People of Providence

By: Jesse Smolover

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All of these drawings were done from direct observation of people in Providence. More specifically, of people in The Coffee Exchange, because I spend way too much time there.

I began drawing people in the public when I was a senior at RISD. Throughout my studies, I spent a significant amount of time drawing live models – who conveniently, stay perfectly (relatively) still. However, after four years, I grew tired of drawing the same few models over and over again. I also thought it might be helpful to learn how to draw people with their clothes on. An uncharacteristically wise voice in my head told me that the illustration gigs that called for drawing pasty, lumpy middle aged people in the buff, would be few-and-far-between. So, I started going out to inconspicuously draw people while conspicuously staring at strangers and scribbling in a note book.

One of the nice challenges to drawing people in public as they go about their lives is that you have to work fast, sometimes I have less than 30 seconds, which means I can’t be too precise or fuss over little details. This early sketch is where the drawings may be at there weakest, but also when it looks most like the actual person. After those first few moments of sketching, the drawings drift further and further away from the original person, and after they have left I continue to scribble down the details I can remember. Some time later I will go back in and ink the sketch. Finally, usually months later, I’ll color the sketch in with markers and pencil. By this point the real person has faded from my memory; completely scribbled over in my mind by the drawing that used to look like them; which is why I have a hard time recognizing the real people even though, I have spent the better part of an hour drawing them.

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