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 MarianneBland.com with new galleries, intro page and artist statement. Check it out and let me know what you think!


Ballad of the dog portraitist

Bob & Boomer

Day 199: Bob & Boomer

Today’s piece is a drawing of Rob’s father, Bob, and his puppy Boomer. I have to laugh when I look at myself doing a drawing of a dog. Jeff Musser made a comment the other day about the balance of art you make to survive and the art you make because you want to. It was an amusing comment that became “the ballad of the dog portraitist” in my notebook later. I love puppies, but I don’t draw them very often. And I haven’t yet been commissioned to draw any (funny how when you leave something out of your portfolio altogether, it tends to fly under the radar. 😉 So it’s good that my first time doing it is for fun, and not for pay.

The thing about portraits is that technical skill isn’t enough to make something art. So if you’re going to draw people or pets, you want to be able to do so in a way that isn’t just a replicate of a ‘brushstroke’ effect you’d get if you messed with the image in Photoshop. You want it to give you a feeling for what the subject is like even if you don’t know them. Well, that’s what I want at least. Guess I shouldn’t deign to speak for the entire art world.

But getting your portraits to technically look like your subject isn’t always an easy task either, so the majority of your attention inevitably rests there during the making of the piece. You’re converting 3-D to 2-D, adjusting color tones to graphite shades in your brain, and trying to sort out if that floating mass of features and curvature is actually a good resemblance, or if it’s just a somewhat convincing doppelganger who might be hired to play your subject in a made for tv movie. It can be especially stressful if you know the person, which is why I prefer to do portraits of strangers.

It may almost be time for me to make the move to water media. Baby steps. Why is it that when you haven’t done something for a long time, you fear you’ve forgotten it? That all the muscle memory has faded away, and the brain cells that composed those pieces so many years ago were probably lost to a few rounds of Peach Kamikazes (delish!), and that we’ll be lucky if anything good happens after a few hours of laborious scribbling.

On that note, I’m off to toast myself for an impending Day 200 with a glass of Query Ger.. gewv..gewurztichimichanga or whatever the heck it is (don’t look at me, I don’t have a German keyboard) while watching Live or Let Die. Woo! See you guys tomorrow.

And this little sister wore her hair up…

Drawing of my cousin Gabby

Day 198: Gabby

If you think you’re seeing double, you are, regardless of whether or not you’re smashed while also reading this blog. (And if so, bravo to you. Pulling off cultural appreciation and being a lush at the same time is impressive!) 🙂 Today’s piece is a drawing of Gabby, Molly (from Day 196)’s twin. Emily is their older sister. They also have two other siblings who will make it under the pencil one of these days.

My Auntie Kasey was 13 when I was born, and lived with us for awhile when I was growing up. My first memories of her are as the beautiful young woman/loving older sister who always had time for me and treated me as an equal. Growing up with her, my Grandma and my mom in the same house at the same time was such a blessing. All three of them encouraged me creatively and had a huge impact on who I am today.

I have only seen a few pictures of Aunt Kasey as a kid, but when I got all the features down in this drawing of her daughter, Gabby, all I could see smiling back at me was the child face of my Aunt Kasey. It was so eerie to feel like I was staring backwards in time, drawing a moment that existed before I was born. They’re so cute, they almost make me want to have a baby. Almost. Here are the three together:

I resemble that remark

A drawing of my cousin Emily

Day 197: Emily

I’m serving on a panel for an event called “The Art of Social Media”** here in Sacramento next Tuesday. Today we had a brief meet-up to get to know each other beforehand, and it was really a thrill. Eben Burgoon, the co-creator of this rad webcomic will be there, as will Jeff Musser, an amazing figurative painter whose oils you may have seen up recently at the Verge Gallery, and a few other people with really interesting perspectives on how social media and art go together.

Meeting Jeff was interesting, since I realized who he was once he started describing his aesthetic, and I knew I had seen his paintings before we met in person. This guy does highly detailed oils. It made me feel like even more of a whiner for being reluctant about getting back into portraiture. So today I did a drawing of another one of my adorable cousins, Emily. I still haven’t worked up to watercolor, but here are a couple more I did in the past:

Thanks for letting me photograph your kids in a park, parents of Fremont!


Couldn't get this guy to crack a smile for a stranger, but it worked out anyway.

