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.

Electric December logo

Electric December- Film festival + How to embarrass your mother

Bristol, Cinema

Hello!  Billie here. Just thought I’d bring your attention to a certain film festival based in Bristol, which goes by the name of Electric December. A film festival which focuses on showcasing the talent of young film makers from all over the world…

The idea is that 24 films are short-listed, and turned in to a sort of advent calendar, featuring on the Electric December website and being shown on Millennium Square on a particular date leading up to Christmas. So yes, just like an advent calendar except you get a short film made by a young person instead of chocolate.

I found out about this not because of my initiative in taking an active interest in my local arts, I’m afraid to admit, but because my film teacher sent me an email saying how he’d entered my coursework from last year, and it had been short listed as one of the 24.

Brilliant! That is pretty brilliant I agree. But I was at first a little mortified by the fact that the film featured my mum playing a homeless man, and pretending to sing to rather terrible dubbing.

Well why cast your own mother as a homeless  man in the first place, you may ask?

The thing is the initial casting call was for an old man, and seeing as we were filming on a dodgy old cannon I’d got for my thirteenth birthday, we just didn’t have the resources we’d have liked, and quite frankly I don’t know that many old men.

James playing the part of Fergus, the poor soul being stalked by my mum.

James playing the part of Fergus, the poor soul being stalked by my mum.

So my mum agreed to be in it as long as we didn’t show it to anyone other than our film teacher. And I can’t fault her on enthusiasm, but bless her, she was meant to be playing a busker ( we were dubbing a man’s voice in afterwards), and quite often she’d forget to even pretend to play the guitar, let alone sing anything resembling the right lyrics.

So, after promising her no one but us was ever going to see it, telling her it was going to be on Millennium Square today (my day was the tenth), was rather hilarious. That and all her relatives have been sharing it on facebook.

My film is called ‘Fergus’, my mum’s the bloke in the hat with the guitar.

Street photography- living in Bristol

Bristol, Photography

I thought I’d have a go at street photography, so took my camera in to the centre and had a little wander.  Naturally, I went with a friend, and if anyone asked, we were tourists or worked for the government. Nobody asked but I was on edge the whole time.

Corn Street Bristol | Billie Appleton Street Photographt

Just to be clear, I’m not a photographer, and I know little or nothing about photography. In fact, I found the best pictures seemed to come from spurts of excitable enthusiasm, pointing the camera aimlessly, or at something shiny that had happened to catch my attention.

Well the best and the worst.

My main obstacle was trying to get an interesting composition, or catch a sneaky pic of a guy with a particularly weird hair, without looking like a complete and utter stalkerish weirdo. Which is how I felt. The looks some people give you.

But the most frustrating thing was how difficult it is to capture those moments you really want. In the couple of seconds it takes you to steady your camera and adjust your focus, it’s gone. No one’s going to believe you when you tell them. It’s especially frustrating when the most interesting people you want to capture, are also the people you least want to see you taking a picture of them. I felt like a spy.

Anyway. A few of them I kind of liked, and I’ll admit that it makes you notice things. And people, it makes you notice people, and what very odd and interesting things they are.

A fun game to play if you’re ever people watching, is to imagine what random strangers would be like as super villains.

Old man and van | Bille Appleton Street Photography

I digress. I’ll leave you with a few of my favourite and let you get on.

Does our education system kill creativity?


I wanted to share with you all a Ted talk I stumbled on while browsing Netflix.

(^ follow the link)


It’s by a guy named Ken Robinson, and he makes some pretty interesting points about the flaws in our education system, arguing that it kills creativity, only valuing one type of intelligence.

A quote that stuck with me was ‘all children are born artists’, and that it is our education system that eliminates it, by not allowing for mistakes, making mistakes an invaluable part of the creative process.


Subjects are valued in accordance to how useful they’ll be in terms of getting a job, leaving subjects such as music and art at the bottom of the pile. But should education purely be about preparing a child to fit in neatly to the job market?

