NYC’s Famous Courtroom Sketch Artist Talks About Her Unique Job

Jane Rosenberg

Jane Rosenberg started her courtroom sketch artist career drawing prostitutes in New York’s night court in 1980. Four decades later, she is still making court sketches, but these days some of her portraits are of much more well-known people.

VOA News: Nina Vishneva / Video narrator: Anna Rice
Camera: Natalia Latukhina, Vladimir Badikov

“These are the binoculars that I bring to court.  And then they would go on my head.” 

“These are the binoculars that I bring to court.  And then they would go on my head.” 

For more than four decades, courtroom sketch artist Jane Rosenberg has been making sketches and been front and center during some of the most resonant trials in the United States.  She has sketched the likes of Mark Chapman, who killed musician John Lennon in New York City in 1980, director Woody Allen,

television personality Martha Stewart, notorious drug cartel leader Joaquin El Chapo Guzman, and former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon.  The list goes on. 

“Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Epstein, Glenn Maxwell, I don’t really even remember.  Forty-three years of this.”

Her drawings become the main visuals from trials where the law prohibits photos or video.  She graduated from a university art program, then one day saw an interview for a courtroom sketch artist and knew what she wanted to do.  Today, her day starts with a call from court.  Sometimes she needs to travel outside New York, like when she headed to Boston Marathon bomber Jachar Tsarnaev’s trial. 

A Sketch of Boston Marathon bomber Jachar Tsarnaev’s trial

“I was sitting in back here and I could never see him. I was directly behind him. But from the overflow camera, it was a front view.  But I only got to see that view for a few minutes.”

 Her sketches are stored not just in her New York apartment.  They’re in the Library of Congress, along with the Paley Center for Media, formerly the Museum of Television and Radio, the National Constitution Center, and in private collections. 

“You want to see the Trump?”  Rosenberg’s courtroom sketch was on the cover of the New Yorker after former President Donald Trump was indicted earlier this year.  It was the first time in its long history that the New Yorker published a courtroom sketch on its cover.

“You want to see the Trump?”

“Neutral all the time.  I’m just watching what people do, if they laugh, if they cry, if they look angry, if they look happy.  I have to do what I see.  Rosenberg only has a few minutes to make a sketch.  Often, she draws from memory, and though her sketches may not be photographically detailed, she knows she makes her characters come to life on paper.

 Nina Vishneva in New York, Anna Rice, VOA News.

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