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Apprentice

“Being a sketch artist is one of that jobs that everyone thinks is super easy, but isn’t. Then, I’d bet you already knew that.”
“Yes sir.”
“Just call me Anthony. Now listen up and don’t talk too much. I’m here to show you the ropes, but I’m not gonna waste my time repeating everything to you if you’re taking notes or whatever. Now… see that man over there getting his statement taken? We’re going to sketch him.”
To his credit the rookie fixes his eyes on the witness. He knows there aren’t many opportunities to see the face of somebody from afar, unless you’re able to move around and position yourself. So he’s watching like a hawk right from the get-go.
“So we’ve got tall. What does that mean for the face?”
“I’m… not sure.”
“Taller generally means a longer, thinner face. Higher cheekbones. So you see, you have to take the whole body into account. Without taking things like height and weight into account, the most accurate sketch in the world is gonna look a little off and you’ll think you’ve made mistakes.”
“Okay.”
“Now. Tall, Hispanic. Under precinct lights, expect him to look darker than he is. I would say… half Mexican, half European. Lucky son of a bitch has that natural tan, so I’d put money on his… mother being Southern European.”
“How did you know it was his mother?”
I laugh. I like this kid. He’s curious, which is good for a sketch artist. You want more detail than people are just gonna give you up front.
“Don’t worry, that’s all hunch. Nothing scientific about it. Quick, he’s turned to face us, get those details down.”
He scribbles, quick terse notes. Good job too, the man at the counter turns around after just a few seconds.
“Brown, wavy hair.” The rookie says.
“Good, but you can do better. See the sheen on top? It’s greased. But there’s no visible sheen on the sides. With the angle we’re looking at, it doesn’t shine because it’s too short. So things like the lighting and even his hair gel can help reveal that…”
“Right, it’s a buzz cut. I couldn’t tell from this distance.”
“You can if you take in all the details. Now let’s get into specifics. High, prominent cheekbones cuz he’s tall. What color eyes did you put down when he turned?”
“Brown.” He’s confident in his answer.
“Lucky you. Statistically of course, you’ve got the best odds on brown. But what made you avoid say, gray?”
“When he leaned over the desk earlier, the lamp brightened his face for a second. That close to the light, they looked black for a second, which probably means brown under natural lighting.”
“You’re learning. Start your sketch.”
I lean back in my chair, regret it just as fast. Stupid department chairs have thick wooden backs that only come up to my shoulder blades. But hey, I’m getting to like this kid. He’s a natural. And did you notice, he got more confident and more accurate as he settled in. Now I just have to hope he doesn’t get transferred, shot, or fail to get with the program. That’s the worst. Somebody with promise, and they get all idealistic on me.
“That’s a thin nose. What’s that hook say to you?”
“Could be natural, but I think he had his nose broken early.”
I nod and crack a smile.
“The Chief said you’d just gotten out of the academy, but you have to have had some experience somewhere. There’s no way you’re this good with just old Hawkins as a teacher.”
“I spent most of college wanting to be a portrait painter.”
“That figures. You’re good with light. What made you switch? This ain’t exactly a painter’s salary, plus you’ve got duty shifts.”
He looks up at me, first time since he started the sketch.
“Personal reasons.” Back down.