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Sketch Artist

Do you want to draw people and their characteristics? Sketch artists create likenesses of subjects using pencil, charcoal, or pastels. Sketches are used by law enforcement agencies to assist in identifying suspects, by the news media to depict courtroom scenes, and by individual patrons for their own enjoyment.

Sketch artists are also called composite, forensic, or police artists. They draw pictures of people based on witnesses' descriptions. However, a sketch artist's goal is not to create art. They try to draw detailed and accurate pictures of suspects for police to use in solving crimes. Sketch artists meet with witnesses or victims to learn what they remember about suspects. They ask questions to help them remember details. For example, they may ask about eye color, skin color, and the shape of the suspect's nose. They may show witnesses a book of drawings of facial features. Looking at drawings of noses, lips, and eyes of different shapes, may help witnesses describe the features of the people they saw.

Here are some examples of a project that a sketch artist might work on:

  • Create a drawing of a missing child from a photograph to be used to help locate the child
  • Draw a courtroom scene for newspaper and television reporters not allowed in the courtroom
  • Make drawings to document a crime scene

Education required: a Bachelor's degree is preferred. There are many ways to prepare for this occupation. Some sketch artists prepare through formal education and get a two- or four-year degree in fine art. Community colleges and universities offer these programs. You can also prepare for this occupation by becoming a law enforcement officer. The education requirements for police recruits vary greatly. Some police agencies require only a high school diploma or GED. Others require one or two years of college. The FBI requires applicants to have a Bachelor's degree. Check with the department or agency you are interested in to verify its requirements. A good way to prepare is to pursue a degree in law enforcement or criminal justice and take drawing classes.