The Bad Portrait Artist

We were leaving Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon tribute in Central Park.  There is a crowd every day, despite the weather, all day long, despite the time.  Everyone is having a picture taken sitting next to the Imagine mosaic.  There is a crowd around the mosaic waiting their turn for a photo.  The area is surrounded by park benches, full of tourists watching this spectacle unfold.

On one of the benches nearby, a local is belting out Beatle songs on an acoustic guitar.   His guitar case is laying open on the ground holding a half dozen dollar bills.  He nods a thank you to each contributor dropping their money into his coffer.  The whole scene seems more reverent than commercial.IMG_8723 7D bad portrait artist sm

A few steps down the path sits a young man, a little disheveled, a few days from his last shave.  He has a homemade easel set up that reads: Bad Portraits $5, with a couple of samples clipped to the frame.

We both have a hard time passing by artists who are trying to carve it out, so we decided to have him do a Bad Portrait of Jerry.

I handed him a $20 and he went through his wallet for change.  He could only come up with $14.  I told him that would work.  He said he would give us a $6 portrait.

He went straight to work.  He meticulously trimmed the portrait paper, set it up on a clipboard and instructed Jerry to sit across the path on a bench facing him.  He leaned forward, studied her intently and then focused on the trimmed paper in his lap.  He sketched first in pencil, then in art ink.

As he worked, a parade of sightseers came by, some stopping to look over his shoulder to see his work.  He would look up, study Jerry, and then return his attention to the piece.

In a matter of minutes, he produced his work.  We both loved it.  I loved it because it showed the huge eyes Jerry had when we first met and she was looking at the world in amazed wonderment.  Jerry loved it because it made her look like she weighed about 20 pounds.

If you would like a Bad Portrait, you can find Joey McDevitt in Strawberry Fields.

bad portrai of Jerry

17 thoughts on “The Bad Portrait Artist

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  1. I am surprised anyone is buying this art. They’d be better off having a child do this, as that’s the level of “skill” and a child’s art would be more fun and more worthy of keeping. This ugly stuff is a gimmick.


  2. We were there in May 2018 visiting from Australia. My Girlfriends and I each got one! So glad that we did! A great keep sake to have to remember our time there! Brilliant!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I was in NYC last weekend and came across this scenario ‘exactly’ as you have penned it. I loved the whimsy-example-pics Joey had pinned to his “ugly” billboard so I hired him to sketch my husband and me. He quoted $7 and I paid him $10. I loved it so much and the lady next to me commented that she liked it too. I told her she should hire him to paint her and she did! I think everyone should indulge in his creativity*

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. It is remarkable how many people find us through this post. We have told Joey he needs a website, but he shrugs his shoulders and keeps drawing. He is dear to us.


  4. was just there with my family and saw this dude. pictures were hilarious! searched the internet trying to find anything i could about him and this was all i got. thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had my portrait done in Strawberry Fields in 2017. I still have it and I absolutely love it! I wish I could find him to let him know how much I love his work.


  5. We’re going to have to find that guy when I get to visit! Ha ha – As long as he doesn’t give me buck teeth like the typical Japanese stereotype. Ha ha! Love you both!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You guys are embracing the world with kindness. I was so moved by the Strawberry Fields memorial, but I ignored the artists. Your perspective fills me with hope.

    Liked by 2 people

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