Courtroom sketch art is an artistic representation of courtroom environments and trial proceedings. Courtroom sketches were the only way that many people could get a glimpse of what happened during a court trial. The artist gets the best seat possible, with a clear view of all the action. In fact, some courtrooms even have designated places for courtroom sketch artists.
Some jurisdictions allow courtroom sketch artists to sketch while the trial is taking place. These artists must be able to draw very quickly and be able to decide which scenes are worth describing and which views are not. For instance, a courtroom artist will not usually sketch a moment when there is a lull in courtroom activity. Instead, he will usually depict more memorable scenes, such as particularly emotional witnesses or the jury foreman reading the verdict.
The tools that a sketch artist uses are simple; usually, all that is necessary is a sketch pad and drawing implements of some kind. Depending on an artist’s preference, these can include graphite pencils, colored pencils, pastels, and chalk.
Periodicals typically print courtroom sketches in articles featuring coverage of the trials. A courtroom sketch artist might also be able to sell their drawings to private buyers. Key players in the litigation – including lawyers, judges, and jury members – may wish to purchase a piece of original art as a memento of a memorable trial. Selling courtroom sketches of high profile trials can also be quite lucrative as well.
Students with artistic ability may be assigned to create exhibits for the court and sketch participants during the trial for use in a school newspaper.
Some jurisdictions, for example, still do not allow cameras of any kind in their courtrooms. In many jurisdictions, judges may decide to ban cameras in the courtroom for nearly any reason. Cameras are sometimes forbidden from court trials of a particular nature, for instance, such as high profile cases or cases involving minors.
The Craig Harding Memorial Court Artist Contest is conducted at the Regional Competitions the last weekend of January. Professors from the Savannah College of Art and Design and Region evaluate the artists’ submissions. The Georgia Bar maintains a Court Artist Contest page for more details, including a list of the past year’s winners.
The Georgia Bar holds the State Mock Trial Finals at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in Lawrenceville on a Saturday in March. An awards ceremony recognizes the Craig Harding Memorial Court Artist Contest Region and State Champions.
The Court Artist competition allows artistically talented students who are not members of their school’s Mock Trial team to become involved in this law-related education experience. The Special Projects Task Force of the GHSMTC organizes this contest. Faculty of the Savannah College of Art and Design judge the entries and select a state champion court artist. The GHSMTC will post a registration form for this contest their website under the Programs section. The deadline for submission of no more than two court artist registrations per school usually the Friday two weeks before the last Saturday of January.