Panhandlers of Harvard Square


Adam Sennott
Spare Change News

When most people walk past panhandlers in Harvard Square, they don’t say anything. But for one local artist, a picture says a thousand words.

Marc Clamage, an architectural illustrator and painter, drew his first portrait of a panhandler last year. Since then he has completed eight portraits and says he plans on completing 15 to 20 in total. He offers each panhandler $10 for two hours of his or her time, and when he finishes the project, Clamage hopes to find an art gallery that will put them on display for a show.

Although Clamage did his first portrait of a panhandler last year, he says it is something he had been thinking about for a while.

“I have been walking by these people for six years now and thinking, ‘Gee, I would like to paint him, or gee I’d like to paint her’,” Clamage said. “I did my first one last year and I thought it was a successful painting; it was a fun and interesting experience for me, and so I said I am going to do it.”

Clamage says painting panhandlers has also presented a challenge for him as an artist because his subjects are constantly moving, unlike professional models who will pose in one spot for long periods of time.

“It’s more of a challenge because they are actively panhandling while I am painting them. They’re not necessarily sitting still,” Clamage said. “I don’t want to make them pose for me, so I am kind of working around their movement as they are moving around and calling out to people.”

Although Clamage currently pays his subjects, he says he hopes to raise money for the project so that he will be able to pay them more, and even extend the project.

“The materials cost me around $10 and then it’s another $10 to pay the models. The paint, it costs me another $20, times 20 paintings shall we say, that’s $400 dollars. I have a mortgage and two kids in college so it’s a lot of money,” Clamage said. “If I could raise money to do the project then I would happily pay the models more, because frankly $10 for two hours of posing is very cheap.”

For now however, Clamage is continuing towards his goal of 15 to 20 paintings.

“They’re people and they have lives and stories to tell, and hopefully I am capturing a little bit of their stories in my painting.”

ADAM SENNOTT is former editor of Spare Change News.

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