NEW YORK CITY (CBS) – I met courtroom artist Jane Rosenberg last year, when CBS asked her to come from New York to Boston to sketch Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s appearance in federal court.
It was one of the biggest and most important stories I would ever cover. For Jane, though, he was one in a long line of infamous (and terrible) criminals she had drawn in her 35-year career.
She ended up covering the entire Tsarnaev trial with us, sketching day after day – a big deal in a court where no cameras are allowed.
So I was happy to see her outside court in Manhattan on Wednesday morning; she had been assigned to sketch the first DeflateGate hearing. For her, it was supposed to be a pretty good assignment.
“Boy, did this turn out to be not just another day,” she told me as we sat on a park bench across the street from the courthouse, just as all the TV news crews were packing up.
“And I’m blaming you,” she exclaimed, only half-joking.
I knew where she was going with this.
“You tweeted out the sketch,” she told me. “I am not a social media person. So I don’t really understand it.”
“You’re clearly a tweeter,” she added. “That whole Tsarnaev trial, you were tweeting things out. You’ve tweeted out sketches before, but this has gone viral. It’s nuts. I don’t understand.”
She’s right. I’ve probably tweeted dozens of Jane’s sketches since last year. They’ve all aired on WBZ-TV. And on the CBS Evening News. (It’s also worth noting that her clients over the years have included all the big networks, news services, and newspapers.)
But nothing in her career prepared her for today.
Within seconds of Jane’s Deflategate sketches hitting the internet, people went crazy.
Twitter, as we like to say, nearly broke. Her renderings of Tom Brady ended up drawing the harshest criticisms.
“I didn’t make Tom Brady look as handsome as he is,” Jane admits. “I apologize to Tom Brady. And all the NFL fans.”
The Patriots’ quarterback, it seems, has a problem I’d like to have: According to Jane, he’s a little too hot to draw very well.
“He’s a very handsome guy,” she told me. “It’s very hard in a very short time to get somebody so good- looking to look as good as they look [in person].”
“There’s no characteristic that really stands out. He doesn’t have a big nose, he doesn’t have bushy eyebrows or a beard,” Jane explained. “He’s just all perfect — perfect angles, nice blue eyes.”
OK, Jane. Got it.
So what went wrong?
Apart from #12’s physical perfection, Jane says it’s always tough to draw in a hurry, even though that’s the nature of her business. Sometimes you get enough time to capture more details; other times, like today, you don’t. Plus, today, Brady mostly kept his head down and didn’t show much emotion.
She couldn’t draw his smile – because he didn’t have one, she says.
“He’s not modeling for me, not posing,” she points out. She had a view of him from the jury box, kind of at an angle.
“I’m looking between computer monitors. It’s not so easy to do this job. I do the best I can under these circumstances. I just find it hard to believe how people love to criticize.”
And criticize they did.
Rosenberg’s phone rang about 6 times as we spoke, and kept buzzing and chiming with incoming texts and emails. Many were from reporters looking for a quote. Others, from strangers looking to tell her how much they dislike her.
“Some of it’s funny, and I laugh and chuckle but some of it is downright mean,” she says.
“There’s people bullying me. Some people are finding my e-mail address and sending me mean e-mails like, ‘You shouldn’t drink if you’re gonna to do this job.’ Like, just trying to be mean.”
And she gets it. Artists get criticized.
But, she notes, part of today just caught her off guard. And once the internet gets going, she’s learning, you just have to hang on.
Someone calls her as she and I are speaking to ask how she’s holding up.
She later tells me she hasn’t had time to think about all the terrible things people are writing about her.
“I think I may bury my head and never come out again,” she says, only half-joking again. “I don’t know. I haven’t had a chance to feel how I feel.”
She looks back toward the courthouse and pauses.
“I think I might feel bad,” she says. “Because I’m my own worst critic. When I think I don’t do great work I’m very hard on myself. And I feel bad without any of this social media.”
I offer a platitude about all publicity being good publicity. Jane kind of winces. For her, it kind of feels like a whole career is being judged today.
“I’m shocked by it,” she says. “I don’t understand it.”