Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Supermarket Panic part 2

Most of my time goes to teaching related things these days.  Although officially I have classes one day per week, in reality I'm working 7 days per week, since the students and administrators contact you with questions and demands that often in this age of the internet.  Today was no exception.

But I do try getting in some art when I can, and in recent days I have devoted time here and there to what I see as my next print, the latest in the supermarket series.  This one was inspired by the current state of supermarkets, which are one of the main businesses still open these days.  As I have often stated in the past, everyone needs to eat, so eventually everyone shows up to shop, thus the universal nature of the supermarket in our culture.  When this current pandemic was first announced, one effect was a wave of panic buying at supermarkets, like what we usually see just before a major storm. Normally, a few days later life resumes and shelves are restocked. This time around, not so much.  Last week on one of my shopping trips, the only product for sale in the paper goods aisle was a large open cardboard box with some individually wrapped rolls of toilet paper inside. Since I was down to my last roll, I decided to grab one.  Meanwhile, toilet paper producers are regularly advertising their products on television, which seems odd to me, since no brand has been available in stores for months.  Some of the ads were the companies claiming that they are still making the stuff, even it never shows up in stores.  (one news story showed some companies are now just selling it directly to customers over the internet)  Then two days ago, my supermarket actually had a shelf with a display of 12 roll packages of toilet paper, an amount that can last for a few months. Didn't know if it would be available the next day, so got one while I could.  Glad it may be coming back, because if the news is accurate, we are about to lose the meat industry.  No shortage of animals, but the meat processing industry, already known for low pay, hazardous and dangerous conditions, and sketchy practices, is now dealing with a wave of contagion, and it may get difficult to find employees to do the job and keep them going.  But that's not my topic with this print.

My inspiration is the overlap between the current state of supermarkets and the post-apocalyptic vision of The Road Warrior and similar movies.  My goal is to keep it from getting too exaggerated, but it's not easy staying away from reality.  In the movie, most of the cars are customized hot rods, with lots of weapons, giant tires, exhaust pipes, etc.  I could easily add such things to my rendering of a shopping cart, but it would make no sense.  Since the carts belong to the stores, there is no incentive for the stores to do this to their own property.  Also common in the movies are old automobile tires or parts of tires to be repurposed as walls and armor, and being tough and resilient, they could be effective this way, but tires are not often seen inside a supermarket.  (maybe the super-Walmart might have them, but I haven't shopped at one of those since I moved back east)  What did make sense was large sheets of thick plexiglass, since as part of this situation, supermarkets started building the equivalent of booths of plexiglass around cashiers.  Employees that monitor who goes in and exits each store are not armed (as in Road Warrior or Soylent Green). but the attitude is similar.  One of my area supermarkets has installed One Way signs in each aisle, I guess part of an effort to keep customers from having to pass each other while shopping.  (of course most customers ignore these and go the way they want to go) In the movie, all kinds of face masks are common, which works out as most businesses either request or require some kind of face covering to enter the establishment. Here's an early paper sketch:

The flat of cans at the bottom of the cart could be soup, or beans, both sometimes missing from supermarket shelves, or could be canned dog food, something people were fighting for the chance to eat in the film.  Maybe I'll keep them generic, let the viewer decide what they are.  Right now the shelves in this early sketch are fairly empty or just have isolated items, which are common sights these days.  Have a lot to be worked out before I'm ready to start sketching on the wood, but this shows some of the things I am thinking about right now.


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