Can courtroom sketches be beautiful?

Artist, Drawing, Illustrator

I’ve always felt that Courtroom sketch artists are under appreciated. Firstly, I’m going to go out on a limb, and say that I’ve always found their work beautiful. Odd, because arguably the job of an artist is to notice beauty and capture it, yet this is not the job of the courtroom artist. The courtroom artist captures humanity, arguably at its worst. It captures the expressions of delinquents, those accused of the abhorrent, and of their victims. The perpetrators, the accusers, the lawyers and the judges. Even the stagnant feel of injustice. But ultimately it captures drama.


I recently watched a short doc about a renowned courtroom sketch artist in the States, Gary Myrick, who’s documented trials ranging from famous politicians to serial killers and arms merchants. The courtroom artist’s primary job is to capture moments of such trials in order to sell them to the press, at such times where filming and photography isn’t allowed. Myrick’s work is stunning, this no doubt the cause of his popularity,expressing such breath taking detail in his drawings.


I was so impressed with Myrick’s style I decided to contact him via email to ask how he created such detailed, stylised work, and from life. Gary was kind enough to reply:

Regarding drawing from life, I recommend taking a mental snapshot first, then just laying the image out roughly and refining it as I go along. You can draw from life anywhere and anytime. Whatever one learns from doing that can be applied to any locale, whether it be a courtroom, a park or wherever. Learning about gesture drawing is also very valuable.

Taking this in to consideration, Myrick’s style of drawing is definitely one I’d study further, as well as his approach to drawing from life. In honesty, I’ve never been interested in the courtroom itself, but more the style of drawing that’s usually applied to courtroom art, and its capturing of drama, which of course can be applied anywhere.


Here’s a link to the original article and short film, featured in the New York Times, a much more in depth look in to the life of Gary Myrick and the struggle that came with the decline of Courtroom art in America.

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