Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dalleo’s Deli

I forgot to bring my palette knife last Friday, so I had to use a plastic spoon to mix the paint.

Jeanette I set up our easels across the street from Dalleo’s Market on Mill and North Clover Streets in Poughkeepsie, New York.

A police officer stopped his patrol car and walked slowly over to us. I thought he was going to arrest me for bad perspective. He chuckled when I showed him the “Department of Art” traffic cones. We talked about the neighborhood. Then the radio on his belt alerted him to a bicycle theft incident in progress. He got into his car and sped off, siren wailing.

A huge man in a ripped t-shirt, stopped in the crosswalk and yelled “HEY!” He kept on yelling “HEY!” again and again at no one in particular. Everyone ignored him.

I drew the lines of the composition with a bristle brush and burnt sienna. I washed in the big tones with transparent color. Then I got down to details, balancing my hand on a mahl stick.

We faced all the usual questions: “Do you mind if I look?” “Are you a professional artist?” “Do you do this for a living?” “Are you going to sell that picture?” “How much does it cost?”

The answer that leads to the fewest followup questions: “I’m unemployed, and my therapist said I should learn to paint.”

A group of women and children gathered shyly behind us. Most of the children had never seen an artist painting outdoors before. We pointed to the subject we were painting. Most of them couldn’t connect what we were painting with the scene in front of them.

A green signboard once said “D’ALLEOS IMPORTED SPECIALTIES,” but the letters had fallen off, leaving a palimpsest in the faded paint. An old man said that when Mr. D’Alleo owned it, the bread had “body and soul.”

Dalleo’s had both a Pepsi and a Coca Cola sign, both faded. Since each company distributes exclusively, evidently the deli has survived several allegiances.

After we finished painting, we crossed the street to Caffe Aurora for pignole nut cookies, biscotti, coffee, and Italian ices.


Erik Bongers said...

Apart from those nice litte anecdotal stories, one of the benefits of reading an established artist's blog is that the 'the making of' sequences are far more interesting than those found in contemporary art books.
I'm sure you all know them, they have titles like 'Learn to Paint Horses and Daisies in 1 week'.

I think that looking at making-of's is something we artist all love to do. Somehow we are able to 'read' and thus learn from those sequences in a way that ermm, 'normal people' could not. I guess that's why it's so important that not only the information in art teaching books is vital, but much more the accompanying art.

No, honestly, I'm not trying to give a hint here ! The book debate has been closed long time ago, this is just observation.

Another observation I share : when you switch to a job that allows you to be in town between 9 and 5, you get to see a whole different kind of people. The 'normal' ones are all in their offices, so what's left is old people with stories, young mothers and indeed weird people. The latter often called artists.

Ginger*:) said...

I admired your art and the outdoor experience of painting in Poughkeepsie. Had I been standing in that crowd I would have recognized you at once...and most likely asked an inane question or two. I had to laugh out loud when I read the answer you chose to give to the questions about why, what, etc.. you paint.

And I learned a new word. I am sure you can guess which one that is.

I hope I can have as good an answer when I go to the animal farm this week to sketch sheep and goats.

Thank you so much for being so generous in sharing your process and your delightful creations.

Frank Gardner said...

The painting came out great James. I know the area well.
It is the type of thing that I might drive right by and not feel comfortable setting up to paint for a few hours.
The story of the guy with the ripped shirt yelling at nobody, so it might seem. Reminds me of working in downtown Poughkeepsie. If you had asked him, I'm sure he could have told you who he was talking to. I knew some guys like that.

I enjoy hearing the stories of who comes by to look as much as seeing the painting process.
It is a great series of block in shots. The painting has lots of feeling to it. The foliage looks like spring. The dense and heavy look when not a lot of light is getting through.

Alicia Padrón said...

I love this post James. You not only painted a wonderful picture of the place but managed to paint a vivid picture of your day with this post as well.

Had to laugh with the "I thought he was going arrest me for bad perspective" line. Ha!

I learn so much with every one of your posts. Thank you for that.

