Courtroom illustrator, Mona Edwards, is no stranger to sketching music legends. Edwards has been covering court cases, many of them famous musicians, for years, but the veteran illustrator has seen a recent rise in demand for her services at concerts.
“Live events seem to be a fairly recent thing,” Edwards told Amplify. “It seems that more people are getting interested in art as an event, as opposed to using photography. Everyone is looking for something new and they have that feeling that they don’t want to be repeating what everyone else is doing. People are interested in a new, quirky way of capturing an event. It’s all kind of gimmicky, but it is a great way of telling a story.”
Edwards, who does fashion drawing as well, has been telling infamous courtroom stories dating back to 1978 and has sketched everything from the O.J. Simpson trial to the Menendez brothers.
Most recently, Edwards was hired to sketch a live performance of Jack White at KROQ’s HD Radio Sound Space which follows a Grammy’s event where Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros played and other live events that she explained increases the level of difficulty. For both events she was hired by a publicist promoting the show.
“I enjoy that and it is high pressure because it’s dark and there is a time constraint. Then you want to make the person look like themselves. There’s a very thin line between an impression of somebody and a cartoon of somebody. That’s very difficult,” Edwards said.
“I pace myself to see how many sketches I can do where I am not overworking and that it is fresh and lively and it feels spontaneous,” Edwards said of the Jack White performance. “Jack White knew I was there. He saw me staring at him. I think that he understood the fact that I was going to capture the moment and that I wasn’t trying to do anything like a caricature or anything insulting. It was going to be a beautiful sketch.”
When she’s not doing live music or fashion, she’s focused on “stalking and kidnapping cases and celebrity crimes,” Edwards said. “I do a lot of music stories. Everything from Dolly Parton, Beach Boys, Michael Jackson’s copyright infringement, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder. Last year I did Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ case. The year before that I did the ‘Blurred Lines’ case with Marvin Gaye’s song ‘Got to Give It Up” and recently she’s been hired to sketch Suge Knight’s murder trial.
Edwards has sketched celebrities from Pharrell, Winona Ryder, Snoop Dogg, Courtney Love, Halle Berry, and Rihanna during her legal battle with Chris Brown. She has also done Academy Award events, the World Series for Fox Sports, and has been asked to sketch the upcoming World Cup.
Drawing public figures comes with a certain level of scrutiny as well. For instance, Edwards covered the Gwyneth Paltrow stalking case where the typically done-up actress entered the court room wearing no make up, dressed entirely in beige, and had a red nose from crying.
“I stopped for a second and thought, what am I going to do here. Do I draw her like I see her or do I draw her as the public knows her?” Edwards explained. “I decided I was going to draw her the way I saw her. My work was online and The Daily Mail and all these different websites and people were sending me notes saying I should be fired and that I was a terrible artist. It happens all the time.”
As more organizers are looking to immortalize their moments live events in new and creative ways, Edwards expects that they and attendees will understand the individuality of illustrators.
“There is that panic of ‘Am I going to get it, am I going to get the feeling?’ People know that it is not portrait art. So, how do you capture the essence and the feeling of something in a sketch,” Edwards said. “As an illustrator, it is a very personal thing. It is my interpretation, my perception of the event.”
For more sketches of Edwards’ most famous works, live events, and more, head to her website.