Day 39

How can I have dry skin on top of pimples, at the same time? That doesn’t seem possible or fair. Of course, I didn’t discover this until after I’d left the house, since I didn’t bother to look in a mirror before I left. Sometimes I think of how awful it would be to have to look at me all the time, like the secret footage from What Not To Wear. I can imagine trying to rationalize with Stacy & Clinton.. “but yoga pants are SO comfortable”.. “well, I don’t think anyone else really notices all those paint splatters”. People always say that when you get married, you let yourself go, and it’s true to a degree for me. I’m comfortable and happy with my man, so some days I don’t even bust out the eyebrow wax to fix my Whoopi Goldberg situation.

Though married, Rob and I have no plans to procreate. I am infinitely thankful that my mother was willing to make and raise me, because I know that I don’t have the patience to return that favor to the gene pool. I was picking up a few more groceries sans the superbowl crowd today, and in the tiny organic produce section at Raley’s, some child was pulling down the yellow plastic bags like he was gathering supplies for a nuclear holocaust. I can’t really blame him, since we try to get extra items with a solid shelf-life for our own apocalypse pantry on every shopping trip, but honestly- we all know organic produce would hardly last a week, even if he’s got those rad ‘green bags’ in his family’s bomb shelter.

So I stood there making a concerted effort not to make “I hate your child” face, as I often do, but a good peeved minute passed while mom chatted with her future-hoarder child and I stood there holding bananas and looking at the bags. You have to use the yellow ones for the organic items, and I tend to follow these kinds of rules because I am a law-abiding citizen, otherwise I would have walked angrily around them with precision like I used to do when I was cocktailing and had to dodge drunken idiots.

So I said, “I need to grab a bag” with pained politeness, and the mama said “oh, he needs to count to ten”. I’m pretty sure I gave her a look that said “your child could stretch a finish line for a cruise ship race with that trail of bags, lady”, and she stopped him. By this time, one of the employees stocking supplies had stopped to glare at her, which made me feel validated. It’s the little things.

I think today’s painting on canvas panel was somehow inspired by the transparency of yellow bags with writing over green things and thoughts of fields growing veggies that I hope will remain organic and non-GMO and available to me. Visit for information on how to stay informed about proposed changes to food & drug laws and shortcuts to send letters to your representatives about them.

Also, I am officially adding a page for “ArtProject2010 in the Press” today, thanks to a wonderful review/profile by Portland-based artist DaogreerEarthWorks on their blog. Visit the Etsy shop for DaogreerEarthWorks here. Thanks!

Day 38

I don’t give a rat’s ass about football- then again, I don’t make it a habit to distribute disembodied rodent body parts to express my disdain about anything else either. So I put off going to the grocery store as long as possible this morning. On my way, I noticed that one of the sets of stoplights was all wonky- the green circles were split into little horizontal strips that were blinking at different intervals. So when I sat down in the studio, I got out a canvas panel and started out with this:

From there, I decided to stay with the theme of positivity and began clipping words from scraps I’d already used out of Capote’s pages:

Then I felt like the background lines should be fuzzy so the circle would be more in focus:

I sat there pondering my next move for a second. Chester snuck in to offer some encouragement from underneath the easel..

..and suggested I add some color. So I did..

While I was adding the rosy tones to the background, I decided I wanted to insert some of that same conflict I’d touched on in yesterday’s piece- the wanting to change to a positive perspective amidst the adversity of being a natural born worrier and the tendency to focus on the negative, which seems to be like the default setting for human brains. I found the word “nightmares” and added it in to the background..

..And knew I needed to darken it up from that point after I had done some more underpainting of yellow in the circle:

Then I did some thin washes of blue over the lower half and whitewashed the upper half..

And finished it off with some red. One of my favorite classes in college was a class about abstraction. The teacher had said abstracts tend to be emotional, which initially, I thought was a bunch of hogwash (where do these lovely turns of phrase come from, anyway??). Up to that point, I’d only done realistic pieces by choice. Now, when I have a lot of emotion, I tend to make abstract pieces. But I like them so much better with the words in them.

Day 37

On my way back home to Sacramento today, I began thinking about my productivity level with the art project. As of tomorrow, I’ll essentially have all day long every day to make art until I have to go back to work again, and I made a deal with myself that I could put items up for sale if I made more than one each day. So I had a little pep talk with myself and said, “Okay Marianne. You can do this. It’s time to ramp it up!” Were my life a made-for-tv movie, this is where we would cue the montage of me busting out awesome art left and right.

