Forensic Art – It’s All in the Way You Look at it

Project EDAN was first sparked in my mind in 1987. It was product of my own ignorance of forensic art, and my desire to learn a better way.

My own dislike for the sketch of the Tent Girl, etched into stone on her grave, caused great controversy in my mind. I thought it looked too cartoonish, much like the term Dr. Emily Craig used later on in another matter, an “extreme caricature”.

But like many people in the world, I didn’t “see” the image as it was intended.

True enough, not all artists are created equal. There are some artists with far more talent that others, some are better trained. But we should also remember that not all “remains” are created equal. In the instatnce of an age progression and artist might have a great deal of material to use his art, still very much an artistic science, to mimic the passage of time.

We now have an explosion of tools available to enhance the effort of the artist. But, it is hard to replace good old pad and pencil. A good artist will leave a signature of his passion in the faces of those they try to reflect.

Many times though, in the case of the unidentified, the remains are very varied, you might begin from a “fresh corpse” to the complete opposite end of the spectrum and use bone fragments of a smashed skull.

Though age and weight can be guessed at with some degree of accuracy, sometimes not enough data is present to create the “snapshop” we would like to see. The actual age can be fairly easily determined by a good anthropologist. But the effects of the passage of time on a person’s face is difficult to determine. Based on as much information that can be drawn from a situation and age range is established. And this can also be off base if the remains were not properly classified in the beginning.

In short the product of the artist is more than the skill and ability within the creative hands. Many factors effect the final product. Forensic art is a challenging balance of facts, educated guesses, potentially misclassified information, talent, passion and time. A good artist can effectively balance these factors and create an image that can be safely assumed to represent the subject.

But still it’s true…”It’s all in the way you look at it.”

I set out to improve the things I disliked about the craft before I understood it’s true nature. I understand and appreciate it now after years of research. But I realise that the best way to improve is to advocate the very lessons I learned along the way. Through effort to find better processes and improve the quality of the raw material. Not all remains are created equal, so we must assure that the early “guesstimates” are as accurate as possible before the work artistic science of the forensic artist begins.

It’s also important to teach the public the reality of this situation as well. By working with artists, anthropologist and other scientists in realted fields, EDAN is intended to teach people how to broaden their point of view and “see” the image as an approximation.

EDAN is available to any organisation or agency that has need of forensic art or age progression. But it itself has stages of growth that it is going through. We are all still learning ways to offer the best possible images. EDAN also seeks the best way to present these to the public for their final clue they might offer to solve the mystery. We can do this be teaching the reality behind the mission of these images. Maintaining the “open mind” of the viewer to allow their own creative ability to transform these images in their minds as the wonder..”Do I know this person?”

Thanks to the generous artists who donate their time, and most importantly their craft and passion to the peoject, it has been and will continue to be an experiment in success.

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