Monday, September 22, 2008

Harpy Meals Are In

On Saturday at noon, just as President Bush was announcing his proposed 700 billion dollar Wall Street bailout package, Jeanette and I were setting up our folding chairs in the parking lot of the Dunkin Donuts in Kingston, New York to view the American Experiment firsthand.

Across the street, the McDonald’s customers were arriving in their Hummers and Expeditions. A bright banner proclaimed the new offering: “Angus Chipotle BBQ Bacon Burgers.”

The yellow sign with movable letters said “WIZARD OF OZ & LEGO HARPY MEALS ARE HERE.” I looked again, and it really said “HARPY.” I guess the signmakers ran out of “P’s.” Perhaps they were also unaware of the winged monsters from Greek mythology who punished King Phineas by stealing food out of his mouth just as he was about to eat from the banquet table.

I took a little time to work out my pencil drawing first, knowing that watercolor is unforgiving. I started painting on the right side of the composition, concentrating on the white car. I guessed it would only stay for 15 minutes while the owner was dining inside. In fact, he emerged after only 12 minutes.

The man stood beside his car with a cigarette and a cellphone in one hand and a soda cup in the other while waiting for his son to come out of the “Playplace.” The Playplace—the glassed-in structure at right in the picture—is a two-story playground retrofit from the 1990s. Kids can slide around through large intestine-like plastic tubes while digesting their cheeseburgers.

The son arrived as the man finished his Coke, his cigarette, and his telephone conversation. “Get your butt in the car,” the man said.


Random York said...

This is a wonderful demo Jim! I admit, I do love McDonald's Pancakes!

Rob Hummer said...

Ahhh, Americana.

And a curious coincidence I just noticed about the man in the painting. His proportions seem to very closely resemble those of the big purple McDonald character Grimace. It's almost a match.

Anyway, I always love seeing images showing the progression of a painting in progress, getting a little glimpse into an artist's process.
Thanks for todays glimpse Jim.

Shane White said...

You are my hero, James.


Daroo said...

Great observations in irony (re: the intestines and the harpy meal -- hey that sounds like a "Wacky Pack" gag ) Nicely written and a great little painting.

Concerning the Hummers, SUVs and the industrial food chain I recommend reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. (I "read it" by listening to the audio book whilst drawing.)

Making A Mark said...

What an opportunity for a "high concept painting"!

Erik Bongers said...

The man looks a bit supersized.
Us Europeans tend to think this is the standard size for Americans but I've met plenty and few fit the description.

But we have McDonalds of our own you know, with the same indoor playgrounds and the same burgers with the same name and taste. (except for the cheesy one, because of the metric system)

Sounds like an ideal world to me: wherever you go, you have the same people with the same culture and the same food and the same opinion.
Hotels are also working on such a utopian world. Doesn't that sound like a lovely place?

Terry Daniels said...

Depressing as all get-out. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Maybe both.

"Harpy Meals" would be preferable to what they actually sell (We could all use a dose of historical mythology!)

I need to try more technical watercolor sketching while out & about. I usually take a more painterly approach, which doesn't capture so much detail.

J. E. Morris said...

Lovely watercolor. I know it's not a quote from a book, but you should add "Harpy Meals" to your Art by Committee challenge.

jeff said...

Man are we in trouble, you wonder why we seem to be turning into a Banana Republic.

Harpy meals is a classic.

Great seeing how you worked on this.I love how you make things we take for granted so appealing as paintings.

Reminds me Reginald Marsh in some ways.

Speaking of politics I'm thinking of voting for the other Palin...
Vote Silly in 2008!

Unknown said...

Very funny story and neat picture!

My daughter once took a picture of a sign that was supposed to say: "Five new Angus burgers" -- it actually said "Five new anus burgers"!

craigstephens said...

I love the painting demo and the deadpan narrative that goes along with it. In the immortal and depressingly true words of the great Walt Kelly, "we have met the enemy, and he is us".

r8r said...

This will be a memory of the turn of the century fifty years from now. People will point at stuff like this and say 'I can't believe we were ever like that!'

Unfortunately they'll also say 'It was a simpler time...'

Nikol said...

One of the Wizard of Oz toys is the flying monkey. I wonder if some college kid spelled "Harpy" meals on purpose as a literary joke.

Unknown said...

That's an optimistic outlook Niool. I suspect that they ran out of "p's", however.