Sketch artist gives Tom Brady the hero treatment for SI cover

This week’s Sports Illustrated cover features a sketch of Tom Brady.
This week’s Sports Illustrated cover features a sketch of Tom Brady. –Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

William J. Hennessy Jr. might just be able to redeem the reputations of sketch artists throughout New England.

A 50-year-old illustrator, Hennessy Jr. has drawn courtroom sketches featuring famous faces ranging from Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski to former Red Sox ace Roger Clemens. When Tom Brady appears on his 17th cover of Sports Illustrated this week, it will be in the form of a sketch by Hennessy. The image accompanies a story analyzing the Deflategate ruling as well as three investigative reports writing about other teams’ distrust of the Patriots.

The first time an artist had to draw a portrait of Brady in court in August, the results took on a life of their own, with artist Jane Rosenberg’s sketch getting ridiculed and going viral as many throught the drawing made Brady look like Lurch from “The Addams Family.’’


“I’m certainly familiar with that whole debacle there,’’ said Hennessy who graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. “It’s a tough enough situation and most artists are their own worst critics so I didn’t feel like there was any need to pile on with that. That was a tough situation. She admitted she had a tough day, that sort of said it all.’’

Unlike Rosenberg, Hennessy didn’t have to worry about the time constraints facing sketch artists in court when producing the Brady cover for SI.

“It used to be that we’d wait until the end of the day and go into the [television] stations an hour before news time which would be 5:00 or 6:00 o’clock,’’ he said of the increasingly quick turnaround. “Now it’s as soon as the case is over they want to know if you have anything to put in front of the cameras.’’

Even without the deadlines of a court case, drawing Brady for SI still presented its own challenges.

“On the other side of being in the courtroom, it’s nice to have all those models in front of you setting up your scene,’’ Hennessy said. “This one was based just on a rough sketch they provided. I followed up with a sketch of what I thought based on their sketch through refinements and recommendations and suggestions and we worked toward the final.


“I’ve done a few different things in the past similar to this where it’s based on what we refer to as an artist conception where we usually come up with an idea based on what someone saw or what someone imagined or some fictionalized account.’’

One thing Hennessy paid special attention to after the Rosenberg sketch fallout was what Brady’s face would look like on the SI cover.

“That’s obviously a concern after the considerable ruckus that came out over this particular sketch,’’ Hennessy said. “I was aware and I don’t need that kind of attention either.’’And like Rosenberg, Hennessy also has a signed version of one of his sketches featuring a famous athlete with Boston ties.

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“When Roger Clemens was acquitted, he did sign my sketch that said, ‘Not Guilty,’’’ Hennessy said. “I still have it.’’

Casting the “Deflategate’’ movie:

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