Snark-free Saturday

"Gluten Goatee", a 5x7" mixed media painting on canvas

Day 212: Gluten Goatee

I can’t help it. These book page header combinations make me snort with laughter. Today’s- “Gluten Goatee” makes me think of my hippie brethren, trodding along the streets of San Francisco in dirty sandals with fabric bags full of organic groceries. I’m headed into SF tomorrow to take down my paintings from the July show at City Art, and I’m sure I’ll see several tight-pants/goatee/hat/nerdy glasses combos doing their Sunday shopping.

I spent most of today working on the second canvas with the self-portrait in oil, and I’m happy to say it’s going wayyyy better than the last several times. An artist buddy of mine- Jimmy Danko who just completed his own amazing self-portrait– sent me a friendly email to encourage me to try it again, which is always uplifting. Some days I’m just so thankful for how awesome the world is, I feel like a walking smile. Joy.


Creepy alien fingers

Today's piece is a photo of creepy... I mean cranberry beans. 🙂

Day 211: Cranberry Beans

Real photographers do something called “macro photography”, where they take really interesting photos of tiny objects, often with neato lighting. I, on the other hand, being a painter first and foremost, enjoy photography but have no formal skills. I don’t even know how to delete a picture on my camera most of the time. 

Today I thought I’d try to get a cool image from this pile of cranberry beans I picked up at Whole Foods the other day. Up close, they kind of look like creepy alien fingers… jam-packed with nutrients. I am now off to attempt to cook them (cooking is also one of my non-skills that I engage in regularly). Wish me luck!

Philologue fiesta!

"Grouty Guardian", cityscape painting on 5x7" canvas.

Day 210: Grouty Guardian

Today’s mini painting features another San Francisco hillside scene on a vintage dictionary page, including the Coit Tower. I thought it was apropos seeing as how this page has “grouty guardian” up at the top. Initially, I thought of grout as the gritty sandy stuff that goes between tiles, i.e. structural/architecture related, and the everpresent building up on the hill can be seen as a “guardian” (plus there’s a paper in SF called The Guardian, so it’s even more perfect).

But according to this page, “grouty” means “cross, sulky, dreggy”. Dreggy is a word I’ve never seen and I find it particularly amusing when I have to look up a word within a definition to understand the word I was looking up in the first place. It’s the same kind of odd little joy I get when I think about Wesley from The Princess Bride saying “I shall surely kill you in the morning”, because his character is telling a story to another character within a story being read to a boy by his grandfather, which we are then being “told” (shown/read) ourselves. Hee hee! It’s something like those Russian nesting dolls, I guess.

“Grouty Guardian” gives us gobs of other gems, like grubstake, gruyere, grumpy, guano and grysbok. Intrigued by my alliteration? Check out the detail shot. (Click it to see a larger view for more exciting-to-me obscure definitions.)

I dare you to use "grouty" in regular speech within the next week.

I am Jack’s alternate personality

Look, up on the wall! It's a page! It's a painting! It's.. a literate lizard!!!

Day 209: Literate Lizard

“Gee, Marianne, that looks an awful lot like a cityscape mini-painting.”

“Yep. That’s what it is.”

“What happened to that oil portrait you’ve been working on for two days?”

“Oh, that? I hurled it into the sun.”

<Raised eyebrow>

“Okay, I can’t throw a canvas that far. But I did start all over again… again.”

“Sounds like fun.”


“Think the sarcasm is entirely necessary?”

“I almost cried. It was that frustrating.”

“I have faith in you, Marianne. You can do eeet!”

“Thank you, Rob Schneider! I didn’t know you read my blog.”

“I don’t. I’m not him. I exist only in your mind. I was created when the stress of your failing self-portrait was too much for your fragile artist ego. I’m here to…”

“Okay, that’s enough. Thanks for your help with the blog entry.”


I’ll be showing oodles of mini paintings at the City Art Gallery in San Francisco in October, so I’m ramping up. Today’s piece is a hillside painting on the “Literate Lizard” page of a vintage dictionary on a 5×7” canvas. I love how the beginning and ending words in the header of these dictionary pages create their own intriguing little sayings.

