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"Paul Revere’s Ride Revisited": A Conversation with Fred Lynch

Fred Lynch  Old North Church Photograph by Troy Paff.
Fred Lynch. Photograph by Troy Paff.

The exhibition "Paul Revere’s Ride Revisited: Drawings by Fred Lynch" is on view at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library through March 7, 2020.

What inspired you to select Paul Revere’s route as the subject of this project?

FL: An interest in American history started at a young age. Growing up, my family would walk the Freedom Trail, visit the Mayflower and wander through old cemeteries. My father was a high school history teacher. Now I’m an educator in the illustration department at Rhode Island School of Design and among the courses I teach is Visual Journalism—the creation of non-fiction artwork of investigation and research. With my own work, I practice what I preach. Preceding this project, I created a large series of drawings from and about faraway Central Italy, where I teach each July. I drew in a state of wonder, like we all experience when we travel. Following that experience, I wanted to turn my attention to a subject closer to my home and heart. I live in Winchester, only five miles from where Paul Revere's route passes by. I wanted to draw attention to the rich history and specific character of the place I live and where so much has happened.

How do you make your drawings?

FL: Drawing on site is an experience as well as an art. It’s extra-sensory. As I sit and draw for hours on the streets, I soak up every inch of the scene, along with its sounds, smells, and local characters. It is quite different from the monastic life of the studio. My goal is to translate and communicate that rich experience through my drawings. Each drawing is the result of hours spent driving along Paul Revere’s route, followed by walking around, and then finally drawing from observation. When I leave in the morning, I rarely know what I’ll draw that day. Something has to catch my interest or catch my eye. I guess I’m seeking serendipity. Much depends upon being at the right place at the right time. There are lots of obstacles to working onsite—such as traffic, weather, lighting, or even pests.

I start with a light interpretive pencil drawing, followed by many washes of ink. Drawing with exaggeration and character is welcome as long as the drawing is still faithful to the subject. After all, drawings are personal translations. My use of monochrome not only reduces the number of pictorial elements I need to worry about in the time I have, it also makes a historic link to documentary drawings and illustrations of the past. I want my pictures to be seen as informative as well as decorative, and timeless as well as contemporary.
After the work on location, comes the work in the studio. There I examine photographs I’ve taken to be sure I did not miss essential details. Often at this stage, I will add more contrast to the drawing and detail to some of the more precise elements. Research and writing is done last.

What did you learn over the course of this project?

FL: My stated goal at the start of the project was "to draw landmarks of the past and present, in order to form a visual essay that explores, documents, and reveals history, preservation, and change in America." In doing so, I soon found that it would take a lifetime to draw everything I found interesting. Between Boston and Concord, the landscape forms an extraordinary quilt of historic places and periods, rich with visual interest and stories. This route holds the story of America in many ways. For example, I’ve drawn everything from Colonial era slave quarters to Barack Obama’s apartment building when he attended Harvard Law School. Revolution, industry, religion, immigration, culture, entertainment—all can be examined in one short ride. In the short time since I’ve created these works, some places have changed, thus making my drawings…history themselves.





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