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A wholesome-looking, crew-cut kid sits on a mushroom stool in a diner, his legs dangling free. He is easily identified as the title character of Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post cover The Runaway (pictured) by the possessions at his feet, all bundled into a red kerchief and tied to a stick. The kid is caught mid-fidget as he meekly meets the gaze of the state trooper on the next stool. Looming over him, the trooper barely suppresses a smile as he forces himself to be stern. The soda jerk behind the counter grins at the touching tableau before him. So does the viewer. Rockwell’s paintings are somehow realer than real, simultaneously universal and very particular. To accomplish this feat, the artist employed real people, not professional models, as his sitters. Ironically, it was photography, the medium that precluded the need for magazines to employ hyper-realist illustrators like Rockwell, that allowed the artist to use amateur models. For each work, he would shoot several rolls of film, mixing and matching the snapshots into a jigsaw-puzzle image that he then used to paint a seamless composition. Maybe that’s why Rockwell’s paintings border on caricature—the subjects’ expressions are just too revealing, too flexible, as if everyone’s face were as easily contorted as Jim Carrey’s. Get a glimpse into Rockwell’s artistic process—and find out what a couple of his real people really look like—when Ed “The Runaway” Locke and 1958 Massachusetts State Trooper of Year Richard J. Clemens share their stories about sitting for America’s most American painter at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 19, at the Corcoran Museum of Art, 500 17th St. NW. $16. (202) 639-1770. (Mark W. Sullivan)