Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Patti and Harry


Patti Lawrence at The Gallery of Local Artists on Broad Street poses by her portrait of Harry.

When Patti Lawrence opened her art gallery on Broad Street a year ago, she noticed that every morning a solitary man would press his face up to the front glass and look in.

Finally one day she took him out a cup of coffee. It was Harry, one of Kingsport’s downtown fixtures.

And that simple act of kindness began a friendship.

They would chat a while. “One day he told me, ‘Don’t let the past get in the way of your future.’ He trades wisdom for coffee every morning.”

Then one morning she had a banana. “Harry came by and I held the banana up like it was a telephone. I went, ‘Ring-ring-ring. It’s for you.’ Harry laughed.”

Now every day she gives Harry his coffee and a banana. And he gives her his wisdom. “He’s a lovely man.”

A few weeks ago Patti decided she wanted to paint Harry’s portrait. In addition to being a gallery owner, she’s also an artist. “I knew he couldn’t sit still to pose so I took his picture.”

She painted from that and the result is a striking portrait that makes Harry look like an Old Testament prophet, full of widsom. She put the painting on an easel in the front window and waited for Harry to come by, a bit nervous about what his reaction might be.

She laughs, “He studied it and said, ‘That doesn’t look like me. Now give me my coffee.’”

“Harry,” the painting, still occupies that honored place in her front window at The Gallery of Local Artists, 158 Broad Street, next door to T.K.’S Hot Dogs. It’s priced at $2,000.

That’s just for the painting of Harry. Patti wouldn’t take anything for her friendship with Harry.

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