|Who Can Be a Forensic Artist?
Just about anyone
who possess the artistic skill, desire, and motivation can, with proper
training over a period of time, develop into a forensic artist. While the majority of
forensic artists work in some facet of law enforcement, many folks are successful at
forensic art by combining their current specialties with forensic art. Included are
Forensic Anthropologists, Medical Illustrators, Fine Artists, Orthodontists, and
Archaeologists who also use forensic art as a means of enhancing their current
professions. There is no definitive background that a forensic artist comes from.
What is Available?
Full-time forensic art
positions are extremely rare. There are but a handful of full-time artist in the United
States. While the need is there, most agencies do not have the personnel or budgets to
fund a full-time forensic artist position; therefore, most law enforcement forensic
artists combine their talents with other aspects of the job such as investigations, clerk,
patrol officer, etc.
The pay scale of a forensic
artist depends on factors, such as geographic location, the size of the employing
department, and your ability to market yourself. The most important necessity to becoming
a successful forensic artist is passion for the work and a desire to become the best you
can be with a strong desire to learn and succeed.
Natural art skills are a plus,
but I have seen many folks become excellent forensic artists who came into the basic
forensic art courses with little or no drawing / sculpting skills and came out with
remarkable results. Some instructors agree that at times the results are better with
students with no previous training. These students come into the classes with an open mind
and do not have to break old "bad" habits. Just as important, is
an ability to interview. No matter how polished your art skills are, they
are useless without proper training and experience in interviewing witnesses
A successful forensic/composite
artist should possess characteristics such as: a strong desire to learn;
the ability to relate / empathize with others; a willingness to help others;
an understanding of how forensic art is utilized; a desire to improve their
skill; fair drawing ability; and the ability to keep an open mind..
The artist must also hold high ethical standards.
You do not HAVE to take all the
courses offered to be a successful artist and you DO NOT need to possess
a four year degree. You DO however need training in a specific aspect of
forensic art. If your desire is strictly in composite sketching, then concentrate
your efforts to receiving the training in composite art. If your talents and desires rest
on the facial reconstruction aspect of forensic art, then take the facial reconstruction
courses. BUT, if you get the chance to take all the courses, by all means do so. All the
courses are related in one way or another, and each will enhance the success of the other.
Computer Vs. Hand Drawn
While computer composites have
come a long way in recent years, they still cannot hold a candle to a GOOD composite
sketch artist. Facial identifiers are at times minute peculiarities on the face, that the
computer programs fail to provide. Also, profile and three-quarter views are often what
the witness sees, and the vast majority of the computer programs available do not offer
these options. If an agency does choose to use a computer generated program, it is best to
have an individual with some artistic talent do the composites. An artist views the face
in a different light than that of an untrained individual. The success rate of hand drawn
composites is in the range of 30-80%. The computer programs success rate is much lower.