Since finding himself in COVID-19 lockdown, Rolling Stone illustrator Victor Juhasz has been drawing the people who keep the gears of modern life turning. “We’re realizing that the people that we oftentimes disregard have actually become the essential workers,” Juhasz says. “The CEOs are not necessarily the important people. They’re not the boots on the ground.”
In 2011, Juhasz started contributing illustrations to the Joe Bonham Project, organized by Marine and former combat artist Michael D. Fay to document seriously wounded soldiers in military hospitals. The same group is now creating a series called Emergent Warriors of the Pandemic. “We’ve expanded the parameters of what the front line is,” Juhasz says. Known for his energetic, sketchlike political cartoons — from a 2012 portrayal of Bank of America as a money-hungry swine in a suit to the Trump tornado on the cover in April 2017 — Juhasz is one of over two-dozen artists contributing.
In a small town near Albany, New York, where Juhasz has his home studio, he first drew employees at his local post office, some of whom he’s known for years, creating quick sketches in-person before photographing his subjects to add more detail at home. He also captured several scenes of a group of linemen he came across in late April who were installing high-speed internet cable along telephone poles. “I brought my sketchbook and my pencils, but I also brought my camera,” says Juhasz, who compared the workers to military infantry people he’s seen when on assignment to bases in the Middle East. “Honestly, these guys move faster than Marines on patrol. Marines sometimes take a knee. They didn’t even take a lunch break.”
If the pandemic was on their minds at the end of April, the installation workers didn’t show it. “I really didn’t discuss COVID with them,” Juhasz says. “At certain points, I’d ask them about the work they were doing and if they liked the job. They all dug what they were doing.”
Some of his illustrations capture the personalities of his subjects; others show the gesture of the physical task being performed to keep society functioning. “I was just trying to show what we would call ‘regular people,’” Juhasz says. “There’s nothing dramatic about what they do, but it’s very important work.”