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Trump courtroom sketch artist takes criticism in stride: ‘It’s rare to get any feedback’

William J. Hennessy Jr. created this sketch of former president Donald Trump appearing in court during his arraignment Tuesday in Miami.William J. Hennessy Jr.

An artist who sketched former president Donald Trump during his arraignment last week has drawn some heat on social media from those who said his depiction of the former president made him look too young and svelte.

William J. Hennessy Jr., 65, was one of three sketch artists who attended Trump’s arraignment in federal court in Miami on Tuesday. The Rhode Island School of Design alum has ties to Massachusetts, too. His mother hails from Cambridge; his father, from Dorchester.

The Virginia resident’s illustrations of Trump in the courtroom, where he pleaded not guilty to 37 counts related to the alleged mishandling of classified documents, had some observers grousing that the former president looked better in Hennessy’s sketches than he does in real life.


The former president turned 77 this week. In 2019, when Trump was still in office, his physician said he weighed 243 pounds. It’s not clear whether he has gained or shed much weight in the years since.

One Twitter user commented on Trump’s youthful appearance in the sketches, and said it looked as if Hennessy was “going off of a photo of Trump from 40 years ago.”

“Clearly William J. Hennessy Jr. thinks Trump is young and thin...” another Twitter user wrote.

“Is this William J Hennessy Jr’s audition to do Trumps official Whitehouse portrait?” quipped another.

Hennessy, who graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 1979, has 40 years of experience sketching courtroom scenes and took the criticism in stride.

“It’s rare I get any kind of feedback,” Hennessy said in a phone interview.

The artist said he’d received mixed reviews (about “fifty-fifty,” he said) of his sketches of Trump — some good, some bad.

“Some said he looked too thin, too young, and some said he looked too good,” Hennessy said, noting that the negative feedback seemed to come from people who “didn’t care much for Trump.”


He said he wasn’t trying to make Trump look any better than he does. His goal is to capture the scenes in the courtroom like a camera would.

“I don’t editorialize,” he said. “I just draw what I see.”

Hennessy said cameras and phones weren’t allowed inside the courthouse building at all, which made it “a bit of a challenge” to communicate with the outside world.

“It was a pretty stressful day, a long day,” he said.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.