15 Secrets of Forensic Artists

Among other tasks, forensic artists take a verbal description from a witness and render a sketch that may help identify a criminal. It's a particularly specific job. Mental Floss talked to three forensic artists (one we've featured here before) to get some insights into what they do. Here's a sample:

2. THEY NEED TO SUPPRESS THEIR CREATIVITY.

It's easy to imagine that forensic artists might remain hunched over a sketch for hours, trying to insert every last dimple and laugh line they could tease out of a witness. Wrong. According to Cooper, trying to create an exact likeness might make a sketch less likely to resonate with the public. “With a highly realistic portrait, someone might see it who knows the person, but if there’s one thing wrong, one detail, they’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s not my buddy,’” Cooper says. “When it’s more sketchy, more scribbled, you’re leaving more open to interpretation.”

7. BIRD NESTS CAN BE A BIG HELP.

For cases where artists are called to help reconstruct the likeness of a decomposed or otherwise de-featured body, Cooper says that a good reference source for bodies found in the woods can often be found in a very unlikely place. “When dealing with a decomposed body, we’d like to get the color of the hair, and a good place to find that is in a bird’s nest nearby,” she says. “Birds love hair.”

Read the other interesting tidbits from forensic artists at Mental Floss.

(Image credit: Ryan Hodnett)


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