From 2004-2008 I spent up to three days a week covering court for the Battlefords News-Optimist. During that time I did quite a bit of courtroom sketches. In junior high and high school I did a lot of sketching. For a brief period I dreamt of becoming a comic book artist. I drew the occasional portraits of pretty girls, hoping they would notice me, but it didn’t get me anywhere.
Jump forward 10 years and I was sitting in court, trying to sort out several brothers of the same last name who were being prosecuted as the biggest cocaine dealers in town. I sketched out mugshots of each in my lined notebook, and we eventually printed these with the story. Soon sketching was a way to stay awake during boring proceedings. It also added an element to my court coverage that is rarely ever seen in smaller centres these days.
North Battleford Provincial Court was set up in a way that it was impossible to get photos of an accused coming in or out. Cameras are forbidden in Canadian courts, and for good reason. Thus, the only way to get an image of someone was to sketch them. And I was the only one around who did that. For some big cases, my sketches even made it to the national news (although TV stations were pretty stingy on what they would pay).
Recently a friend was prosecuting a case in Estevan, so I took some time to attend court and do a few sketches. These are the result. Not bad, given the most recent sketches in that sketchbook were dated 2007.
Here are a few from back then, when I was hitting my stride. You might recognize the guy in purple – Curtis Dagenais. He was convicted of killing two Mounties near Spiritwood. It actually occurred just a few miles from where I had photographed a wedding the previous summer. I had just started to experiment with colour. Nearly all my previous work had been in pencil, from 4H to 6B.