Invitation to disconnect

"Out of Order", 16" x 20" acrylic on canvas

“Out of Order”, 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas

It’s Friday, and tomorrow is the first day of summer. It’s also my late father-in-law’s birthday, which makes it bittersweet. We miss my husband’s father, as we miss my Grandpa and others we’ve lost. But rather than focus on the day they left this world, I prefer to cherish our memories of them on their birthdays.

Today I’d like to invite you to reflect on what moments are important to you. Were they the most-liked Facebook status updates? The most epic vine videos? The best blog posts? I know they’re not, but these things consume so much of us. I’m not saying to burn your devices and smash your TV with a baseball bat, but on what is likely to be a beautiful weekend no matter where you live, disconnect for a bit. Don’t just put the phone down, turn it off (unless of course you’re calling someone to tell them you love them).

Go to the beach, visit a garden, check out your local art museum, make sun tea on your patio, take that friend you never see anymore out for a pitcher of sangria.

Chalk art from my hotel door at Portland's Jupiter Hotel

Chalk art from my hotel door at Portland’s Jupiter Hotel

I was recently in Portland and met a random person who turned out to be my sister from another mister. Instead of retreating into my hotel room for a few hours of internet crap, we hung out and had cider at a nearby brewery, and it was awesome. So in case you need it, here is your official invitation to disconnect from all this stuff this weekend and go make some real-world memories. 🙂

Knowledge is Powell’s

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Portland natives may recognize the book beacon that is Powell’s, the subject of the above triptych painting “Bastian”, 36″ x 54″, seen here on proud display in my home.

For my fellow logophiles, please note that the title is not a misspelling, but a dual reference to the homonym and to a film. There’s one other hint that this bookstore is located in Portland- can you see what it is? Unravel the mysteries in comments! 🙂

Night shift

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Here are 3 new paintings from a series I just started called “Night Shift”, exploring nocturnal city activities, roles and perspectives. All are 30″ x 40″ acrylic on canvas.

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The above is titled Stranger because of its voyeuristic quality and because the intro to Billy Joel’s song by the same name kept playing in my brain while I painted it.

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No title yet for this and the top piece. Suggestions? Thanks for reading!

Signs of the times

Catching you up on recent paintings featuring vintage signage. All currently available at MarianneBland.com.

"Status Quo", 18" x 24" acrylic on canvas

“Status Quo”, 18″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas

Now playing: Nothing, Forever at the State Theatre in historic Marysville, CA. If any horror flick directors out there need a scary place to shoot, this spot is boarded up and undoubtedly haunted.  I also like the reference to “the state of things” (literal translation of status quo) as a blank, faded marquee. It’s kind of the equivalent of a shrug, or “meh”; very appropriate for my generation.

"Nitehawks", 18" x 24" acrylic on canvas

“Nitehawks”, 18″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas

A wink and nod to Hopper in title, I was very pleased with the peeling pink paint result (it’s easier to see in person. You know, sublety) in this painting.

"God Bless Dinners", 18" x 24" acrylic on canvas

“God Bless Dinners”, 18″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas

This restaurant is also located in Sacramento’s Del Paso Heights neighborhood and is a good example of how I prefer not to name locations with their actual titles most of the time. This one offered all kinds of amusing alternatives and is still a functioning greasy spoon if you are intrigued by the concept of beef from the other coast blessed by God (or ham and eggs, apparently).

Ice Box, 18" x 24" acrylic on canvas

“Ice Box”, 18″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas

Iceland completely defies physics by remaining in existence in Sacramento, CA (aka the surface of the sun). I particularly enjoy how the “come skate” paint is all creepy and dripping, as if it should be followed with “at your own risk” or “if you dare!” like a scene in a Goosebumps book.

"Greyhound", 18" x 24" acrylic on canvas

“Greyhound”, 18″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas

The above is an ode to Hopper, featuring blocky colors and devoid of reflections. This old Greyhound depot has been replaced with a cool modern location in Sacramento, as is often the case- places change before I get the chance to paint them pretty frequently.