The painting turned out great. I love the lighting on the mailbox too.. much better than in the photo. :o)

Shane White said...

I like the "therapist" bit...I might have to try that.

With the advent of ipods usually I just ignore people's inquiries.

It's rude in some ways, but I'm trying to stay in the moment.

Hopefully I'm not stacking up bad karma. :)


Sakievich said...

I've noticed that there seem to be at least two laws of painting en plein air.

Law 1: The best views are in the middle of the street.

Law 2: Something important is always forgotten at home. (over the last few years I have forgotten to bring my palette, my easel, my surface, turps, etc.)

Anonymous said...

sakievich: I have that problem, too, only with all of my supplies for art class. Usually I just keep it all in one bag and don't move it unless I need to add or replace something. As for my drawing utensils, I've developed a 6th sense telling me where all of my stuff is, a handy survival trait since I tend to walk off without stuff. These days, my pencil goes in the little pencil holder in my backpack, my eraser goes into the bit where my phone ought to be (it's a pretty cool backpack), and sometimes my sketchbook finds itself in the zipper where my laptop should be. My psychic powers tell me that my art pens are in another state at the bottom of a cardboard box labeled 'Desk stuff (pencils, pens, etc)'. Moving around between two states can be a pain sometimes.


Raluca said...

Ah,I laughed with tears!''arrested for bad perspective'' and ''...my therapist said I should learn to paint.”-I must quote you one day(if necessary)!:)))))))))))))huh!!
Nice done!!I´m not surprised you get ad-hoc a little fan-club around!!

Roberta said...

There's more than painting going on in your posts.... there is life!
What a way to share.
Most excellent!

Pinflux said...

Wonderful work James! It's amazing the people you get to meet, drawing in public places. The vast majority of the time you run into really nice, interesting people.

Sometimes it can be awkward though; The other night I was quickly sketching people at a 'jam-night' music session at a bar... and an elderly (and quite intoxicated) woman asked for a portrait. I obliged, and she seemed really happy with it - 'this is just what I look like!'. She then ran off to the bathroom and came back several minutes later in tears. I think she realised from looking at the picture that she was older than she saw herself - and to top it off she wasn't smiling as I drew the portrait. She asked me to change the picture to make her smile, so I pushed up the corners of the mouth... That still wasn't enough for her - I escaped shortly afterwards.

John P. Baumlin said...

I would only echo the comments above and say I admire your approach to this kind of plein air session, both in your choice of set-up and the way you handle various onlookers' questions. Well done, Mr. Gurney, and thank you for sharing something of your creative process. It's always enjoyable and educational.

stephen erik schirle said...

man that is a fantastic painting, thanks for being so dedicated to blogging!

Tim said...

Great post as usual!I dont wanna regurgutat what everyone else said, but iI I will anyway! Those step by steps are so inspiring and helpful, everytime you put one up I devour it!

I painted in Astor place in NYC a few times, and I once turned round to find around 15 or 20 people looking on in silence.
Once I set up at around mid day, and come two oclock I was completley surrounded by protesters for Tibet! People were leaning on my easel, tripping over it, kids were asking me, "what are you doing now. why did you do that, Its looks nothing like it, whats that, whats the capitol of Austria, daddy come look at this, what are you painting "
I love the little guys, but when you get a gaggle of the all riled up on sugar, oh boy... Ill start explaining about color theory, and they quickly disperse.

Shane: the problem with the Ipod is that after a while when I get in to the painting and forget where I am, Ill start dancing to the music only I can hear. I think I can relate to the yellow T shirt guy...

Phillips said...

Thank you for making my family history part of art history. I realize that you see it as a quaint old building, but that property sustained a very large family for many, many years. And when all the family both lived and worked there, it was the pride of the neighborhood. Our family has lived on that block since the early 20s (1920) and watched the entire history of the twentieth centuty overlooking the Hudson. I wonder if the property is destined to become the mainstay of another immigrant family as the neighborhood changes.

James Gurney said...

Phillips, thanks for giving us the insider's story about what that building really meant to a lot of people. If only every building could talk.