Behind the Safeway – in progress

The first outside painting day of the year found me not far from the previous painting spot. The lumber store I like to go to has been closed for New Year’s so I had to paint on an existing canvas, in this case the one that was left over from Restless Portrait, layers of acrylic paint and all. The previous painting had Bob’s Gas station and the bank vaguely in the background, and these show up a little more prominently in this one. I was attracted to this spot by the sheer nondescript blandness of the back of the Safeway grocery store. There’s a large, fairly vacant stretch of asphalt and the windowless back edifice is distinctly plain. The roof has a gently curved structure that gives the view some evocative power- in this case the curved roof evokes for me a domed temple.

Behind the Safeway

Beginning Behind the Safeway with a Toned Canvas

These bland urban inter-spaces have long had a prominent place in American landscape painting, with Edward Hopper probably the recognized master of the form. Hopper’s work seems to comment on a particular American disconnectedness, a sense of alienation.

While I revere Hopper, this is not quite what I want the work to be about. I think we live in a different age, a more connected time. These lonely, marginalized spaces exist, but perhaps how we see potential and the possibility for change in them.

Another contemporary American painter who deals with what he calls these “Non-Places” is Trevor Young, someone I was in high school with. Trevor takes this nondescriptness to a grand scale and adds some really beautiful paint handling to the mix.

Today I was aware that in standing in the Safeway parking lot I was technically ‘trespassing’, standing on privately-owned space that is not truly public, shared, communal space. The act of setting up my easel and my painting paraphernalia is a way of claiming this space, domesticating it, somehow making it more human scale and accessible. This was brought home to me when a gentleman pulled over in his truck and stepped up to chat with me about my painting. He was an artist himself, someone who likes to draw. I felt that, if only for a short while, I had made this otherwise fairly unwelcoming space one where conversations and artistic chit-chat were possible.

view of Safeway and easel

view of the back of the Safeway and my easel

The painting at the end of the day has a reasonable amount of progress and a good start to subsequent sessions. I was only able to work on this for an hour and forty minutes. It was roughly 24° and very, very cold even though it was sunny. Let’s see what subsequent painting sessions hold for this work.

painting at the end of the session

painting as it stands at the end of the session