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Courtroom sketch artist reflects on end of art form as Indiana prepares to allow cameras inside courtrooms

Tina Hansford and others could be out of a job when cameras are allowed in Indiana courts starting May 1
Tina Hansford shows sketch
Posted at 4:38 PM, Apr 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-27 19:32:57-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Tina Hansford has an eye for faces. The 86-year-old IU art major first dabbled in courtroom drawings during the reckless homicide trial of the Ford Motor Company in 1980.

“There were some court pictures in the Indianapolis papers and some on the news, and they weren’t very good drawings,” Hansford said. “I thought, ‘you know, I can do that.'"

Hansford sat down with WRTV to reflect on her long-time side-hustle as a courtroom sketch artist.

Opportunities for courtroom artists will become much more rare after May 1, when the Indiana Supreme Court gives judges the power to allow cameras in Indiana courts.

Hansford pitched her services to an area television station and that conversation began a career that would span more than four decades.

Newspaper clippings and sketches collected by Tina Hansford

"It’s fast," Hansford said. "I don’t think I’ll win any great prizes in an art show. But I can draw a portrait fast. And that’s the key, I guess."

Hansford sketched several high-profile criminal trials, including those of boxer Mike Tyson, Subway pitchman Jared Fogle, cyber-terrorist Buster Hernandez and Speedway bombing suspect Brett Kimberlin.

Hansford often worked alongside other courtroom artists.

"It was camaraderie because we weren’t really competing for any one thing," Hansford said. "I worked for one station, [they] had a different television station."

But while the local ties were strong, the national spotlight often brought competition.

"Someone would bump your arm as you’re drawing or take up three spaces in a chair that was designed for a crowded courtroom," Hansford said.

Hansford understands times are changing and she's ready to retire her sketchpad.

"I enjoyed the sketches and I think other people do too," Hansford said. "I think the next step is allowing cameras in the courtroom as long as they’re not disruptive. Now, everybody’s just got a little hand camera, it’s so easy."