Sketch artist helps Dimora trial come alive

11:12 AM, Jan 20, 2012   |    comments
  • Artist: Bob Novak
  • Artist: Bob Novak
  • Artist: Bob Novak
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BROADVIEW HEIGHTS -- Bob Novak's images are helping pick up where TV cameras are not allowed to go.

Bob Novak's art career started farther back than he can remember. At the kitchen table, he literally drew his pictures on the surface of the table.

His mom would wash his "canvas" off and he'd start all over again.

Fast forward a couple decades and his artwork graces walls in homes across the country and even the covers of Sega Video Games.

It's been 30 years since he was inside a courtroom covering trials.

As a teenager at the Cleveland Institute of Art and a paid intern for Channel 3, he would work as a courtroom sketch artist. 

The network liked his work, and NBC Nightly News asked him to cover a couple of major cases, including the Kent State civil suit hearings, and the Jimmy Hoffa grand jury testimony.

For Hoffa, he wasn't allowed to be inside the courtroom, so he did his sketches in the hallway. 

"All these Tony Soprano types are in the hallway," Novak said,  "and, I am sketching, and one guy starts walking towards me, and I am getting a little nervous.  He comes up to me and he looks over at what I am doing and says, 'you make me look good, kid, we know where you live.' Now, at 22 years old, you are going to get a little rattled!"

These days his focus is on a different Jimmy. He's taking his portfolio and colored pencils inside the courtroom as WKYC's sketch artist for the Jimmy Dimora county corruption trial.

His first day back in the courtroom after so many years away wasn't nearly as rattling as his experience at the Hoffa testimony but he did find himself having a few doubts.

"The first half hour to an hour, it was like, 'eh, I don't know if I can still do this,'" Novak said.

But his sketches are helping to tell the story of the Cuyahoga County corruption case that's been making headlines since 2008.

Each day, about four television cameras track Dimora, along with his wife and defense team, walking into the federal courthouse in Akron. 

The footage stops once they walk through the doors. No cameras are allowed.  

"I want everybody to think that they are sitting where I am."

Details down to the permanent marker writing on boxes of evidence, to the light glare on a pitcher of water are included in his drawings.

"I want to capture everything in that courtroom, he explained, so you can see exactly what the room looks like."

On one hand, computers are making his job less of a hassle. He is able to start sketches in the courtroom and finish them at home in his studio and then scan them to the station for broadcast. 

You might call the technology a "necessary evil."

"All you have to do is take a look at some of the courtroom drawings that are out there," Novak said, "it seems like drawing, physically drawing and human drawing is a lost art, everybody relies on computers to do everything right now. Drawing the human figure is a talent, and it's a learned talent, it's a natural talent, and it's a God-given talent too, and that is where this still comes into play."

Novak says it's important for people to learn computers but should continue to hone their drawing talent.


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