In late 2019 just before the world went mad, I took a painting trip to New York City. It was a research expedition for studio paintings. This essentially meant visiting a series of locations and producing on the spot paintings, supported by photo reference and drawings. These would then form the basis of several large oil paintings once I was back in the UK.
I was excited about the trip, as was my friend John who promptly invited himself along so now there were two of us. We made a deal that I get to work during the day, and we hook up in the afternoon to experience, eat and drink.
All it took then was to get a place to stay. We chose a place on Henry Street on the lower East Side as its in the southern part of the city and I can easily get out to a location I spied in Brooklyn.
The flight over was the usual mental assault course cum rollercoaster, but after a good night’s sleep we were up and about nice and early.
Breakfast first and we soon settled into a routine for the week by visiting Kossars Bagels and Bialys. Each morning they supplied us with giant Bagels packed with filling so we wouldn’t have to eat again until late afternoon. Once breakfast was done, John I split up and we agreed to hook-up later.
The Meatpacking District, New York City
My first location was in the old Meatpacking District which runs from West 14th Street south to Gansevoort Street, and from the Hudson River East to Hudson Street.
It’s all ‘regenerated’ today with swanky shops and coffee houses for the Glitter-latte, although this was a pretty rough place to be in decades past. In the early part of the 20th Century these streets contained over 250 slaughter houses so it must have reeked! The area was all linked up with a clattering elevated railroad that must have added to the noise and smell.
The Standard on the High Line, New York City
The site I had chosen was The Standard hotel on The Highline.
As I made my way to the site the clouds became a mite dark and by the time I got on location it was raining pretty hard. That said, the gods of art were on my side as the buildings in Meatpacking have large, covered walkways, so I could shelter from the rain whilst I got my initial ideas in place.
The Standard looks like something from the 50’s or 60’s but, in fact, it was completed in 2009. It’s built in the style of Le Corbusier and sits 17 meters about the street on five piers which straddle the Highline elevated railway. Halfway along, the building it pitches at a shallow angle in a sort of arrow, causing the light to play differently across the glass facade. I was keen to make a note of this. It looks incredibly futuristic for something retro.
As I worked, I noticed the bars beneath. This idea was conceived to “create a living room for the neighbourhood.” Here hotel guests and locals could mingle and eat at the Standard’s restaurant, The Standard Grill. It creates a sense of community, so I was keen to put this in place – and don’t forget those yellow cabs!
In-between the showers I would draw the locals. I noticed too that New York has a large police presence and they seemed ‘efficient’ at dealing with any potential trouble. In this area, the homeless were quickly moved on. This too I noted.
I worked in the lines on the road to get in a bit of perspective. In the background and to the left I spotted the Whitney Museum so in that went. By now it was throwing it down and my paper was getting soaked even under cover. I had to abandon the session and come back later in the week to take colour notes and pick up some reflections.
The Whitney Museum
I contacted John and we agreed to meet at the Whitney to have a look see some art and dry out. Although I hate abandoning a site once I am there this was certainly the right thing to do.
The Whitney is a fantastic museum of American art and has a large collection of Edward Hopper paintings and drawings.
It has some of my very favourite Hoppers including, ‘Early Sunday Morning’, and the mysterious ‘Soir Bleu’.
We spent a good few hours in the Whitney and once we left, were thankfully dry enough not to feel the chill. We made our way back home to the Lower East Side and picked up something to eat. Near the apartment we discovered The Fogetmenot, which became our late bar for the week. A really easy-going place with decent beer and a good crowd. More from new York later.
I returned to The Standard on the last day of our weeklong trip. The weather was far more clement, and I got all I needed for the larger painting.