Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

Watching and acting

2015 . 04 . 08 - Comments / Commentaires (18)

This video of the making of my Watchdog drawing makes me sad for a myriad of reasons, but I couldn’t put off sharing it anymore.

This article about the City’s attempt to intimidate me into breaking the law ends with tips for artists who are working with an arts council. Unfortunately, I can’t think of any useful lessons that come from our years of bureaucratic corporation-coddling hell yet, but I will keep you posted.

The fact is that the one good thing to come of it so far is Patreon. I only thought to join that service and ask for help because I knew that starting out in a whole new town as a freelancer can be scary and Patreon seemed like a good way to have some stability as everything else was changing. As it turns out, the people who support my work on Patreon are doing so much more than making this new adventure possible, and I never would have discovered this kind of community had the City of Portland made an effort to keep my neighborhood livable.

Gwenn Seemel

Gwenn Seemel
Watchdog (French bulldog)
acrylic on unmounted canvas
9 x 9 inches
(detail below)


This is one of my painted drawings. It is sold, but there are other drawings that are still available here.

- Superhero / Super-héros
- The freelance life / La vie freelance
- Lorentz Bruun Construction: What artists can learn from this company’s mistakes

CATEGORIES: - English - Philosophy - Process images - Video -

Gwenn Seemel on Liberapay     Gwenn Seemel on Patreon

(18) Comments / Commentaires: Watching and acting

-- Libby Fife -- 2015 . 04 . 08 --


Well, that makes me sad for several reasons. I am glad though that you and David are moving. Peace and safety are very important to a good quality of life. No matter where you go and despite the conditions, you will always find good people.

Good luck in your new home. I hope you will let us know all about it! (As much as you are able to tell!)

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-- Gwenn -- 2015 . 04 . 08 --

We’re moving to Richmond, Virginia! My partner will be studying with a martial artist whose work he has admired for years, and I will be painting a new place and new faces. smile

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-- Lynette -- 2015 . 04 . 08 --

I’m sad that you have to move away from your parents, Gwenn, because you and your parents are so loving. I’m happy, because we all need new beginnings in our lives, and your move to Richmond, VA, will be just that. You have the gumption to be successful wherever you live. Sending you a big hug!

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-- Amy -- 2015 . 04 . 09 --

Hi Gwenn:

Longtime lurker here, but moved by your story to want to write. I feel like Portland is merely another part of the body that makes up the USA. If you don’t have money and influence, you don’t get a voice, no matter what the PR wants you to believe.

Seeing reality as it is can be difficult. Unveiling something you’ve loved for many years, revealing the truth beneath, and finding it is nothing like you thought.

I wish you all the best in Richmond. I hope you blog about the cultural differences - East Coast and West Coast. I’ve been a West Coast gal my entire life and would be curious about what it is like “over there.”

And at least we can still have faith that it is our connection with people, real people, who keep us from feeling despair over this runaway corporate oligarchy that is consuming this country.

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-- Gwenn -- 2015 . 04 . 10 --

Thanks, Lynette and Amy! I will definitely be talking about all the new things I discover in Richmond. And I can’t wait to see how it comes out in my work as well. Learning that home is run by ends-justify-the-means people may be a big bummer, but I’m determined to get to the good in my new home once I get there.

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-- cjy -- 2015 . 04 . 13 --

I’m sorry about your experience Gwenn. It bums me out seeing more and more of Portland’s seamy underside being exposed. But you know what? I think it is very cool that you are about to be in a brand new place. I moved around quite a bit before settling in Portland and I am glad I did. And in fact - I could see moving again someday. We live in a bit of a “Portland is the best place in the U.S. to live” kind of bubble which is almost as bad as saying “The United States is the best country in the world.” It’s all relative. I hope you love Richmond smile

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-- Gwenn -- 2015 . 04 . 15 --

I am totally excited for the change! And like you said, Cathie, moving around is good idea, better even than travel because you get to really learn about different places.

