by Curtis Burbick
“Spare change? Maybe on the way out?” This is a request I often hear voiced on the street scene in Berkeley, and this is what finally led me to begin producing pencil portraits after meeting these casual friends.
Any one of the trio of individuals I have portrayed might be found just outside the door of a coffee shop, asking for a little help.
It had been my habit at first to offer a hand to them by responding with a contribution and some small talk.
Now, since I love to draw, it occurred to me that I might try to capture in my sketch book the energy and experiences mapped on their faces, to capture that engaging look they always wore when our paths crossed.
So I asked each one if I could take their photographs and draw their portraits.
In an effort to get their agreement to this, I started showing them some other drawings I had done, and also assured them they would receive a copy of their portrait.
I was quickly warming to this new idea so much, that in getting a “yes, OK,” from Walter, I began snapping a few shots of him and then began rendering his picture. And when a first draft was completed, I approached Nate, and then finally Donald.
After a few months spent at drawing, I’d finished all three portraits, and realized how new and exciting this venture was.
The evolution of it initially began for me with the casual befriending of these three, and included observing their persuasive skills at conjuring funds often on cold mornings from passers-by.
This process culminated with the pleasure and joy of my bringing them to life in drawings on the pages of my sketchbook.
This all was quite unique, seeming to have more joy in it than I’d ever experienced before. I also noted it had taken more time than expected. (“Oh Vincent, I’ve always envied your facility to produce quick results.”)
And so? What were the conclusions and rewards?
Well, Walter was delighted and wanted a copy for an old friend. Nate always greets me now with a thankful smile. Donald, the very gentle one, spoke proudly and warmly when pondering the copies I gave him.