By Veronica Lawlor, in New York City
I was at home yesterday, on St. Patrick's Day, and received a happy birthday text from a friend and fabulous artist, SiYeon Lee. She said that she and a few other friends were going to draw 'my' parade - the Patty's Day parade, and that they had been inspired to do so by my reportage work, currently exhibited in the Artists for Art Gallery in Scranton. I thought, why aren't I inspired by my work? And decided to go out and draw the parade a bit myself.
As soon as I got off the train on Fifth Avenue, the sounds of bagpipers hit me like a green wave. What a familiar sound! I came around the corner, and saw a cacophony (can you SEE a cacophony?) of Irish faces and blue eyes marching along. I love the eclectic feel of it, and it's really funny, but the Patty's Day parade for me is always about those faces...
Smiling, winking, laughing, and feeling proud - those faces all feel so familiar. I am of 3/4 Irish descent, after all. I recognized the emotion - the twinkle in the eye no matter what - the sense of humor against all odds - such a singular Irish trait. It was fun to draw these guys and see the American flag turned Irish for a few hours on Fifth Avenue in NYC.
This parade is very much like a family party - as many people marching on Fifth Avenue as people watching them go by. It is not uncommon for parade spectators and parade participators to know each other, and it feels at times like a small community in the midst of a major metropolis. There isn't a lot of spectacle in the way of floats or sparkles, just a lot of Irish New Yorkers saying, hey, we're here and proud to be so! And why not? Irish immigrants built half of this city, after all.
I love the Irish step-dancers, the young girls with their starched Celtic dresses and their starched pony tails. And the bagpipes keep coming! You can't even begin to count them, more and more, so I give up trying to identify them individually and just draw a bunch of pipes moving down the street as a unit. A clan, if you will.
I work my way down to St. Patrick's Cathedral, as it seems like this is the backdrop and the heart of the entire parade. The crowd is beginning to thin out a bit, and as it does, the packs of young drunken men are beginning to stand out. And I am also smelling something green that isn't the grass of the Emerald Isle. Time to head home. But as I am about to turn the corner to go downstairs to the subway, I see him - a real live leprechaun! I can't NOT draw this man, so proper and so full of joy. He seems to be twinkling with a little bit of Irish magic.
Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all!