The Rise & Fall of a Courtroom Sketch Artist by Ramtin Nikzad

I was introduced to the work of Gary Myrick, the subject of this Op-Doc video, when I ran across an article in Texas Monthly magazine that spotlighted his career as a courtroom sketch artist. He was once the go-to artist for television news station — millions regularly viewed his work on the networks. I was intrigued and wrote him immediately, asking if he would consider being filmed for a documentary. He said he’d be glad to help anyone nurture his creativity.

Before meeting Mr. Myrick, I had not given courtroom art much thought. It seemed a utilitarian, rather charming and anachronistic practice. But seeing Mr. Myrick’s sketches, stacked high in his home, quickly dispelled that impression. His drawings provide a rich catalog of history that spans nearly four decades.

Starting with the Dallas school desegregation trial in 1976, he sketched courtrooms that featured famous politicians, serial killers, professional athletes, international arms merchants, housewives-turned-killers, victims’ families, rapt juries and napping judges — all rendered with an empathetic gaze and understated wit. His work conveyed the tragedy and folly of the courtroom experience, while avoiding sentimentality and snap judgments about his subjects. His human touch captured what cameras never could.

Yet, as this Op-Doc shows, the gradual acceptance of cameras in courtrooms has pushed courtroom artists to the sidelines. Today Mr. Myrick’s waning career is mostly supplemented by full-time work — as a security guard in a practically abandoned strip mall in Fort Worth.



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