The Lovebirds

April 27, 2014

Justin (whom I painted last year) and his girlfriend Lauren. Justin had proposed the night before, Lauren had accepted, and their sign reads “Newly Engaged Need Motel to Celebrate.” Lauren was almost absurdly cheerful at first, but became progressively glummer as the day progressed. She couldn’t understand why their sign wasn’t eliciting more donations (they changed the message later that day), or even garnering them congratulations for their engagement. They discussed their plans between smooching, which involved getting an apartment and one of them working while the other went to school, then vice versa. Lauren had fled her abusive husband, run into Justin up in Vermont, then followed him here. She suffers from hypoglycemia, which explains her deteriorating mood.

Spoke to Ken the other day. He and Frenchy are in an apartment (as he pointed out, his sign no longer referred to them as homeless). Their various SS, disability and other payments cover the rent and utlilities, but not food, which was why they were still panhandling. Ken has been diagnosed with diabetes and is beginning to suffer foot complications. He told me his one luxury was a Comcast cable/high speed internet connection, and that he was playing two to twelve hours (!) a day in an on-line multi-player game that had the word “Empire” in the name. I guess everyone needs a hobby…

Justin and Lauren (The Lovebords)

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Granary Burial Ground

April 16, 2014

The famous cemetery next to the Paul Revere Church in Boston. As I painted this it occurred to me the perfect title would be “Pickman’s Models,” but alas a quick review of the story showed that the Lovecraft reference was not appropriateĀ (“All were pointing to a certain passage, and every face seemed so distorted with epileptic and reverberant laughter that I almost thought I heard the fiendish echoes. The title of the picture was, ‘Holmes, Lowell, and Longfellow Lie Buried in Mount Auburn.'”) As my first landscape of 2014 I certainly enjoyed myself doing it–I got to present myself as an expert and give budding artists advice. However, I cramped up in every extremity and both sides almost immediately and overall it was a painful experience. Whoever said “an artist must suffer” must have been over 50. I took my brother’s advice and have been drinking a glass of tonic water every morning; no cramps at all when I painted Jim this weekend.

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Jim

April 13, 2014

First panhandler painting of 2014. I’ve noticed a bunch of new faces in the Square in the past few months when I come in during the week to work, so I came in on a Saturday hoping to paint one of these newer, younger transients. Alas, at 11 a.m. on a Saturday, none were to be found, although they’re all over the place and at all times during the week. I did see Gideon, whom I had painted back in 2011, and gave him an extra ten dollars for his trouble.

Jim is one of the Harvard Square regulars. He sits in a wheelchair outside the bank next to the T stop and asks people to make a contribution to wheelchair basketball. I gave him my usual schtick — “Would you like to make ten dollars? I’m doing a series of paintings of panhandlers in Harvard Square, Can I set up my easel and paint you?” In his particular case I added, “You are panhandling, aren’t you? I don’t want to insult you if you’re legitimately raising money for wheelchair basketball.” He smiled weakly and answered “Panhandling, soliciting, begging–it’s all the same thing, isnt it?”

I made a point of getting the portrait down as soon as I could, since we were at a crtitical juncture on the sidewalk and mildly impeding foot traffic. Just as well, since a busker set up in the Well, attracted a crowd, and created such a mess I felt obliged to close up shop a little early and get out of the way. Incidentally, Jim seems to be doing quite well for himself as the panhandlers go in the area. I’d say he easily collected ten or fifteen dolllars from others in the hour and a half I painted him. That may not sound outstanding but it’s as good as I’ve seen in the past few years.

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