"Dough Conditioner", 10" x 30" acrylic on canvas

“Dough Conditioner”, 10″ x 30″ acrylic on canvas

What once smelled of yeast and sorrow is now a vacant building, haunted by the spirits of nutritionally-devoid pastries. I intentionally cut off the title as a play on the word “under” since, you know- it went under.

Signs are stoic markers of events ingrained in the collective conscience. And they are also hard to paint. Here’s hoping you enjoyed checking them out. The 18″ x 24″ canvases above are all framed in flat black and available for $700 at MarianneBland.com. Happy Friday, folks! Thanks for reading.

 

 

Memory formats

"Vinyl", 30" x 40" Acrylic on Canvas

“Vinyl”, 30″ x 40″ Acrylic on Canvas

All the record stores I worked at are gone. Fun story, I once started a friendship by flashing my recently-pierced nips at my place of employment. Which is NOT why it closed, thankfyouverymuch. 🙂 I do occasionally stop and reflect on how extremely pivotal music is for me. Most people have strong relationships with it, but in this case I refer to artmaking. I listen to music each and every time I paint. I can’t even imagine what would happen if I had to start making work without it. I’ve even considered posting which bands/songs I was listening to while I worked on something, but I have no idea if that would mean anything to anyone besides me. It was fun to consider while I worked on the above, “Vinyl”, featuring an evening window shot of a record store in Portland.

"Tall, Dark and Haberdashery", 30" x 40", acrylic on canvas

“Tall, Dark and Haberdashery”, 30″ x 40″, acrylic on canvas

Another strong memory for me is that of the hat shop. I enjoyed hats a lot growing up (for awhile I had an impressive collection of thrift-store-sourced vintage cranium-toppers), but the memory I refer to is that of visiting a “chapeauterie” during my study-abroad semester in Marseille. I tried hard not to geek out at the fact that a HAT STORE still existed somewhere in the world, and it was an absolutely delightful 30 minutes spent trying on and pretending like I was going to buy hundred-dollar hats. I did buy ONE but I’m still waiting on the right occasion to don my fantastic French hat. (It’s kind of ridiculous and I haven’t been to the Kentucky Derby yet). I had a flash of that joy while witnessing the above Haberdashery in Portland, OR. This piece was a bit of a departure in that the palette is muted, but I couldn’t resist the whimsy and delight of the floating hats with umbrellas. I kind of felt like the display was going to break into Singin in the Rain at any moment. 🙂

"Drugs and Stationery", 30" x 40" acrylic on canvas

“Drugs and Stationery”, 30″ x 40″ acrylic on canvas

This piece has been on my “to paint” list for quite awhile. It’s a shop in Redwood City, CA that I snapped for reference during a great evening out with my mom. I’ve already painted 3 other scenes from that night, and this one was very exciting for me. By day, it’s kind of a cheesy ice cream store. By night, however, it’s a remarkable reminiscence of times I never experienced personally. I can imagine the soda jerk, the circle skirts, the giddy dates in the post-war era that inspired this shop, and that is the crux of why I paint city scenes. They are imbued with a presence of lives lived in these spaces that is palpable for me, that I can’t shake. (Pun-tastic! I’m a super nerd.)

All of the above original paintings are currently available for $1600 each on MarianneBland.com. Thanks for reading!

Summer in San Francisco

"Carrier Wave", 16" x 20" Acrylic on Canvas

“Carrier Wave”, 16″ x 20″ Acrylic on Canvas

Ah, summer. What once was a welcome break in the gray is now a game of Death Race 2000, in which the sun attempts to murder everything in its wake. (Those of you who also live in Sacramento can attest to this fact.) Summer in San Francisco, however, is a thing of beauty. That typically cold wind transforms to a pleasant breeze, patio dining suddenly returns, hipsters play Neutral Milk Hotel songs on the steps of townhouses, rooftop parties with organic Sangria break out spontaneously. It’s a fantastic place to be.  I may not be in San Francisco at this very moment, but odds are you aren’t either. In lieu of experiencing the glory that is a warm day by the bay first-hand, let these recent paintings featuring a sunny day in SF transport you to memories of urban relaxation.

