The details come slowly, sometimes painfully: the mustache is a little thicker, the eyes more slanted, the nose more pointed, thinner. Greg Bean, a detective...

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The details come slowly, sometimes painfully: the mustache is a little thicker, the eyes more slanted, the nose more pointed, thinner.

Greg Bean, a detective for the Bellevue Police Department, listens carefully, coaxing the picture of the suspect from the victim or the witness of a serious crime. Together, Bean and the person will flip through a book of faces, pointing out eyes, noses, chins, cheekbones.

“They begin to recognize the suspect one feature at a time,” Bean said. And it’s his job to put those features together so they accurately reflect what the person remembers.

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“You are trying to draw the victim’s memory,” Bean said.

Bean is known as one of the best forensic sketch artists in the field. His sketches have been linked to the capture and prosecution of more than 14 suspects in five years.

Recently his talent received accolades from one of the largest forensic-art schools in the country, after a certification exam in which he scored 149 of a possible 150, tying the highest score given by the school.

Not bad for a guy who last took art as a junior-high student.

“I didn’t pick up a pencil until I was 39,” said Bean, 45. “It kind of makes you wonder what else is inside of you.”

About 5-½ years ago, Bean attended a class on becoming a forensic sketch artist.

Bean, who has been a police officer for more than 20 years, wanted to learn more about the art of interviewing victims — forensic artists focus on a person’s visual memory of the crime scene — than about the art.

But along the way, the class designed to teach the basics in composite sketching unlocked a latent talent in Bean.

Over the years, he has taken several courses with Stuart Parks Forensic Associates, one of the largest programs in the country that trains people in the specialized skills. The program is run by Carrie and Rick Parks, who have taught more than 500 people across the nation to be forensic artists.

The certification exam is difficult: artists must prove they can glean details from victims and witnesses, drawing an accurate face and then explaining their work if it’s ever questioned in court, Carrie Parks said.

During the weeklong certification course, Bean had to draw four sketches, using different photos and facial features.

He also was tested on his skill at getting facial details from witnesses in interviews and had to teach the sketching process to other people.

Bean’s high test score shows he’s a master of all facets of the job, Parks said. She says she thinks Bean is one of the top 10 police sketch artists in the country.

He’s come a long way, Parks said.

When he started, “he couldn’t draw blood with a knife,” Parks said. But he turned out to be a phenomenal artist, she said.

Half of his Police Department cubicle displays black-and-white sketches of hard-looking suspects, some of whom have been apprehended.

“I’m always practicing. I always carry a sketchbook with me,” Bean said. “People don’t want to sit across from me in a meeting because they know I’ll probably cartoon them.”

The other half of his work cubicle is decorated with hand-drawn pictures of his wife, children and other relatives. “There was more love in the pencil with these pictures,” Bean said.

Rachel Tuinstra: 206-515-5637 or rtuinstra@seattletimes.com