Wednesday, November 14, 2007

public outcry

I walked out my front door earlier this week to do something for which I fully expected public backlash. I started window painting.

November 12th, Shannon and I painted 5 holiday store windows. A little early for Christmas? I think not. We usually start a couple of days before Thanksgiving, but this year we contracted with a big store chain to be painted before Thanksgiving so we had to start earlier.

Monday was hot as heck outside, I had just put away my box of Halloween decorations, it's still 10 days before Thanksgiving and we we're painting snow scenes and holly berries all over town. Before Thanksgiving even arrives, there will be over 35 stores greeting their customers with a festive "Happy Holidays". (And we're not the only ones doing it, either. Holiday window painting is a competitive dog-eat-dog industry. I'll bet you didn't know that!)

So Monday morning, like I said, I thought there would be a holiday outcry. We actually did encounter some grumpy, grinch-like people doing their grocery shopping. One old man actually had the nerve to say "Christmas already? You should be painting turkeys!" (Well, it doesn't sound mean when I type it, but you should have heard the menacing tone of his voice).

One really cantankerous man was opposed to our work. As it turns out, he is an atheist and because he is an atheist, he doesn't believe in any aspect of this foolish holiday so therefore our work is needless and his being inconvenienced to use the west grocery store door instead of the east grocery store door was totally asking too much of him. So . . . I grabbed my cup of paint, climbed down from the ladder, moved the ladder, moved our cart of paint, pried open the automatic doors that had been disabled for us while we painted, and I let the crabby man into the store to do his shopping. Does being an atheist and being absolutely rude go hand in hand? Maybe so. I didn't know this before today.

"So you're the artistes. I didn't know there were any girl artistes" (no I didn't spell artists incorrectly. That's what he said, "artistes" - 3 syllables). He said this as he was staggering away from the store in a drunken stupor. It was 8:30 am. Yeah, we were painting in a lovely part of town.

One particular comment surprised me. A man growled at our holiday cheer and then as he walked away, we noticed his shirt had the logo of a decorative holiday light installer.

The general public is so creative. "So, you're painting the windows!" I don't even know what to say to that comment. They seem to be smiling and somehow trying to be complimentary, but it's such a stupid thing to say, I don't know how to respond.

"When you're finished here you can come and paint my house!" This is said as if it is a hilarious comment. In actuality, not so hilarious. Even if it were slightly amusing, we hear it each and every day, each and every year.

On the flip side, many people get overly excited. While we were working, the owner of a neighboring store in the shopping center came by to see if he could hire us to do his window. We told him we could if he wanted it done immediately, we'd be finishing at this shopping center soon and would be leaving, so it was now or never. The pressure was on - he and his employees had to make a quick decision, they switched in to high gear, changed the course of their workday to accommodate us, chose a custom design from our portfolio, watched us work for an hour and took pictures. Apparently there wasn't a whole lot of urgent work going on in their office. I am always glad to bring cheer to the little people all over this great city.

Speaking of our "portfolio" we carry around this sorry 3-ring notebook with paint spilled all over it. In it, there are some pitiful photos of our work (we're actually pretty good painters, not so great photographers). From that silly notebook, perfect strangers have handed over wads of cash to paint their windows. Very trusting indeed. Shannon is amazing. She can sell anyone anything. Not only can she sell the jobs, but she is taking over the painting. I'm afraid I'm losing my job security. I've got to put some thought into that problem.


Heidi said...

I'm a little disappointed that you didn't post any of your portfolio pictures.

It seems like the holidays bring out the best and worst of people.

Anonymous said...

PICTURES! Where are the pictures? Must - Have - Pictures!

Where's Shannon when you're getting atheist lip-abuse? Somehow I can see her dishing it right back like a pit bull...but in a totally righteous way of course.

Cynthia said...

ok - here are a couple of non-exciting photos. I have decided why we have such bad photos. This type of painting is not meant to be studied. It is meant to be a bright eye-catching splash of color as you drive by or as you are picking up your shopping cart. We walk up to a bank of windowpanes, sometimes 60 feet in length and have them painted in 75 minutes or less. This is not Hays quality painting. It's a big "Feliz Navidad", some holly berries and a snowman or reindeer thrown in occassionally.
Having said that however, we do a few specialty windows through the season that are adorable, but I realized that we snapped those photos last year with a disposable camera, so I don't have it saved on my computer. I'll take some photos as we go these next couple of weeks.

rachel said...

you didn't tell them about "number one"!!!

Anonymous said...

Excellent! This is wonderful graphic art because you ARE making use of the extra long space to fill, and focusing on the purpose of the this kind of seasonal work.

There are certainly plenty of bad window art examples; images too small, details that are mush from more than 3' away, or worse; just poorly drawn figures.

Your images are LARGE, bright, 2-dimensional,proportional, tastefully represented and just darn cute. Super nicely done lettering, too. Two thumbs up all the way!

Bandanamom said...

This is why you guys get the big bucks, putting up with Rude Athiests.

What surprises me though is that you are painting Baby Jesus on some of these windows. How's the athiest man feel about that? Because clearly, you can sort of go with the flow on a holly berry, I mean, it's not really relevant to Arizona and it does have a "christmassy" feel to it - but it's not as in your face as the christ-child up on the window!

I will have to ask my atheist sister in law whether or not rudeness and atheism go hand in hand. And what she would think about the baby Jesus if it were on her grocery store. In all fairness to her, I don't think she'd care. She still celebrates Christmas anyway! I told Kirk though that if his mother says we need to "do something special for Jenny" this year for Christmas (this is often a request to the rest of the family and I think basically a result of their angst over their youngest child declaring herself an atheist in the first place...somehow she's now this lost sheep-type and we are all trying to re-convert her or something) anyway - this year I am going to say "why would we do something special for Jen for CHRISTMAS? She's an atheist! We'll see how that goes over. (in the interest of full disclosure, truth be told, she's still my favorite of Kirk's siblings, whacky religious ideas or not).

But I digress, bravo to the best window painters in Phoenix!

I'll get you a better portfolio of photos if you want!

Dave said...

Well I think you are amazing and I think it's great you are putting up some Christmas spirit so early... but then, I enjoy listening to Christmas music in July!

Love ya, Chels

Bandanamom said...

GAHHHHH!!! I just realized I missed the book club tonight at your house! There is no hope for me, if I can't make it to a book club about a book I liked, which was reviewed at a friends house who lives mere blocks away, what can I possibly accomplish?? I remembered as late as 4 pm too. Dang it!