"Retrofit", 16" x 20" acrylic on canvas

“Retrofit”, 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas

I suppose this could be any city, but the cable car steel atop a hillside kind of gives it away. What was great about this image was that the Bel Air was a surprise. I was taking a photo of the dusk light on the skyscraper, when a beautiful pink classic car snuck into the shot. Happy accidents make for great compositions! What surprises me is how people often comment that my paintings look like photos, when I feel like they’re awfully loose up-close. I’ve been starting to create some looser images that I look forward to sharing soon. For now, here’s another summer-y snapshot:

"I Heart Parking", 16" x 20" acrylic on canvas

“I Heart Parking”, 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas

Betwixt the palm shadows on pink patios sits a Vespa, a symbol of beauty and freedom in its own right, underscored by the satisfaction that is finding a parking spot in San Francisco. Those brave and brilliant souls motoring around this town on 2 wheels must never experience the excitement-disappointment-panic rollercoaster that is spot-searching with a regular car. What I LOVE about this piece is the natural heart shape created by the tree leaves and their shadow, framing this moment.

You may not know this about my work, but I don’t manufacture compositions. I hunt them down, taking photos myself, then using these images later as references for paintings. I described this process to a collector once as collecting, selecting and recreating moments from real life. My intention is to imbue those moments with some of the added glamour, drama, mystique or glory that they have on their own if we just notice it.

All of the above paintings are currently available for only $400 each directly on my website at MarianneBland.com. Thanks for reading!

The wrong kind of rollercoaster

It’s been one of those pull-the-sheets-up-when-the-alarm-goes-off-and-punch-yourself-in-the-face kind of months. After years of lusting after a stable gallery relationship, I finally got picked up by HANG Gallery in San Francisco. It started off with a bang- half their inventory of my work sold within weeks, I sold a piece that wasn’t even in the gallery through them and picked up a commission. Then we realized that there was a miscommunistanding about geographical boundaries, and they dropped me until I move back into the bay area full time [which is probably never, since we own a house in Sacramento]. So ends my brief foray into career validation, as quickly as it began.

OpenStudios_Frame

I got to visit Chicago for the first time, which I was very excited about. However, it happened to be during the annual marathon. Did you know that GPS devices don’t understand special event street closures? They also don’t sound like Daniel Craig. My attempt to visit the highly-recommended (by both friends and strangers) Chicago Art Museum was thwarted by people who inexplicably enjoy running. Thankfully, I can still read a normal map, which got me to my work-destination, but only after my limited free time was eaten up by making u-turns at the painstakingly slow instruction of angry traffic cops. As a goodbye gift, Chicago took a chunk out of my knee (it’s healing up pretty quickly) and also forced me to scuff the rental car on an impossibly narrow [and insanely expensive] parking garage.

My carpal tunnel started acting up again, which I suppose is good that it’s happening now since I have no damn time to paint at the moment, which I discovered while crawling into my rental car through the passenger seat after coming out to this in the hospital parking lot:

WorstParkingEver

And my husband’s birthday is coming up, but I’ll be traveling to San Francisco, Portland, and a host of other cities for my day job (I’m a recruiter for an art college), leaving me no time to honor him or attend my nephew’s birthday party at that. I just found out that my on-campus support is being promoted, which means those students I try so hard to find are probably going to slink into the ether.

On top of all that, Open Studios is coming up. Which I have virtually no time to prepare for. Thankfully I am an expert in pulling things off with no prep time.  So if you find yourself in San Francisco November 2-3, please come visit me at SHARED 739 Bryant St in SOMA. There’s plenty of street parking, we’re having an opening reception on Friday, November 1st  from 7 to 9 pm, and I will have my own original art for viewing and sale. I have one of those nifty SQUARE thingies so I will be accepting ALL credit cards! You too, Discover renegades. 😉 Hope to see you there. Also hoping October ends soon. When one door closes, a window opens, right? RIGHT?!

OpenStudios_Cab

How to begin collecting art

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“Reclining nude” an old drawing I’m framing for the Capital Artist’s Studio Tour, Sept. 8 & 9

Pop quiz, art lovers! Answer these three questions as fast as you can:
1. What’s the first piece of art you see when you walk into your home?
2. Who is your favorite local artist?
3. When’s the last time you saw affordable art in person?

