Sketch inside Amy’s Place

There are many charming eateries and novelty stores on Wickenden Street. Most exciting of all there is an art supplies store (I name no names) where I walked this morning in the hope of finding a fountain pen to sketch with. Unfortunately none satisfied me and I left art supplies-less. As I fought the black wave of disappointment that swept over me I saw a cute breakfast place named “Amy’s Place” on the corner. I had heard the name before, I just couldn’t remember whether it referred to this restaurant or to my friend’s Grad Center suite.

Inside it was cozy with names of sandwiches, bagels and smoothies scrawled in chalk on huge blackboards. I placed my order and sat down to sketch.

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Portrait of the Artist

When it gets dark outside one’s own reflection in the window is brighter than the scene outside. This is a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has traveled on a train at nighttime. What is peculiar about this reflected image is that it is selective: certain colors, and wavelengths of certain polarizations, are preferentially reflected. It is interesting to observe the effect this has on the image.

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Figure drawing

Who doesn’t like a big juicy ass?

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Tree sketch

At the corner of Brown and Power streets is the President’s House. Across from the house are some steps where you may rest for a cigarette early one morning and observe this great University’s President shuffle determinedly down her driveway and pick up her newspaper, like an enlightened Tony Soprano. A little farther down Power Street is the lovely Nightingale Brown House. Half-hidden in the wall is the entrance to its garden, where a little path leads down to an open clearing bordered by a grove of trees. This is one of my favorite spots at Brown, where I have spent many afternoons and evenings in leisure. Even late at night a walk to this park is the perfect balm for a long day.

Here one may find a great variety of trees. Each is visually distinguished by its peculiar pattern of growth, texture of bark, shape of leaves, response to change of season, and colocation with other plants. One may spend hours in this one spot just observing every plant, tree and architectural element.

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Providence Capitol sketch

The gorgeous marble and brick Rhode Island State House is a mirror for the colors of the sky, an effect I was unfortunately unable to convey in pen and ink. This angle is one a visitor to Providence rarely sees, but from Prospect Park, near the corner of Prospect and Bowen, one can peek up the city’s skirt.

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Clock Tower sketch

(Just the tip of) Providence County Courhouse


A building designed to blend in with its surrounding architecture, the Georgian-styled Providence County Courthouse is ironically striking against the meager if charming skyline offered up by downtown Providence.

I often go to the Rock so I can enjoy drawing the magnificent view out of those windows on the second floor. This sketch shows my obsession with one particular denizen of that panorama. A day or so after making this I was admiring it with a loving if critical eye (vanity is my favorite sin), and I noticed a curious fact that had eluded me entirely when I finished it: the time I recorded is different from that shown by the clock! At first I thought I had unwittingly played a subtle joke, mostly on myself, but then I realized that the difference was a record of the time it took me to finish the drawing after doing that part: around 9 minutes.

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Rivertown 3

Amanda Wright was a slight, blonde woman in fashionable clothes. She seemed worried but fully in control, almost exasperated at this situation. She was ready to receive me and held a dossier as she let me in the door.

“Would you like some coffee?” she asked as I sat down.

I took some moments to reply. Her furniture was sleek, the walls of her living room bare but for minimalist wooden bookshelves. There were no photographs in the room, and certainly no television. Did I really want coffee? For inspiration I looked down the hallway leading out of this room. Doors opened into mysterious worlds as yet unknown to me. This had once been the house her father lived in. It mattered little to me that it was clearly hers now. She stood impassively waiting for my answer.

“I’m all right, thank you. But I will take some water.”

“Water it is.” She spun in place and left. Did anyone else live here besides her? It was hard to tell. There were no telltale animal scuffs on walls or furniture. Gradually, out of corners and mantelpieces, slim bamboo plants in glass beakers winked into visual notice. A faint aroma of coffee and incense began to register, accidentally personal like an imprint left by a head on a pillow. She came back with my water and a cup of coffee for herself.

“I know why you’re here. What name are you going by in town?”

“My name is Vinay, Mrs. Wright.”

“Well, Vinay,” with emphasis on the name, “I haven’t talked to my father in years.”

“I’m well aware, Mrs. Wright. Has he communicated by mail?”

“No. But I receive mail for him all the time and forward it to his university address.”

“As you’ve been doing for years, no doubt.”

“Decades.” She took a sip of coffee. “My mother saw him in a cafe last year. She called me about it.”

“Did she care?”

“No, not really. She said he got fat.”

“She’s been saying that for years, Mrs. Wright.”

“Decades. And look all the difference it’s made.”

I had no reply to this. I took a sip of water. I needed more information than she seemed willing to give. I found her unusually tight. In my line of work it becomes easy to make people talk. It is only necessary for completing my duties, and on the whole I find the mastery of that skill has made me a more pleasant person. But here I had met my match. Mrs. Wright’s cool demeanor left me no cracks.

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