Karen T. Taylor
Karen T. Taylor is a portrait artist who
worked as a forensic artist for over eighteen years at
the Texas Department of Public Safety in Austin, Texas.
She attended the School of Fine Arts at the University
of Texas and the Chelsea School of Fine Art in London,
where she was also a freelance portrait sculptor for Madame
Tussaud’s Wax Museum.
crime-fighting artwork for law enforcement agencies and FOX
television’s America’s Most Wanted has
involved a variety of art services to aid in the apprehension
and conviction of criminal offenders or promote the identification
of unknown deceased persons. Her work has been featured on
FOX, ABC, CBS, the BBC, CNN, Court TV, the Discovery Channel,
the History Channel, and Telemundo. Popular CBS crime drama
CSI: created a character based on Taylor and Taylor’s
artwork and hands at work have appeared on the show.
The success of her forensic art led to Taylor being named one of the Texas
Women of the Century in 1999. In 2002 she was the first woman
to be honored with the prestigious John A. Dondero Award by
the International Association for Identification for
her “significant and valuable contribution in the
area of identification and allied sciences”.
forensic art instructor for many years at the FBI Academy and other
enforcement academies, universities and medical schools internationally,
she now also devotes her
in-depth knowledge of
the human face
to the training of fine artists.
Karen's specialty is highly realistic and expressive portraits in bronze
and she accepts both forensic art and fine art commissions through her
studio, Facial Images, in Austin. She is the author of
Forensic Art and Illustration and the upcoming Understanding
the Human Face. Her
currently the subject of a book in progress by respected and acclaimed
author and historian Gary M. Lavergne.
…following his first retrospective
“In every artist’s development the germ of the
later work is always found in the earlier…What he was once, he always
is, with slight modifications. Changing fashions in methods or subject
matter alter him little or not at all.”
first reading this quote by artist Edward Hopper, I was struck
by the relevance to my own life and artistic career. Depicting
faces has always been my passion. I drew faces in childhood,
attempted my first facial sculpture in high school, and continued
the obsession throughout college. My twenties found me drawing
and sculpting faces in London and other far away places… Bohemian
days absorbed in observation and study.
Karen T. Taylor and forensic anthropologist Dr.
David Glassman jointly examine a skull
|The next twenty years of my life were spent totally
engrossed in the world of law enforcement…doing artwork in the
most intense situations imaginable. For the forensic artist, one image
can literally be responsible for the recovery of a precious stolen
child, stopping a serial rapist or murderer, or providing closure for
the family who has lost a loved one to homicide. It is an awesome responsibility… and
one that wears on the heart and soul.
Forensic art has taught many lessons, both academic and personal. Crime
cases have presented never-ending challenges that led to continual research
in craniofacial anatomy, human cognition and perception,
| subtleties of facial expression
and conveying diverse racial and ethnic looks. Sometimes a bit of trail-blazing
an artist, I have known the greatest possible satisfaction, seeing
the tangible real-life effects my forensic art has had. On many occasions
there have been phone calls to say, “you know that drawing you
did”…of that pedophile or murderer…“well, we
got him.” What could be better than that?
I have also witnessed untold suffering and heartache
by victims of violent crime and those close to them. I am grateful
that I don’t deal with it on a day-to-day basis
any longer. Twenty years is enough for anyone. While I will forever
be a forensic artist and victim’s advocate, I am now also returning
to being a portrait sculptor.
Today I work as an independent contractor
out of my studio in Austin, Texas called Facial Images,
doing various art projects…almost always involving
faces. A clear-cut theme has emerged for my work…along with the
constant realization that life is not always black and white: Bad
Guys. I have said to those close to me…I’ve spent
the last twenty years doing artwork to help capture the bad guys. I
spend the next twenty commemorating the good guys (and girls!). It’s
a simple idea and yet it has special meaning for me.
As Hopper's quote
predicts, my interest in the human face has never waned. My intent
now is to use the skills with which I was blessed to create facial
images that document the intelligence, goodness and joy that a human
face can hold…faces of some good