The Dying Art of Courtroom Illustration

EL CHAPO HEARING 8_14_17 updated.jpg

On a recent gray August Monday at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse, illustrator Jane Rosenberg found herself craning her neck and scrabbling for her pastels. The infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was making his first public appearance in months, and it was Rosenberg’s job to capture the scene for Reuters. Seated next to her, with a brush pen and colored pencils, fellow courtroom artist Elizabeth Williams was also trying to capture his likeness, for the Wall Street Journal.

The artists had been waiting outside the door of the courtroom since 7:30 a.m., long before it opened, to get the best possible seats. When they finally made it inside, El Chapo was present for just 15 minutes. Williams finished one drawing; Rosenberg “very loosely” started two.

“He walked in the courtroom and looked over at his wife and children, and waved,” Rosenberg says. “Then he sat down in the chair by his lawyer, and stood up, started making arguments.” She sketched furiously to complete the drawings later, without any visual reference. “I couldn’t remember if he had on the same color bottoms as his top,” she says. Someone else in the courtroom later confirmed that he had.

The rest of this piece, originally published by Atlas Obscura, can be read here

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