Detail shot

Haikus continued

I'm a messy painter...

Day 208: Haiku

It’s immeasurably frustrating when a self-portrait won’t yield to your brush. There I am on the canvas, staring back at me in defiance, mocking myself, refusing to bend to my own will. Mindboggling. So I took the gloves off. I got out the oil paint.

Generally I am afraid of oil paint. It frustrates me. It gets everywhere- and I’m a messy painter- and it takes forever and a day to dry. BUT it is beautiful and much much much easier for skin tones than acrylic is. Why I insist on attempting to do figurative work in acrylic is beyond me. Clearly I am an enigma to myself. So it’s getting better, but it’s not done. (I painted over everything but one eyeball earlier and started over.)

Hence, today’s art is another haiku, about this “frenemy” I have in oil paint. Enjoy!

Centuries unchanged

yielding, luminous, gentle

why do I fear you?

Hi, Haiku!

The tractor and the tree's romance could not be.

Day 207: Haiku

After yesterday’s epic fail, I decided to actually do a self-portrait painting on canvas. Which I’ve never done. Unless you count this thing I did in college:

Necks are easier to paint than faces, fyi.

And it was actually coming along pretty well until I realized that all the features just needed to get scootched around. Nose needed to move up a little, which then meant the otherwise-perfectly-good-mouth did too, and it’s possible the left eye is going to need to be repainted, hence- there’s a massive pile of frustration sitting in my studio right now where a finished painting should be. But I actually want it to look good. Soooooo, I decided to write a short poem as today’s artwork in lieu of driving myself crazy in the studio for another few hours. (Insanity by way of portraiture can certainly wait until tomorrow.)

Not wanting to leave you with pure text, I also included a photo I took awhile ago when it was still raining. Which is totally unrelated to today’s poem unless you count the melancholy mood of it. 🙂 I promise, tomorrow will be better. Until then, a haiku-

daylight wanes again

weeks blend into months flowing

like watercolor

Face Fail


Day 206: Face Fail

Why do my new favorite songs have such perverse titles? Like “Party with Children” by Ratatat and “Porno Disaster” by The Octopus Project. I’ve had the “Ratatat” channel on Pandora lately, and while I’m not into 100% of their selections (particularly the super-repetitive stuff), it’s been realllllly groovy. I had no idea there were Celtic-inspired instrumental mix-masters, or full classical complement versions of Muse songs. I’d heard of Sigur Ros & Kronos Quartet, but I’d never listened to Justice or RJD2. Hearing all this new-to-me crazy-awesome music lately feels like I opened the door to an underground club where I was immediately crowd-surfed over to my personal art studio in the middle of it and handed a champagne cocktail.

Isn’t that funny how something as simple as music can put you into a great mood? On the other hand, looking at today’s drawing puts me in a fowl one pretty quickly. Today I discovered that trying to draw my own face without glasses whilst wearing glasses is a really bad idea. I mean, this is my face… kind of. I am clearly in need of an eye wrangler (forehead/eye ratio/positioning isn’t right), the lips aren’t quite wide enough and my nose is a little different. See, when I take my glasses off, I have to reposition things like mirrors and paper about 6 inches or less away from my face to see them. So I had to keep shuffling things instead of staring them down like usual and I gave up after a couple hours. Why not just wear contacts, you say? Ah, yes, well. I ran out of them and they’re not free. And I don’t have any insurance right now anyway. Boo hoo. So next time, I’m just going to use a photo instead of trying to be all art-hardcore and use myself as a live model.

Oh, and in other news, I just updated with new galleries, intro page and artist statement. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Upcycled Art Love

Oooh, ruffles!

Day 205: Spanish Lavender & The Iliad

Today I learned that few things are as satisfying at taking a pile of junk mail and turning it into upcycled art. I’m not head-over-heels, Golden-era-romance-film in love with this piece, but it’s a hint of what could be to come. It’s winking at me. And I’ll take a wink over a middle finger from my artwork any day.

