On our Brooklyn Navy Yard Photography Tours, we’re always encouraging people to look for the unexpected. Even on streets we’ve walked down a thousand times, there may be something new, or something very old you never noticed before.
Walking down the halls of the enormous Building 3, constructed in 1917 and one of the Yard’s largest buildings, I recently found something very unexpected. I walked into Triple J Bedding, a distributor of linens to hotels and hospitals across the country; stacks of sheets, blankets, and towels were stacked floor to ceiling with just narrow passages between them. After wending my way through this cavern, I found a little oasis at the back – the studio of artist Jeff Britton.
Jeff is a painter who has found great inspiration in the Yard’s landscapes. Though he’s been painting for about 35 years, he’s a relative newcomer to the Yard, joining the community of artists here about eight years ago. He had formerly been in Building 131, next to the iconic Dry Dock No. 1, and the docks, cranes, and ships of the Yard are one of his favorite subjects.
As an oil painter, Jeff often paints in plein-air (outdoors), so to facilitate his roaming, his partner Susan Woods (who will be hosting an Inside Industry Tour in December), a fellow artist and metalworker in the Yard, constructed a makeshift shopping cart for him to push his supplies to the perfect spot.
Like many other artists and photographers in the Yard, Jeff has been documenting the enormous changes in the Yard over time, and the slow dwindling of the skyline of cranes. “Pretty soon, the cranes aren’t going to be here anymore,” he laments. Though the shipyard continues to do brisk business, the skyline of cranes has dwindled over time.
“There are still a ton of things I haven’t even painted yet.”
Back in 2013, student Mark Himler made a short film about Jeff’s work, in which he discusses his process and inspiration.
Many of Jeff’s pieces are currently on display in the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92, inside the Brooklyn Roasting Company café on the first floor (and they’re for sale!)
With his keen eye for Navy Yard landscapes, we asked Jeff to be the judge for our summer crop of photo submissions, which you can view below. Thanks to everyone who submitted, and we’ll be announcing the winners shortly.