Local artist sketches her way from classroom to courtroom


By Andy Ann

Jean Langston is a formally trained and skilled artist that has a passion for art and teaching others. She has been afforded an opportunity that she never thought she would have in a lifetime. She is the approved courtroom sketch artist for the Murdaugh murder trial that is currently underway in Colleton County.

Langston has 22 years of experience as an art teacher spending her career primarily between Colleton and Hampton County schools. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts at East Carolina University and a Master of Education at Lesley University. One of her favorite classes in college was figure drawing, starting from the skeletal system, into the muscular system, and then the outward appearance. This process gives an understanding of how to complete a more accurate depiction of a person or figure and its proportions using perspective. As an artist, she can sketch quickly and accurately.

Working outside of the classroom is nothing new to Langston. She looks for opportunities to gain experience and grow as an artist in a variety of ways. She is the house ceramist at her business located downtown at the Artists’ Hub of the A.C.E. Basin (AHAB), does henna work, and has painted several murals within the Lowcountry. Langston also works full-time as an art teacher for her elementary art students in Hampton County School District.

Langston is grateful to have the opportunity and experience as a courtroom sketch artist for this trial. This is a unique situation that she never imagined having the chance to experience. The opportunity presents a way for her to see what it is like to be in the courtroom and presented with the challenges of capturing moments in time while recording history in the making.

Langston said that she can refer to this experience while presenting to students possible career opportunities as a career high-profile sketch artist. Langston may inspire some students to work their way out of a high-poverty area into a more secure future using their own artistic interests and skills.

Although, she is curious to know if courtroom sketching is a dying artform with the overuse of cameras and photography. She is interested to know if the local media outlets see a need for such artwork and if it is still relevant in current times.

In the past, especially in high-profile cases, many courts would not allow still or video cameras in the courtroom to prevent distractions and preserve privacy. A sketch artist would quickly draw several sketches that show vivid impressions of the scene or scenes in the courtroom. This created a need for sketch artists to help illustrate to others in the community and media outlets what was taking place in the courtroom. Courtroom sketches also served as a historical visual record for many forms of publications including archives for law and books.

As an artist she can depict scenes and angles that a photographer cannot. The identity of the jurors must remain protected, therefore any photographic shot or video angle that would show the jury is out of the question and often limits what can be captured. Whereas, as an artist, Langston can show much of the scene while protecting the jurors at the same time.

Additionally, Langston can arrange the scene to include more than what the camera lens can capture. Lastly, she can witness and experience the raw emotions that are exhibited by those involved and capture them on paper in a way a camera or video can never do. In essence, she can capture the soul of those drawn only through the eyes of an artist caught in that moment.

Langston is not really looking for anything more than being recognized that she is an artist and hopes that perhaps others will see value in what she does and the art she creates. She hopes that she can be a source of inspiration to others that have artistic interests to pursue their interests into an art-related career that may take them places and present experiences they may never have otherwise.

Langston is not sure what she will do with all the sketches she makes during the trial. She does plan on adding some sketches to her portfolio and showing a few to her students. She thinks it would be interesting if any were to end up in a law book someday or on a wall at the local courthouse. But right now, only time will tell where the sketches will end up and she is thankful for this opportunity to stretch her artistic skills from out of the classroom and into the courtroom. She will be in the courtroom sketching one day each week for the duration of the trial.

If anyone is interested in contacting Langston, she can be frequently found at AHAB downtown from 6-9 p.m. Monday-Fridays at 255 E. Washington St.


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