Day 21

In the spirit of tackling things I have long feared, I’ve been trying linocuts. I first did a little Eiffel Tower, which ended up on this purse I made. I also did some leaves and a nice, more detailed love bird print. Today happens to be my birthday. So I used my quarterly floating holiday and took the day off (good timing as I only have 8 days left to use it anyway). It started off with a delicious (and free! Thanks Starbucks!) peppermint soy mocha and a nice gray morning at home with my puppy in front of the fireplace. Figuring I had some time on my hands, I started working on a painting:

But I didn’t want to rush it, I wanted it to have more depth and to let it tell me what to do with it.. say overnight or longer even.. so I decided to give myself the gift of time. I am dedicated to making one new piece each day, but I’m also going to make work that takes longer. I haven’t done that yet, and that’s a luxury I enjoy. It’s really the little things. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

So I dug around, found a nice clean block of linoleum in that inviting gray and laid out a simple landscape. I’ll be able to use this in the future with different colors, but today I wanted to admire it in its black & white simplicity. What’s also great about linocuts is that I can work on them while say, vegging out to several episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation. Yep. I’m a nerd. Not gonna lie. With other linocut items like this one, I bet it’s really hard to tell. 😉

Along the lines with that “gift of time” I’m also posting this earlier than usual, so I can sip some wine with the husband and not have this task on my mind this evening! 🙂

Here is the linocut process, for those of you who may be wondering how a slab of rubber becomes an image:

Day 20

There was a tornado warning in the BAY AREA today. It was raining so hard on the drive home that the sky merged with the freeway and all I could see was torrential downpour and tiny little bumps I was hoping were lane dividers. There were inches of water on the road and I couldn’t even tell how deep it was. Yet amidst all that craziness, I saw the brightest rainbow I have ever seen.

It was technicolor-dreamcoat fantastic. It was as if Rainbow Brite and Lite Brite got together and made a baby and that baby became the neon fabulousness of this double rainbow. It was so lovely that some people on the side of the road who had crashed into each other trying to make their cars swim through Highway 50 were admiring it.

In addition to being a promise from God that he won’t drown us like rats (even though it looks that way), I also took this glorious event as the following:

  • A definitive sign that God feels Prop 8 should be overturned (He did throw that thing smack in the middle of the state capital and all)
  • Inspiration for another adventure-in-pastel
  • Reassurance that my Radiohead “In Rainbows” CD will still play all the way through even though it got a little scratched up

Enjoy! Here’s hoping we see marriage equality for all in California in the very near future.

Day 19

It was raining so hard this morning that my windshield wipers couldn’t keep up. And despite my precautionary measures of stopping the squat routine early yesterday, I could barely walk today. You know when you’re playing Frankenstein with a kid and you walk with your legs all stiff not bending your knees? I was essentially waddling around like that. Without the zombie arms, of course. It was extremely gray, and another boring tally mark on the number-of-days-until-I-can-stop-going-into-the-office countdown.

When looking for inspiration tonight, I remembered my drive on Sunday, and the beautiful trees that herald my arrival to the bay area as I drive in on 680. They’re all artsy and bent to the side, Bonzai’d by the constant wind, that same wind that shoves my sedan around in little gusts, which I think is God keeping me awake on long trips. This is oil pastel on paper again, tiny and pretty and brightly colored, and a lot nicer than a bucket of rain in the face.

😉 P.S. I just added links to my Etsy shop and my pre-2010 art portfolio site on the right if you want to kill some time.

Day 18

Like many of you, I also resolved to get into shape this year. Usually I just ignore that plan altogether the second I come up with it in the first place, knowing it is destined to fail, but this year I thought ‘hey- I am doing this art thing every single day. What if I just make this exercising thing part of that? Like, I can’t go to bed unless I make art first, and I can’t make art unless I work out first. It’s so crazy, it just might work!’

So I got home and turned on the Wii and fired up the EA Sports Active for the first time. It has something called a “30-day challenge”. I figured that was a good plan for making a habit of something and picked it. Unfortunately, it was drastically mislabeled.

