A job only an artist could love

The last decade has not been a kind one for illustrators who prefer hand drawing. With the obvious exception of New Yorker covers, illustrations in print and digital media have often been pushed out in favor of infographics, photographs, or various things you could just put under the category of Things That Are Not Illustrations.

The world of criminal justice still needs artists, though. We’ve still got to have people who can quickly render a mugshot of a suspect or sketch out a courtroom scene. This has always been fascinating to me: artists doing the work of the law. I don’t imagine the 21st century artistic temperament being a great fit for this field. I mean, who are the people who are drawn to doing this kind of art for a living? (I used to draw on gravestones for a living, so I can ask these questions.) I look forward to news coverage of courtroom events because it’s the one time when we get to see real live art, and it’s not always pretty. Have you ever looked at courtroom art? There is a good sampling here. Some is great and some is outright terrible. A lot of it is what I’d call “fittingly uncomfortable.”


Once, in my college newspaper, I used a real police sketch in a cartoon. The face of this breaker-and-enterer was photocopied and plastered all over campus, so it was instantly recognizable to everybody. I had him breaking and entering into my cartoon panel. I probably didn’t have any other good ideas that week. >

I’ve tried a few times to publish a cartoon that captures the awkwardness and/or absurdity of an artist in the courtroom. There’s this one from a few years ago, which is kinda stupid (and is too similar to this one which I already had published and which I like a whole lot better):

hold pose court artist

And more recently this, which misses the mark:

long trial court sketch artist bored

But in the cartoon for for this week’s issue I was more on target, although you can see that my original caption was different. The Zimmerman verdict had been handed down the week that I was drawing this, and the experience of people trying to make sense of the trial helped give me the language for the caption that seemed more appropriate.




So this is the one that finally made the cut. And in case you’re wondering, yes: the pineapple is currently in the witness protection program.


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Filed under Cartoons, Graphic storytelling, New yorker

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