“Most are some of my favorite bars or local classics that I’ve learned to love in my time living in the city. Others just have a great facade that I know would make a great drawing.”
Toss a digital rock in the air, and you’re bound to strike a half-dozen Instagram accounts sharing dreamy photos of Boston locales. But Maddie Laberge, the woman behind the account @shop_maddog, upstages them all. She’s an artist and studying architect who captures Boston’s unique charm through pen and paper.
The daughter of a civil engineer, Laberge became interested in art and architecture at a young age and graduated from Syracuse in 2019 with a Bachelor of Architecture degree. She moved to the Boston area the same year, and currently works as a designer at a local architecture firm while studying to earn her state license.
In the meantime, Laberge engages in that favorite pastime of all local students: wandering the city. “One thing about Boston that I love is the walkability of the city,” she says. “In a three-mile walk, you can see multiple styles: Colonial Revival, Brutalist, even Art Deco. I think that really keeps your eye focused on what’s around the corner. I’ve always been interested in the mix of old and new architecture, which is something I really love about Boston.”
Soon, that love manifested as straight-on sketches of local facades, including neighborhood landmarks like the Brattle Book Shop in Downtown Crossing or Charles Street Supply on Beacon Hill. Sketches of local bars and restaurants became a particular focus, with old standbys like Anchovies in the South End depicted alongside relative newcomers like Cambridge’s Lamplighter Brewing Co.
“It’s definitely a mix,” Laberge says of her subject selection, which also draws from other cities, including South Bend, Indiana, and Syracuse, New York. “Most are some of my favorite bars or local classics that I’ve learned to love in my time living in the city. Others just have a great facade that I know would make a great drawing. But the drawings that get the most attention are ones I’ve been to and loved.”
Once she started taking commissions, Laberge began sketching venues that had held special meaning for others, particularly those that had shuttered permanently as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her first such request was a sketch of Bukowski Tavern in Inman Square; the commissioner also requested several prints to gift to their old beer-drinking pals.
“After that piece, I realized so many similar businesses have closed, and people want to remember those good times,” Laberge said. “I’m planning to continue drawing businesses closed because of the pandemic, because they were such a large part of the Boston community.”
Laberge launched an Etsy page in January, where prints of other bars that have since closed, such as McGreevy’s in Back Bay and the Field Pub in Central Square, are available beside still-standing venues like Loretta’s Last Call in Fenway and the Burren in Davis Square. Each of her hand-drawn prints are priced at $20.
It takes Laberge about two to five hours to complete each drawing, which she composes in her apartment on 8”x10” paper. Patrons who commission work (commissions are currently closed but are expected to reopen in mid-March) receive the original drawing. Completed hand drawings that Laberge sells as prints are turned into digital files and cleaned up with Photoshop before printing.
While her work has attracted attention from beyond Boston, Laberge says the most impactful responses have come from the patrons of those closed establishments she’s memorialized on paper.
“I’ve gotten a handful of messages from people who found my drawings of the bars [that have closed] telling me how much they loved the many late nights, good conversations, etc. It’s really been heartwarming.”
Eric Twardzik is a Boston-based writer and editor with extensive experience in branded copywriting and journalism with an emphasis on food, drink, travel and men's lifestyle.