Forensic Artist Q&A: Joe Mullins

Forensic Artist Joe Mulllins and age progression

Joe Mullins can be reached at 703-837-6299, or by email:

How did you get started in forensic art?

Was working as a graphic designer and a co-worker had left to go work at NCMEC (The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) and asked if I wanted to come check it out because a job was available. Went to meet him for lunch and got a tour of NCMEC … went into the Forensic Imaging Unit and saw a skull up on the screen that one of the artists was working on … and that was it. I said “that’s what I want to do!”

Been here at NCMEC for 11 years.

What type of forensic art do you do?

We focus on age progression, age regression, soft tissue reconstruction and skull reconstruction. Really anything we can do to assist Law Enforcement we do.

Development of facial reconstruction; finished image; and victim identified.

Do you prefer one type of forensic art over the other?

My favorite is skull reconstruction.

Describe the amount of forensic art you do: are you full-time, or as-needed?

All day, everyday all I do is work on finding a missing child, catch the bad guys or give these victims their names back. Full time M-F

What qualities do you think are important to have as a forensic artist?

Be humble and always willing to improve.

Do you think it is important for a forensic artist to be employed by a law enforcement agency?

It certainly helps more doors open up if you’re in Law Enforcement. However there are lots of talented Forensic Artists out there ready willing and able to help with the work load and the fact that they’re not active Law Enforcement severely limits their ability to contribute their talents to the field.

Please click for the full case study

Have you ever testified regarding your forensic art casework?


What is the biggest misconception that people have about your work?.

All technology and no technique.. the computer does it all for me.

What advice would you give for someone trying to enter the field?

Be persistent and annoy the hell out of whomever you need to .. to get your foot in the door … don’t think you’re going to make lots of $$ doing this … be humble.

What is the most satisfying aspect to your job?

With the age progressions sometimes we get to meet the children we’ve helped find and their families … no words to describe how satisfying that is. That’s why I think I have to coolest job in the world!!

What is the least satisfying?

Can’t think of anything .. I love my job!

Do you remember your first composite drawing? How’d it go?

Only done a couple actual composites … my very first one was working with two young girls … was a bit challenging but I think over all it went well.

Is there any case that stands out in your memory, and why?

The ones that stand out are the horrific morgue images of children that have been brutally murdered. I can still vividly see all of those little faces. No way to erase those.

Were you always artistic, or did you discover the ability later?

Been drawing, sculpting and painting ever since I can remember.

Do you do any other type of artwork outside of your job?

Sold out to the dark side and do all kinds of fun stuff to celebrities for the tabloids like Us, Life & Style, Intouch magazines. And I teach skull reconstruction at the Art League in Alexandria and at the New York Academy of Art in Tribeca.

Do you watch any of the crime shows, like CSI, Bones, etc?

Only if something I’ve done is going to be featured!! ; )

What other job would you be interested in trying, if any?

Wouldn’t mind being a Forensic Anthropologist maybe … but that would require a lot more school!!

What job would you absolutely hate?

We have an exploited child division here at NCMEC and those people have to look at child pornography all day … I would hate that job … funny thing is they say the same thing about MY job and the images I have to look at. I think no contest they have it much worse than I do!

Is there anything else you want to say, or anything else about you or your job that you would like people to know?

Gotta do what you love!!


  1. Great interview buddy – your personality shows through your fingertips. There seems to be a consistant theme within the forensic art arena – we all love our jobs!!! You are so right about the job you would hate! Had to endure assisting on those cases at my former job. Keep up the good work Joe!!

  2. Mrs. Maulolo says:

    Hello, your passion is riveting. Ever since I earned my BA. in Multi Media Animation I have wanted to skull reconstruction, catching bad guys and bringing peace to families is a what I want to do with my talent. My problem is that seems there is no way to get started with no experience in the field, do yo have any suggestions for me? -Thank you!