Courtroom Art by Gary Myrick

Authentic Sketches From Actual Trials

A courtroom artist since 1976, I have always been passionate and competitive about my work, and have strived to foster as much professionalism in the field as possible. Since my particular calling is, admittedly, rather unusual, I thought I might share a few of the principles that have emerged from my own experience.
   
For those who create or use the work of courtroom artists, here are:
 
EIGHT SIMPLE RULES... FOR COURTROOM ARTISTS
by Gary Myrick
 
1. The artist must be able to convincingly and accurately capture the people, events and surroundings of the story as it unfolds. But this is only a beginning, the artist must be able to provide an accurate likeness of each relevant participant. The audience should never have to guess who they are looking at.
 
2. Just doing  "portraits" is not enough. A basic journalistic question is always, "Where?". While many artists can do passable portraits, the setting in which the event is occurring should also be established, or at the very least, alluded to. An ordinary "headshot", devoid of context, with only a colorful haze of arbitrary hue surrounding the subject, is a portrait - not a courtoom drawing. Otherwise, an identical result could be accomplished by giving the artist a file photo, which they could work from without even leaving their house. Ordinary "portaits" may make things easier for the artist, but they do not transport viewers into the location or context of a story. Nor do they impart any relevant action, gesture or "body language" of the participant. An ability to capture physical movement with anatomical accuracy is also important. (Many artists can draw faces, but not bodies, nor architecture, nor diverse races, etc.).
  
3. The artist must have news judgement. He or she must familiarize themselves with the story, and have enough journalistic sensitivity, experience and ability to discern the potential relevance of a person or events as they transpire, just as any qualified photojournalist or reporter does, and avoid wasting valuable time while missing the drama of the real story. The artist must also bear in in mind that the final arbiters of the news product are the reporters they serve and the news organizations that hired them.
 
4. The artist must strive for fairness and objectivity. A courtroom news artist must avoid personal prejudices, deliberately distorting the appearance of a subject, stereotyping, or inserting their own agenda. They must be capable of rendering subjects of all races, classes, ages, genders, politics or nationalities with equal aplomb.
 
5. The artist must have a sense of responsibility to viewers and history. After all, when cameras are not present, they are providing the only visual record of the proceedings.
 
6. The artist must be able to work quickly, meeting tight deadlines, and be prepared to capture something that can transpire suddenly or rapidly.
 
7. The artist should have a sense of decorum, particularly within the courtroom. They must also remain sensitive to the fact that they are representatives of any news organization that hires them and conduct themselves accordingly.
 
8. The artist's work should be functional and credible always being good enough, substantive enough, and accurate enough to fully meet the needs of any on-air stories, discussion programs, documentaries, or in print.