FLEMINGTON, N.J. – Hunterdon County Polytech Career & Technical High School student Molly Parsons, of Annandale, came in second in the New Jersey State Bar Foundation Courtroom Artist Contest.

She was among 65 student artists from throughout the state who sketched a courtroom scene to submit for judging.

Parsons, a 3D Computer Animation student at Hunterdon County Polytech, put her own artistic touch on her courtroom sketch, aiming for what she called a “newspaper-esque style.”

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She said of her completed artwork, “I did what I usually like to do: bold colors and very expressive people; I put the emotions they were feeling all over their faces, so it was clear to the audience what was happening.”

Parsons’ sketch won over contest judges: professional courtroom artists, Aggie Kenny and Elizabeth Williams, and criminal defense attorney, Brian Neary.

The Courtroom Artist Contest coincided with mock trial competitions, during which high school teams participated in rehearsed trials to learn more about the legal system in a competitive format, with real-life judges presiding over the cases. Parsons sketched while Hunterdon Central’s mock trial team competed at the Hunterdon County Justice Complex in Flemington. 

“My students did what courtroom artists actually do: journalism through art,” said Polytech instructor Teresa Diaz. “The focus is reporting the scene as you see it, but the challenge is observing and listening while also drawing the scene quickly. They observe and identify key figures, set the scene and capture what’s going on.”

In addition to Parsons, Polytech student Erin Lane, who is enrolled in the Commercial Arts & Advertising Design Program, also took part in the contest. It was the first time Polytech students participated, making Parsons’ second-place finish all the more exciting for the high school.

Diaz commended Parsons for “capturing action and emotion in her piece.” She continued, “You can see the interaction of those involved in the courtroom. I love the pointing of the finger, because you can tell the attorney is questioning the witness, and the witness doesn’t know what to say. There’s interplay with the characters.”

Prior to the competition, Diaz attended training at the New Jersey State Bar Association office in New Brunswick, where the National Bar Association had real courtroom artists explain key elements of successful courtroom art. She then passed their advice onto her students.

Parsons, however, attributes her success to the ongoing instruction she received from Diaz in her 3D Computer Animation Program. “Her class has helped me so much, especially learning how to draw people from life. I’ve also learned how to take what I see and put it in my own style, which helped me place in the Courtroom Artist Contest.” 

Parsons also hopes to apply what she has learned at Polytech to a future career in television animation or as a storyboard artist. Her ultimate goal is to produce family-friendly television.

Molly Parsons is the daughter of Lisa and Steven Parsons. 

Parsons will receive her second-place prize at a later date. The awards presentation ceremony for the Courtroom Artist Contest was scheduled to take place March 19 at the Law Center in New Brunswick, but it was postponed to follow restrictions and guidance to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Hunterdon County Polytech Career & Technical High School is the largest component of Hunterdon County Vocational School District (HCVSD). Polytech (polytech.hcvsd.org) is the district’s shared-time high school that prepares students for a seamless transition to college and career paths. HCVSD also operates an Adult & Continuing Education division and three science-based academies. Learn more at www.hcvsd.org

All pupils will be given equal opportunity for enrollment in programs operated by the Hunterdon County Vocational School District regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender, religion, disability, or socioeconomic status (34 C.F.R. Part 100, Appendix B, Section IV-A). No qualified handicapped person shall, on the basis of handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity which receives federal financial assistance, et seq (34 C.F.R. Part 104.4(a)(b).