What it's like to draw El Chapo for a living

Where they don’t let cameras in, these artists capture the action

by Maria Gabriella Pezzo
Nov 20 2018, 5:29pm

BROOKLYN, New York — Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman hasn’t been photographed or recorded since he was extradited to the U.S. in 2017.

Cameras aren't allowed in federal courthouses, and between his numerous court appearances over the last 22 months, he’s been in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. But two courtroom artists have helped give the world its only look at the kingpin since the day he set foot on American soil.

The artists, Christine Cornell and Elizabeth Williams, consider themselves journalists, too. They’ve covered almost all the high profile criminal and civil trials of the last three decades: Martha Stewart, Bill Cosby, the Boston bomber, John Gotti, Bernie Madoff, just to name a few. And now, they’re finally covering what they call “the trial of the decade.”

After attending and drawing almost every one of El Chapo's pre-trial hearings, Cornell and Williams have the opportunity to draw the key moments in his long-awaited trial at Brooklyn Federal Court, which started last week and will likely last several months.

"I was told it was a dying profession and that we were like rats on a sinking ship," said Cornell, who started covering trials straight out of art school at 21 years old. "The truth of the matter is that it is competitive."

VICE News talked to Cornell and Williams about the struggles of courtroom art in a 24-hour news cycle — and how El Chapo's plastic surgery makes him harder to draw.

This segment originally aired November 13, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.