In any country that permits them, the best way to become a courtroom artist is simply by doing — by practicing, creating samples, and marketing yourself in order to land jobs and sell prints. There is not usually any formal training or course of study required to become a courtroom artist. All this is typically needed is a keen eye for detail, an ability to work quickly, and a steady stream of paying clients.
Finding clients is usually the hardest part of the courtroom artist’s job. Most courtroom artists are hired directly by news companies, and are specifically assigned to cover particular trials. Lawyers, judges, and other trial participants are also often interested in purchasing courtroom art that features them in action.
One of the best ways to break into the courtroom artist business is to try it out informally on your own. Attend a couple of trials in your area that are open to the public, and try your hand at sketching the proceedings. In high-profile trials, there is often an artists box where accredited courtroom artists can sit to get a good view of the action. It is usually acceptable for aspiring artists to sketch from general seating, as well.
An important realization, however, is that much of how a person may become a courtroom artist is dictated by local law and custom. In England, for instance, courtroom artists must be sponsored by an accredited news agency before entering the courtroom for high-profile trials. Further, English law prohibits the making of any sketches while actually in the courtroom. All of an English court artist’s work must be done from memory outside of chambers, where it can be monitored by court staff.
While formal art training is often an asset for courtroom artists, the only real requirement of the job is a quality end product. More often than not, all this takes is practice. The process of creating courtroom trial illustration is a universally a fast-paced one, and artists need to learn to work quickly and under pressure.
Once you have amassed a portfolio of quality work, you will need to market yourself. News corporations and broadcasting companies are usually the best choices. Since cameras are prohibited in most courtrooms, courtroom sketches are the only images that news companies can air during their coverage of trial happenings. News companies usually employ a staff of courtroom artists to cover trials all over the country, and the world.
The best way to become a courtroom artist is to be hired by a news company. Bring your portfolio and a resume of any relevant experiences and accomplishments to the art directors of news shows in your area. Ask to be added to the network’s list of courtroom artists. Sometimes, you may have to start as an alternate or substitute artist. Any foot in the door is helpful when starting out, however, and the better your work, the more likely it is that you will be promoted or placed on the regular roster more quickly.
It may be possible for you to create sketches first, then try to sell them to news companies, but this is not usually the most profitable way to become a courtroom artist. If the case is important enough for sketches to be aired on the news, broadcasters usually already have an artist lined up. Even if they end up preferring your drawings, they will in all likelihood have to honor their contract with the original artist.
Nevertheless, there is often a market for freelance courtroom sketches among lawyers and judges. It is often possible to become a courtroom artist not making drawings not for news shows, but rather by creating mementos for the professionals who participated and featured prominently in the happenings. Even courtroom artists chartered by news agencies sometimes sell their prints privately, as well.