Monday, March 30, 2009

Life Turns Ten - Part 2

(continued from March 15)

Howarth turned back to his drawing. The girl had moved her head slightly, throwing off the angle from which Howarth viewed her a few minutes ago. He erased a few lines and continued. Soon he had a complete drawing of the young woman’s head and neck. He started to put away the pad. She slept on. “Hey, mister,” the young boy whispered.

“What? ... Say, aren’t you supposed to be back there on the bench with your mother?”

“She’s tending to the baby. She don’t know I’m here.”

Howarth was irritated by the boy’s question. He liked to work alone in his studio in Philadelphia.

* * *
He based his comic characters on himself and his family. His daughter, Edna, was a model -- a Philadelphia beauty at the age of 18. Here she is with Howarth’s granddaughter, Sara-Elizabeth, some years later. Edna has her father's eyes.

Photo courtesy of Floyd Smith Sanford. All rights reserved.

Exaggerated, dark eyes and bulbous noses on the men were Howarth’s trademarks. (He was kinder to women). His captions were witty but dated, reflecting the prejudices of Howarth’s era.

* * *
“You get right back there, young man. I don’t think she wants you to talk to strangers.”
“Oh, come on, mister, just lemme see that picture you did, the one of the lady.”
Howarth flipped open his drawing tablet and showed the sketch to the boy.

“Golly! It looks just like her!”
“Thank you,” Howarth replied.
“Can you draw me?” the boy asked.
“Oh, no, I don’t think so. Your mama wants you back on the bench, I’ll bet.” Howarth looked across the aisle to see the boy’s mother glaring. She came toward them with the baby in her arms.

“William, you come back here and stop bothering that man!”
“Aw, ma –"
“Come back and sit here with us. Don’t go bothering people!” She turned to Howarth. He could see how tired she was. “He’s just a curious boy, mister.”
“It’s all right, ma’am. He wanted to see what I was doing.”

Howarth showed her the drawing of the young woman. “Oh, my,” the boy’s mother breathed out in a sigh. “It’s her likeness!"
“I earn my living by making drawings that are printed in magazines.”
“You do? They pay you to make drawings?”
“Oh, yes, and they sell the copies at the newsstands. Like that one over there.”
“My, my, what people won’t buy! But that sure is a good picture, sir!”
“Why, thank you, ma’am.”

Howarth saw a group developing: the woman with the babe in her arms and the young boy grabbing her around the knees. “Ma’am, would you allow me to draw you and your children? I’ll give you the drawing – for free,” Howarth said.

“Sir, I never had my picture done. Don’t know if I should or not.”
“Why not? Let me just take a few minutes. Just stand there, just as you are. Now, don’t anyone move. Stay still now ...”

Howarth went on soothingly as he did a quick sketch of the outline of the little family group. The baby stirred. William tried to see what Howarth was doing, but his mother tugged on his collar as if to cement the boy to her knee. “Just a little while longer,” Howarth said. “Just a bit more here – “ he shaded with the edge of his pencil. “And there – “ he added some detail to the woman’s face. “And here – and it’s done!”

Howarth showed the drawing to the woman. She stood still and quiet, examining the picture. “Oh, my, sir, it’s all of us! Here we are, baby, and William, and me! The baby began to cry and William was getting restless. “Sir, thank you so very much. William, get our things or we’ll miss our train! We’re going to visit my mother. She paid for our tickets!”

“Madam, I hope you enjoy the drawing. William, thank you for being such a good subject,” Howarth said. He watched the woman roll the drawing carefully and tuck it into the bottom of one of her bags. “I’ll keep it clean like that,” she said. “That’s fine,” Howarth replied. “By the way, I signed my name on the bottom so you will remember me. There it is: F.M. Howarth.” “Howarth,” the woman repeated. “I don’t read too good, but I will remember your name. “So will I,” William chimed in. “I hope I see you again sometime.”

“I hope so, too, William,” the artist replied. The family walked toward the track and a porter helped the mother with her overstuffed bags. As Howarth watched them move on, he noticed from the clock in the reception hall that it was nearly 5:45. Time to get across town to his dinner! He noticed that the young woman was gone – too bad. That William was an inquisitive boy!

(to be continued)

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