with "American Idol" and Lord of the Flies. The illustration shows a fierce bird within a golden circle, clutching an arrow – triumphantly or defensively? – in its long beak.

The film's producers chose to adapt O'Brien's image for the movie's posters, keeping a consistent visual reference to the popular books. The mockingjay was animated in to create a powerful ending visual for the film's trailer

In a profile in The Philadelphia Inquirer, O'Brien said of the image, "I've done postage stamps, covers. I've never had an illustration that was so universally recognized."

UArts Illustration Chair Mark Tocchet told The Inquirer, "It's a ubiquitous illustration of 2012. It's become a moment in time."

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