Courtroom Sketching

Recently a local TV station hired me as a courtroom sketch artist for a school shooting trial (full story here). Today was the last day of the trial. Family members testified about how the murders had affected them, and then the judge gave his sentence. It was gut wrenching to watch.

Courtroom sketching is a fascinating experience. I never know how long someone will be on the stand so I have to draw extremely fast. The challenge is to think of interesting ways to draw people who are basically just sitting around talking to each other in a very formal and emotionless manner (it’s not as dramatic as those courtrooom TV shows). Usually the news truck outside needs a couple of drawings by 10:30am (for the noon newscast), and the rest by about 3:30pm in time for the 5:00 news. It’s a lot of pressure but also a fascinating experience.

I’m always frustrated with how my courtroom drawings turn out because they are completed in such a rush. But considering the time crunch I think these sketches turned out ok. Except for the drawings of the shooter. I was seated almost directly behind him, so it was difficult to get a view of his face. I was there for a total of three days over the course of the trial. Here are some of the better sketches.

The teacher who apprehended the shooter demonstrates how the gun was held:

The vitims’ families:

A grieving mother reads a statement:

A grieving father reads a statement:

A grieving mother reads a statement. She holds a rock from a mountain top, which had symbolic meaning for her:

The shooter’s mother pleads for leniency:

The judge gives his sentence:

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Opposite Forces in stores!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had the honor of inking two issues for the re-release of Opposite Forces, a series created by former Disney lead animator and VeggieTales director Tom Bancroft (Aladdin, Lion King, Mulan, Larryboy). His work is fantastic and he’s about the nicest guy around.

Opposite Forces is a funny and original super-hero tale for all ages. Originally released in black-and-white sketch format (like Mike Kunkel’s acclaimed Herobear and the Kid), Opposite Forces has now been inked, colored (by Josh Ray), and reprinted with brand new covers. Issue #1 just hit the comic book shops, and issue #2 is set for release September 7. I had the privilege of inking the interiors for two issues and the covers for three issues (including the one pictured above).

Opposite Forces is being released through Alias publishing, so it should be in most comic book stores. Check it out!

The Hudsucker Proxy: A Visual Masterpiece

Last night my fiance and I rented The Hudsucker Proxy. It was a pretty good flick, quirky, fun, and clean (except for one sensual scene. Call me a prude, but why can’t Hollywood make an enjoyable film where everyone stays fully clothed?) Anyway, from a purely visual standpoint this was one of the most fascinating movies I’ve seen in a while. The art direction, set design, costumes and lighting were all exceptional!

These days “visually stunning” usually means lots of expensive special effects. Maybe that’s why I found Hudsucker so intriguing. Low on special effects, it hearkens back to the black-and-white films of the 40’s. Those were the days before computers, before green screens, even before color. Back then the only way a filmmaker could make things visually interesting was by mastering the principles of light, value, contrast, and composition. Their weapons were few, but they wielded them masterfully.

The Hudsucker Proxy calls back to that era with it’s masterful art direction and production design. The entire thing could be watched in black and white and it would still be just as stunning. I only hope I can find time to do some composition and value studies from the film. I know I would learn a great deal.

A few stills from The Hudsucker Proxy:





Earth to Orsen…Come in Orsen…


Today’s warm-up sketch is Mork from Ork. I was in a painterly mood so I decided to experiment with Photoshop’s brushes. I haven’t done anything truly painterly since college. I used to love working in oils but the process was messy and smelly. Also, oils take a long time to completely dry (about two weeks), so it just wasn’t practical for my freelance deadlines. But now I’m finally warming up to digital painting. I hope I can find time to finish this, with a little more work it could be a nice piece.

Sketchbook Update: Moleskins!


Today’s warm-up sketch: W.C. Fields.

I’m always on the lookout for the “perfect” art materials and supplies. Recently Trev Stair’s blog endorsed something called a moleskin notebook (pronounced mol-a-skeen’-a). They come in blank or ruled pages and are thread-bound so they can open perfectly flat. It’s a classy sketchbook complete with cloth bookmark and elastic closing strap. The paper is thin but durable and has an elegant feel to it. It’s the kind of product that makes you feel like a better artist just by holding one in your hand. Their kinda spendy, but I ordered one on the internet and so far I really like it. It makes me want to do drawings that are worthy of the fine paper.

The above image is the first sketch in my new moleskin sketchbook. If you’re looking for a new sketchbook, give moleskins a try.

More Disney Treasures!


I just read on the Cartoon Brew blog that Disney will be releasing another wave of their “Disney Treasures” series on DVD December 6. The one I’m excited for is “Disney Rareities: Celebrated Shorts 1920’s-1960’s”. It’s a collection of 31 shorts rarely seen by the public. I’ve been hoping that Disney will someday release the educational shorts I remember watching as a kid in school. But this looks to me like the next best thing. I’m counting the days…

Calendar Art


I’m currently working on art for a 2006 calendar aimed at busy families. Here’s a sneak preview from the “September” page (click on the image to view a larger version). The blank area in the composition is where the name of the month will go. I’ll post more info when the calendars are finished and become available.