I was away from home these past two weeks playing with the New York City Ballet up in Saratoga, NY. With 3 rehearsals and seven shows per week, there was not a whole lot of time for sketching or cartooning. Being in a hotel and having maid service and the chance to watch late night TV in bed was a nice perk, though. In addition to lots of Food Network shows, my husband and I watched quite a few episodes of Forensic Files. The latter got me thinking about what it takes to be a forensic artist, and if it is something I would ever be interested in doing (or could do.) After digging a little online, I was surprised to learn that there are only about 30 full-time forensic artists working in the US. The field is obviously tiny and highly specialized. According to this article, becoming a forensic artist is usually somewhat of a round-about process which almost always involves working for law enforcement in a different capacity. I was also intrigued to read about Lois Gibson, one of the most famous and successful forensic artists in the business today. The importance of having people skills – forensic artists need to be highly empathetic listeners – combined with having artistic know-how would certainly be an interesting challenge.
For fun (and since I only did ONE cartoon sketch last week, tsk tsk), I asked my husband if he would participate in an experiment with me. I asked him to think of someone, take a quick look at a picture of them, and then describe their face to me from memory. I did all of the questioning and tried not to ask leading questions (i.e. instead of “Were their eyes brown?”, I asked “Do you recall the color of their eyes?”)
My first sketch (done in pen since that’s what I usually use for my quick sketches) resulted in this image:
My husband then told me that the nose was too high, the jaw-line should be thinner, the hairline lower and the hair “more wild.” The second “blind” sketch resulted in this:
After he told me that he had been thinking of Leonard Berstein, we checked my sketch against photos of Berstein. I think there is a bit of a likeness. For sure, the exercise was thought-provoking and fun all around!