Hell’s Kitchen locals may spot more than a few familiar favorites in the latest release of NYC illustrations from artist Joel Holland. Longo Bros, Holland Bar, Capizzi Pizza, Esposito Meat Market, Tavola, Stiles Farmers Market, Sea Breeze Fish Market and International Grocery are all featured in the artist’s recent set of intricately detailed storefront drawings.
Holland — an NYC-based illustrator and hand-letterer whose award-winning work has been featured in numerous books & publications, products, and campaigns around the world — has recently been exploring the historic Paddy’s Market district of Hell’s Kitchen. Stretching from W35th to W40th Streets on both sides of Ninth Avenue, the long-standing tradition of grocers, specialty shops, and restaurants in the area stems from the original Paddy’s Market, an open-air trade exchange established under the bygone 9th Ave EL train in the late 1870s.
While Paddy’s Market ceased operations in 1938, the area’s merchandising spirit lives on in businesses like Esposito and Longo Bros. Residents and members of the Manhattan Community Board 4 and the Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Alliance have even rallied to make the district a designated landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, in part to preserve the architectural character of its many storefronts.
Though Holland draws shops across the five boroughs, he’s a fan of the variety of businesses on 9th Avenue, stating: “The M34a stop at 9th and 40th is one of my favorite stops. As you can see of late, I’ve been focusing on that area. I’m so impressed by how there’s everything in a few blocks there on 9th. A butcher, fishmonger, international spices, fresh markets, bars and restaurants, homemade ices! It’s very underestimated.”
Holland identifies storefronts he’d like to illustrate by taking frequent walks and bus rides, constantly taking photos to identify a building’s unique facets — of which the Paddy’s Market historic district has many. “Hand-painted signs are a treat when you can find one. And I love a good neon as well, but I really find myself (pun intended) drawn to awnings. Very welcoming. Also, the older the building the more likely it will be brick and/or interesting. I like spots with lots of character, lots of details that make that particular business shine. The best establishments draw themselves with their charm,” he says.
Holland achieves the comprehensive level of detail in his illustrations by using heavy watercolor paper and a rainbow of ballpoint pens. Another secret weapon? His daughter’s blow markers — “They give an airbrush texture that helps age or detail certain aspects.”
As a dedicated NYC foodie, Holland focuses many of his illustrations on the city’s restaurants. He loves exploring the “high, middle, and low-brow food spots in the city,” noting that “Everyone has THEIR places.”
Some of his recommendations? Cacio E Pepe (182 2nd Ave bw E10/11th St) — “My favorite Italian restaurant [….] The namesake dish served out of a giant block of cheese”, Ruby’s — “a perfect burger”, Dim Sum Go Go in Chinatown (5 EBway), and on his own turf (the East 20s), “The falafel sandwich at Mighty Pita on E23rd — a perfect lunch gem!”
And when he’s in need of great pizza in Hell’s Kitchen, “I love Capizzi on 9th Ave. That’s my go-to when I’m in the area running errands. With a glass of wine, across from Port Authority.” Owner Joe Calcagno also counts Jerry Seinfeld among Capizzi’s celebrity fans. Jerry calls it: “My favorite New York pizza.”
Holland plans to continue his neighborhood streak, adding, “There are a few more Hell’s Kitchen storefronts I intend to work on… including Taqueria Diana. Stay tuned!” [You can follow Joel at @joelholland_studio]. He hopes that each drawing he completes “acts like a small promo to help these places survive in these trying times.” His collection of work, including drawings from Manhattan to the outer boroughs and even London, will be memorialized in NYC Storefronts by Prestel Publishing, coming out next fall.
In the meantime, Holland is available for commissions, noting — “I love what I do on my own, but I also love commissions because I get a personal story of why a place is important to someone. Their response is priceless.”