Friday, November 15, 2013

Janet Hamlin

Janet Hamlin
Janet Hamlin is an illustrator whose clients include Time Warner, Universal Studios, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, IBM, HarperCollins and Associated Press.

She is also a courtroom sketch artist. The latter role is one of those fascinating areas in which photography has not replaced drawing as a form of reporting, primarily because cameras are not allowed in courtrooms in many instances.

In particular, Hamlin is noted as the only sketch artist present at the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from 2008 to the present, including the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

A number of sketches from those sessions and others have been collected in a recently released book, Sketching Guantanamo: Court Sketches of the Military Tribunals, 2006-2013 (Amazon link). There is an illustrated review on the New York Review of Books and additional information on the Fantagraphics site, including an 18 page excerpt as a PDF.

The book not only publishes 150 of her Guantanamo courtroom drawings, but delves into the process and demands of the practice. I find it interesting that the drawings are larger in format than I would have expected.

Hamlin’s website also includes several sections of her book and editorial illustrations in various categories, of which I particularly enjoy her portraits of noted figures — done in a variety of media and stylistic approaches.

She also has a portfolio on Behance, a blog devoted to her illustration work and another that features her sketches from figure drawing sessions.

[Suggestion courtesy of Daniel van Benthuysen]

9 thoughts on “Janet Hamlin

  1. Sean C.

    As a young boy, who would be constantly drawing, when I would watch the national news on television I thought “What a neat job!” when I would see sketches of courtroom cases flash across the tube. I soon was disappointed to learn that courtroom sketch artist was not readily available job when I was to become an adult and that it would appear to be more luck than skill to get one of these positions. Which would only add to the bitterness of a 10 to 12 year old boy who felt he could easily capture a better likeness than what was being shown on the television news.

  2. cparker

    I felt kind of the same way when I found out that drawing the pen and ink sketches I saw in the columns of travel magazines was not likely a career position I could hope for (grin).

  3. Daniel van Benthuysen

    Hamlin didn’t get the Guantanamo gig through luck. She had previously done courtroom sketching for the AP of the Skakel/Moxley trial in Connecticut. In the 20 or so years that I regularly hired Hamlin for freelance work she distinguished herself as more than a talented draftsman (draftswoman?) Her even temper, discipline, flexibility and open-minded attitude in the face of capricious editors and changing circumstances makes her a pleasure to work with. I don’t know how you teach skills like that in art school.

  4. Sean C.

    Oh crud! I didn’t think before I commented my previous statement wasn’t meant to suggest that Hamlin fell into a career by accident she is obviously a talented artist. Mr. Parker has yet to post feature someone not worthy of attention. Sorry to Daniel van Benthuysen that you possibly misconstrued my comments as an affront to Janet Hamlin’s career, that was not my intention. My previous comment was to state when I was a child I thought courtroom artist would be a cool gig.

  5. cparker

    There is something to be said for “luck”, not in the sense of a substitute for talent and hard work, but for the chance series of events in our lives and careers that can lead us to be in the right place at the right time when an opportunity opens.

  6. Daniel van Benthuysen

    I did not think Sean C.’s first comment was offensive. Just wanted to clarify. I would agree that there’s luck and then there’s the luck we make for ourselves by being prepared and being flexible and cooperative. Hamlin would probably admit to having a certain amount of both kinds of luck in her career.

  7. Janet Hamlin

    I appreciate the post on my work. Thank you for your generous blog.. I’m humbled to be included. I can agree it’s partly about being in the right place at the right time. I happened to be working with the Associated Press as a court artist when Guantanamo came up. After that, I just kept going. There is such tremendous talent out there ( courtroom artists Dana Verkouteren, Art Lien, Jane Rosenberg, Aggie Kinney, Elizabeth Williams to name a few), as this blog can attest, so I definitely feel fortunate that I am in the position to use my drawing skills to capture something historic like these trials.
    And, I’ll add, to have met great people along my creative path such as Dan Van Benthuysen- true mutual appreciation.

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