In real life, it was a “Scrubs” moment where I was sitting there imagining my montage, rocking out to “eye of the tiger” in my jukebox brain, when I was snapped back into reality by the sound of the driver behind me laying on his horn because  he wanted me to run over the 3 pedestrians in front of me so he could turn right five seconds faster. The a-hole drivers of Northern California are lucky I can’t have rocket launchers installed on my vehicle because I WOULD use them. It’s part of my Mad Max alternate reality where I also do things like temporarily kidnap the children I see who are too young to be walking home alone to teach their parents a lesson.

Anyway, when I got home I pulled out this canvas I have painted over no less than 5 times now with a plan. I drew a line around some of the textures already created by dried drops of medium and embedded paper. I painted the space above it with white paint, and the space below it with deep black-blue. I thinned the paint with water and threw it at the canvas in splatters. I looked at the composition, which I liked for its movement and contrast, and thought it looked rather dark and moody. I set it flat to dry and left the studio.

Rob played a radio interview by Gregg Braden, author of “The Divine Matrix” , “God Code” and other books. He’s a scientist who has been exploring how scientific experiments test and prove beliefs held by our ancestors. I haven’t read any of his books yet, but after hearing him speak about a theory that all matter is connected by a field of energy  that reflects human emotion, I was definitely intrigued. It’s rare to come across something that combines scientific experimentation, mathematical scrutiny, clues from ancient tomes, and the power of positive feelings. That means it satisfies both my analytical nature and my soft side.

Sure, it may sound like a bunch of mumbo jumbo hoo-ha, but I need to be more positive, especially now. I pulled out my trusty Capote book and flipped through a couple of pages in the back. I found the text I am happy out of “Hidden Gardens” and knew that’s what I was looking for. Braden had spoken about how heart-based emotions like love and joy and peace could affect the world as a whole if enough people changed their perspective to feel and project those feelings all the time. I thought the snippet “I am happy” amidst a swirl of darkness and chaos was the perfect way to express my challenge ahead.

Day 36

It’s a weird feeling to drive down the streets of your hometown after a long time away. Routes I used to take every day are both familiar and odd at the same time. It’s as if I can feel the space of time, as if it’s palpable. Being here made me think of the things I used to do here. When I was upset or frustrated, I cherished my alone time in my car. I didn’t have to deal with crowds or lines or traffic or anything, it would just be me and my CD player and my sketchbook. I used to drive out to Ohlone, the community college in Fremont, and park in front of a eucalyptus tree for hours. I’d draw and write and sip coffee. I always wanted to do a nice watercolor of the trees, the way the bark falls away in strips and leaves unexpected colors in lines wrapping around the trunk like brushstrokes.

But watercolor and I have a rocky relationship. We go through phases. Sometimes it’s all movies-and-dinner and fabulous conversation, and other times  it’s walking on eggshells and constant arguments that end in walking away from each other.

Yesterday’s painting took so long that I wanted to do something faster today. I drove out to some of the giant eucalyptus trees near the sushi place at 5:30 with about 25 minutes of light left.

I did a quick charcoal sketch, then came home and picked a palette of the secondaries and abstracted it a little. I feel “meh” about it, but they can’t all be winners.

Day 35

This morning, I decided to get an early start. I began sketching this hillside photo of Istanbul at around 9:30 am. I began with the mosque and minarets. With watercolors, it’s imperative to get the shapes right from the beginning. With acrylic painting, I can just paint over a layer to change a shape’s location entirely. Well, it’s not THAT easy. I feel I should clarify this point, because during the many years Jennan and I painted murals together, we’d often get clients who would come in after several hours of work and say “Hmm, I like it so far, but could you scoot the elephant over a few inches to the left?” At which point, my nostrils would flare, Jennan would shoot me that plaintive “say something congenial before I kill our client” look,  and I’d try to explain that this was actual paint being applied by hand, and that it didn’t magically become a vinyl sticker once dry.

So with watercolors, the white areas have to stay white from the beginning. It requires forethought and planning and patience- none of which are strong areas for me. So I looked at the mostly blank page after a half hour, slightly exasperated, and put it down for awhile.

I put several more hours into it in the afternoon. I wanted to just ignore the photo and start making up colorful boxes, but each little square of building is connected to the others. After a while, it started to feel like level 9 Tetris, that point at which I can’t put the lines into neat stacks as easily, and I have a little anxiety attack in my throat and my eyes get all dry as I try not to blink so I don’t screw anything up. I kept telling myself to pick up the pace in my brain, yet somehow it was still like I was painting through a layer of molasses.

Eventually it got to the point where I could just add windows and pen lines and take the pictures. I called Rob, who told me he had spoken with the EDD. We were worried that he wouldn’t be eligible for it because he’d run out shortly before he started his last job. The friendly representative told him that he’d earned just enough income at his recent positionto be eligible again. I took a deep, long breath of relief. Knowing that we’ll both be able to receive unemployment for at least awhile is definitely going to help me sleep tonight. Also, I think this watercolor turned out kind of awesome, so there’s that too. Yay!