It purported to be a variety of introductory exercises, when really it should have been labeled “Death by Squats” or “All Squats All Day” or “An ode to Guantanamo Bay in Squats” or something like that.

I wanted to stick with it and finish, but then I thought, ‘What if my muscles rip off of my bones and I can’t make it to the cell phone for help? What if I get a thigh cramp in the middle of a sales call and start screaming Tourette’s-style right into the phone? What if they hurt so bad tomorrow that I go to the bathroom at work and I don’t have the strength to get back up and I’m totally trapped in the cold bathroom that smells like mildew and there aren’t any other women working that day and I get locked in there because my manager thinks I left?!?!’ So needless to say, I had to stop “Sadist Squats for Masochists” before any of that happened. I’ll try it again tomorrow- minus the damn squats, clearly.

I ended up doing another small, simplified landscape in oil pastel on paper today. This bright color geometric shape thing isn’t going away any time soon so I figured I’d just go with it.

Day 17

While today’s piece is a digitally altered photograph I took on the way home from a trip to visit Mom in Newark today, let it be known henceforth that I claim NO photography skills. I’m also aware that any jackass can click the ‘invert colors’ option in your typical image editor. On top of that, I’m known to be spiteful towards graphic designers, photographers and printmakers in general for the sole reason that they’re able to make art or multiple copies quickly and easily, whereas I cannot do that with painting. “Why not get into graphic design/printmaking/photography then, Marianne?” you may be asking. And I have to reply, “Well, that’s not really my choice. Painting picked me.” At least, that’s how I see it.

One of my professors at CCAC, Roy Tomlinson, was on the panel for my junior review. He asked me a question that has stuck with me since- “Why painting?”. I didn’t really have an answer then. I love the colors, the flexibility of paint, the ability to manipulate it,  but there’s also something tactile about it that I need. I need to touch it. And I’ll be damned if I know why, I just do.

I’d be curious to hear from other people who are passionate about something. I’d love to ask a collector, “why gnome garden ornaments?”. And somehow I get the feeling that the answer would more likely be, “I don’t know, there’s just something about them” as opposed to “I used to have a crush on this dude with a white beard and pointy red hat, and these pieces are an ode to that unrequited romance”.

To be fair, I don’t have a permanent hate on for all graphic artists. There are plenty of photographers I love. Trish Tunney, for example, is a photographer based in San Francisco who has an amazing eye for colorful, urban compositions that I am continually enamored with. Alex Darocy is a photographer out of the Santa Cruz area who creates stunning, vibrantly colored and thought provoking macro images. And a friend of mine, Todd Bennett, is an extremely talented and tireless graphic  designer who works magic for companies worldwide. So I’m not a cold, crotchety paint-snob.

Plus I think my complete lack of skill with photos really helps me get images to work from when it comes to paintings. This shot of the refineries in Benicia could easily become a painting someday.

Day 16

I’m sure that for some people, sitting through art history courses is like going to the dentist, complete with sedatives. I, on the other hand, loved it. I felt as if I could never get enough of it. It was like I was in the desert, and art history was water. A bit dramatic, yes, but not an understatement. If you have a really hard time wrapping your head around that, imagine one of your favorite things- a particular Ben & Jerry’s flavor, perhaps, the perfect Billie Holiday song maybe, a cup of Gramma’s hot cocoa on a chilly day.. your mind kind of reels at how amazing it is, and then it’s finished, and you pout a little because you want it to keep going.

That’s what art history class was like for me. One thing in particular I have always loved is the history of Kandinsky, a painter from the early 1900’s. Besides being credited as the first abstract artist, Kandinsky constantly referenced and was very inspired by music. Some people believe he had Synethesia, a condition in which parts of the brain cross over and senses reference each other, resulting in a sound having a distinct flavor, color or smell, for example. His paintings were very colorful. I play music almost every single time I paint. Whenever I’m working on a painting and I run out of steam, it’s as if the music senses it and picks a track that reinvigorates me and gets me going again.

