Posts Tagged ‘diner’

The Artist as a Collector of Memories

March 27, 2012

Spencer's Grill, Kirkwood, Missouri

I apologize for my recent hiatus.  I became very sick with allergies Saturday night at the Art on the Greene Festival, and now on Tuesday, still cannot shake it.  I am just a shell of a teacher here at school during these state-mandated tests for four hours, and then a full slate of classes following.  Not a good time to be sick.

The art and music festival was a resounding success.  I have not yet inquired about the official numbers, but know that over 3,000 came through the park during the short days of Friday and Sunday.  It would be easy to assume that the Saturday attendance pushed the numbers far beyond 10,000.  My booth was full much of the time, and I enjoyed every single patron that paused to converse with me.

Some patrons came, looking for bargains, some looking for just that perfect piece to fit in a space at home or at work, but many entered my booth to remember.  My company is Recollections 54, as I create scenes and vistas reminiscent of our small-town America during the fifties.  And I truly loved every story, every experience that was shared with me by patrons over those three days.

The posted picture has finally sold, in the original watercolor.  A patron who had been eyeing it for over six months came and made the purchase Sunday.  And I was also delighted to sell limited edition prints of it as well as greeting cards carrying its image.  It is no doubt a scene that has resonated with many.

I grew up outside St. Louis, Missouri, and have known this Spencer’s Grill since my early childhood.  The business was established in 1947 on historic Route 66 (now Kirkwood Road, or Lindbergh Blvd.) and the sign has been in place since 1948.  The business has never closed, and I do not fail to go there when I visit my St. Louis family to enjoy a breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, hash browns and scrapple.  Entering this diner is like entering a time warp in the 1940’s and 50’s.  I relish every sensation and memory culled from my visits there.

Proust reminds us that there are sensations that arrest us unexpectedly and take us back to warm, primal memories of our childhood that matter, that are worth remembering.  Spencer’s Grill does exactly that with the smell of the old diner, coffee brewing, and breakfast foods frying.  The sounds, the aromas, the look at the people hunched over the counter and crowded into the booths–all of this brings back my childhood, and my memories of an America that will not die until I do.

Thank you for reading.  I should be feeling better soon and return to blogging.

 

Route 66 Nostalgia at Spencer’s Grill

March 3, 2011

Despite my earlier post today, I resolved to find a way to get into my garage studio and paint this afternoon.  It wasn’t easy, as I had a college class to teach tonight.  Nevertheless, I did get into the watercolor a bit more, and began the building on the right across the street, and continued tinkering with the horizon colors and shapes.  I think it’s realistic that I could finish this one up by the weekend.  I apologize for the poor photo, as the lights in my garage are not very good, and I didn’t have the foresight to photograph the work this afternoon when the daylight was nice and strong.  But nevertheless it gives the viewer another voyeuristic “snapshot” of a work in progress in my garage.

Thanks for reading.

Christmas Cheer and Nostalgia at Spencer’s Grill in Kirkwood, Missouri

March 1, 2011

Christmas at Spencers Grill

Though it’s been two months since I left St. Louis, my heart still stirs at the memory of a bright winter morning at Spencer’s Grill in Kirkwood, Missouri along historic Route 66.  My wife and I had just ducked inside this historic cafe from the late 1940’s for breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, scrapple and coffee.  This historic sign at Spencer’s Grill I had seen since my pre-literate childhood, and will always remember, Proust-like, as a monument from my remote past.

Recently I’ve been reading plenty of Ezra Pound, and studying his tragic life.  From his poem “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” I found these lines:

All things are aflowing,

Sage Heracleitus says;

But a tawdry cheapness

Shall outlast our days.

For over a decade, I’ve been fascinated with the Presocratic fragments, particularly the pieces from Heraclitus.   I mused over this phenomena of traffic perennially rushing north-south on Kirkwood Road, while the ageless, changeless Spencer’s Grill remains.  With my company Recollections 54 (www.recollections54.com) I try to capture in watercolor the images of an America from the 1950’s that remains in spite of the changes that nearly sweep the ground out from under us as we live out our fast-paced, deadline-driven lives.

Thanks for reading.

Christmas at the Diner on U. S. Route 66, Missouri

February 3, 2011

Christmas at the Diner on U. S. Route 66, Missouri

Tomorrow will mark our fourth consecutive day of school closures.  I’m still tinkering with this late into the night, reminiscing about late-night diners, coffee and conversations that remain with me.  Hopefully I can keep my momentum going right into tomorrow and the weekend.  This painting is growing on me.

Thank you for reading.

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

Kerouac Country, November 15, 2010

November 15, 2010

Kerouac Country

I have posted similar information in another entry today, so I will try not to duplicate (much).  I began this painting Saturday morning during the first of a 2-day art festival, where very few patrons were coming around the booth.  Too much time on my hands, so I figured I needed to do something constructive rather than stand around.

I have painted this site before.  I wish I took better notes on my travels.  All I know is that this structure is in New Mexico and I spent plenty of time on historic Route 66 on the day that I photographed this site.  I just don’t know for sure if it was on Route 66, or on a connecting highway.  I believe it is northwest of Santa Rosa.  If any of you readers recognize it, perhaps you could help me.

The weekend art festival was a one-hour drive for me, and I listened to CDs of Kerouac’s On the Road as I drove through the country.  Thus I was prompted to paint some of those “open-country” themes.

I miss the independent cafes and diners that were such an important part of our road trips in the fifties.  I was saddened years ago to find that the “Owl Shanty” along Route 61 in southeast Missouri was only a concrete slab barely visible among the weeds.  Most of our American roadside past is buried beneath the weeds and concrete.

This particular diner looks like the kind I enjoyed in the days of my youth.  When I drove past it on that particular day, and saw the gathering thunder clouds in the distance, I felt a Proust-like “recollection” of childhood moments that were profoundly important to me then, and still are.

Thank you for reading.