Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Interview with Anji Marth, painter of serial killers and crime scenes

Originally published 02/15/2013.

Artist Anji Marth, who has painted a series of striking serial killer portraits, spoke to Crime Library about her work. You can see more works by Marth at

Edmund Kemper by Anji Marth.

CL: When and why did you start painting serial killers?

AM: I started painting serial killers years ago, back when I was in high school. I had a really serious fixation on them at that time. When I started doing portraits again a few years ago, they were naturally the first people I wanted to work with. When I paint animals or draw animals, I always gravitate to predatory ones, raptors and corvids instead of little pretty birds, shrews instead of mice…so painting human beings, I have that same interest in the expression of predatory instincts. I’m still struggling to get the look in the eye just right. There’s an unabashed prowess they have in the eyes, I think in only a few of my pieces I’ve captured it.

CL: Who was the first serial killer you painted?

AM: The first one I did was Panzram. Mainly because I’ve read so much about him, been so interested in his story. He’s one of the more fully dedicated nihilists I know of, and so he fascinates me.

Carl Panzram by Anji Marth.

CL: What’s your favorite true crime story?

AM: My favorite true crime story! It’s a toss-up, I think. My favorite true crime anecdotes concern my favorite criminals; Richard Chase and Ed Kemper. Chase said once, when he was asked how he chose his victims, that he “tried every door, and if it was locked I knew I wasn’t welcome.” It’s such a huge statement about how people end up victims of these crimes- just completely random chance, combined with the smallest act of forgetfulness.

Kemper is interesting to me, mainly because he was so open about his acts after he was arrested. He has spoken very plainly about the way he learned to kill, how he failed to get women into his car and learned from those experiences how better to look harmless, so that they’d get in. Like predatory mammals of any kind, serial killers don’t see their victims as equals, as similar to themselves. That disconnect is really obvious when you see Kemper in interviews.

CL: What materials do you use?

AM: I use a lot of different mediums; generally colored pencil, watercolor, and ink. I’ve done a lot of oil painting as well, and I’m a tattoo artist for a living, I work in a shop in Oregon. About the only medium I have no experience or knowledge with is acrylics.

Ramirez crime scene, part of Marth's crime scene series.

CL: What’s your personal favorite piece that you’ve done?

AM: My personal favorite piece I’ve done is one of the crime scene pieces- it was one of Ramirez’s crime scenes, I must have stared at the photos for hours just trying to find the most important bits (to me)…I also did a piece that’s fairly gory, from a crime scene image of the Hillside Strangler’s killings. It was one of the first crime scenes I ever saw photos of online back in the 90s, and it just affected me more than any images since. And I do look at some disturbing images, gory stuff, but the violence against the woman in those images really shook me at the time.

CL: What are you working on next?

AM: My next series on true crime is portraits of serial killers who were also parents; like, good parents to their own kids, but a menace to everyone else’s. Fish, for example.

I’m also hoping to finish out each group of portraits by doing a crime scene painting for each killer. Those kind of exhaust me though, so it’s taken a bit longer than the portraits did.

Andrei Chikatilo by Anji Marth.

John Wayne Gacy by Anji Marth.

Richard Trenton Chase by Anji Marth.

Myra Hindley by Anji Marth.

See more of Marth’s work at

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