It’s tough work being a police sketch artist. Well, unless you’re the deputy from Making a Murderer, who allegedly based his sketch of an assailant on the person he wished to pin the crime on. Ordinarily, though, these artists have to extract details from people who were more preoccupied with other thoughts at the time than memorizing every crow’s foot and pore-texture of their antagonizer, and use those details to create a recognizable face. Consider that the average person might have a tough time adequately describing a face even while looking right at it on a non-traumatic day. But what if it wasn’t an average person, but one of the all-time great writers?
The Composites is a Tumblr that provides police sketch-style composite illustrations of some of the most famous characters in literary history, using only the descriptions of them provided in the book. Somehow, descriptions like this one from Nikos Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ ring truer than the average plaintiff’s: “Narrow, deeply wrinkled forehead… the fluff about his chin and cheeks had become a curly coal-black beard… His nose was hooked, his lips thick…It was not a beautiful face”
Created by triple first-named artist Brian Joseph Davis, the Tumblr has profiled everyone from Jane Eyre to Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s Misery, and it’s even spawned a book of its own. Finally, a more compelling use of police sketch artistry than those Dove Beauty ads from 2013.
Watch a video about The Composites below and have a look through more sketches in the slides above.