A personal highlight of sketching the Bales sentencing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord last week was meeting Peter Millett. To most news outlets covering the story, he was the go-to courtroom artist. But Millett is also an accomplished sculptor, painter and art teacher. Courtroom sketching is something he does on the side when the opportunity presents itself.
Viewers who see the courtroom sketches on TV or in the newspaper may not realize how difficult a job this is, if I may say so myself. Though not every courtroom is laid out the same way, you can pretty much count on the witness stand, the judge and the rest of the characters you are supposed to draw being farther away than you wish. It’s also likely that they’ll have their back to you, which makes sketching them even harder. The sketch below gives you an idea of the real context inside the military courtroom where Millett and I sketched.
To make the sketches work, you have to compress the scene, bringing the characters closer together than they are in real life. You also have to be able to draw face close-ups despite the distance that separates you from the people you are drawing. If only they let the sketch artist move around!
I learned a great deal from Millett, who’s done this type of sketching for years, and hope we’ll cross paths again, inside or outside the courtroom.
Millett would rush out of the courtroom during breaks and tape his sketches to the back of a TV truck so the crews could photograph them for broadcast via satellite. Times reporter Christine Clarridge took this photo after the sentencing ended Friday.