About 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.

Her 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”.


 
A forensic art instructor for many years at the FBI Academy and other law 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 work is currently the subject of a book in progress by respected and acclaimed author and historian Gary M. Lavergne.


Artist Statement

Edward Hopper, 1935
…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.”
Upon 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 was required. As 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…Good 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 intend to 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 guys.
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