By Robert Beck
I’ve wanted to paint in Tip-Top Shoes ever since I walked through the front door years ago. Few places shape the Upper West Side as they do.
It’s not always practical to set up my painting kit in a business. Real estate is at a premium in NYC; there are some shops (think: where they make keys and repair shoes) where the entire waiting area is smaller than my easel. Tip-Top was tight, but I’m good with tight.
It’s also not always easy to gain access, but some owners like the idea of there being an artistic record of the business. Lester Wasserman did, and he gave me a green light with no hesitation. Then it was up to me to select a spot with an iconic view of the interior that didn’t put me in anybody’s way. I opted to paint from the back, past the counter, by the socks.
Tip-Top is a shoe store for shoe people. The staff has been there forever, and not only do they know style and construction, they know feet. They are pleasant, helpful, and patient. I painted during the early afternoon, supposedly their slowest time, and they were still busy. Nobody stopped moving. I had to invent that part of the painting. The staff enjoyed watching the image emerge, and I made a bunch of friends.
One of the salespeople, Harold, has taken care of my wife for a long time. She first noticed him when he demonstrated a fancy step to a customer. She asked if he was a dancer, he said yes, and they ended up doing a cha-cha in the aisle near the Birkenstocks. My wife has purchased a lot of walking shoes and gorgeous heels from him over time. She’s not just an excellent dancer. She’s a shoe person.