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Because everyone has a story

Interesting People: Sonsie Guy

I wrote this piece in August for a Photojournalism class I was taking. From here on out, I’ll be working on more stories like this one. I hope to bring a certain level of awareness to the readers. I want to know YOUR stories, after all everyone has one, right?


Realization: You can walk down a street a hundred times and see the same person over and over again and not think very much of them. After a while, that person becomes part of the scenery. You may think to yourself, “I wonder what that person is doing” but you never take the time to find out.

Then one day everything changes. You stop and look. No, you really look. You’re by Sonsie, a popular restaurant on Newbury Street. You wander just past the open windows of the eatery and there he is, Eric Kluin, a local artist, optimist, pessimist, walking contradiction, better known as “Sonsie Guy”.

When I first arrived in Boston two years ago, I remember walking down Newbury street, looking around bright-eyed, stumbling upon Kluin and wondering “who is that guy over there? What’s he painting? And where the heck is his shirt?” However, I never thought to ask him any of these questions. I simply walked away.  A day in early August would change this.

Walking up to Eric Kluin was intimidating. “I want to write a story on you,” I said. He seemed to look right through me. “It’s just, well it seems like you’re such a big part of the community. You bring a sense of culture to Newbury Street, I see you working on your art here all the time.” “Ah,” he said “flattery will get you everywhere.” I took out my pen and paper his story unfolded.

Inspired by the artwork in comic books, Kluin, 48, knew he wanted to be an artist from a young age. He was never interested in academia and played the part of the rebel through his high-school years.
Though Kluin did not do particularly well in school, he went to and graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in art. After college, Kluin remained in Michigan and spent most of his time working on his art and drinking, heavily.

In 1988 Kluin moved to Brookline, MA. and began selling his art to local galleries on Newbury Street. This is also where he began to spend his days and five years later Kluin would realize his dependency on alcohol.

“It’s funny,” Kluin said “once I sobered up I realized I am kind of weird. I mean, here I am standing in the same place I was 21 years ago, (only) completely sober, drawing, drinking coffee, and smoking cigarettes. It’s enough to make you crazy.”

Walking by Kluin for so many years, I have seen him drawing many different things; flowers, naked women, city scenes, and today a bone winged angel.  With such a wide spectrum of ideas flowing through his hand, I wonder what inspires him.

“I draw inspiration from literature, people, situations” said Kluin “but most importantly experience. I’ve done more ‘revenge on ex-girlfriend’ pieces than I can tell you.”

Talking to Kluin was a whirlwind. He was much smarter than he thought he was, more talented then he knew, but my god did this mans mind know how to wander. With so many ideas how can someone stick to one idea and create such interesting and relevant artwork?

“My thoughts are like spiders running around my mind, they crawl out of my head so quickly,” said Kluin “But once in a while, I catch one.”

After years spent on Newbury Street, Kluin has run into much adoration and criticism from people walking by. He realizes that not everyone understands him or cares for his work and that every lifestyle comes with certain restrictions.

“Me? I have all the freedom in the world except for economic freedom. There are tradeoffs to every lifestyle.” Said Kluin, “But the happiest people are the ones who manage to balance it all. It’s my ultimate goal to reach that comfort level.”

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