Court Artist Arthur Lien Provides Window into U.S. Supreme Court
Cameras aren’t allowed in the U.S. Supreme Court, which makes the work of court sketch artist Arthur Lien all the more valuable. His renderings of the justices, the lawyers, and the parties are often the only visual depictions of the high-profile proceedings that the American public gets to see.
For instance, without Lien’s artwork, most of us would never see the justices’ facial expressions when the Court announced its historic ruling regarding same-sex marriage. Lien was also one of the few to provide a glimpse inside the courtroom when victims of the Boston Marathon bombing testified during the emotional sentencing hearing for convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
When it comes to courtroom sketching, Arthur Lien is a member of the old guard that has seen the profession slowly die out. He has worked as a court sketch artist since 1976, launching his career shortly after graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He eventually made his way to Washington, D.C. and has devoted the majority of his career to the Supreme Court beat. If you regularly watch NBC News, you have probably seen his work during coverage of the Court, as he has worked exclusively for the network since 1980.
As Lien acknowledges, courtroom sketching is “a demanding and stressful discipline where the drawing is often done directly and under tight deadline.” The sketch artist covering the Tom Brady Deflategate proceedings recently learned this lesson the hard way when her depiction of Tom Brady, which some characterized as unflattering, went viral on social media.
As for drawing the Supreme Court proceedings, Lien acknowledged in a 2013 interview with Wired Magazine that he has his favorites among the justices. “The one I like the most is Sotomayor,” he stated. “Of course, she sits closest to me on the side of the bench. She’s great to draw. She’s got lots of hair and she’s always got big earrings and bangles.” Arthur Lien also acknowledged that all of his time spent in the Court’s gallery has been educational, allowing him to cut through the legalese and understand the arguments raised in each case.
In addition to providing court sketches to the media, Lien also makes his drawings available for purchase or download on his website. Arthur Lien also operates a blog, Courtartist.com, in which he provides additional insight into what he sees as one of the few people with access to often-historic court proceedings.