Monday, October 21, 2013

Night Scene 2, interrupted & concluded

Jeanne Hospod

oil on canvas 20" x 20"

This started as one of several on-scene night landscapes I've been working on lately. My plan was to work on this start to finish from direct observation. Unfortunately, I had a major disruption that kept me from being present on location to complete it. I had to use my backup photos and improvisation to conclude it.

I'm still debating whether to tweak it a bit more or not. The color is a bit much for me, could be toned down For right now, I'm just going to let it be.

I'll describe the disruption, as I've been trying to get the word out for my neighborhood's safety. The usual places that would publish this kind of incident aren't taking much note of it, despite my efforts (so far, anyway).

Here in Shirlington, a small and upscale neighborhood with a village of boutiques, fine dining and bars is considered to be an extremely safe area  in terms of crime stats. For night owls, it is very easy to be comfortable with  late night grocery errands, walking/running/working out on the nearby outdoor trail fitness equipment , and wandering to and from the bar scene. I felt very safe painting some views nearby when the sun went down. I'm fond of the look of artificial light on natural scenery outside. It has a sort of lonely drama to it.

Sometimes I do get interrupted when I work, but mostly just dog walkers and a couple of semi buzzed patrons leaving the village. I'm not crazy about that, but the attention is usually benign. Generally, the most I've had to deal with are unsolicited critiques, or someone who wants to bend my ear about art when I try to show with my body language I really need to focus on my work. 

So I was doing my 3rd session on this scene and it got to a point where the canvas was really saturated with oil and not taking any fresh color without mushing and muddying so I packed it up and thought I'll finish up with a final visit later before the foliage changes.

I was kneeling on the ground  over my bag of paints when I heard a man's voice directly behind me.
"What are you doing?" As I noticed out of the corner of my eye his legs were very close to my back, I felt him touch the back of my upper arm. 

I stood up and whipped around quickly and was about a foot away from a man facing me with a 4"-5" knife held low but pointing at me. He softly said to come with him and "everything will be ok". I glanced and saw a vehicle idling in the street, door open. I was blank, numb and staring, but unfortunately not really taking in his features or what he was driving in much...was focused on the knife.

(This I know: 5'7"-ish, Hispanic, black short hair, clean shaven, medium build, late 20's/early 30's--oh, and the location was Taylor and Arlington Mills Drive, across from Four Mile Run trail and creek This all went down around 1:30am -ish on 10/19)

My mace was well buried in my pocket, in my key chain holster so it wasn't helpful. He repeated to just come with him and there won't be any problems. 

I leaned my body like I was going to go with him, then bolted as in the opposite direction to the 24/7 grocery a few blocks away, screaming "MURDER-RAPE" at the top of my lungs. I didn't turn to see if he was following until I got to a more populated street several blocks later. I didn't see him. From there I jogged to the grocery store up another block and called the police.

I understand I didn't look like a typical Shirlington resident at the time. I'm dressed for work with paint, shabby clothes, dirty hands, etc. The police seemed skeptical and asked me to repeat my story several times stopping at details as if to catch a discrepancy, asked for my ID (which I expected) and then my social security number (which I didn't expect..never had that experience when I had reported apartment neighbors domestic brawling/other criminal disruptions in Austin, TX--maybe it's procedure here in VA? Tell me in the comments if you know). They appeared to have swayed to the notion that I might be credible as I continued with my consistent report. Appeared to.... might be...

I had about 300 bucks worth of oil paint in my art bag, plus painting, easel and cart left behind and I needed to get it. They seemed reluctant to escort me or deal with that inconvenience, but they eventually got a younger officer to retrieve it. I do appreciate that they spared me from having to even consider returning to the scene . I would have had to get a cab to idle there with my sister accompanying me I suppose. Or just let the supplies and work go untill sunrise and risk someone hauling it off.

I was assigned a case number but I have not seen it up on the Arlington police daily crime reports.I passed the word on to my apartment staff so they could get the word out to my neighbors.  I've tweeted info to different Arlington/Shirlington handles and emailed DC metro news agencies and so far, again no response. (UPDATE 10/23- The local DC metro Fox and NBC affiliates got in touch and filmed spots regarding the incident. Also, a detective from Arlington Police department gave me a call earlier this evening.)That bothers me, because especially during this time of year, it would be good to alert fellow Shirlington residents, patrons, and employees not to be lulled into a false sense of security.

Anyone with a large Arlington/Shirlington/DC metro area following please link this story to your followers. Thanks.

Oh, yeah...and I sort of lost my taste for painting outdoor night scenes for the time being. I have a few balcony images I'll still sort out but that's about it. I'll take more advantage of the fall colors in sunlight this season.

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