There are photos of me as a kid that look almost identical to Emily at the same age, even though our parents are pretty different looking. My dad is what demographics collectors call ‘Hispanic’, (which always messed me up on standardized tests because they only gave you ‘White, NOT of Hispanic origin’) and her dad is like Polish or something. My aunt looks a bit like my mom, but I never saw them as twins or anything. But I guess it’s just proof that the female genetics in our bloodline are bossy enough to override paternal characteristics.

**“The Art of Social Media” is Tuesday, July 20th at 6:30 pm at The Urban Hive, a co-working space on 1931 H St. The Sacramento Social Media Club hosts these events monthly with different industry foci and this time around, it’s art! So if you’re in the area and want to network, enjoy some drinks and pizza and maybe pick up a few tips on how to better understand and use social media to help out your art career, swing on by! Parking’s free and so is the event.

Register for the event here!

Return to portraiture

A drawing of my cousin Molly. 🙂

Day 196: Molly

A long time ago in a land not so far away, I used to do lots of figurative work and I really loved portraiture. Back then, I was somehow more immune to the temper tantrum frustrations of getting someone’s face correct.

I think the last time I drew a face was literally months and months ago (which was a commission), and before that, even longer. I started to think that it was a waste of time for me to do portraits because if people want to stick a face on a wall, they just use a photo. Besides that, I generally insist upon using my own photographs as reference images for paintings or drawings, and I usually try to make work that would have appeal to lots of people, plus several more excuses I could add in here. But my friend Reina keeps asking when I’m going to do some faces again, so tonight I begrudgingly forced myself to do it. 🙂

This is a drawing of my cousin Molly. It’s not perfect, but it’s getting late and I’m calling it quits for now. The plan was to do some sweet watercolors like these I did a few years ago…

Older watercolor of a kid in a park

Look at that widdle face!

..but I figured I’d better ramp up and start with some basic drawing again. So, possibly more faces to come. Maybe. I’m not making any promises. 🙂 (Don’t worry, Auntie Kasey, I’ll do Gabby and Emily too. Don’t have any pictures of Brooke or Austin, though. :/)

Adventures in Wordnerdland!

"Dauntless", a 6x9" mixed media piece on paper

Day 194: Dauntless

Today, I was working on a limited edition of “Across the Bay”, a mini painting of the San Francisco skyline on woodblock that I did back on day 48. An artist friend of mine, miss Trish Tunney, who also shows at City Art Gallery and is an amazing photographer, bought it the day I put it up for the July show and graciously allowed me to keep it up for a few days. Amplifying her awesomeness, she gave me her blessing to make a limited edition of them since a few people wanted it. So I didn’t get started on today’s piece until the evening, and I felt like drawing.

9 little lovelies in the making!

 Two of my favorite bloggirls (is that a word yet, Urban Dictionary?), Sophie of The Art of {Being} MissKoolAid and Nicole of BlueBicicletta are also talented illustratists (that’s probably not a word either. And for some reason I am pronouncing it with a British accent in my head, which makes it instantly sound more plausible. Caution to the wind, I say!). I tend not to make drawings as often as I do paintings on canvas because I feel like they require framing and whatnot, and they are somewhat more vulnerable to being lost or damaged in the melee that is my studio or guest room/store room for stacks of completed artwork.

Watercolor pencils + acrylic matte medium + pen on dictionary page

Then when I was working on that mini quilt the other day, I was building up bits of paper in a few sewn layers, and today it dawned on me that I could do something similar with my drawings. I know this should have occurred to me earlier, but sometimes it takes my brain time to catch up with itself. “Dauntless” is a mixed media piece on 6×9” watercolor paper (also effective as heavy cardstock) with the Motels/Mortgages page from the phone book, some colored paper, and part of a map of San Francisco in the general area where I took the photo that I used as a reference for the drawing of these houses, which is on a vintage Spanish/English dictionary page.

This is my new favorite word. I might have to get a tshirt with it emblazoned on there.

The page originally featured the word “coadjutrix” which I have never seen before and had to look up, and that was a fun adventure into Wordnerdland (oooh, three made-up words today, it’s a record!), but then I decided to cut out “dauntless” because I thought it was a nice way of putting a positive spin on the financial difficulty a lot of people are having with the housing market. Why do I feel like I need to take a breath after typing a long sentence? Jeez.

Happy Little Trees

Small watercolor of the scenery at the river.

