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Sketch Artist - Police and Forensic Sketch Artist

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What does a Sketch Artist do?:

A forensic sketch artist interviews witnesses and victims of crime, gathering information about the appearance of a suspect, and drawing a sketch to match that description. Computers are sometimes used to help construct pictures. They also sketch or use computer graphics to generate images of missing people, showing how they might have aged. They may sketch a reconstruction of a crime scene from forensic information. A sculpture artist may reconstruct faces to help identify skeletal remains.

What are the hours and wages like?:

Hours and wages vary greatly. A very few sketch artists may be full-time members of a police force, and will be paid accordingly, with appropriate benefits. More usual is part-time or freelance work as an independent contractor. Usually this involves working for several law enforcement agencies (and therefore some traveling) or other freelance illustration and art work.

What training does a Forensic Artist need?:

Requirements vary, so contact the personnel department of the agency you wish to work for, before going further. Qualifications range from a high school certificate through to a university degree in criminal justice, along with the law enforcement agency's own training. Formal art training is usually required, and some agencies offer specialized forensic art courses.

How good does my drawing need to be?:

You need to be able to draw a detailed and accurate portrait or scene from imagination. This skill is based on hours of drawing from life. For drawing of crime scenes, as a forensic artist you'll need to be able to draw using correct perspective, accurately rendering three-dimensional objects, and using your imagination to reconstruct scenes, often with limited information - but still accurately placing the information that is available.

What other skills do I need?:

'People skills' are essential for forensic sketch artists. You will need to interview distressed, upset or uncooperative victims or witnesses, sensitively asking the right questions and interpreting answers. A police investigation involves teamwork. Some computer skills area also useful, and three-d modeling skills for reconstructive modeling. A driver's license and some experience in photography are useful, as are any second languages. For reconstructive forensics and crime scene work, a strong stomach may be needed!

Is there a professional organization?:

The Forensic Art Certification Board of the International Association of Identification has established certification standards for Forensic Artists.
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