The Road To Becoming A Sketch Artist Drawing started out as a simple form of displaying emotions, communicating, and just as a recreational activity. Over the past century, drawing has turned into something that is used every day and has been edging breakthroughs in design, lifestyle, and philosophy. When someone thinks of drawing, they tend to think of cartoons such as Charlie Brown or the famous Looney Tunes. What the majority of people don’t realize is that some drawings are actually very helpful in modern day jobs. Criminal cases have actually been solved due to this factor. When a crime is committed and witnesses are present, law enforcement relies on a sketch artist to reconstruct the criminal’s face and features. These sketches have saved law enforcement a lot of time looking for the criminal.The necessity of sketch artists in law enforcement The necessity and demand for sketch artists are due to the fact that plenty of US states still forbid the presence and use of cameras inside courtrooms. The states that do allow certain kinds of devices have done so to accommodate the influx of new technology. As a result, most modern news outlets and media rely on courtroom sketches done by sketch artists such as Christine Cornell to snap a feeling of what happens during trials in stricter courtrooms. Christine has been attending court trials for over 3 decades and has completed a copious amount of sketches ranging from Tom Brady to Whitey Bulger. Even though a camera could obviously do the same exact job, Cornell thinks an artist adds a simple yet important factor, human touch, to a process that is often grim. Cornell has sketched terrorists, murderers, and even worse criminals, regardless she emphasizes the importance of humanity when sketching in the courtroom. P2 qualifications needed to become a sketch artist Police sketch artists need to complete postsecondary coursework in fine arts or a closely related major. Professional training programs are also available. Employers may look for candidates with professional art experience and some sketch-artists are also law enforcement officers. These professionals need creativity and strong artistic ability. They should also have familiarity with facial reconstruction software. According to 2016 data from Payscale.com, fine artists earn a median salary of $41,822.Steps to Be a Police Sketch ArtistStep 1: Complete TrainingPolice sketch artists need to have a background in art and anatomy in order to depict their subjects accurately. Training can be completed in many ways, such as through a university or through an International Association for Identification approved program, in which students need to complete between 40-120 hours. In addition to the artistic aspects of sketching, students will need to learn about areas involving odontology, or the investigation of teeth by looking at abnormalities, development and structure, and osteology, which is the function and structure of bones.Prospective sketch artists can benefit from postsecondary education in art and anatomy. Some law enforcement agencies use digital imaging software to create composites and age-progressed images of suspects, so students may benefit from courses in computer science and graphic design as well.Step 2: Take Forensic Art CoursesAspiring police sketch artists can participate in government-sponsored programs or courses offered by established forensic artists. Programs typically cover composite drawings, age-progressed imagery, post-mortem imagery and forensic facial imaging. Training may also include interview techniques, use of visual aids, facial anatomy, courtroom testimony, special equipment and biological variations of race, age and gender.Step 3: Continue Training and Pursue Certification for Career AdvancementPolice sketch artists can either be regular police officers who double as sketch artists or freelance artists working with police departments. If you are a freelance artist, make contact with as many police departments as possible to increase your client base. With additional forensic training, police officers can advance to crime scene and forensic technician positions.The International Association for Identification offers certification for forensic artists. Applicants must meet minimum education and experience requirements, submit a portfolio and complete a written exam.Aspiring police sketch artists need to have completed college coursework in fine arts or a closely related field and professional training programs are also available.P3 Materials used by sketch artists and their workflow Before forensic artists can begin composing police sketches, they obviously need an idea of what their subjects look like. For that reason, the eyewitness interview is the most important step in the police sketch process source: Taister. Officers or artists doing the questioning need to understand what to ask and how to approach interviewees to cull the most accurate information, since the human memory for faces can be easily fooled. Often, people have a difficult time recalling specific facial features, and the more time that lapses between a crime and the police sketch interview, the fuzzier those memories become source: Raeburn.Depending on the crime and the person being interviewed, police sketch sit-downs can last hours. To