Courtroom Sketching

Joshua Goldberg

I always wanted to try this job but I didn’t know how to get my foot in the door.

I got a text while driving back from Orlando to Jax, a friend had recommended me to another friend, a local news editor. Really, no matter how much I advertise, local jobs come from word of mouth. So don’t be a jerk.

What I found out was that Fed. Courts don’t allow photos and if the story is big, the news wants images. The only pics of this particular defendant were unconfirmed at the time of this hearing (they were not sure what he looked like because he had never been arrested before).

I had analysed courtroom sketches before, but I went back to the web just to have a quick look again. All were color, most were pastel and on a toned ground. That makes for quick and loose. I packed my tabletop easel with Rembrandt pastels, contés in red and black, my favorite pencils Blackwing, and plenty of sharpened white colored pencils for highlighting. The easel can sit on my lap comfortably and hold a pad at a nice upright angle and it has a drawer that pulls out on the side for all the colors and tools.. I’ve found that drawing a subject when the pad is flat on a table takes just a bit longer for me to “find” what I was drawing each time I look from the pad to the subject. Just a bit longer, but I knew that time was going to be important here. I had maybe 15 minutes tops because it was a pre-trial hearing. Honestly, a figure drawing class where they do 5 min, or 10 min poses will really help you. If you don’t have that, just go to the local strip club and do some fast gesture drawing. Don’t forget to tip, it works out about the same as paying for a class.

I got there early and I took a few moments to introduce myself to the baliff and the other reporters who were arriving and passed out some cards. I found out which door and what seats would be used by the defendant and his council and positioned myself accordingly. I took a few minutes before the action to draw the door frame and the backs of the seats that would be in play and suddenly the defendant entered, the judge entered, the baliff said “All rise”, I had to put aside all my stuff, stand, sit, grab all my stuff, put it back in my lap, draw like the wind while the prosecutor and the PD and the judge exchanged a few words and BLAM. Gavel came down, that was it. “All rise”. Get out. It was that fast.

So be ready.

Post Script – The follow up to this story is that the Local news station agreed in advance to pay me $350 for this sketch to be used on the local news that night at 5:00pm and I gave them licensing to use the image however many times they wanted. AP wire service picked up the story and I got a call from NYC at 5:30pm that they wanted to license it for syndication and distribute to the national news wire service that same night. Fortunately, I had NOT given exclusive rights to the local news service or they could have resold it. As a result, I sold the limited rights again to AP for $1500 and the image appeared again in the CBS Evening News at 6:30 for a total airtime of 3 seconds.

That’s $1,800000 Per hour.

Nice work if you can get it.

About Brett Waller

Illustration, Concept Design, Interactive Theme Design, Art Direction, Production Design, Sculpture/Installation.
This entry was posted in Concept Illustration, Courtroom, Story development and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Courtroom Sketching

  1. Pingback: Courtroom Sketching | works

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