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-- Joseph C Blanchette -- 2015 . 04 . 16 --

Dear Gwen, Like many here it saddens me to see an artist such as yourself with a body of distinctive work,  and who represents an intellectual influence leave, however I understand the necessity of making certain moves in life, so I wanted to extend to you my best wishes for your future endeavors.
Of course one can argue about Portlandia as being one of the best ( or worst ) cities either to live in, or to be an artist in, and I will shy away from jumping into this discussion only because I have “…been there and done that….” Some years back within San Francisco ( another urban environment that takes is place in the urban scene with some deep self-attention-reflection as well ), so this type of discussion is all to familiar.
I know Richmond VA ( it has been likened to the Marin County of Washington DC ), while it is home to the VMOFA, and the VCU School of the Arts, a local premier school, and there is a couple of exploitative art venues, there is not the density and differentiation of talent that is representative of the Portland Venue, however it is a valid and vibrant environment and one you should fit into quite well.
I will miss you and I am sure Graylan and Anna King will as well ( smile ). Sending you my best for your future. Sincerely, Joseph Blanchette

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-- Dave Wilson -- 2015 . 04 . 16 --

I’m sure there is material in all of this for a movie. Maybe a Disney movie, but not likely. I remain amazed by your character, Gwen. Your innocence combines with your intelligence and produces outstanding revelations about humanity itself, and the want of it, too. I personally cannot tolerate politics and the compromises it engenders. Today I did a nice drawing derived from a commercial pamphlet for Botox-type treatments. The face was especially lovely. I allowed myself to do this, despite not having a clue after all these years, whether it constitutes a ‘copyright infringement’. Someday perhaps they will hang someone for “abusing” another’s ” copyrights”. When I referred to your ‘innocence’ I meant ” not-guilty-ness”. Thank God for your priorities and your outright faithfulness as a human being. I pray you are ever protected and that you never ‘shut up’. I think even God is impressed by your goodness.
Dave Wilson-White Rock, Canada.

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-- Abby Dawson -- 2015 . 04 . 16 --

So sad to hear you are moving, Gwenn, but for purely selfish reasons.  Will miss you and David, and your presence in Portlandia, even though I haven’t seen you much lately.  But I understand the reasons and am excited about your new adventures in Richmond.  Very happy about David’s new studies, and will keep up with your work on your blog.  The best to both of you, and don’t give in to the politicos in Richmond, either!  xoxo - Abby

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-- Debra -- 2015 . 04 . 17 --

As I take in your experiences from an “observer” point of view, I celebrate the principled person you are, your tenacity in your search for clear communication through which to be heard.  Bottom line here is it sounds like you are moving toward a new life in a different sub-culture, and I wonder at the many gifts that may come from being jarred loose from your Portland attachments that you will transplant on the East coast.  I’m betting they are waiting to be recognized, and I wish you and David all the best in this next part of your shared life’s adventures.  I’m also grateful for electronic connections so I can stay a part of your many supporters.  Big hugs to you, dear Gwenn, and I trust you will return to visit your family and friends here in Oregon, even as you settle into your new life in VA.  Much appreciation for the good person you are and your gifts of friendship over the years.

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-- Gwenn -- 2015 . 04 . 18 --

@Joseph: Thanks for your kind words! I feel like I’m ready for a slightly smaller scene these days as my sales come via the Internet a lot now. I hope it proves to be true and, in any case, I’m looking forward to exploring a new community of creatives. The new/different energy will surely be invigorating.

@Dave: It’s totally a movie! And for real, I mean. My partner has been shooting a lot of footage of everything we’ve been going through and he’s working on assembling it into a documentary that will be a how-to for people faced with the “put you off until they can write you off” attitude of local government. And I won’t shut up. With the encouragement of people like you, I won’t have to. smile

@Abby: I plan to keep my eyes firmly closed to politicos in VA for as long as possible! Of course, I also plan to start forming a community with my new neighbors as soon as possible too. Maybe that’s what I learned from all this…? Take care, friend!

@Debra: I’m definitely looking forward to the change, because, as you say, the new environment will certainly bring out new things. It feels really good to have that on the horizon. It makes living here until we can save up for the big move that much easier. Hugs to you!