get an idea of how these question-and-answer sessions are conducted, consider a 2007 study examining people’s ability to describe faces for creating forensics facial composites. It broke down the cognitive interview into three phases: rapport building, free recall and cued recall source: Frowd et al..Rapport building simply involves casual conversation — “Hi, how are you?” — in an effort to relax the interviewee. Next, the interviewee is asked to recall as many specific details about the criminal as possible. Often, participants begin by discussing hair and general face shape source: Frowd et al.. During the last step, cued recall, the forensic artist will ask the interviewee about any defining features they don’t immediately remember. At that point, it might be helpful to jog the interviewee’s memory with mug shots of previously incarcerated criminals. That way, seeing a similar nose or eyes or jaw line might spark a flashback. Forensic artists may also keep a catalog of celebrity portraits around since the famous faces can spark visual cues as well source: Raeburn.While forensic artists keenly focus on minute facial features, former New York Police Department artist Stephen Manusci notes that victims are more apt to provide broader descriptions, such as a “horse face” or “bug eyes” source: Lichtman. The role of an adept artist is to break down, or “decode,” those vague generalizations into a collection of discrete facial characteristics. That doesn’t mean the forensic artist should ever drill someone for more characteristics; pressuring the interviewee might stifle, rather than stimulate his memory source: Muench. As the sketch takes shape, interviewees will also begin to either show recognition or point out discrepancies.P4 Type of background needed to succeed as a sketch artist The term sketch artist refers, in the broad sense, to an artist who creates likenesses of subjects using tools such as pencil, charcoal and pastels. The term is sometimes employed to refer to artists who work for the criminal justice system. These types of sketch artists, also called forensic artists, produce drawings of suspected criminals and work in courtrooms drawing scenes during trial proceedings. There are only a handful of full-time forensic artists in the country; most forensic artists are freelancers. The competition for many types of freelance art positions is very intense.There is no formal training required for sketch artists or forensic artists. Most professionals in this field have top-notch natural drawing abilities honed through practical experience. However, college classes in art, and specifically drawing, are helpful. Forensic artists might also benefit from classes in facial reconstruction or expression. A portfolio is often essential for securing work. Additionally, sketch artists should have artistic ability, creativity, manual dexterity, and customer service skills. Artists, including painters, sculptors and illustrators, such as sketch artists, earned a median annual salary of $46,450 in 2015 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.Obtain an Art DegreeAlthough fine artists, including all kinds of sketch artists, don’t necessarily need a degree to find work, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics did state that artists with significant training were more likely to get hired. Art degree programs at nearly all levels include coursework in drawing, three-dimensional design, sculpting and computer graphic design. Bachelor’s degree programs provide significantly more coursework than associate degree programs.Fine art degree programs provide the opportunity for students to begin building their portfolios, which they can add to as they create new work. A portfolio showcases the artist’s best work and is essential for any artist looking for employment.Continuing EducationSince many sketch artists work for police and forensic units, they often have to draw suspects based on descriptions given by witnesses. Taking courses in facial reconstruction can help artists learn to create more accurate portrayals. There are also classes offering training on age progression, which can be useful to sketch artists working on cases involving kidnapped children. Classes in facial expression are helpful for re-creating courtroom scenes. These types of classes may be hard to find at colleges and universities. They are generally offered by individuals or small companies that cater to forensic artists.Improve Interpersonal SkillsSketch artists working for the police need to be able to talk with traumatized witnesses in order to help them recall what a suspect looked like. Artists need to be able to set people at ease and know which questions to ask when interviewing them. Reading books is one way to study and improve these skills. The International Association for Identification’s (IAI) Forensic Art Certification Board, which administers voluntary certification for forensic sketch artists, provides a reading list on its website that includes recommendations for books on interviewing witnesses and crime victims.To recap, individuals who want to work as sketch artists in the criminal justice field should hone their artistic skills early, either through practice or formal education, and should work on building their interpersonal skills as well.