Robert Beck: Tip-Top Shoes

Words and Painting By Robert Beck

A strong sense of place in a painting will write a story by itself.  It doesn’t have to be true, just accurate, or maybe vice versa.  You can tell that things happen in this place because it feels like you’ve been there, and that’s the bones of an engaging narrative.  I call it a heartbeat.

I love painting in places that evoke that.  I get to stand and notice for a few hours.  Revisit things forgotten or just not seen anymore.  Watch them unfold and make them mine.  I don’t have to buy anything or look like I have a reason to be there.  I craft my description as I go, events swirling around me, picking from things that call my attention.  Not a hundred little subjects, but one: what it’s like to be in Tip-Top Shoes, 72nd and Broadway.  

The light pours in through the front doors and windows from the city outside, already having bounced off of buildings and streets, shifting intensity, blocked and reflected as people and trucks pass by.  It casts off the walls, floor, columns, and cases, picking up colors and decaying a little each time, and each time adding to our understanding of the space we’re in.  

I’m set up in front of the wall of socks, back past the counter.  People stop to look at the painting and talk to me while I work. Customers walk by, testing how the shoes feel on their feet.  Most step around me as if they negotiate painters every day.  I like that.  The manager is pleased I put him in the image.  A salesperson laughs that I got his bald spot.  There is nothing in the painting that looks much like a shoe.  I don’t need the shoes to be there.  Just the heartbeat.

Robert Beck is a painter, teacher, curator, lecturer and writer who divides his time between Bucks County, PA and New York City. See more of his work at, on Instagram @illhavecoffeethanks, and on Facebook .

Categories: art, featured, featured artist

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