Day 34

I was relieved this morning to find my mom sitting up, eating jello, and chatting with a co-worker. She even felt well enough to hassle the nurse just a little, and we had her and her many bouquets of flowers home by late afternoon. Every time I think about the dual unemployment situation, I start to feel like I might throw up or cry or throw up and cry at the same time, so I’m avoiding it for the most part.

I picked out a photo from a drive through Chinatown and got started on a watercolor. Over the years, I’ve probably made 10-12 trips to Chinatown, but I’ve only really been there (outside of the car) twice. If you’ve ever tried to park there, you know what I mean. For me, the excitement of visiting San Francisco is always dampened by two things- the difficulty of finding someplace to park that won’t cost $200, and the anxiety of trying to find a clean public restroom (which is usually intensified by having to pee super bad while circling around hunting for parking). This scenario leads to lots of photos from inside of moving cars. As a passenger only, of course- doing anything other than intensely focusing while driving in San Francisco is like skiing with your eyes closed.

Chinatown is like the rest of the city, in that it’s both dazzling and dirty. Bright lanterns hover over the street,  orange banners flap beautiful calligraphy I can’t read, red roasted ducks dangle from storefronts, all distracting me from the animal fat greasing the sidewalks. I love painting it, this is the second time I have, and I will again- as soon as I get some more pictures.

Also, a huge thank you to everyone who has shared their well-wishes for my mom’s recovery and for the situation that my husband and I are in. It means a lot to us. 🙂 

Day 33

Even though I had hours to work on drawings at the hospital while I waited for news from the surgical team, I couldn’t focus. I called my husband this morning to give him an update on mom’s status and he sounded terrible. I could tell something was wrong. Turned out that his office is struggling financially and implemented a reduction in force today that included him.  I lost my job on Friday, and he lost his on the following Tuesday.

I stood there in front of the window near the waiting room staring out at nothing, trembling. Suddenly the cold, linoleum, sick-people-smelling hallway was even colder. I am a worrier by nature. I’d been able to keep the major worrying at bay since Rob had this great job with good pay that he was doing well at. And it wasn’t his fault, and I knew that. I looked out into the endless gray of the bay and saw my art dreams dissipate into the damp, colorless air.

I told him I would get another job right away.  He said he didn’t want me to, that he would find something, that I could keep trying to make things happen with my project. I let him know that even if I did go back to work soon I would still keep up with the project, and said those words we all say at times like these- it will be okay- even though we have no idea how we’ll make good on that promise.

Time ticked away, slowly, painfully, and eventually mom was out of anaesthesia and feeling a little better. We left her resting in the hospital overnight. Even though I just wanted to curl into a ball and cry myself to sleep, I headed out with my camera in my hometown. The City Hall where I got the business license for painting murals as a 16-year old loomed, stoic and silent and dark- except for a gorgeous stained glass mosaic. It’s a column of beautiful backlit rainbow colors. I parked and set the camera to its no-flash setting and took a few shots.

I’d like to say that today’s piece, this photograph, symbolizes a lesson I’m trying to learn- that even when it’s dark and gloomy, there are still beautiful, bright bits of light out there if you look for them. The cynical side of me does not share this perspective, but I’m about to drown my sorrows in pie, which is effective in silencing both the optimist and pessimist within me.

Day 32

As I headed into Newark today, I made sure to drive extra careful. The tags on my car expired yesterday, and the new ones were waiting for me at my mom’s house. I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t give a highway patrolman any excuse to pull me over and fine me. So I was cruising along at 70 mph down 680 grooving to Interpol on the CD player, when I noticed some old man in a car next to me making angry faces at me. At first I thought my gas cap might be open or something, but then I realized I was probably not driving fast enough for this guy. “Welcome to the bay area”, I thought.

After a nice dinner with mom, I set to work on a watercolor of some boats in a shallow pier in Santorini, Greece. Mom took this picture while we stood in line for  two hours waiting for the funicular (basically a mechanized lift to get up the cliff face to the city on the hill). It was like standing in line for a ride at Great America or something, only instead of being surrounded by annoying pre-teens, we were surrounded by annoying tourists. To be fair, most of them were polite and conversational. Only a handful cut in line or attempted to cut in line. One old woman who pretended not to speak any English successfully edged her way in, but another woman from an English-speaking European country almost got shoved into the Mediterranean by a feisty Brit when she tried to contend there was “no law” against cutting in line.

A special shout-out to my little sis for letting me use her laptop to do this post.