By Ella Rue
Illustrations by Victor Juhasz
Article first appeared in UCDA’s Designer magazine (Vol. 38, Issue 1, Spring 2013)
Taken from Victor Juhasz’ original posting from earlier this year on Drawger.com:
“My first thought when Anelle Miller first informed me that I had won a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators for the combat art done during my embed in Afghanistan (in 2011 that appeared, with an app, in GQ online along in July of 2012), was “Shit. Now I’m really going to have to do something to justify this recognition.” I would have been very satisfied just to have the work included in the show. The gold took me by surprise.
Standing toward the front of the impressive crowd in the gallery, so that I wouldn’t have to work my way through the sea of bodies when my name got called, I stood with family while Society president, Dennis Dittrich and director, Anelle Miller, made the opening comments. Half listening while going over my speech, making last minute mental edits, I kept my eyes on the front stage. Anelle then made an announcement that the awards event would begin with the Hamilton King presentation. She described the history of the award, who Hamilton King was, the fact that it was a one-time-only presentation to an illustrator. The list was flashed on the screen of all the past recipients: an unmistakable assembly of heavy hitters. I returned to the mental editing of my comments. Didn’t want to make them too long but didn’t want to forget anyone or anything that needed mention. Besides the extra time on the Hamilton King presentation would allow me to keep adjusting the sentences.
It really does happen. The same way everything goes into slow motion in a head-on collision. I was probably half listening, at the very least, for 30 seconds to Anelle’s introduction before my attention returned to some focus on the situation around me. Looking at the screen it occurred to me that the name on the screen was mine. The flashing images were mine. Anelle was talking about me. It seemed that, in a break with protocol, a decision was made not to inform me of the honor. [My wife] Terri, my sons, Anelle, the Society staff, the voting members, had demonstrated incredible restraint in not letting me in on the decision.
Recovering Catholic that I am, the ingrained indoctrination (it never really goes away) resurfaced and I felt a sense of embarrassment at being included in such esteemed company. As I said before, it’s an honor just to make it into the SI Annual. The gold medal was beyond what I had expected but I had made peace with receiving it. But the Hamilton King? Something was wrong. There was a mistake—this was such an overreach on the part of the Hamilton King voting members. This was not really happening. But it was.
In the movies when someone gets surprised like this, they somehow recover and go on to deliver a remarkable, coherent, and moving speech with music slowly soaring in the background. That didn’t happen here. I grasped in the mental void for words to describe my gratitude, and, yes, embarrassment, for the honor. I don’t remember a thing I said. I don’t recall much of what I said when retuning for the gold medal acceptance either, other than remembering to give credit to Peter, Fred, and Jeffrey. I’m sure much was left out. I’m still digesting this remarkable night and it will be a while before this recognition really sinks in.”
Clockwise from top left: Mountain rescue exercises, Kirtland Air Force Base, 2010; Combat Control School exercises, Pope Air Force Base, 2010; Parachute rescue exercises, Kirtland Air Force Base.
And what an incredible night that was. I had the privilege and the honor to be witness to Victor’s humbled surprise and shock as Anelle Miller, executive director of the Society of Illustrators, announced his name for the Hamilton King award. The Hamilton King Award, created in 1965 by Mrs. Hamilton King in memory of her husband through a bequest, is presented annually for the best illustration in the Annual Exhibition executed by a member of the Society. One of the industry’s most prestigious awards, the selection is made by former recipients of this award and may be won only once.
This wasn’t the first time I got to bear witness to Victor’s humbling remarks upon receipt of high praise and recognition by his peers. In June of 2012 at the President’s Dinner and Induction into the Hall of Fame at the Society of Illustrators, Victor was also awarded by the Society of Illustrators the Arthur William Brown Recognition Award for his generous time, talent, and service to the military. In Victor’s humbled manner he thanked all who have helped him, most specifically his wife, Terri, and fellow illustrators who have inspired him and paved the way for him.
President George Bush in Kuwait, post Gulf War. From The New Yorker.
Victor’s life work has brought him a wide variety of experiences. While caricature and humorous illustration comprise the main body of his work, his love of drawing has allowed him to cross over to other aspects of the profession. His work as a courtroom artist for ABC-TV included the arraignment of the notorious Son of Sam, and, for The Washington Post, the trial of John Hinckley for the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. He has had countless illustrations in Rolling Stone magazine (including a cover piece). He has illustrated numerous children’s books, and he has had illustrations in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Village Voice, and several trade magazines. But more recently where he has found his true and fulfilling passion has been through combat art. Victor was part of a TROOPS FIRST FOUNDATION (TFF) tour, Operation LINKS, of bases in Kuwait and Iraq during Thanksgiving week 2008, accompanying David Feherty and other golf pros, drawing soldiers and Marines, and sending the originals to family members before Christmas. He had the opportunities again to travel with TFF during Thanksgiving week 2010, to Marine bases in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and in 2011 with TFF to Kuwait. Victor has given countless hours to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington DC as well as the Joe Bonham Project, in which artists trace and document the long path of rehabilitation and recovery by drawing wounded service members.
Clockwise from top left: Ronald Reagan: A Few Alterations (detail), from the New York Times, 1980; FOX Jeers, from Newsweek magazine; Spirit of ’76, from the New York Observer; Cheney Attack, from The Nation; Blago’s Revenge, from Rolling Stone. Obama’s Pipeline Limbo, from Rolling Stone.
Victor Juhasz has accomplished himself on every level within his profession, but in high school his aspirations were not much more than becoming a truck driver. Thankfully his high school art teacher saw in him the seeds of his growing talent and insisted he apply to art school, where Parsons School of Design swiftly snapped him up. He quickly distinguished himself among his classmates to his professors. As soon as Victor’s instructor, Murray Tinkelman, sent Victor to the New York Times to share his portfolio with the art director J. C. Suarez, J. C. was so impressed with his book he sent him over to the art department to speak with others. Victor showed his work, and another of the art directors, George Delmarico, handed him a piece of paper. Delmarico said, “This is for the Op Ed piece tomorrow… can you do something with it?” Victor did the job right there and it ran the next day. An exciting development for Victor’s career at the time, but Victor’s brow furrowed as he thought to himself: “OK now what… The New York Times has published me and I’m still a student… Where do I go from here?” Thankfully he hadn’t prematurely peaked professionally.
Left: Profiles in Cowardice, from Rolling Stone. Right: Norman Rockwell Spoof, from National Labor Federation.
Victor continues to push onward and feels it to be his distinct honor and privilege to document combat scenarios as well as put pen to paper and draw wounded soldiers. One of Victor’s sons is a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, and partially because of this Victor feels a natural connection to the servicemen and women that he draws. His service to the military has not gone without notice. Earlier this year, Victor also was invited to present at a TEDX conference. Victor stands as an accomplished illustrator who continues to give of the many gifts and talents that have been bestowed upon him.