Saturday, May 21, 2022

How a Court Artist works

Court artists - not one but THREE - have been all over the news media in the last two weeks as the Vardy vs Rooney Farce has played out at the High Court. But 

  • do you know how a Court Artist works?
  • did you know there are only four court artists in the UK?

The Court Artists

Here's some facts about court artists working in the UK
  • There are only four Court Artists in the UK - and they are all women!
  • They exist because cameras are not allowed in UK Courts. 
  • Typically they are only employed to draw key players in the high profile / celebrity / sensational cases
  • Court Artists are typically hired by the news media and commissioned to produce visuals for major news stories involving court cases
  • To gain access to the the courtroom for high-profile trials, the courtroom artists must be sponsored by an accredited news agency.
  • Their major skill needs to be in memorising what the scene looks like as NOBODY is allowed to make a drawing in court. However court artists can make written notes about manner and clothing. 
  • Once they get outside court they have to work quickly to download the memory AND meet the deadline to produce the visual for the client. 
  • Typically most use charcoal pencils and pastels for speed and saturation of colour.
  • Each has a distinctive style - and some are better at accuracy and catching features than others.
  • Court artists can also merchandise their sketches via the picture agencies such as Alamy.
Their names are as follows and you can find links to their websites embedded in their names below (if they have one)
All the Court Artists seem to have been around for some time - and at least one seems to have retired herself. What I'm very surprised about is that:
  • they don't make more use of photographs of the key players when drawing them outside the court - given some of the drawings are HIGHLY exaggerated and stylised and sometimes bear little resemblance to the individual in question.
  • they don't have more competition from younger artists wielding marker pens which are so very often the medium of choice for those drawing fast for illustration today.
I'm impressed by the ensemble drawings of Priscilla Coleman - which you can see on her website. I assume most of these are drawn after the court risen for the day given the number of individuals she manages to cram in. It rather looks like she has a nice business in commission based artworks from some of those involved!

There's a really good way of checking whether you'd be any good as a court artist. Spend some time watching court cases on public enquiries on television and then move to another room and recreate a drawing of what you saw!

Back in January 2020 - before the Pandemic hit - The Crown Court (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2020 was published as draft legislation. The intention was that sentencing remarks in profile cases could be televised. However that's not the same as covering a civil court case such as Vardy vs Rooney - and I'm sure there will be a continued demand for courtroom sketches - done outside the court!

Articles about court artists



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