Day 193: Happy Little Trees

We visited the Confluence in Auburn again today. I frolicked in the water with friends, got a little sunburned, spent an hour making a dinner that became unappealing 4 bites in, and finished this drawing I began at the river with some watercolor pencils. I left the yellow on the hills “unwatered” for texture. I am a tired lump of person, who is planning to slink over to the couch for some water and a Bond movie. If I make it another two hours without falling asleep… which is unlikely. Something about that sun, it just tuckers me out. OH, speaking of sons, Chester swam for the first time in the river today! Yay! He was so brave! (And for any of you who don’t know, Chester is our Chihuahua, not an actual son. 🙂 )

The $128,000 Question

Drawing Duet on watercolor paper

Day 189: Drawing Duet

A fellow artist purchased a piece of art from me the other day and sent me an email with a couple of questions I’m sure I asked somewhere along the line. One of them was- “Did you go to art school? Do you think it was worth it?” and boy, is that a tough one to answer! Financially, it was not the best idea ever. Had I gone a full four years, it would have cost about $128,000. I was able to transfer some credits from community college, which helped, but private art school costs a pretty penny. Developmentally as an artist, I feel my time at CCAC (now the California College of the Arts) was invaluable. I loved every minute of it- literally. I learned so much and met so many wonderful people. Just being on their campuses brought me joy.

Rob & I saw big fluffy clouds like this on our trip out to the river in Auburn today.

But what you do learn somewhere along the way is that art school is a baby bird scenario anyway. You pretty much can’t march into an office with a BFA in Drawing & Painting and walk out with a 60K offer letter. You’re there to learn technical skills, yes, but the most important thing you can take away before trying to fly on your own is the marketing part. There’s no “field of dreams” reality with artmaking- in fact, I met a man a couple months ago in his eighties who had been painting for decades, never sold one piece, and was just showing his work for the very first time. He wasn’t trying to make a living of it, of course.

Sometimes I wish there were little neon identifiers over other artist’s heads like some kind of Sim City, letting me know that despite the barista/office clerk/cashier exterior, a struggling artist waits inside. Because we’re out there… we’re everywhere. 🙂 And that love for art usually starts with drawing, which is what I did today- two small watercolor/ pen/ pastel pieces similar to the one from the other day.

Somehow this one makes me think of Frogger...

Trapped in a river of morons

Watercolor pencil & pastel drawing on paper

Day 185: Pizazz

It always amazes me to see how many people will walk right past an art gallery without coming in. Sure, some of them are in a hurry. Maybe they really need to get to a restroom or make a dinner reservation or return to their car before their parking meter expires- I get it. But to notice a gallery, with all manner of colors and wonders inside and the door wide open and a friendly artist at the helm to greet you- what on Earth would compel you to pass by? Clearly, you’re reading this art blog, so I’ll assume you don’t have an answer for me there.

Perhaps you can explain to me instead why so many idiots chose to pull over on the freeway to watch fireworks tonight. I just wanted to get home and get this blog post up in time, but I had to wade through a sea of idiots with cops behind them yelling at them through their loudspeakers to GET OFF THE SHOULDER. It’s not a parking lot, people. It’s a freeway. I hope you all got expensive tickets, you lemmings. 🙂 Happy Independence Day, ladies and gents!

Frolicking at the River

A drawing of Rob watching the water

Day 164: At the Confluence

With clear skies for an amazing three days in a row, Rob & I decided to hoof it out to Auburn to visit the Confluence, a place where two rivers meet. It’s all rocks, red dirt, trees and river. I brought along my sketchbook and hung out in the shade for some quick drawing. While the scenery itself is really quite stunning, something about having Rob sitting there on the pebble bank gazing out at the wilderness in his sunhat was a striking composition for me. I drew this real quick with a watercolor pencil (he didn’t know I was drawing him and he moved after a few minutes), then used a brush and some river water to flesh it out a little.

Slightly pink and sweaty, Rob helped me back up the makeshift trail hewn into the hillside by other nature lovers and I thanked the inventor of air conditioning as we headed home. Auburn is a really charming town, all old buildings with sharp paint jobs, tons of murals and nice landscaping.. if you’re ever out in the area, give it a visit! Here are a couple of photos we took today at the Confluence:

Photo credit to Rob

I was a little freaked out about how close the camera was to the rushing water, but Rob got some lovely shots of the rocks underwater.