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A place for on-the-spot child portraits


WHO: Globe writer James H. Burnett III; his wife, Jill; and their 11 1/2-month-old son, Max.

WHAT: Pen and ink portrait sketches by artist Kate True

WHERE: Hatched, Jamaica Plain

Hatched, the eclectic baby store in Jamaica Plain, has never needed excuses to encourage patronage. Since its 2005 opening, the earth-friendly retail outlet - which offers everything from organic clothing and toys to “green’’ baby accessories and learning tools, including alphabet blocks made from recycled wood - has been a popular stop for parents hoping that extra efforts to find chemical-free stuff will pay off in the form of healthier, allergy-free kids.


Even so, Hatched has come up with a great new excuse to visit: on-the-spot portraits of children by a well-known New England painter.

Artist Kate True has made a name for herself in recent years for her light, airy, oil and oilstick portraits - often of women and children. And she’d be the first to tell you that she has plenty of work to do - gallery openings, museum exhibits, private commissions, and artist receptions.

But in spite of her busy schedule, True, who lives in Boston with her three daughters, has quietly begun a new habit, once a month or so at Hatched: pen and ink sketch portraits of babies and young children.

In four-hour blocks, True, who was invited to Hatched by old friend and store founder Liz Vittori Koch, sets up an easel in the store’s cozy play corner, and has parents who are game sit in a recliner directly across from her, holding their squirmy tots. Kids who are old enough or calm enough can sit and pose, parent-free.

Each sketch takes 10 to 15 minutes, with True making furious pen and brush strokes, while never breaking a sweat - or her smile - and softly praising her subjects for sitting still throughout.


“I’ve been doing portraits for years as an artist,’’ True says. “And this is one of my favorite forms of portrait, because it’s a simple, unassuming form, with pen and ink. I think the simplicity is what makes these work. And I love children - newborns, infants, toddlers, all ages really. There is little more beautiful or innocent than a young child. So I started these sketch sessions as a simple way to capture that.’’

Of course, young children don’t always like to be captured. For the mental health of those kids’ parents, True takes a series of snapshots from different angles, draws their portraits later, based on the photos, and mails them to the parents.

“I think Kate’s sketches are great,’’ says Vittori Koch. “They’re not just well done, but they’re a fun way to commemorate a period in your child’s life without going overboard. We’re glad to have her!’’

Hatched, 5 Green St., Jamaica Plain. 617-524-5402. www.hatchedboston.com. Tue-Thu 11 a.m.- 6 p.m., Wed, Fri, Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun noon- 5 p.m. (Closed Mondays.) Sketches by Kate True are $50 apiece, or $40 each for two or more. Call the store for her next scheduled appearance.

James H. Burnett III can be reached at james.burnett@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamesburnett.