Always darkest before

"Always darkest before", acrylic on 5"x7" canvas

Day 362: “Always darkest before”, a mini cityscape

I was recently asked to donate a piece to an art auction being held in January 28, 2011 at 111 Minna Gallery, SF for the Free The Hikers cause.  These 3 peace activists, journalists and artists are detained in Iran (Sarah was freed in September, but her fiance Shane and their friend Josh remain imprisoned). I donated “Vaguely Vain”, a 5″x7″ mixed media abstract painting from day 67, which will be up for bidding with some other great pieces soon (check them out here).

Hopefully, her release means they are making ground and the others will be home soon too. Hopefully we’re nearing the end of any occupying of the Middle East at all. Hopefully humankind is on its way to evolving and making a giant leap in consciousness. It got me thinking about how people say “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, and that made sleepy cityscapes wander into my painting-mind. The edges are dark blue and kind of wrap around the front, which for me kind of gives it a feeling of daylight beginning to break through. Here it is from the side:

Black and blue

"Bruise", abstract acrylic painting on 18" x 24" canvas

Day 315: “Bruise”, an abstract painting

The abstracts continue today with “Bruise”, a painting that kind of floated into my head as I fell asleep the night before last. You know how some people will say things like, “I eat, sleep and breathe {mad lib your own activity here}”? I always thought that was a bit dramatic until making it into my 11th month of this daily project. I literally eat, sleep and breathe painting. Not intentionally with the eating part, but all three nonetheless. 😉

Dripping detail

It’s another dark, moody abstract/color field piece on a re-used 18” x 24” canvas. Like the last few, this one had fabric and heavy texture already, so I used that to inform the new painting over the top of it. This is acrylic with some liquid watercolor and sumi ink- a lusciously dark and saturated ink for calligraphy and painting. Here’s a close-up of the texture from the side:

Heavy vertical texture from fabric and paint

Nebulous

Binary jellyfish loading... 90% complete.

Day 310: Binary Jellyfish

I’ve never looked at dots/patterns in a painting the same after seeing some of Ross Bleckner’s work. VeriSign used to have a piece up in the second story lobby which surprised and delighted me to no end. I used to ogle it when we’d sneak up to the engineer’s lounge to use their fancy coffee machine. Then Bravo’s Work of Art Season 2 casting call was held in a gallery exhibiting some of his work- huge fabulous pieces in an exhibition titled “Ross Bleckner paints like Freddie Mercury sings” and it was all I could do to speak to the portfolio reviewers and not drift off into humbled stare-silence. While I tend to find myself drawn to realist subject matter (like cityscapes) most of the time, there’s something so free and open about abstract work.

Today’s piece is a color study using only gray, white and slate blue on 16” x 20” canvas. As I laid out rows of dots, it began to feel like some kind of digital representation of a jellyfish, floating and blinking and loading into virtual existence in the dark blue brain of a computer somewhere, so I finished it off with a white round flourish up top. Even though it’s subtle and has little contrast, I like looking at it next to yesterday’s piece in my studio.

Home stretch

"Slate", acrylic painting on 16" x 20" canvas

Day 309: “Slate”, acrylic and watercolor on canvas

Well, we’re nearly a week into November, so you know what that means. Two things- Christmas is coming (thank goodness I’m in the process of listing all this year’s art in my art shop), and my art project is almost over! I can see the light at the end of the art tunnel, people. Only a little over 50 days to go. If you’ve been following the blog, you know I bore easily and switch it up often when it comes to my work. A large chunk of it are paintings, but within the paintings are subsets of color fields, mixed media abstracts, cityscapes/nightscapes, landscapes on woodblock and some general randomness thrown in (i.e. babushkas).

And here lately as I work on a commission, in my daily pieces I find myself bitten by the color bug. Sometimes I just need to step back and be awestruck by the simple joy of color in and of itself. Today’s piece is on the slightly larger size at 16″ x 20″ and is a color study of slate blue with some white, gray and ultramarine thrown in. I used liquid watercolor to make the dotting patterns and finished it off with a flourish of black. I think color field paintings are my equivalent of a zen garden.

Detail shot

Little Big Blue

I'd love to show these to you side by side on the wall, but that would require locating some nails...

Day 230: Little Big Blue, a diptych

So I asked a good friend of mine to give my body of work her honest “Simon de Pury” opinion the other day, and she remarked that much of my art is “safe”. This was really important for me to hear because it got me thinking. I’ve always made my art with the intention of adding beauty to the world. I love color, I love exploring the connection between man-made forms and those of nature in my paintings, and I love making work that makes people smile. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Alan Watts, a philosopher, lately, and it’s brought me to the realization that if I make only beautiful things, I risk making them one-dimensional. Everything in the world is informed by its opposite, and including a bit of “ugliness” might give my work more depth, might make it more evocative.

The "little" blue

So I asked myself “if you weren’t worried about making work that is beautiful, or salable, what might you make?” and it’s led me so far to some exciting ideas that are pretty different than what I normally do, including some sculptural explorations which are taking some time since I’m having to learn as I go.

"Big" blue

Today’s art, two paintings I’ve been working on for a few days, are much simpler than anything I’ve done before, but I really like them. I created these by slathering a thick layer of gesso on to some 24” square canvases, laying some yarn into them, pressing the yarn down into the gesso with paper (which I saved and plan to use for complimentary pieces), and later dropping some slate blue liquid watercolor into the grooves left by the yarn and blowing it through the dampened grooves. The image of the blue string in the white field makes me think of DNA, and the simple elegance of nature. Here are some detail shots, hopefully this will help you see the texture.

Yeah, can I get the picture menu?

Side view of today's trio of woodblocks. Love that wood grain!

Day 229: Blue Branch

Today’s one of the 4 or 5 days I’ve had in my life where I’m not feeling terribly verbose.  Hence, enjoy today’s blog post in pictures.

So I’ve been working on these things for the past few days…

…and these things…

…and since I’m not sure if I want to add anything more to the above yet, I decided to do a trio of woodblocks with similar methods today as kind of a scale study…

"Blue Branch", today's art, a trio of woodblocks about 4" square each, with watercolor, charcoal, paint and pastel.

…and that made me think about how sometimes I really like the discard pile of materials I used during the artmaking better than the end result itself.

Gotta go, it’s time to get back to more of this! (I know, the suspense is killing you. Sorry dude. Hang tight. More to come. :))

Flight of the Regular Polygon

"Flight of the Regular Polygon", acrylic paint & vintage sewing patterns on 8x10" canvas

Day 218: Flight of the Regular Polygon

I find it amusing that whomever programmed predictive text into our phones felt the need to impose some kind of digital morality upon the masses. They have gone so far as to select words that I don’t think even exist. For example- “chubi”. Every heard this one? I haven’t. I’m thinking it’s a bad misspelling of chubby? My phone thinks I’m more likely to text that mystery phrase than “bitch”. There’s also “ducking”, “app”, “shiv” (although an improvised prison weapon is hardly a nicer notion than its cuss word counterpart) and the insanely frustrating “481” which is not a cuss at all, but rather me trying to send “it.” Why these developers think I’m more likely to insert random numbers in a text than use punctuation is beyond me.

Detail

So, while I did spend some time on the ducking oil portrait, I ended up pulling this small painting out of my app. Some layers of vintage sewing patterns with navy line detail and some blue and white paint compose a fictional 2-D landscape where the squares and the triangles play. Darting around rhombus-shaped updrafts like a paper plane, regular polygon is off to seek adventure. 🙂 Have a great Friday night!

It's a little bluer in person than online, but the side view shows it a little better.

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, MarianneBland.com. 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.

Mini Pretties Continued

Ooh, shiny!

Day 201: Teethchatteringly

Zee Germans helped me out with a bit of inspiration today. The page I used in today’s mini painting includes an English translation of “teethchatteringly” written in the margins by the student who used it in blue pen. It ended up being a compliment to yesterday’s piece in the same blue and gold palette.

MS Word doesn't think "teethchatteringly" is a word, but apparently it was in the 30's.

I really love these colors together. The gold seems to warm up the blue while the blue cools the gold tones. I never worked with these colors together much for years because they were our school colors growing up and I wasn’t terribly fond of our local school system.

Ah, the memories. My elementary school, where the evil secretaries wouldn’t let me use the office phone when my after-school program got canceled and made me walk home through the local park where someone had just tried to kidnap a kid. My high school, where the nefarious head of drama who had an alumni student paint over all our set work at the last minute also turned out to be my sophomore English teacher. Little did I know I could have avoided writing all those essays and reading all those books if I’d just waited til the very end of the year when he held a hot chili pepper eating contest for free good grades. Yeah. Loved it. But it’s been awhile, and that’s behind me now. Now I can finally enjoy these colors together.

"Teethchatteringly", today's piece on the left, with yesterday's piece, "Fulfilled"

Don’t forget! I’m speaking on the panel tonight at “The Art of Social Media” event held by the Sacramento Social Media Club at the Urban Hive on 1931 H St. at 6:30! Free parking, food, drinks, networking and knowledge! See you there.

"Teethchatteringly", mixed media painting on 5x7" canvas

California Seaming

A 5" embroidery hoop makes a handy frame

Day 195: River Street

Thanks to the cache of recorded shows provided by my cable overlords, I’m finally watching “A Work of Art” on Bravo. If you haven’t heard of it, this is a reality show competition for visual artists, which is really the first of its kind. While some people have criticized it (the haters are always out there), I think it’s really wonderful that Sarah Jessica Parker and Magical Elves (of Top Chef and Project Runway) decided to finally create an opportunity like this for artists. Yes, we may be last on the list for reality competitions, behind crappy singers, survivors, horny idiots, catty “housewives”, chefs, aspiring models, the overweight, hairstylists, toddlers in pageants, drag queens and dog groomers, but now is our time to shine! (This is my plea for the contestants to do a good job and help people care about the art world long enough for this thing to get renewed.) 🙂

I tried out for this series last year in LA, and while I was initially bummed that I didn’t get past my 45 seconds with the disinterested portfolio reviewer, I am now grateful that I wasn’t included in this group. Why? Because these challenges aren’t easy, and when I ask myself what I might have done in their shoes, I don’t have an answer right away. Watching this show has reminded me of some of the projects on my list that are outside of my comfort range but that I’d like to do before the end of the year. In a way, it’s a little kick in the pants to get me back into high-creative gear and push my limits a bit more. I do consider ArtProject2010 to be my own series of art challenges with crazy deadlines. But of course, there’s no glamorous prize at the end… yet. Who knows what wonders may come?

A photocopy transfer of a pic I took in SF on fabric with blue embroidery.

Today’s work is a cityscape of San Francisco on fabric with embroidery detail. I spent the majority of the day finishing up that limited edition on woodblock, hence the late post. I’m still juggling around the idea of city scenes, photo transfers, fabric and thread in my brain. I’m curious to see what shapes those combinations will take in the days to come.