If you don’t have answers to any of the above, don’t worry- you’re in a large boat with lots of other people who love art, but don’t have as much of a personal connection / collection as they’d like. The good news is that it’s remarkably easy to start collecting art. I’ve been asked a few times about the best ways to go about it, so I decided to put together this how-to article.

First, let’s dispel some commonly-held myths.

Art myth #1: Art is too expensive
To be fair, there’s A LOT of expensive art in the world. I’ve seen life-size taxidermy-style rabbit creatures with exposed nipples selling for $12K each (seriously, I have a witness that can verify that wackadoodle art moment). A Picasso scribble on a napkin can go for a few grand. But there are oodles of artists selling work for a couple hundred dollars or less, and chances are they’re right in your backyard. Many people think they can only afford prints or posters. But original art that you like is out there! And it’s not hard to find… if you know where to look. We’ll get to that later.

Art myth #2: Art is only sold in galleries
Cue your mental buzzers, folks! That myth is WRONG! Art is sold in galleries, of course- usually at 2-3 times the price of buying it directly from an artist to cover their commission and overhead, too. It’s great to support galleries when you can. These venues are essentially on the endangered species list right now. If you like having places to regularly view work, patronize your local galleries during affordable art group shows, or better yet, find a co-op!

Cooperative galleries like City Art Gallery in San Francisco’s Mission District are completely owned and operated by local artists who usually put together some pretty rockin’ shows and give more back to their members. Besides galleries, you can buy art at events like Art Fairs, Art Walks and Open Studios.

My Open Studios setup last year

Art myth #3: Affordable art isn’t quality art or it would cost more
Most of us want art because of how it makes us feel, not because of its investment properties. Art prices can be wildly different from artist to artist, and often they are based on the artist’s gut as opposed to market research. Bad art can be overpriced, good art can be underpriced. What makes art “good” or “quality” anyway? Technique affects quality- such as an artist using archival pigments and papers- but what makes it good is whether or not YOU have a connection with it.

Alright, now let’s get to the “how-to”s of starting your very own art collection:

1. Consider what type of art you like…. and don’t like!
Sometimes it’s easier to think of what you don’t enjoy than to identify what your aesthetic is, especially when you are beginning to collect art. I happen to like a lot of art that is different from the style of work I create. A little bit of casual research in this area will help you quickly narrow it down. Perhaps you’re into folk art or street art or color fields or collage. Visit a museum or a few galleries. Take notes in like/don’t like categories on your phone. Ask the gallery attendants or museum curators what style of art a piece is if you aren’t sure. Why do this? The Internet is really awesome for finding art, but there’s so much of it out there that keywords are, well key to helping you find it- whether you’re looking for local work or scouring the globe virtually.

2. Find local venues that showcase local artists
Most semi-urban areas have local arts organizations. For example, here in Sacramento we have SMAC,the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission. They offer a newsletter that gives me details on resources and calls for art as well as local exhibitions. We also have an events website called Sacramento365.com that features local artists of the month and arts events. Free newspapers or zines on display around town, like the Sacramento News & Review out here are also a convenient way to discover art happenings.

Terms to search online include “cooperative art gallery in (name of your city)”, “art walk in _____”, “art openings in _____”, and “open studios in _____”. Most cities now have regular art-related events, such as “Second Saturday” or “First Friday”, on recurring dates used to coordinate city-wide art exhibitions. Usually you can just park downtown and walk around on these nights to see artwork set up on the street, in bars and restaurants and in galleries with extended hours in addition to places you’d never expect.

Open Studios are generally annual or semi-annual art events in a geographic location designed to give the art-loving public direct access to artists in their working spaces. Some artists offer demonstrations of specific techniques, such as those indicated with an asterisk in this year’s CAST Guide for the Capital Artists Studio Tour. CAST, the Open Studios event in Sacramento, is expanding so much each year that they had to split it into 2 weekends this time. This puts us in the footsteps of neighbor-by-the-bay San Francisco, who boasts the nation’s largest and oldest-running Open Studios– a bi-annual, month-long, kick-ass adventure featuring different neighborhoods each weekend and accompanied by a luxurious guide. Oh yeah, and there’s usually an app/ QR-code linked virtual map too. [It’s Silicon Valley, after all.]

