Courtroom sketch artist takes his talents to the streets 

Courtroom sketch artist takes his talent to the streets

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Montgomery artist Bob Adams has been turning public coffee shops and bookstores into his own art studio for close to 30 years.

Using the public as his drawing subjects, Adams creates beautiful “in the moment” sketches of complete strangers.

One of Adams’ favorite places to draw is Prevail Union, a coffee shop in downtown Montgomery.
One of Adams’ favorite places to draw is Prevail Union, a coffee shop in downtown Montgomery. (Source: WSFA)

One of Adams' favorite places to draw is Prevail Union, a coffee shop in downtown Montgomery.

“It’s not fun to sit in a house by myself and draw,” Adams said. “As long as I can get out in public or sit on a sidewalk or sit in a coffee shop or bowling alley and draw, it’s fun that way.”

Most of the time, Adams keeps the drawings for himself, but sometimes a drawing will be randomly gifted to a complete stranger, for no reason other than to put a smile on their face.

“He just asked me one day, he said ‘hey can I do an artwork of you?’ and I said sure,” said Idris Holyfield, a frequent customer at Prevail Union.

An hour later, Adams had drawn a beautiful sketch of Holyfield.

I offered to pay him for it because it was beautiful and he said no, and to give the proceeds to the church down the street because they feed the homeless,” Holyfield said. “So I gave a donation. I wrote a check the very next day. I believe in giving and so he didn’t want anything in return and he just simply wanted to share his talent with anybody.”

The strangers Adams uses at models for his work are sometimes only there for 30 minutes, requiring him to draw swiftly.

The strangers Adams uses at models for his work are sometimes only there for 30 minutes, requiring him to draw swiftly.
The strangers Adams uses at models for his work are sometimes only there for 30 minutes, requiring him to draw swiftly. (Source: WSFA)

Drawing strangers in a matter of minutes, however, is not a foreign task for Adams. He attributes his ability to draw elaborate images in such a short period of time to his experience as a courtroom sketch artist for WSFA 12 News years ago.

“Basically, these quick sketches are just practicing that very enjoyable way of working,” Adams said.

Adams drew courtroom sketches for high profile cases like the Milton McGregor gambling trial and former Governor Don Siegelman’s trial.

Now, a skill that was once used for work is being used as an everyday hobby.

“It’s fun to come here and draw because people sit still for a little while,” Adams said. “They come and do their homework or they have some rental property they’re discussing with a client or something and they sit a little while long enough to be able to get a little study of what they’re doing.”

Adams said he began taking art seriously in the eighth grade. As a new kid in school that year Adams said he was frequently bullied.

“I was kind of pudgy and so they called me pudgy and had all these little fat nicknames for me,” Adams said.

But all of that changed after one of his drawings caught the attention of one of the “most popular girls in school.”

“I did this little doodle and she saw it and raved over it,” Adams said. “I would have thought it was a Michelangelo drawing the amount she raved over it. After she acted like that, everybody wanted a Bob Adams cartoon and they never called me another name again.”

Adams said that a similar reaction to his work today brings him joy.

“I have discovered that people just love to see them and caricatures,” Adams said. “And people rave over it now even like they did when I was in eighth grade.”

Adams’s love of art brought him to pursue a degree in fine arts from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn New York.

Adams said he plans to continue to draw and bring happiness to people in the community.

“There is a scripture verse that says ‘you pick your path, but God will guide your steps,’” Adams said. “And I think that is what life is all about.”

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