Working as a courtroom artist, says Mona Shafer Edwards, is about capturing the essence of the people in the courtroom. “My work is moving,” says Edwards City & Country from her home in California. “It’s fluid, it’s alive. The best work I do is really fast, where I work from an emotional point of view rather than [an] analytic. »
Edwards, who began her career as a fashion illustrator, attracts all manner of lawsuits – from no-press murder cases to celebrity rows with immense interest and scrutiny. She is currently making headlines and going viral on social media for her artistic renderings of the Los Angeles trial in which Blac Chyna is suing members of the Kardashian family (specifically Kris Jenner and her daughters Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian and Kim Kardashian). ), accusing them of defamation and interference with contracts.
Edwards doesn’t care about attention; drawing the Kardashians and other celebrity lawsuits is a fun change of pace from her normal job. “I do horrific murder trials, child torture and life and death matters,” she says. “When I do these kinds of cases that are all about money, how can you have the same concept of real justice? It’s a hundred million dollar lawsuit against people with hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. All the characters involved are very animated Figures.”
Before heading to court in Los Angeles on Friday morning to take testimony from Kris Jenner, Edwards spoke with GTC on drawing the Kardashian-Blac Chyna lawsuit, the future of courtroom art, and why Elon Musk was one of the hardest people she’s ever had to draw.
It seems like the whole internet is talking about your drawings from the Kardashian-Blac Chyna lawsuit.
It’s all about fashion and style! All the cases I do that are celebrity-driven, it’s all about the clothes. I watch reporters take furious notes when the Kardashians walk in, ’cause [the Kardashians] all seem to be in tune with what they will be wearing every day. As with all of those other Hollywood essays, the focus is on hair and makeup. So I focus on that too, because that’s what people want to see.
Do you think fashion and style contributed to your designs going viral?
I can’t control what people write, but there was a viral storm the other day with the sketches. It was a full courtroom and I was seated seven rows behind the Kardashians, but I had a great view of Blac Chyna. And a UK website made a really bizarre story saying the Kardashians want to sue the cartoonist. I couldn’t believe it because it’s just not true. In all my years covering bigger, bigger celebrities [more famous] folks, I’ve never even heard of that. Of course, with everything, it flies away very quickly because people are quite fickle. But it’s been a weird experience because the Kardashians are polarizing so many people.
How did this polarization impact this trial?
They have big fans and big enemies. Watching the jury selection was awkward. People were incredibly open when it came to their attitude towards the Kardashian family. Years ago you would never have heard people give such an opinion, but they just didn’t want to be on the jury. And then some people really wanted to be part of the jury! It is an interesting study in social history.
What was your experience of drawing the trial with all this attention?
It was a big flurry. [The conservatorship hearing of] Britney Spears kinda felt the same, except Britney Spears has a totally different fanbase; his fans took over the whole street in front of the courthouse. There were parades. It was very noisy and colorful, everything was pink! But that, there are very few members of the public who are waiting to get into this. It’s more about the Kardashian aura than necessarily watching the trial.
When you draw them, how do you capture that aura?
I’m a fashion illustrator, that’s how I started. I’m very fast and have a bit of photographic memory – I’ve done a lot of trail [drawings], so I need to be able to imprint an image in my mind very quickly. And of course I know how the body works and how clothes fit and move. [The Kardashians] are very recognizable, which makes my job more difficult.
Because everyone has a vision of what it looks like?
Well, everyone has a vision of what’s out there for them. When I see a celebrity in court, it’s not filtered or retouched. A few days Kim Kardashian wasn’t wearing much makeup and she looked very different.
It’s really hard for an illustrator to determine what would be courtroom illustration and what some would perceive as cartoon or caricature. When someone is so famous and you recognize them, it’s very difficult, unless someone is a portrait painter, to capture that in minutes.
I remember drawing Alec Baldwin once, years ago, when he was married to Kim Basinger, and he was a witness. When he was at the helm, with every inch he turned his head, he looked totally different! It was the weirdest experience, I just couldn’t have it. Along with Elon Musk too, he was one of the toughest people I’ve ever drawn, he looked different in every pose.
How does your perception of the case or the person influence the way you draw?
I try to be incredibly objective. It’s not for me to have an opinion; I never express an opinion. I listen, I don’t judge. Some people are more fun to draw, some people say sometimes more shocking things than others, but I try to treat everyone the same. Sometimes it’s really difficult when there is a murderer, and I listen to the statements of the victims. It’s really hard to give this person the same benefit that I would give someone else. But that’s my job.
Has anyone ever contacted you after you drew them?
Oh yeah. I received an email from Christian Louboutin. Lindsay Lohan was wearing a pair of her shoes when she was arrested. When she turned around, there was the red sole of the shoe, that’s the moment I chose – with that fire engine red sole. And I got a note saying it was great to see his shoes.
I’m grateful that I didn’t receive any negative ratings. People like to be drawn. They like to be sketched, it’s something very intimate, more than being photographed. Sometimes I have the impression that they are posing for me; it’s a weird feeling, they know I know they’re attracted.
It’s not at all like being photographed.
No, no, photography is the camera in your face. When someone looks at you then draws, looks at you then draws, it’s more of a visual dance.
Usually, people look better when they’re in magazines and on TV. I was struck by one person who looked so much better in real life: Catherine Zeta-Jones. It was a case of bullying [in 2004], and when she was at the helm and I remember thinking, wow, she looks so much better in real life than in the pictures. Sometimes there are surprises.
During your years working as a courtroom artist, what were some of the most memorable moments?
I was afraid. I was drawing Whitey Bulger and he was looking at me. And he waved his finger at me, like, be careful. And then with his hands cuffed, he put papers in front of his face so I couldn’t see him. Richard Ramirez, the “walk-in killer”, he was the personification of evil. It kept California really terrified. When he was in court, he was very handsome and his teeth were all rotten. He turned to look at me and smiled, it was terrifying.
What do you think people don’t know about courtroom performers?
They have no idea of the specialization of a field; it’s not about having a day or a week to do an illustration. It’s a matter of minutes. People have no idea what it takes to create a story on paper in minutes that can tell a story. I would like people to realize that this is a very specific job that a courtroom artist does: he is a storyteller in, in miniature, in abbreviated time. It’s a lot of pressure and that’s why we are very few.
Now in New York you have a really different style.
Versus the Californian style?
Oh yeah. I see New York artists, it’s a lot heavier, a lot of pastel, darker. Many interiors of a courtroom. And if you see mine, I put very little effort into the court. I mean, we know it’s a courtroom atmosphere. It’s more about the people than the landscape.
Where do you see the future of courtroom art?
I saw no future 20 years ago. When it was OJ and the court TV had just started and he was letting the cameras cover the trial gavel, I thought, “Okay, that was fun, have a nice trip!”
And here we are, and I’m busier than I was ten years ago. When I feel like I can’t do a good enough job, then I go away and redo my watercolors or my fashion. But for now, I really like it. It’s a big part of what I do, and I can see things that people don’t.
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