When illustrator Jimmy Simpson moved to New York from his home of Philadelphia four years ago, one of the first things he noticed was the convenience stores settled on pretty much each and every street corner. Owned by different individuals but often with the same snacks and wares for sale, Jimmy found inspiration in the identical aesthetics of these stores with their “mix of retro food photography, scraps of old advertisements and graffiti,” he tells It’s Nice That. “The inside is crammed with almost every item you can think of.”
Noticing how these stores – known as bodegas to those settled across the pond in the States – were such a staple part of Jimmy’s now New York lifestyle, he started looking for a way to capture them “in one way or another”. Beginning with photography, Jimmy started snapping details of each bodega while getting used to his new city on foot. From there, the illustrator began composing new stores in his head, combining the most visually interesting aspects of different stores to create a final drawing. And thankfully, due to the nature of one bodega being so similar to one of its neighbours, it’s difficult for a viewer to notice the fact each drawing is actually an amalgamation of various stores.
One focal point, for both Jimmy and a bodega’s owner, is the security mirrors installed for cashiers to keep an eye on shoplifters. A concave mirror that creates a fish bowl image of the store in front of it, Jimmy found visual inspiration in the distorted image each one displays and, “each drawing gradually developed from these warped images,” he explains.
Inspired by the work of Stuart Davis, the final drawings Jimmy’s made reference the artist’s use of bright colours as well as his tendency to “break down urban scenes into abstract forms,” and a use of reoccurring symbols. In turn, Jimmy’s interpretation of bodega’s are fluid and curvaceous, in a colour palette referencing the bright packaging of products on each shelf fighting for a customers attention.
Formed into a book by Clay Hickson and Liana Jegers’ Los Angeles-based Tan & Loose Press, the final printed size “ended up taking loose structure that mimics the experience of navigating one of these cramped little stores,” the illustrator describes. Visualising the winding aisles of a bodega like a maze of brightly coloured consumerism, as a zine Bodega not only evokes this experience but “the mood and quirks of these corner stores because they are such a unique staple of the city.”
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