You’re running late. You swing by the grocery store for a quick dinner, grab your items and wait in line, heart racing, frustration mounting. But then, as you look around, you notice all this really cool artwork, and your pulse begins to even out. Like the rest of their sister stores across the nation, each of the Santa Barbara-area Trader Joe’s employs local artists to create unique chalkboards and acrylic murals.
Michael Carpenter is the lead artist in the Goleta store, though he’s quick to acknowledge that Kate Williams, Amy Fischetti, and Nicole Murdoch are part of the team as well. His training, at the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena where he received his BFA in illustration, taught him to work quickly. “You’ve got to bust it out,” he said of the chalkboard art he produces, adding that it doesn’t stay up long. “It’s fun to do, but I don’t get too attached to my pieces.” When Carpenter first started at Trader Joe’s, he wasn’t used to working in chalk and pastel. “My first few boards were horrendous,” he said. He’s now used to getting positive feedback, particularly for one board he did depicting Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones alongside vitamins. Left to his own devices, Carpenter’s preferred artistic style is abstract expressionism. Last year he had a showing of 12 paintings at Carina Cellars, and the winery has invited him to show again this June.
Over at the Milpas Street Trader Joe’s, David Natale is working on a mural that runs the entire perimeter of the store’s interior. The 27-year-old started at Trader Joe’s a year ago. “Working here has really helped me to be good and fast,” he said. He too cranks out work, though the mural-done in acrylic paint-will take a few months. He’d like to have his own showing, but that will have to wait; between being at the store until 3 a.m. to paint and stock shelves, and working on children’s books in his spare time, Natale’s pretty busy. For now, hungry shoppers are his audience. “Some people really scrutinize my work because they’re artists themselves,” he noted.
So next time you’re waiting in line, take a moment to appreciate the work of our local artists. The wait won’t seem so bad.