In the space of just a few moments, courtroom artist Cloudesley Rook-Hobbs is making split decisions and finding defining moments, as he produces sketch after sketch at the second-degree murder trial of Gerald Stanley.

"The accused or the witness may only be in the room for 10 to 15 minutes, so it takes some pretty rapid sketching," he told CBC Saskatchewan's Morning Edition on Friday.

Stanley, 56, is accused of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie in 2016. He has pleaded not guilty and is being tried in Court of Queen's Bench in Battleford, Sask.

Gerald Stanley

Cloudesley Rook-Hobbs captured images of the accused, Gerald Stanley, as well as witnesses and legal counsel, in the first week of Stanley's second-degree murder trial. (Cloudesley Rook-Hobbs)

Rook-Hobbs, a Regina-based lawyer, is currently working for a bitcoin company. But with a long-time background, and a degree, in art — along with a passion for sketching — he welcomes the opportunity to take on a few courtroom sketches a year.

"It's fun, it's interesting," he says. "And certainly as a lawyer, it informs my practice to go and hear what other lawyers are doing."

In the Battleford courtroom, Rook-Hobbs said he makes multiple judgments in choosing his sketches, sifting through legal arguments and key moments each day. He also relies on his memory to depict not just single moments, but also people's composure during the day.  

trial

A sketch gives an overview of the courtroom in Battleford, Sask. (Cloudesley Rook-Hobbes)

"So if they're glib, then I draw them smiling. If they were upset, then I try to capture that."

He tries to pick out key actions to depict — for instance, when RCMP firearms expert Greg Williams testified about a handgun, Rook-Hobbs outlined a quick sketch in the brief moments when Williams held the gun up.

Greg Williams

This sketch shows RCMP firearms expert Greg Williams testifying at Stanley's trial. (Cloudesley Rook-Hobbs)

"It's sort of a snapshot of the mind that is reinforced by seeing the people as they move and as their facial expressions change."

Cameras are not generally allowed in Canadian courtrooms, and Rook-Hobbs says there's good reason for that — the presence of cameras could be intimidating for witnesses and victims, he said, and prevent people from wanting to come forward to testify.

But sketch artists are part of translating reality into an image that can be shared with the public and show that the wheels of justice are indeed turning, he said.

"I think it's very important that there be a window into what's going on inside the court."