“Embassy of Cake”, a nightscape of San Francisco I painted in 2011. Original available as well as prints.

3. Stay in touch with local artists you like
When you find artists you like, keep them on your radar. You can sign up for e-newsletters- many artists put out sign-up sheets during openings- or follow them on Twitter or Facebook or read their blog. Artists are essentially small-business owners, and it’s up to us to keep our fans engaged. I personally post new art on my blog, Facebook fan page and Twitter, and lots of my favorite fellow artists do too. It’s a great way to see what they’ve been up to, call dibs on a piece if it’s love at first sight [or barter-dibs, if you’re into trading art for art like I am], or evaluate their work over time as you secretly admire it.

This could also keep you in the loop for sales, discounts and openings. There’s nothing like seeing art in person, which is why I recommend you begin locally. Not every artist offers sales, but many try to reward clients that stick with them through discounts or occasional gifts.

Besides that, artists can be pretty interesting. You may learn something about yourself by following stories from artists who make artwork you enjoy. And you’ll have a stronger connection to the pieces you eventually purchase from them, because you’ll have learned about what inspired the piece, or stories surrounding their process. When you are connected to an artist, their art will have more worth to you, and you’ll feel better about supporting him/her while giving the gift of art to yourself.

Visitors checking out some of my mixed media pieces at the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center, from their blog REVEL

4. Start small and buy one piece you love
If you’ve never bought a piece of original art, start small- either in size or price. You can set yourself a budget- maybe your first piece will be $50 or less. If that’s hard for you, try negotiating a simple swap with yourself- say “I’ll skip 5 days at Starbucks to spend $25 on this mini-painting”.

And don’t buy it unless you LOVE it- really. I might spend 30 seconds looking at a throw pillow in Ross and pay $10 for it, then use it on my couch for a couple months until I get tired of it, and I might do that a few times a year. Do I LOVE the pillow? Meh. Do I NEED the pillow? No. So instead, couldn’t I live with whatever pillows I have for awhile and use that furnishing-whim-money on a rad wall sculpture from a local ceramicist that I can enjoy in my boudoir every damn day? Yes! And so can you!

How do you know if you LOVE a piece of art? Sometimes it’s a gut feeling, an impact you notice right away. You walk into the crowded, white-walled gallery opening and head for the free wine and cheese table when suddenly a piece of art jumps off the wall and straight into your visual cortex and doesn’t let go. Other times, it’s more subtle.

If it is a subtle courting and you’re not sure if you want to go for it, my biggest tip when it comes to figuring out whether or not you should buy a piece you like is to sleep on it. If you see a piece of art you like, and days, weeks or months later you still find yourself thinking about it, chances are you’ll enjoy it for years to come. The only caveat is that original art is usually one of a kind, and while you’re thinking about it, the piece could be sold to someone else.

At a City Art Gallery opening in 2010

Part of my personal commitment to my collectors is to always have affordable art available, and by that I mean original work under $100.  Growing up, I remember visiting art galleries as a teenager and getting the brush-off. I dislike the assumption that art is only for rich people. Art is for everyone. That being said, I could never charge $100 for the pieces that take me 50+ hours to complete, which leads me to my next tip..

5. Ask the artist for a payment plan or layaway option on a large purchase
Some of us fall into the “Whole Foods taste, Trader Joe’s budget” category, and that’s understandable. I’ve heard artists say that they could not afford to purchase their own work in a gallery, which is upsetting. Choosing art can be a lot like dating- you can’t always control who you fall for. And sometimes you fall for the tall, dark, expensive painting. Every artist handles sales differently, but most of us are reasonable.

An artist doesn’t have to put up a note on his/her website saying “ask me about layaway!” to be open to it. If you find a piece of art that you LOVE so bad it hurts your wallet, see if he/she would be willing to let you make payments. I arrange commissions and mural projects into installments. It works for me, because I get SOME money right away, and it works for the client, because they don’t have to fork it all over at once. Hooray!

So that’s it- a few simple steps towards enriching your living space and life with labors of love. In times like these, it’s easy to look at art as fluff. Clearly it’s not a necessity the way toilet paper and bread are. But be assured that when you’re ready to venture into it, the emerging collector’s art market will be here waiting. 🙂