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Janik Söllner x  The New York Times

I’ve been illustrating a small weekly column called Footnotes in The New York Times Sunday Review since summer 2022.

We’ve gotten in a quite comfortable rhythm for me for this job: Usually, the art director sends me the topic on Tuesday at the end of the day Eastern Standard Time (which is pretty late for me over here in Germany, being six hours behind).

Then, I have the whole Wednesday to do my sketches, and I send them back to the art director in the evening. I get my feedback on Thursday, and do the final illustration until Friday evening.

In early September, I’ve got the briefing for the upcoming column a bit later than usual, on Wednesday. The topic was on Liz Truss taking over as Britain’s prime minister, and how the U.K. has been struggling with an economic crisis and social divisions for years. The focus was meant to be more on Britain than on Truss. So I did my usual sketches, and send them over around 1 pm EST on Thursday, which was 7 pm for me in Germany.

This was on September 8th – and the next message from the art director said that Queen Elisabeth had just died. I presume he was in quite a hurry, having to re-organize multiple sections of the upcoming issues of The New York Times; and so his e-mail was quite short and confusing to me. He told me that we would have to pivot the column to a different topic altogether. I wasn’t quite sure if he meant that the article was going to be on the death of the Queen, or something completely different – and since I didn’t hear back from him right away, I started working on two really (!) quick sketches on the death of the British monarch:

I sent the sketches over, and he got back to me pretty quickly: The upcoming column was going to be on something very different, the forgiving of student loan debt and the value of a college education. So, I did another two very quick sketches (re-using a drawing I’ve had made a few months earlier), and got my feedback on them only three minutes later from the art director on which we would go to final with (which I was really glad about, since it was already about midnight over here, and I was exhausted from doing two rounds of sketches in the two hours prior).

The next day, I finished the illustration as usual, and it was in print the day after.

I haven’t had another evening working that late for this job since; and while it was a very stressful evening for me, it was very interesting to get a sense of what happens at a newspaper when something big happens, and to learn that I am capable to produce good visual ideas on the spot. And I got one of my all-time favorite sketches of mine out of the evening: I really love the idea of the crying corgi!!!So if someone’s ever planning to do an article on the death of Queen Elisabeth, get in touch! I really want to see this mourning dog in print (-;