I always listen to music when I paint and my paintings are almost always pretty colorful. Coincidence? Or could there be a tiny synesthetic muse living in my head?

You decide. 😉

Day 15

I wonder who originally decreed that all office furniture be produced in only the most depressing shade of each drab color. Not just “gray”, not just “taupe”. They chose narcolepsy-inducing grays, fake-vomit-beiges. And it’s not at all necessary. I get that they don’t want to detract from work, but there are a lot of grays and quite a few muted browns, really. In fact, I love gray and brown. I love slate blue-gray like pavement wet from fog. I love bright yellow-gray, like morning sunlight burning through the low clouds. I love green-gray, like the water of the bay. And I love deep dark chocolate brown, and caramel latte browns…alright, essentially any brown that I can associate with dessert.

This is why the red Swingline stapler from the movie Office Space is a cultural icon. Not only do these corporations suck the life out of their employees, they suck the color out of life.

So in honor of Friday and the 3-day weekend, I did a very colorful painting. It started with red and orange. I love poppy red, it’s by far my favorite color. But sometimes I get stuck in one color and don’t know what to do.

After walking away from it for awhile, the Prop 8 trial floated into my head. I am so upset that this issue has had to go this far. It’s just insane that there are still people arguing that gays don’t deserve the equal right to marry. Every time I think about it, I want to do something violent. But instead of finding some poor soul or object to take my frustration out on, I was inspired by the rainbow and starting adding different colors. I finished it off with some texture and heavy gel, et voila! A piece like this would brighten up a cubicle any day. Rob captured “the magic in action”. 🙂

Day 14

I decided to do this project shortly after being informed by my employer in early December that our office was closing in late January. Initially, I was excited at the opportunity to be out of the soul-killing office environment (an artist trapped behind a desk making sales calls is not what I would call fulfillment). However, as the days wore on, the little perks disappeared. The threats that our retention bonuses (i.e. financial incentive to remain on board for the next two months) would be pulled out from under us if we allowed our crushed spirits to reflect in our work ethic continued.

I know there are only 2 weeks left, but each day is more difficult. Each day is longer. It’s like being in line at the DMV and there are only two people ahead of you.. two people and that’s it.. you’re almost there.. but you’re standing in line for AN HOUR, A FRIKIN HOUR AND IT DOESN’T MOVE, WHY?!?! WHY?!! It’s like that Seinfeld episode where Elaine is in the subway on her way to that wedding and it stops and she’s stuck in there freaking out mentally for hours. Except that the freakout is two months long.

So this morning I was feeling good because I got a couple of sales, and accounting rejected my purchase orders. I’m trying so hard to keep dragging my ass in there and making sales for these bastards, and some other people who are getting axed at the end of the month find the need to fight me. Then I had to go to the lady doctor, which no one ever wants to do, before my health insurance disappears, and dinner didn’t get finished until very late, and when I tried to paint something, this happened:

And it wasn’t working. I felt so overwhelmed. I didn’t feel inspired, I didn’t feel excited. I wanted a piece of dark chocolate and some comedy before I had to do it all again tomorrow- which is when I thought of Nicole.

Today’s piece is inspired by the art and wisdom of Nicole Docimo, an artist, illustrator and writer based in Davis, CA. Nicole has a very clear aesthetic; she is apparently in love with the power of black ink on white paper, and she shares my love of words. With this focus, she tends to create pieces that do something magic when I look at them- they let my mind rest. They are beautiful and evocative, but also simple and strong in their simplicity. They are like a deep breath.

Nothing could signify how I’m feeling better than a knot. The black and white expresses my desire for simplicity. We all need it now and then. Nicole’s art & blog (BlueBicicletta.Wordpress.com if that link doesn’t work for you) is a great place to get it. Thanks for the inspiration, Nicole!

