Posts Tagged ‘blue plate special’

Nostalgic Christmas Dining on Route 66 at the Spencer’s Grill

February 3, 2011

Nostalgic Christmas Dining on Route 66 at the Spencer's Grill

This one is going to be fun!  Spencer’s Grill, along historic route 66 in Kirkwood, Missouri, was a visual landmark for me, even before I was old enough to read.  This 1947 diner, with its 1948 sign, was featured on a billboard in Fenton, Missouri, adjacent to the Meramec River bridge on Highway 30.  As a small child, I admired the maroon-and-gold signage complete with vintage clock.  Once I was old enough to enter the diner on my own, I discovered a scene reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s painting “Night Hawks,” complete with stainless steel kitchen and the aromas of old-fashioned cooking.  Every summer and Christmas, when I re-visit St. Louis, I stop into the Spencer’s Grill, usually for breakfast which includes scrapple, of all things!

I began this work last month, then stalled as I continued work on a couple of other large watercolor compositions, and of course, the constant juggling of high school and college teaching schedules.  Yesterday I discovered water damage in the midst of the painting (sloppy me–always leaving a damp towel on my work).  I have just about restored all the “bleeding” areas that weren’t supposed to be there, and I pledge to be more careful now as this thing slowly takes shape.  I still have plenty of pencil work to do, as I’ve decided now to extend the composition to the bottom and to the right.  And of course, there is still plenty of signage to detail, traffic to block in, and shadows to lay down.  But I am finding real joy in this.

Texas has canceled school three days in a row, an extremely rare feat–in fact I don’t recall three consecutive cancellation days in my near-25 years of teaching.  At any rate, it has allowed me to focus more on my painting, and for that I am grateful.

Thank you for reading.  I’ll try to be more faithful with daily blogging . . .  Wish me luck on this one!

Spencer’s Grill, Kirkwood, Missouri–January 17, 2011

January 17, 2011

Spencers Grill, Kirwood, Missouri.

I am pouring my heart into this composition, which overall measures about 19 1/2 by 22″.

Spencer’s Grill was established in 1947, and this sign dates from 1948.  It is located in Kirkwood (St. Louis), Missouri along historic Route 66 (now 223 S. Kirkwood Road).  You can read its background from this website:  http://www.route66university.com/busdir/spencers.php

My reason’s for painting this defy words, but I’ll give it my best effort.  I saw this sign daily on a billboard during my pre-literate days.  I was travelling in the car on old Highway 30 from Fenton to St. Louis.  A billboard advertising this diner was alongside the bridge over the Meramec River.  Though I couldn’t read it, I was taken with its color scheme, and always looked for it on the drive.  During my teenage years, when I learned to drive, I was surprised to see this diner (and its sign!) on Kirkwood Road.  My dad worked at a dealership north of this location, and thus I saw it many more times when I would drive to see Dad at his workplace.  I guess I’m trying to say that there is something “Proustian” about this sign–it takes me back to images and remembrances of my childhood, which are warm and inviting.

I have lived in Texas since 1977, and travel to St. Louis only to visit family.  In the 1990’s, with a 35mm camera, I drove to this location and took a number of photos, then went inside for the first time, to eat.  I couldn’t believe I waited thirty years to enter the establishment (and now have waited over fifty to paint it!).  Once inside, I felt that I had entered Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks. This cafe began just five years after Hopper painted that work.  Sadly I note that these diners are getting harder and harder to find.  I settle for Starbuck’s, but wish for Spencer’s Grill.

I guess as artists, we always call ourselves “visual persons.”  But I cannot stop staring at signs and logos that I saw before I was able to read them, and was captivated by their designs–Chevrolet, Ford, Texaco, Sinclair, Maxwell House, and of course, Spencer’s Grill.  There remain (for me) certain color schemes and selections of fonts that I cannot stop staring at, and probably will continue to do so till the end.

So, to any of you who have warm memories of old-style diners from your “pre-literate” youth, I hope you will enjoy this one.  I’m feeling a great sense of reward and fulfilment as I work on it.

Thanks for reading.  My website is http://recollections54.com