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GOODS IN THE CITY:
a lengthy process!

Creating Goods in the City was a labor of love, a learning experience and a lengthy research project. My interest in ghost walls began with a trip to Cincinnati, where the downtown old industrial areas are rapidly being rehabbed but many old brick buildings are still standing. On their walls are various ads, painted in the 1800s and on.

I knew I wanted to create a piece that went further than Miami Alley, one that incorporated an even more 3D realistic feel. When I owned the gallery on Virginia Avenue, I had plenty of time to contemplate the building across the street from my large windows. In fact, I did a painting of the buildings at one point in a whimsical style. In that work, you can see the brick and windows that I got my inspiration from for this piece.

I also had been reading two books I purchased, Ghost Signs and Ghost Signs of Arkansas for inspiration as well and they proved to be a great help in getting the details and scale right for this piece.

In order to make a good, solid support for the work, I bought the supplies shown below in one of many trips to hardware stores, glass shops and supply outlets I would be making in the future. This is standard flooring luan and 1x2 pine strips.

The below sketch provided me with a starting point as well, but this was only the first of a few that I created digitally to work out the composition.
Next, I measured, cut and nailed together the base support, making allowances for the window section and framing it out. It's the most complex part of the structure.

Then, after a trip to a glass shop for the right kind of glass, I started framing out the window using weathered pieces of wood which were actually tomato stakes from the garden, cut down to the dimensions I needed. I actually used real glazers putty on the glass inserts as well, not an easy task. Getting the details of a double-hung window correct was tricky. In retrospect, I wish I could have found a piece of limestone for the sill, but my wooden one is at least a good imposter.

I decided to board up the back which solved two problems. One, I didnt want the viewer to see through the piece to the wall and, two, I liked the aspect of a boarded up window, because in many old buildings, that's exactly what you see. To do this, I used a piece of quarter inch plywood for the bottom and a black piece of foamcore for the top. After both were in place, I sealed up the back with more luan.

At this point, I wanted to work on a sketch that was in the same scale as the support, so I put a digital together using pictures of the above that was more accurate and had more interesting elements, such as the billboard and another ad I'd found in a book. By the way, the phone number shown is my old dial-up for internet service, so I knew it would always be busy if some prankster called. The joke is on them!

Next came the task of putting on the molding paste for the bricks. I knew I'd have to layer it on pretty thick in order to have enough to show above the window frame yet still be able to carve into it for the mortar without hitting the wood below.

It was necessary to draw pencil lines to the same scale as the window as guides for the bricks. Then, using carving tools, I would carve out each brick and purposely crack and break some corners and make halves to make it seem older. Otherwise, it would look like a perfect, new brick wall.

The next two pics show the process of carving the bricks and the final result before paint is applied.

Next came paint application. After an overall application of a base brick red, I used about 10 different shades of brick reds to achieve a realistic look and stained some with gray and black as well. This next shot shows the base application and part of the letters of the ad before the aging process. It's sort of out of order, as this also shows the plaster layer added which had to actually be much higher than the bricks in places for extra thickness.
After the bricks were painted and aged, and the plaster section dried (which is actually more molding paste) I aged the plaster with paint. This shot shows the whole first ad painted in and aged and the various colors of bricks. I also put in white streaks where there would have been many pidgeons defecating on the window sill and the resulting run-off from the rain. Details, details!
Now it was time to build the billboard. I used some old plywood that was weathered outdoors and nailed together the base. The actual ad is simply a photoshop digital piece that I printed out on my printer on thick paper, glued to the base, then tore up and stained for an authentic look. Yes, more fake pidgeon poop here too!
Working on the billboard allowed for the plaster to dry completely. After that, I mounted the billboard to the structure and began working on other small details, such as adding the phone wire (and it's stains) and working on the window. Or should I say, destroying the window?

Let me explain. I wanted the window to look older than it did. I figured any bombed-out building in a bad section of town would have the window broken or at least cracked. But after all that hard work on the window, I knew that there was a chance that I could ruin it if I tried to break it. I was on the fence for a few days about this but after a good stiff drink, I decided to take my chances. I took a ball-peen hammer and gave it a good rap in the corner. It broke nicely without damaging the frame at all. Then I sanded the edges so that no child could cut themselves if they got the notion to stick their finger in. You know how kids are, and it's something I would have definitely done as a child.

I then penciled on the Dr. Pepper ad to the plaster, painted and sanded it down and added the parking warning in stencil style. The shadow man was added after a week or so. I really felt strongly that I should add it because almost all of my other cityscapes including Miami Alley have shadow figures in them and I feel that it adds a nice human element to the work and a bit of nostalgia because of the fedora.

At this point, I knew the piece was finished. Hope you enjoyed reading about this process, please email me if you have any questions!