I think maybe the title of this post sums it up. I’m really loving the artwork of Chris Crites, who draws and paints portraits on brown paper bags (mostly) of American criminals from the late 1800s up until the 1950s.

He also names each piece after the crime the subject was accused of. Here is what extortion looks like.

This one caused grievous bodily harm on a police officer:

 This one killed livestock:

And, as I’m sure you can guess, this one sent a number of threatening letters…

His style is amazing. I can’t tell you how much I love these, and each one is done seems so different from the last

He does other work, including celebrities and a cool series on weapons, but these mugshots are the ones I could stare at for days.

In his artist statement he sums up why he does it and how he goes about the process:

“The characters and crime scenes looked like surreal glimpses into the history of human interaction. Much more intriguing for me were the mug shots. Portraits of people who had just been caught. Despair, frustration, anger – so many expressions could be read on the faces. Each one of these images has a story. Often times I have no idea what the real story is, but it’s hard not to make one up.”


In It isn’t so different from how I go about certain aspects of writing. I tend to look at old photographs from the period I write in, looking for inspiration. I used a number of online and physical sets of Civil War photos to get a feel for what certain soldiers did and the equipment they used. It was interesting to try to interpret the mix of expressions on those soldiers’ faces.

WARNING – the mug shot galleries are fine, but some of his other galleries are Not Safe for Work.