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Andrew Stevovich
  • Chet's becomes Jessie's
  • The assortment of food containers stored under the counter is finally finished. Organizing them and their colors in a way that enhanced the composition without being a distraction was a challenge. They originally had letters on the labels and images of tomatoes, chickens, oats, etc. That soon became very busy and precious; I scraped them all away, and restarted, making the containers more minimal and abstract, quieter and in harmony with the rest of the painting.

    Jessie's Diner, detail of lower half
    approx. 17" x 52"

    I've also decided to change the title from Chet's Diner to Jessie's Diner. After my last blog post, a friend wrote to say that the original title was confusing since it is Jessica who owns and operates the diner and is in the painting, while there is no Chet to be seen. In fact, Chet had sold the place in the 1930s, leaving behind only his name printed in large block letters on the exterior. As I developed the idea in drawings, I always referred to the subject as Chet's Diner, but for the painting my friend is right. The original title makes no sense. Jessie's Diner now it is.

    Jessie's Diner, in progress
    35" x 65", oil on linen

    Next will finish the upper wall and ceiling, and then turn my attention to the last challenge in this painting - figuring out what will be going on outside the windows. As with the items under the counter, will try to find a solution that is minimal and unobtrusive.

  • Chet's Diner, in progress
  • My painting of Chet's Diner has been moving along slowly but surely. All the figures are now in place and I've been working on the background.

    In my previous two blog posts I wrote about paintings by Benozzo Gozzoli, Sano di Pietro, and Sandro Botticelli, and about how figures in those paintings were repeated to capture movement and/or the passage of time. I've played with the same idea here, putting Jessica, the owner of Chet's Diner, in three different places as she goes about her day: cooking, serving, and opening a window.

    Chet's Diner, in progress
    35" x 65", oil on linen

    My neighbor's 24-year-old son, Ethan, stopped by the studio last week. His take was quite different and futuristic; he thought the three Jessicas were a trio of clones.

    A few days earlier, another visitor thought they were natural-born triplets. And someone else told me that the idea made no sense at all.

    I've always enjoyed and encouraged the fact that different viewers interpret my work in different ways. Probably the most extreme example happened at one of my openings when a person came up to me, pointed to a painting called Pharmacy, and said I must be seriously depressed to have produced such a bleak work; just a few minutes later another person came up, pointed to the exact same painting, and cheerfully complimented me on having a very amusing and insightful view of the human condition. Paintings in a way can be mirrors.

    9" x 9", oil on linen, 1994
    Private Collection

    As for Chet's Diner, Ethan immediately recognized it as the setting for my painting, though when I'm done, the lower part of the walls will be colored differently ... not white but the same red I used on the window frames. The other major difference is that the real Jessica has brown hair, not blonde, but - together with the man's shirt - I wanted to bounce golden yellows across the surface.

    Photoshop color study for roughly how the wainscoting will look when painted:

    Interior of Chet's Diner:

  • Chet's Diner
  • Chet's is a diner in my neighborhood, built by the Worcester Lunch Car Company and assembled in its present location in 1931. It's had several owners over the years and is currently run by Jessica Fidrych, daughter of the late Mark Fidrych, a well-known pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and a 1976 All-Star. Before his accidental death in 2009, he often worked the tables.

    Chet's is only open for breakfast, and Laura and I go there fairly often. I've wanted to do a painting inspired by the place for a long time, and have accumulated numerous sketches, trying out different compositions and different points of view. Three months ago the composition finally came together. Here's a photo of that drawing, surrounded with some of the sketches that led up to it: 

    on the drawing wall

    A few of the sketches:

    A.)  pencil on paper, 6" x 7 1/4", 2004
    B.)  ink on paper, 4 1/4" x 4 1/4", 2 July 2008
    C.) ink on paper,  7" x 5 1/2", 2009
    D.)  pencil on paper, 3 1/4" x 4 1/4", 25 November 2010

    E.)  ink on paper, 4 3/4" x 4 1/4", 29 January 2015
    F.)  pencil on paper, 4 1/2" x 7 1/2", 6 September 2016 

    I made a large version (35" x 65") of the drawing below to work out the size for the painting, now in progress. There was no change to the composition.

    Chet's, pencil on paper, 21 1/2" x 40", 23 - 24 September 2016 

    I'm planning to paint the three figures who are cooking, serving, and opening a window as the same person: Jessica, the owner and cook. In some Renaissance paintings a narrative is told this way within a single image, such as in the panel by Sano di Pietro below - one of my favorite paintings in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. - telling the story of St. Anthony traveling to meet St. Paul and getting directions along the way from a centaur.

    The Meeting of Saint Anthony and Saint Paul
    Master of the Osservanza (Sano di Pietro)
    c. 1430/1435, tempera on panel, 18
    1/4" x 13"
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


    canvas on the easel with drawing transferred, 11 October 2016