Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Getting Started as a Forensic Artist
I receive several emails a year through my website from artists wanting to become forensic artists and not knowing how to break into this exciting career. Hence, I thought a great addition to my blog would be a few ideas to help aspiring forensic artists get started.
First of all, a caveat: The world has changed significantly during the thirty years since I taught myself forensic art. Today, the field is very competitive and you need specific education. I'm not in touch with the latest info; I retired in 2002 after a 25 year career. However, I can point you in a few directions.
The best way into a career in forensic art is to become a police person first. I was a civilian forensic artist and spent way too many years learning the skills necessary to be considered an expert in my field. Knowing how to draw is not the only part of the career. You also need very strong skills in cognitive interviewing techniques. Do not take any courses online unless you research them thoroughly. Through the years, I've discovered more than a few crackpots.
An absolute must is a very strong knowledge in human facial anatomy. My suggestion is to study and draw everything possible on the forms of human facial anatomy from various angles. Plan to spend at least two years doing thousands of drawings. Ask friends to serve as witnesses and describe someone based on a photo, so you can then see how close you have come.
From there, you need to know computers inside out, specifically imaging programs.
A very well known and successful forensic artist is Jeanne Boylan (worked mostly with the FBI), a remarkably intelligent, intuitive, and personable lady. We've talked through e-mail a couple of times and we were both on the same international rosters of forensic artists a few years back.
Here’s her website:
She has written a fabulous book, which I highly recommend:
Portraits of Guilt by Jeanne Boylan
Karen Taylor and I were also on international forensic art rosters together may years ago - and she is the ultimate expert in the field. Her book is an absolute must:
Forensic Art and Illustration by Karen T. Taylor http://books.google.com/books?id=5QQwAsJkBiEC
Many universities offer wonderful courses in forensic criminology. The very best school (in my humble opinion) is Scottsdale Artists’ School in Scottsdale, Arizona. If you have the financial means, you'll find some amazing courses.
Comprehensive Composite Drawing, May 4 - 8, 2009 Taught by Karen T. Taylor http://www.theiai.org/education/vendor.php#ccd_20090504
A few other websites to get you started are as follows: