Prop Drawing for ABC & Disney

body of proof logoI was asked by ABC Television and Disney Studios to create a skull, life-size skull photographs and facial drawings for use as “forensic” props on the television series Body of Proof with Dana Delany and Jeri Ryan. These photos show the scope of the project and how it actually appeared on the show. The Season 3 Finale episode (#313) was called “Daddy Issues”. It was written by Corey Miller, directed by John Terlesky and produced by Matthew Gross.

image of a set prop facial reconstruction by karen t. taylor for the television show body of proofThis is a shot taken on the set, courtesy of writer Corey Miller. An important element of the plot dealt with the dental morphology of an “unidentified victim”. As part of the consultation I did with the writer, I suggested that this dental detail would be a useful tool to add authenticity to the props I was preparing.  I then modified an existing skull to add a large space between the maxillary central incisors called a diastema. This was done by individually sculpting the teeth and painting them in a naturalistic way. A corresponding photo of this gap-toothed “victim’s” skull was also created with the assistance of Dreamfly Creations.

skull used as a set prop on the television show body of proofA close-up of the gap-toothed dentition is shown. This fictitious “victim” needed the assistance of 2-dimensional facial reconstruction to aid with his identification! I assembled drawing boards for two different stages of filming. A life-size photo of the skull is overlaid with transparent vellum so that drawings can be done over the skull. I set up a partially complete drawing as well as the finished drawing so it could be shot in stages. This is a forensic art procedure that I developed in the early 1980s while working for the Texas Department of Public Safety. I am grateful to say that it has been used to identify many hundreds of actual homicide victims. I taught the method for over twenty years at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. I continue to teach this effective, direct method at the Scottsdale Artists’ School in Arizona.

propdrawing3This beautiful rainy shot was created by cinematographer Patrick Cady to showcase actress Jeri Ryan portraying Dr. Kate Murphy. As we have seen in previous episodes, Kate is a pathologist, but her first love is forensic art!

image of a set prop facial reconstruction by karen t. taylor for the television show body of proofVarious action shots show Kate diligently drawing. Jeri is so skillful and convincing at doing this “forensic art” that her fans on Twitter have actually asked her if she did the drawings and sculptures herself!

image of a set prop facial reconstruction by karen t. taylor for the television show body of proofFor actual forensic cases, anatomical formulas are used to develop the various facial features, whether drawing or sculpting the facial reconstruction. It is really gratifying when the producers of a scripted television program make such great efforts to authentically present forensic art and facial identification procedures.

propdrawing6It is always fun for me when a copy of my textbook, Forensic Art and Illustration, is used on the set in a shot. Thanks to Property Master Chris Call for that!

propdrawing7This is a cool view of how it all looks to those talented people involved in the hands-on production of the show.

image of a set prop facial reconstruction by karen t. taylor for the television show body of proofOne of my favorite comments in this episode is when actor Windell Middlebrooks (Curtis) gently pats the skull and says, “You’re in good hands, Mr. Doe.”

propdrawing9This shows the moment when Dana Delany (as Dr. Megan Hunt) sees Kate’s drawing and makes a mental connection that leads to his identification. She says, “That is the same guy!” And that’s just how forensic art is supposed to work!

image of a set prop facial reconstruction by karen t. taylor for the television show body of proofThis is my drawing which is meant to age a young actor’s face by about three decades and show his unique teeth, heavy brow ridge and high cheek bones.

image of actor Daniel BlaineThis is the young actor, Daniel Blaine, whose face I used as a basis for the aged “facial reconstruction”. I gave input for the casting choice of this actor and he was selected because his face had distinctive bony elements that could be emphasized in the “reconstruction” drawing. He does not have the gappy teeth in real life, by the way. To really understand all of these plot elements, you have to watch the episode! I don’t want to be too much of a spoiler!

image of actress Jeri ryan with a facial reconstruction done as a set prop by Karen T. Taylor for the show Body of ProofActress Jeri Ryan has been so fun for me to work with on this show. She is a real pro…intelligent, approachable and very quick to learn the forensic art actions.

Chicago Jane Doe Identification

My old friend, the consummate forensic anthropologist, Dr. Clyde Snow, first approached me with a request to work on this case.  Partnered with the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, the Chicago Police Department and America’s Most Wanted, we were able to get this unfortunate murdered girl identified.

chicagojd1Two homeless men found a large keyboard box in a quiet Chicago alleyway.  It contained the decomposed body of a young woman.  Though her face was unrecognizable, her general hairstyle and clothing details were intact.

image of skull from chicago jane doe caseShe remained unidentified for over a year.  Dr. Snow contacted me and asked that I attempt to help with the identification process.  I was sent the cleaned skull.  Interesting dental details included orthodontic cement and bands on some molars.  There was also a chipped maxillary lateral incisor, which would be visible from the front in life.

image of facial reconstruction done by karen t. taylor for the Chicago Jane Doe caseI developed frontal and lateral facial reconstruction drawings using all available information from the pathologist and the anthropologist, including a hair specimen.  In this case, I considered the 2D work as a sort of architectural study for the 3D version that I also planned to do.

image of facial reconstruction done by karen t. taylor for the Chicago Jane Doe caseUsing an acetate overlay, I did a version of the frontal drawing with darker eyes and braces.

chicagojd5A colorful striped ponytail elastic was found with the body, so her hairstyle reflected that in the lateral view.

image of facial reconstruction sculpture done by karen t. taylor for the Chicago Jane Doe caseFrontal sculpted facial reconstruction with lips parted to show the chipped tooth.

image of facial reconstruction sculpture (lateral view) done by karen t. taylor for the Chicago Jane Doe caseLateral sculpted facial reconstruction showing a ponytail elastic similar to the one found with the body.

image of Chicago Jane Doe facial reconstruction sculpture being showcased on America's Most WantedThe reconstructions were aired on America’s Most Wanted and also appeared on their website.

chicago jane doe identification photoAn employee in a dental office saw the reconstructions and contacted authorities, which ultimately led to the identification of this young woman.

image of chicago jane doe case by karen t. taylor. three-part image showing forensic facial reconstruction drawing, id pictures and facial reconstruction sculpture

Historical Reconstruction – Julien Dubuque

For the Dubuque County Historical Society and the National Mississippi River Museum, a member of the Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program

Members of the Dubuque County Historical Society and curators at the National Mississippi River Museum approached me with a unique challenge. They sought the creation of a facial reconstruction based on the skull of Julien Dubuque, founder of the city of Dubuque, Iowa. Dubuque was a French Canadian fur trapper and friend to the Mesquakie Indians. Upon his death in 1810, he was buried on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. In the late 1800s, the original log mausoleum was replaced by a limestone tower and monument at the same site. At that time, excellent photographs were made of Dubuque’s skull prior to reburial. Though Dubuque’s actual skull now lies buried under many feet of concrete, I was able to use the photographs, along with historic and anthropological inputs to create a reasonable depiction of his appearance in life.


 

historical skull of julien dubuqueThe quality of the early skull photographs was very good and there were multiple available views. The complication arose due to a lack of scale or ruler in the images. This meant that although the craniofacial forms were visible, the size of the skull in life was not known.

dubuquep2The primary image that previously existed of Dubuque depicted him as a sort of frontiersman in a coon skin cap. Many historians disagreed with this portrayal since written records indicated a different type of individual. He was known to be a well-educated, polite and cultured man who lived like an upper class gentleman even while with the Native Americans. Documented to have played the violin at social gatherings, his cabin had china and furniture from St. Louis and a library of 58 books.

dubuquep3This forensic facial reconstruction challenge was part art and part science. Starting with the 1887 skull photos, the first step needed was to convert the photographs to life-size, so I decided to try a technique that had not previously been attempted. I consulted with anthropologist friend Dr. Kate Spradley from the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State University, who supplied important data in the form of measurements. I knew that Dr. Spradley had measured multiple skeletons of males of French origin from the 18th Century from the Spitalfields Collections at Duckworth Laboratory in Cambridge, England. It occurred to me that I could scale the frontal Dubuque skull photo based on those measurements.

dubuquep4So, Dr. Spradley’s measurements were used as a scale to create life-size skull photos for each of the views. Red dots marked the width of the nasal aperture or nose opening. I enlarged the frontal skull photo so that the distance between the red dots was 25 millimeters which was the average bony nasal width based on the averages for white French males from a population living at about the time of Julien Dubuque. The multiple skull views were correlated and scaled using the nasal aperture as a foundation. Since the various formulas in forensic facial reconstruction require life-size work, the process could then begin.

dubuquep5The next step was to create an approximation of the missing mandible. For this, a formula from the field of orthodontics was used to sketch out the general structure for the jaw to correspond to the cranial measurements. The teeth were blocked in to relate to the fossas or sockets where the upper teeth would have been. Next, small dots were added at bony landmarks around the skull to show average tissue depths based on anthropological studies for white males.

dubuquep6Formulas from the field of forensic facial reconstruction helped determine the eyes, nose and mouth. The facial contours were developed by “connecting the dots” around the average tissue depths and the forms and features of the face were refined according to the bony architecture.  In addition, I always observe and study the various hypertrophic indicators on the bone that give clues about the relative robustness of the muscles in life.

dubuquep7Written descriptions of Julien Dubuque from the time at which he lived were the basis for the hair, eye and skin color. Clothing details reflect styles for gentlemen of this era.  Based on my experience drawing thousands of faces as a police composite artist, it is a matter of routine to develop details based on descriptions in words alone.

dubuquep8So, the finished reconstruction is an artistic interpretation based on a lot of scientific and historical input to give the best representation possible of the face of Julien Dubuque. This  exhibit can be seen at the National Historic Landmark Site, the Old Jail Museum in Dubuque, Iowa.

dubuquep9A tinted version of my reconstruction was done by Lisa Sheppard at Dreamfly Creations.

 

Prop Sculpture for ABC & Disney

body of proof logoI was asked by ABC Television and Disney Studios to do a “forensic” skull-to-face reconstruction sculpture for use as a prop on the television series Body of Proof with actresses Dana Delany and Jeri Ryan. These photos were taken on the set of the show in Los Angeles. This particular episode, called “Occupational Hazards”, was written by Corey Miller (veteran of CSI:, CSI: Miami) and produced by Matthew Gross.

image of facial reconstruction done by Karen T. Taylor for Body of Proof

This is my finished facial reconstruction sculpture on the set on Body of Proof.

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction prop

Actresses Dana Delany and Jeri Ryan posing with the reconstructed murder “victim” in dramatic lighting on the set.  How fun!

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction propBefore flying from Texas to Los Angeles, I prepared the reconstruction in several phases to facilitate filming…sort of like they do it for cooking shows! The action for the first stage could be filmed, then the next and so on. This allowed for the simulation of a sculptural process that would actually take far too long to film in real time.

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction propActress Jeri Ryan was tasked with “creating” the sculpture and it was my job to coach her so that her hand actions would appear authentic. She was a very attentive student and worked hard to do the procedure “just so”. I was appreciative of her diligence and attention to detail to perfect her craft…and we had a lot of fun together.

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction prop

In between takes…and with dozens of people swirling around us…Jeri and I would practice the next step for her to sculpt.

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction prop

As we worked, we were under the constant guidance of Producer Matthew Gross…in red.  He’s a real pro and was also a pleasure to work with.

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction propJeri was so good at mimicking the sculptural manipulations I showed her, we were able to use her hands for filming. With some other shows like CSI:, my hands have been intercut with the actress’s hands. Here Jeri is holding my favorite handmade sculpture tool. She got SO excited about sculpting those lips herself and did a great job!

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction prop

Jeri is adding some finishing colorization here.

image from the show body of proof where karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction is used as a propThis is the young actress Jessica Raimondi who portrayed the “murder victim” who became skeletonized as part of the script.  I actually gave input for the casting of Jessica. I wanted to choose an actress whose face had bony structural elements that could be reflected in the reconstruction sculpture, just as it would happen with an actual forensic case. Of course, a real case includes the victim’s actual skull forms. The difficulty here was to make a generic skull turn into Jessica’s bony facial structure, in effect doing a simplified portrait sculpture of her.

Forensic artist Karen T. Taylor on the set of Body of Proof with writer Corey Miller

On the set with writer Corey Miller

Forensic artist Karen T. Taylor on the set of Body of Proof with producer Matthew Gross and actress Jeri Ryan

With producer Matthew Gross and Jeri Ryan on her phone photo-bombing us in the background!

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction prop

Actresses Jeri Ryan and Dana Delany with my sculpture on the set.

image of a tweet from jerk ryan to a fan in reference to facial reconstruction

Immediately following the airing of the “Occupational Hazards” episode, Jeri Ryan did a Twitter session. It was fun to get her perspective on the work we did as she responded to the tweets. All in all, the entire experience was really enjoyable for me. The writers, actors, producers and crew were all super.