Day 13

Today’s painting is brought to you by the letters P I O O M & A! (As in “pulled it out of my ass”.) I didn’t have a photograph to use for the image I wanted, so I figured I’d just cross my fingers and hope it didn’t come out looking like the Michelin Man attacking the yellow brick road. Mom’s going to chuckle to herself when she sees this one, because she’ll remember me whining about how boring and lame landscapes are and how much I hate painting them- which was true years ago. I felt like every piece of “art” I ever saw for sale in a Bed, Bath and Beyond or on the wall at Aaron Brothers was some boring collection of “happy little trees”.. snore, puke, asphixiation threat from snoring and puking at the same time, etc.

But now that I’m a little older and I live closer to the wilderness than I did when I was in the bay area, I enjoy the compositions that nature makes and the big blocks of color. I don’t enjoy painting every tiny little leaf, mind you, (remember- impatient!) but I have found a way to like doing them, as I discovered today, working on this thing.

I expected it to be stormy again all day but it was clear this  morning, for the most part. I really love the drive out to Folsom because it’s so beautiful. The farther out you get into gold country, the more the city structures begin to fall away. The far-off Oaks make blue blotches against the yellow hills. The giant white cotton ball clouds come creeping over the Sierras with cold wind puffing them up, and on a handful of days, we get a nice, deep blue sky.

Unfortunately, most other days the sky is hazy from aerial spraying. Next time it looks like a couple of pilots are playing tic-tac-toe, remember the word “chemtrails” and google it. That’s why there’s a thin white line there in the sky, in contrast to this meringue of a natural cloud, which I textured a bit with a palette knife. I don’t know why the blue and yellow is so stuck on me lately, but I guess I’ve got to just go with it until it’s done- which may be never. I always seem to come back to the primaries. Here it is straight-on:

Day 12

Tonight after dinner, I wanted nothing more than to stay exactly where I was on the couch to watch a recorded episode of Medium and/or hockey. But I knew I had to get up and make something. I know it’s hard to believe I could already be complaining less than 2 weeks into this thing, but I am. I have a hard time building habits and I’m lazy. When I thought about the inevitable, I got that twitch in the base of my spine that signaled my internal desire to throw a temper tantrum. Sure, you may not see adults sprawled out on their bellies, flailing limbs and screaming “I don’t wanna!”, but you sure as hell do it in your brain. Probably multiple times in a day, too. Adulthood is 99% shit that you don’t want to do, and it’s amazing that adults resist telling this to children for so long, because that one sure as hell took me by surprise. When I was a kid, I thought adulthood was all dessert before dinner and staying up late. Now I’m tired at 8 and can’t consume any sugary snack food without thinking of my arteries. Woohoo.

So I got up to go to the studio. Rob stopped me and played a clip he’d recorded onto his iPhone from NPR. It was an author speaking on how necessary it is for artists today to reconnect us with things we no longer appreciate. He was talking about how we have no understanding or gratitude for the many practices and processes, both manufacturing and commerce-related, that make life possible for us. He even mentioned “the salesperson in an office”. It was an interesting moment of clarity. Every day, when I call business owners with a real, valid product from a real, recognized company that could really help them become more profitable, they are irritated and uncomfortable and can’t wait to get me off of the phone. I understand that, but it was nice to hear a different perspective. It made me think of the current handmade movement on sites like Etsy, which is essentially a “take two” version of the original Arts & Crafts movement, which was largely inspired by the artist community’s concern that industrialism and machines would take the quality out of products and the humanity out of design.

I decided one color was all I could handle tonight. Pandora put Radiohead on first. I feel like Radiohead always helps me paint better. It makes me more patient and less cranky. Tonight it felt yellow. I decided to go with yellow- maybe because of Radiohead, maybe because the first painting on canvas I ever sold was a stunning yellow color field that made my professor exclaim, “it makes me want to go out and get religion!”, or maybe because Chester’s puppy pee pads are really near the studio.

I set out all my yellows, golds and siennas. First I put them on with a brush, then with the palette knife, then I dragged ribbons and twine through the impasto parts and sprayed it with vinegar water, lifting off the wetness with a crinkly napkin for texture. Finally, the painting looked at me and said, “Okay, I’m done.” And I replied, “Thank God!”