Thursday, December 12, 2013

Paint Me A Winter Window


Remember when every grocery store was outfitted with a lobster tank?  Do you remember when the same grocery stores ran perpetual coloring contests for prizes so spectacular that you often took multiple copies of the coloring page in the event of a mess-up, neurotically over-thought your crayon choices, and stayed within the printed lines like your very life depended on it?  Do you remember when the facades of theses supermarkets were nothing more than great, gleaming, glass canvases just waiting for the deft hand of a skilled artist to anoint them with something far more sophisticated and substantial than posters advertising discounts on canned peas and frozen/defrosted ham hocks?  At Christmastime it was these very grocery stores that transformed into veritable winter wonderlands with a just few strokes of the master's brush.

Welcome to the wonderful world of window painting!

It always seemed to me that holiday window painting ushered in the Christmas season; after Thanksgiving, one would be hard pressed to find a supermarket, a hardware store, a bank, or a coffee shop whose window panes hadn't been visited by a skillful "Jack Frost."  It appears, however, as monolithic, windowless grocery stores, and political correctness have taken their jackbooted foothold, that window painting has taken a backseat to dispassionate displays of joyless, holiday-neutral consumerism.  On my first venture out to look for holiday window art, I was disheartened to drive for miles and miles without a single example to document.  It was as if, in unison, retailers were joined in singing a chorus of "Little Jack Frost, Get Lost."  Just when I thought hope was lost, I began to see a few holiday holdouts - with all of the usual suspects present and accounted for.

The obligatory Santa Claus adorns so many windows and doors
that it is hard to chose a favorite.  The obvious choice for many
would be the rock 'n roll Santa (or even sexy siren Santa), but I  am
quite partial to the primitive, noseless, coal-eyed Santa (top-right).

A Southern California sleigh ride

There is no shortage of evergreen varietals in our neck of the woods; we have spongey, blobby, stack-y, and zig-zaggy.

Don't worry, the improbability of a Snowman coexisting happily with a
swordfish is not lost on me (even if said swordfish is wearing a Christmas cap).
I guess that is why I love the realism of the gleefully-melting snowman with
tyrannosaurus arms sticking out of the lowest part of his corpulent frame.

I really like the white wreath with the ornaments of primary colors
but it pales in comparison to Santa's long-lost reindeer, Bootsie!

I can't be the only one who used to whittle down one end of
the candy cane into what can only be described as a shiv, can I?

The reason for the season is surprised to find Himself
on the window of Northgate Market in Santa Ana, CA -
one grocery store committed to making their windows
work for them at Christmastime.

For all of the regular Christmas characters that were represented, there were one or two "misfit toys"
to round out the bunch.

"'Buon Natale' means Merry Christmas to you.
Buon Natale and lots of fun; Happy New Year to everyone.
This is the window of one of our new favorite places, Claro's Italian Market.

Apparently, for some folks, Christmas has a lot to do with steaming bowls of tripe
soup and seafood; a fan of neither, I can wholeheartedly get behind the custom
of Christmas tamales but I definitely draw the line at rooster eggs...

It is worthy of note, sociologically-speaking, to recognize that every single example of holiday window painting that I encountered was in a neighborhood marked by predominantly-minority populations.  I'm thrilled to know that even if "Main Street, USA" isn't painting its windows this holiday season, that Southern California's diverse communities are keeping a wacky tacky art movement and holiday tradition alive!

In my frenzy to present the best winter windows, I should
acknowledge that not everyone celebrates in the same way.
I don't think that an outward display of one person's celebration
diminishes the validity of another.  I honestly believe that there
is something interesting and worthwhile to be learned from most
faiths/traditions/schools of thought.  More importantly, I believe
that when a flying octopus wishes one a "Merry Christmas," one
should not be offended.  One really ought to be excited; it is a well-
known fact that most flying octopi are agnostic.

"Little Jack Frost, Get Lost" - Frankie Carle & His Orchestra

I may not agree with the sentiment where holiday window 
painting is concerned, but it's got a good beat and I can dance to it.

Have you ever made like Jack Frost and painted some winter wonder on a window?  Do shops in your hometown deck their windows with boughs of temporary, tempera holly?

Season's Greetings from Mr. Tiny to you!


Mr. Tiny


  1. I love this post and didn't realize how much I miss this lost art! Dammit! Now I want to enter a coloring contest! I know I used to proudly participate in every coloring contest ever but never won. I guess my art was too progressive for the fine people of Kroger grocery stores.

    1. I fancied myself an expert with Crayolas but I never won a darned thing either! I wonder why stores did away with the contests; kids need to be doing something that is not based in electronics!

  2. i love painted windows! whole foods has store artists that do this kind of stuff, we always get to order winter painting at my store. i have used the paint markers to do inside signs before, but never on a window! that would be amazing!

    1. On-staff artists?!?!?!! That is really cool! You should post some of the store art!

  3. I went to middle school in Phoenix with a kid who's mother was a store painter...she painted an amazing mural of Venice for our 8th grade graduation dance (the theme was Moonlight in Venice--an inexplicably fancy theme for the 8th grade, right?) Anyway, I used to see her work around town on store windows and such...because she would sign it in the corner, I would recognize the name. She actually did some of the painting you saw at the ice cream shop in Old Town Scottsdale that you featured on your blog once...very talented lady and a disappearing art for sure!

    1. That is so great! I don't think our school dances even had themes; I would have loved "Moonlight in Venice." I had the good fortune of enjoying our entire visit to the Sugar Bowl facing your pal's mom's beautiful work. Now I feel the need to go back to Scottsdale!

  4. What a wonderful post! You are hitting it out of the park over here! Every post a winner. :)

    1. Among all your other awesome traits, you have the very best timing; I needed a boost today! Thanks!!!