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-- Michele -- 2015 . 04 . 19 --

So sorry and sad for more than a few things in your tale.  Sad that you, with the richness of your art and the strength of your heart are leaving P-town.  Sad that the battle with the city shows the underside of my hometown.  On the up note, there is a new adventure awaiting you and that’s nearly never bad.  Be well.  Michele

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-- jessica friday -- 2015 . 04 . 21 --

I’m sorry you had to go through the issues you did with the RACC, and I appreciate you making the battle public. The other day when I read this post, I actually thought “Why is the RACC thing still an issue with Gwenn? I don’t think anyone had malicious intent.” But then I re-read the emails, spent two days thinking on it and realized that what happened to you would continue to bother me, particularly the part where the lawyers were plenty fine with YOU exposing yourself to a lawsuit, because it’s “just art” and “no big deal” (insert that ridiculous email in which Eloise attached a random graffiti image of Mickey Mouse), but at the same time were covering their own asses in any way they could.

This issue also hits on the tender nerves all artists have of copyright, sharing, and protecting yourself as a creative in a world that views artists as free-spirited, wandering eccentrics wasting away in garrets; radicals who don’t desire to live by the rules of society, even when those rules protect them as they do everyone else. It’s a dangerous image that needs to die.

Just from what I read of your story (because obviously I didn’t experience it), it reminds me of the ages-old battle between the “creatives” and the “cogs.” It’s a whole sub-plot on Mad Men, and I laugh every time it comes up but only to keep from crying. Creatives give so much to society, but they aren’t valued when it matters. I just picture the RACC thinking that all artists are simply Banksian risk takers who will stand up to the corporate evil on behalf of the rest of us, not understanding that part of the reason Banksy gets away with what (s)he does is that they are anonymous and anonymous for a reason.

There’s a court jester metaphor in here somewhere of the artist-who-entertains and is fed and beloved by the king but the second he fails he gets beheaded; I just can’t seem to unearth it today.

I feel like the RACC issue comes down to respect and value. They see what you do as sort of a fun accessory to add some color to your community (literally and figuratively), but don’t appear to value you as a human being with bills to pay. It’s sad, particularly for Portland, as the people who advertise for the city want the world to look on it as a creative community unshackled from the draconian weights of capitalism and cronyism while it’s obviously no more immune to the increasing pressures of the oligopoly the US is becoming than any other community.


Virginia is beautiful! Best of luck with your move.

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-- jessica friday -- 2015 . 04 . 21 --

ALSO: I didn’t watch the video on this post until just now. *smacks head* That would have saved me some time wondering “Why is Gwenn still upset with Portland over an issue from a few years ago?” (that issue being the mural)

Apologies for accidentally skipping over it! hmmm

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-- Gwenn -- 2015 . 04 . 23 --

@Michèle: Thank you! You are one of the awesome people I’ll be sad to leave. smile

@Jessica: No worries! I really appreciated hearing your feedback about the RACC stuff. I’m digesting it slowly—it makes me less spitting-angry these days and more sad-angry—and it’s only in hearing from others that I can really do that. Also, it’s especially funny that you didn’t watch the video before your first response seeing as you referred to the fakeness of the official Portland story in that comment. The fakeness goes deep…if that makes any sense at all! Maybe Portland is just trying to hypnotize its creatives and its liberals into thinking of this place as a safe and nurturing place where the government cares!

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-- Saralinda Larson -- 2015 . 09 . 10 --

Hi Gwenn,

I’m Beth Roousseau’s mom and one of your followers. I love your work!

I am sorry you had this happen to you. Unfortunately, Government no longer looks after the common folk. It is all about who can give them the most money or power or whatever. Seattle, where we moved back to last year after living in Tacoma for 30+ years, is unrecognizable to me with cranes on nearly every block, beautiful old homes being demolished and replaced by pod apartments that rent for 3 times the going rate of just 15 years ago, and unimaginable traffic jams. It makes me want to cry.

I know that you and David will flourish in your new home, just as I know that Portland will be poorer for your absence.

Good luck.

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-- Gwenn -- 2015 . 09 . 11 --

@Saralinda: Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. Also, your description of “pod apartments” is apt and a term I can see myself using a lot. I suppose one day, those dwellings will seem normal, but right now they really do feel like strange alien things. Hugs to you!

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