Courtroom artist Scott Snow shows off his sketches at Gallery East
An exhibit, “Courtroom Art Retrospective: 40 Years of Scott Snow Sketches,” featuring the work of Salt Lake City artist/illustrator Scott Snow, will be on display in the East Gallery from USU Eastern from February 1 to 25.
Scott Snow has been a courtroom artist for over 35 years, drawing for all major television news organizations including CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX News, as well as local news channels KUTV and KSL where he started. He grew up in Salt Lake City, attended public school including Highland High School and legendary art teacher Harold Peterson. He graduated from Utah State University in 1978 with a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising, Art, and Communication and a minor in Illustration and Painting. Besides courtroom art, Snow established himself as a graphic designer and illustrator.
Snow’s foray into courtroom art came unexpectedly. “I had no idea I would become a courtroom performer,” he says. “It was not premeditated. I was a freelance illustrator and artist working in Salt Lake and building a small but stable reputation. Then the opportunity presented itself. An acquaintance called who worked at KSL-TV news saying they needed a courtroom performer. He asked if he could do that stuff. Without hesitation, I said yes but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Instructed to bring my art materials and speak to Spence Kinard, the news director, I found myself in the newsroom sketching a reporter. It was my audition. When Spence returned, his verdict was, “I think that sounds pretty like him.” He summoned me to draw in court the next day. That was it. I was a courtroom performer.
His working method may seem a little messy to some, but it is efficient. “I work in pastel on large colored paper with a napkin on my lap, a rather messy medium. I’ve trashed a few courtroom rugs in my day, but the pastels let me get to the subject very quickly and are very forgiving,” he explains. “I was the first to enter court in this region with pastels and large colored paper. Before my time, artists used colored pencils on oversized white sketchbooks. It didn’t seem very appealing to me to have a white surface staring at you under the designs as they were shown on color TV. I think it’s really nice to see the richly colored backgrounds with the designs jumping across the TV screen. Colored paper gives the drawing a head start.
Twenty-nine selected drawings will be presented in the exhibition. “You’ll notice many different colors of paper in the show,” says Snow. “Each is chosen for a particular reason when I begin a drawing, either to complement or contrast, create emotion or help tone a scene. Colors do amazing things. To start a trial, I render a wide courtroom scene that the cameraman can walk through while reporting. It includes the judge, the defendant and the lawyers. I need to achieve all of this and simultaneously attract all the important witnesses. The first day can be the most intense. A drawing can take half an hour to an hour, but sometimes the window of opportunity can only be a few minutes. Needless to say, a courtroom performer has to be quick.
“Everything you see in this exhibit (apart from artist depictions like the Wilberg mine disaster or working drawings) was started and finished in the courtroom,” Snow explains. “No additional work or retouching takes place. There just isn’t the time. The drawings go directly from my hands to the editorial team.
Snow has created courtroom art for some of Utah’s most notorious court hearings and trials. He has also covered several major cases in federal court. Some of his most important designs, including those made for the Singer-Swapp Standoff Trial, the Mark Hoffman Murders Trial, the Bill Gates Software Suit, the Wilberg Mine Disaster, and the Elizabeth Smart Kidnapping Trial, will be featured in the exhibit.
USU Eastern’s Gallery East is located in the Central Instruction Building and its exhibits are free and open to the public during the academic year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and closed on weekends and holidays. The gallery observes COVID-19 precautions, including face coverings and a limit of 10 people in the gallery at a time.
Snow’s exhibition reception will take place on February 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. He will discuss his work and answer visitors’ questions.