Reviewed in the United States on February 8, 2015
I am not a forensic artist, and I do not work in law enforcement, but I am a writer with an interest in various forensic science disciplines and the nexus between art & science. In particular, I am always interested in what makes someone "identifiable" -- how you *know* who someone is, how you recognize a person, what it means to identify or recognize someone & all the attendant cognitive issues. If you are at all interested in those kinds of questions, this book will knock your socks off and challenge you in ways you never imagined.
It is also an incredible gift to witness Karen T. Taylor's methodical, exacting process step-by-step. Fifteen years ago, when I was writing an essay about a missing person case, I stumbled upon forensic facial reconstruction and thought, "This is what I am doing, too." Just as forensic artists sculpt from the architectural structure and anatomy of a skull, I was "sculpting" essays from the basic architecture of facts gleaned from research to bring this missing person to life. I had to be highly ethical and aware of where science/fact ended and creativity began. So when I found Karen T. Taylor's book, it became a sort of writing process bible for me, a way to imagine the nexus between science and art -- and it continues to apply to my work today, even if I am writing straight-up memoir. While teaching composition, I have even referenced this book to demonstrate to students how a methodical process works and why it unfolds in the order it does.
In fact, ever since the first time I cracked open that spine, Karen T. Taylor has been a hero of mine. Not only does she know how to teach, but she is also extremely generous in sharing the secrets she has learned in her many years as a top forensic artist. She genuinely wants others to succeed in the field and help identify victims and criminals. There is absolutely no ego, which if you have spent much time in the arts, is a rare and amazing trait.
The book gives you a solid foundation in the history of forensic art, the scientific basis for why forensic artists work as they do, facial anatomy, changes to the face after death, interviewing techniques for composite drawings, practical considerations such as tools and materials, and how to apply all of it to your work. Bonus: Karen T. Taylor happens to be a talented writer, too. The text is easy to read, even for non-forensic professionals, and it is loaded with illustrations.
I have even purchased additional copies to give to friends in the visual arts, and they unanimously love it for how it has pushed them to greater understanding of faces. (I wasn't being generous. I simply can't bear to loan out my copy!)
Finally, having taken her Forensic Facial Reconstruction-Sculpture course at the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State, I can assure you that Karen T. Taylor doesn't do anything halfway. She is not content to stick to techniques simply because she has always done them. She constantly strives to learn more about anatomy, more about tissue depth studies, and more about her art--a quality that shines through in this book as well, as she reveals how she learned from mistakes. During class, she was generous with her time and insight, and she is every bit as amazing as I had imagined, so if you love her book and feel like it has helped you hone your craft, take the workshop, too.