Lois Gibson is used to coming face-to-face with treacherous criminals.
As a Forensic artist for the Houston Police Department in Texas, her visionary talent has helped to positively identify 751 criminals and secure over 1,000 convictions.
Each day, she sits at her blank easel with charcoal in hand; meeting people whose lives have been stricken by burglars, murderers, and abusers.
More often than not, the victims who come to her have only seen their assailant during the fleeting and unnerving time they were targeted.
Many say they wish they could offer more details to construct the portrait - but the nature of the crime committed against them means they have little recollection of their attacker.
When this happens, Lois hears what they have to say as they sit across from her in the room of the police department.
She connects with them, nods, and discusses something else, pondering the character of the attacker out loud with them.
Then she asks a single, definitive question: “What kind of expression did they have?” “If they can answer that, if they can tell you what the expression was, then they saw the face,” she says, “despite being convinced that they hadn’t.”
Lois makes it her passion, and more importantly, her ambition to reconfigure the facial features of the felon from a book of human characteristics she hands victims.
The sessions, which average around 120 portraits per year, can unsurprisingly be hugely emotional. With the victims reliving a horrendous moment, Lois is responsible for re-configuring the antagonist of a horrific time in the their lives.
Reliving those moments is an experience known only too well by Lois. Back in 1972, she sat in the same seat as with many victims she consults with for forensic drawings, after being brutally attacked by a serial rapist and murderer.
“I know what it’s like to ponder my own death at the hands of somebody else for no reason,” she says, comprehending the immense pain of the people who’ve come to her.
At the time of her attack, Lois was just 21-years-old, and had been pursuing a career in acting and dancing.
The day of her attack changed everything.
Lucky to survive, Lois became inspired by her incident after she later witnessed her attacker being arrested by police for possession of drugs.
She immediately left her apartment in Los Angeles and fled to San Antonio, Texas, pursuing a Fine Arts degree at the University of Texas.
After taking a job as a portrait sketcher for tourists visiting the city, 3,000 drawings later, she gained the skill set needed for becoming a forensic artist.
“I forced myself on the Houston police department, assuming that if I sat with a witness, I could draw the person that was committing the crime right in front of them,” she said, “And sure enough, when I worked my first murder, I got the guy caught.”
An incredible 751 positively identified criminals and over 1,000 convictions are the direct result of Lois’ persistence in the field; many would not have been caught without the visual assistance of her portraits. The feat has earned her the Guinness World Records title for Most criminals positively identified due to the composites of one artist.
The convictions range from female kidnappers to hostile murderers, with many friends and relatives of the criminals calling to report the offender after seeing Lois's sketches on television on in the press.
Now when looking at the walls in her office you’ll see it lined with face to drawing comparisons of the felons who’ve been caught due to her sketches, along with her shining Guinness World Records certificate - affirming the magnitude of her success.
It’s no understatement that Lois has used her art to change lives, and she has continued doing so in more ways than just capturing lawbreakers.
For an exhibition called “Soul Survivors,” Lois recreated portraits for individuals whose relatives had passed in the Holocaust.
She has also founded her own forensic drawing school, the Institute of Forensic Art, where she teaches on average 20 students the talent of drawing from audible cues and pieces of pictures, with the hopes that more artists will be utilised in police departments all over the country.
In the span of her career she’s even trained Israel’s first forensic artist, Gil Gibli, and co-authored her book, “Faces of Evil”, and has also appeared on the popular TV Show “America’s Most Wanted”.
At the age of 66, she continues to aid others find justice for the wrongs that have been done to them. “When I realised that a pitiful piece of art work could stop a murderer, who killed the same way I almost got killed, I was hooked. You get addicted to catching criminals once you realise you can catch them with just a little bitty sketch that took less than an hour. I’m completely addicted and I never want to stop catching criminals with my art.”
To hear more details about the true accounts that Lois has worked on throughout her career, and her attempt to draw our Editor-in-Chief, Craig Glenday from audio cues, watch the video below.