Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2160 N. Ashland- Hayes Mechanical

Every day I take the Metra Union Pacific North line from Rogers Park to Ogilvie Station and back.  It's the best commute I've ever had.  Twenty minutes each way.  I can read, or doze, or stare out the window.  The view from the train can't be found anywhere else.  You go right through the city's backyard, including some very interesting industrial areas.  I've always regretted that the windows have a heavy green tint.  But last week I made an interesting discovery.  If you take a photo and run it through an auto adjust filter the green disappears and (except for reflections) you've got a fairly decent reference photo.

So I thought I would put together a series of views from my commute.  And maybe even from some other Metra lines. 

The factory complex above was built in 1945, and was most recently part of Hayes Mechanical.  Their website doesn't give this address, so maybe they've relocated.  And there are never any cars in the parking lot. 

At first I couldn't figure out why it was so appealing.   But looking a bit closer it approximates an urban plaza.  There are a variety of textures and materials and a pleasing sense of enclosure.  It probably helps that it's paved with old gravel with grass growing up through it.  But I keep imagining it with awnings and cafe tables.  As if Chicago needs more of those.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

El Chorrito, 6404 N. Clark

OK, I feel like I need to focus on this entire building, not just the old neon sign hanging above.  The storefront windows have been painted with strangely abstract brick arches and stones.  There are so many menu items on the windows that I had to eliminate most of them just to maintain my sanity.  And the color combinations are pretty amazing.  I don't really do detailed individual building portraits as much as I used to, but in this case I wanted to try out these great new fine-line color pens I recently picked up.  Turns out that fine-line pens are not the best for coloring large fields.  I think I used to know this. 

Note:  Since posting this originally (3/10) the Hamburger Chili sign has been removed.  Very sad.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

View from Rogers Park Metra Platform

This is a view from the Rogers Park Metra platform (Ravenswood, between Lunt and Greenleaf), where I wait for my train every morning.  I'm interested in these rooftop views, which are exaggerated by the narrow format.  Typically you can see old structures at the rear of the lot and pick up hints about the development of the street.  What you're seeing above are some buildings on Lunt and Clark.  And in the distance you can see the New Field School on Morse.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Downtown vertical strip

Still working my way through some of these composite strips of the city.  This image includes the L tracks in the Loop, one of the lighting standards, an 1870s landmark in the background shadowed by a more modern building above.  It's diffcult to show foreground, middle-ground and background in this 1" x 10" format.  The nice thing about the format is that I can work on 5 or 6 images on the same sheet of illustration board.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Infrastructure/Street Furniture

I thought I would take a closer look at the stuff that I pass by on the way to work,  leaving buildings aside for a change.  These are basically control nodes, which tie into much larger systems stretching through the city.  I had a idea for a project which explores the utlities of Chicago with huge illustrated sections extending up into the buildings and down into the sub-systems.  I haven't given up on that, but I've realized how much work it would require. And it can wait until I can track down some good documentation of those systems. 
The mysterious-looking thing on top of the electrical box below is a coffee cup someone left behind.  I may try to rework that drawing and leave the coffee cup out, since it confuses things and doesn't add anything.  Besides atmosphere, of course.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Infrastructure #7

This is the entrance to the tunnel under Ogilvie Station on Washington Street.  Those things that look like monster eyes (sorry) are actually sodium lamps illuminating the tunnel.  A fairly amazing train station was demolished in order to make room for a big turquois and black skyskraper on Madison.  The section you see above is the part of the building that remained to accomodate the train platforms.  Metra has begun to renovate the areas underneath the train tracks north of Washington into retail stores and markets.  One of their more brilliant ideas. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More signs on color!

Sometimes I like to rework my black and white images with color.  It doesn't always provide much more information, but here are the color versions of the signs I posted a few week back

It's interesting, but the Hamburger Chili sign would have benefited from showing the mortar joints of the brick.  In the black and white version it works much better without them. Maybe I'll try adding them in white pencil, if I'm feeling motivated.

[Since this was posted the Hamburger-Chili sign was removed.  I assumed it was gone forever, but it has returned.  It's been relocated from non-trendy Rogers Park to increasingly trendy Ukrainian Village/Wicker Park.  Look for it on the north side of Division, west of Damen.  I liked it better in Rogers Park.  Even so, the neon has been repaired and the sign repainted.]

Monday, March 8, 2010

Infrastructure #6

This is part of the Washington Street Bridge, which I cross twice a day to get to and from my train at Ogilvie Station.  In the background you can see part of the Daily News Building.  This morning the Chicago River was as smooth as glass.  For some reason I kept expecting half a cow carcass to float to the surface.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Village North Theater (or The New 400)

Again, you'll need to click on this to see it full-size.

Rogers Park's architectural appeal is subtle.  Which is perfect for me, since I'm typically drawn to buildings which are overlooked. 

Let's take the 1905 Village North Theater at Sheridan and Columbia.  Formerly known as "The 400" it's now under new ownership.  Here we have the last remaining neighborhood theater in Rogers Park.  The Grenada is long gone.  The Adelphi is recently gone, along with several smaller theaters on Clark that I've only seen on old Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.  The Ridgeland Theater on Devon near Clark is now a part of Devon Hardware.  The Howard Theater was converted into condos. The Village North survived by multiplexing and charging as little as possible.  This was reflected in the condition of the building, which began to leak and shed terra cotta. 

But the new owners received some assistance to renovate the building and repair the facade.  Unfortunately they used reinforced concrete replacement units which don't really match the cream-colored terra cotta.  They're kind of a sickly yellow. 
But at least this ornament on the corner of the building was in good shape.  I can't imagine their budget would have allowed for this to be replicated.  The figure is probably a muse and those ropes of leaves and fruits are festoons, symbols of plenty.  There was similar ornament inside the theater, but most of it has been covered up.  Or possibly removed outright.

This is a good example of a building with limited local significance.  But in Rogers Park, which has limited opportunities for non-alcohol related recreation, it's extremely important.  Too bad the old Atomic Cafe (which adjoined the theater) is long gone.  But there's a Starbucks there now, which is better than nothing.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Infrastructure #5

Unfortunately, this graphic really didn't work as a 1" x 10" strip.  It's impossible to interpret what you're looking at without some prior knowledge.  But purely as a work it art it's actually kinda interesting.  I especially like the jagged texture of the razor wire. 

But I didn't want to give up on the subject, so I reframed it:
Then it became too figurative, and I felt the need to embellish it for no good reason:
To make it even crazier I printed the outline drawing six times and worked on different shading treatments for each one.  I won't inflict those on on any readers just yet.

Anyway, there are a number of these silos near downtown Chicago.  Difficult to tell if they're still operable.  Most of these are now surrounded by residential conversions.