I know my from my experience of school that I hated the way I was taught in lessons. I hated the way we would only learn things we needed to know for an exam or because it was on the curriculum. I’d sit there in science lessons and ask, ‘So how come some people have green eyes?’ or ‘What makes a yo-yo work?’ and be constantly told I didn’t need to know that, it wasn’t going to help me in my exam. But why should education be about what we ‘need’ to know? (although I’m still convinced I didn’t need to know about algebra) Why can’t education be more like a QI episode?


I have a friend who is one of the most astoundingly talented artists I have ever met, yet wants to be an accountant, because apparently you don’t make money as an artist; it’s not a serious profession. Personally I’d rather live in a shoe, but surrounded by paint and blank canvas, than live in a mansion and have to look at a spreadsheet everyday.


When I took my subjects for A level I didn’t even know if I was going to pass them, let alone care what looks good for university. I took them because I was interested in them, I wanted to learn about them for their own sake, I wasn’t so bothered about where they’d take me.

But hey, maybe that’s foolish…still I thought I’d leave you with a quote from Banksy

‘ You  don’t eat a hamburger to take a shit’


(The hamburger is a metaphor)

Some Short Docs

Cinema, Video

These are some short documentaries I found online and I thought you all might like to have a gander. I’ve been getting in to watching short indie docs ever since I helped make ‘Look Up‘ at the BFI academy. Some pretty interesting, if not a bit weird, stuff.

All are sourced from a website called ‘Short of the Week.’


The first is called ‘The Apology Line‘. The director posted flyers encouraging members of the public to leave an anonymous apology on the answering machine. These audio clips are played over static city shots and people living their day-to-day private lives.

Another is ‘Avatar Days’, a look at the contrast between reality and escapism role-playing games, merging the two together with 3D animation and interviews with avid world of warcraft players.


I’m not really sure what this film ‘Ryan‘ is about, except that it’s really weird but I like it.



The truth is out there? Crop circles hoax or intergalactic art?

Meditation, Nature, Photography, Reflection, Television

Crop circles have been appearing around the world since the 1970’s particularly in the UK. The big questions have always been. Why? How? Who?Image

And of course we get a wide range of answers to these questions, ranging from the supernatural, to a few guys with planks of wood, some string, and too much spare time.

Undeniably though, there is a fascination with a phenomenon surrounded with such ambiguity and mystery. However they came in to being, crop circles are essentially beautiful pieces of art, whether created by people, the wind or little green men.


The argument for the lack of human participation is that often the crops are cut in such a perfectly geometrical, and precise way that on such a scale it would be impossible to create, even with a plank of wood and some string.

But then of course, as much as the Sci-fi fan in me wants to believe this, firstly why would aliens, and so called higher forms of extra terrestrial intelligence, come all this way to vandalise some farmer’s fields in Wiltshire? And more to the point, why would they make a crop circle of Richard and Judy?


Art has been used in the past as a means of creating mystery, superstition and generally pulling everyone’s leg.

Take the example of ‘The Cottingley Fairies’, a hoax played by two teenage girls in 1917, where using cutouts of illustrations they’d done, and clever photography, they fooled the world in to thinking this was conclusive evidence for the existence of fairies.


I think the most plausible explanation is that the crop circles were made by humans from the future, who have developed the ability to time travel, explaining UFO sightings and humanoid portrayals of aliens. Did I say plausible? I meant I’ve been looking up to many conspiracy theories on the internet.

To wrap this up, here are some videos proving the existence of Bigfoot.

James Edler the illustrator


I’d just like to introduce to you all a local gem of an illustrator, my old pal James. Now before you accuse me of being bias, I’d like to point out that the boy has already had his art published in children’s book at the tender age of just eighteen, so I hope I’m right in saying he’s one to watch.


James uses a clever mix of hand drawn illustration, collage and graphical know-how to create these charming pieces of work. I’ve always been astounded by the extent of his imagination, and we’ve even made a film together in the past. With any luck we should be starting a new project together in the near future which should be a surreal combination of illustration, music and film. That’s essentially all we’ve got at the moment, but I’ll let you know how we get on.