Grady | 24"x 30" | Oil on Canvas
When I first saw Grady in downtown Philadelphia, I was struck with a desire to paint his portrait. Each morning as I walked several blocks in downtown Philly, from my subway stop to my school, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, I made it a point of saying hi to Grady. After a few weeks, I introduced myself, and thereafter I would stop and exchange small talk and ask about him and his life. I found out Grady had done some preaching in his younger days and had served two tours of duty for the US.
One day I ask Grady if he had any family. He said he had two sisters in South Carolina, but he hadn’t seen them in years. I asked if he had their phone number. He said he did and pulled out a bulging hand tooled leather wallet and began rifling through the many papers packed inside. Finally he pulled out a paper with a phone number on it. I asked if he would like to call them and he said he would. So, I dialed the number on my cell phone and handed it to him. I walked on a bit to give him privacy. I later found out his sisters were thrilled to get the call. It had been so many years that they didn’t know if Grady was even alive, let alone where in the world he was. We did this again on several occasions.
After almost three years of relationship building, I finally let Grady know I wanted to do a painting of him and asked if I could take his photograph? At first he was upset, thinking I was being like a tourist who simply wanted to take a photograph of a street attraction. Thankfully his friend Amit Patel, who ran the little convenience item shack on the corner, helped Grady understand that I was an artist and I wanted to paint his portrait. After being assured, Grady calmed down and was a willing model. I took his picture in the McDonalds on the corner there.
After completing the painting, I took it out on the sidewalk to show Grady. He was delighted and told me “You can’t ever sell this painting, this is the one that is going to make you famous”. Many of Grady’s friends on the street gathered to see the painting. The excitement was tangible and felt like a mini festival of street friends, I will always remember it.
Of course I do not know all of Grady’s life story, but out of respect to him I feel compelled to make it clear that I never saw Grady with his hand out, I never saw him ask for or receive anything from anyone. He seems to have simply chosen to be on the street and become a part of the society there. It seemed obvious that a lot of people knew him, liked him and respected him.
I have been back to Philadelphia and visited with Grady and Amit there at the corner of Broad and Arch streets. I am happy to know them and to feel that we are friends. This portrait of Grady was to be the last artwork I did while a student at PAFA. The original painting is part of a private art collection in Philadelphia, PA.
"You should have the Art you Love."
Limited Edition Options
Size # in Edition
24"x 30" 25
18"x 22.5" 200
12"x 15" 300