My scissors answered the sleazy mating call of my junk mail pile and this was born.

To make this piece, I carted my 12 x 16” canvas outside with this giant obnoxiously large stick of charcoal (that I initially bought years ago partially for its novelty, but which is handy for large sketching) and did a loose outline of our Spanish lavender’s shadow. I pictured photons shooting through the air at slanted angles as I headed back out of the heat and filled in half the canvas with a French gray. Strips of the Iliad served as directional texture, and junk mail/phone book flowers topped it off. I sense continued decoupage nonsense in my near future.

Markedly more entertaining than tossing it into the recycling bin.

Challenge within a challenge

'Balloon Flowers', mixed media on 8x10" canvas

Day 204: Balloon Flowers

I watched another episode of “A Work of Art” on Bravo today (I heart On Demand), and on this last one, they had to use children’s materials and create something inspired by the experiences that molded them on their paths to being artists. Instead of pouting about not being on this season, I decided to use the show as inspiration. Though I don’t have pipe cleaners and neon pom poms hanging around (perhaps we should equip children with less obnoxious art supplies?), I decided to give myself a similar limited resource challenge and set about seeing what I could make with paper.

Unlike many contestants of reality show challenges, my childhood was pretty awesome. I didn’t have to use street trash for drawing paper, or burn paintings in the fireplace to keep everyone warm. My creativity was constantly nourished and supported by my family. I remember being amazed at my grandma’s tolepainting, my grandpa’s woodwork, and even the creative décor zeal with which the women of my family tackle parties.

I sewed concentric circles of paper in the center, trimmed them, then folded them up for the blossoms.

I began fantasizing about writing and illustrating in elementary school. I think it was Grandma who gave me a great “this book written and illustrated by Marianne” stamp. Grandma taught me to read as well, and words constantly worm their way into my visual art to this day.

After carving up a phone book and using some pages from The Iliad, I was on my way with a satisfying level of texture and even more color than I’d expected. The imagery on this 8×10” canvas is simple, but for me, it holds that childlike joyfulness I remember being consumed with when I first began to create things. Embroidery floss stems/strings anchor these balloon flowers. Else they may just leap right off the page… 🙂

Painting parade

"Felt", a 5x7" mixed media painting on canvas

Day 203: Felt

Attending the Social Media Club event was both inspiring and a gentle kick in the art pants. 🙂 An art publicist reiterated the importance of having your act together if you want to be a professional artist, which is something we artists have some trouble with (to put it mildly) from time to time. It reminded me that I need to redesign and update my portfolio site. I’ve been focused on the blog this year, and my other site hasn’t had much love. Poor guy. (Why have I personified my other website as a guy when I’m a girl? *Shrug*)

In fact, my to-do list on the art marketing end of things is getting pretty large. It feels mountainous. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. On the contrary, it’s more like a ducting system full of tribbles. (To continue the Star Trek references I’m clearly so fond of.) The more I wish an invisible art fairy would magically take care of it for me, the bigger it gets.

I love looking back in time at someone's handwriting in a vintage book.

So I just rewrote my “official” Artist Statement, the one that appears on my portfolio site, After half a notebook full of drafts, I got something decent that helped me boil down why I do what I do and what it means to me. This is an exercise I recommend to all my artist brethren (and sisterthren?), partially because my inner sadist wants you to go through the frustration and suffering that I did, but also because it’s an important question to be able to answer. It will help give you some clarity.

Part of what I wrote was that I enjoy the subjective nature of text, and that’s part of the fun when I use words in a painting. I know they will resonate in different ways with different people, even if they technically have a certain definition. Today’s fragment of script written on this third German reader page says “felt himself”. Felt himself… what? I wondered. Felt himself fall in love? Felt himself get angry? Felt himself…up? My gutterbrain giggled furiously at that interpretation. I stuck with blue and yellow, so this one looks kind of cool with the others from the past couple of days.

It's too bad canvases are all edges and fragility. I'd love to give this trio a hug.