Cardboard was Bobby Marines’ first canvas.
It wasn’t that he loved the heavy-duty packing paper, it was just the only surface he could afford.
The 29-year-old Marines, who also goes by Bobby Marinez, spent his first six years in Rochester decorating the town with his cardboard paintings. Living in his younger sister Ashley Marines’ basement, Bobby didn’t have money to buy traditional canvases, so he ripped boxes apart, found a blank piece and painted on it.
Early on, there were no art shows or exhibits. He displayed his work by “tagging it” all over downtown Rochester. He posted nine cardboard paintings alone on the back of the brick building at 324 First Ave S.W., where the Creative Salon, Marines’ current home away from home, now is.
Art has always been a passion for Marines. Growing up in Robstown, Texas, a suburb of Corpus Christi — a place Marines called “a pit” — the young artist found little inspiration. He would watch artists on TV and tell his cousin, Richard Olivo, that he could paint better. Olivo told him to quit talking about it and do it.
The pep talks helped, but Marines still kept his art to himself. It wasn’t until he moved to Rochester at age 20 that he started to gain a confidence in his work. He said Ashley’s willingness to hang his cardboard paintings in the living room inspired him.
“She asked if she could put them in her living room,” Marines said. “She would say, ‘This is mine. It’s going to be worth a lot when you get famous.’ Things like that really kept me going.”
‘Wasting my potential’
Unfortunately his desire to create art made working an 8-to-5 job difficult, along with the fact that he never attended high school.
“I did the labor thing. I did the work thing. I did the factory thing. It was hard for me to not feel like I wasting my potential,” he said. “I didn’t want to waste my time and my potential on something monotonous. It’s harder for me to do that. I would rather risk being homeless or live in motel. Being homeless or out of work does not really phase me or bother me too much. But standing on an assembly line when I know I could be out there making (expletive). That bothers me.”
Those cardboard paintings would eventually win him five ribbons and “a little cash” at the 2010 Olmsted County Fair. Soon, Marines was painting on various surfaces during the Rochester Artwalk and Thursdays on First. While painting at Thursdays on First, District Court Judge Kevin Lund spent $1,000 on his painting of the Rochester skyline. It was the first painting Marines ever sold for “real money.” With the $1,000, Marines bought another canvas for $100.
Marines’ tireless work ethic motivates other local artists, including Patrick John.
“Bobby is huge inspiration for everyone. No one works harder,” John said. “When I started coming to (Creative Salon) a year ago, I would see Bobby and he was always working, working, working. You learn from him that this is not a 40-hours-a-week job; it’s an 80- to 100-hours-a-week job. You want to get to 10,000 hours. We don’t even want to think about how much money you make per hour.”
Before meeting Marines, spoken word artist Sophie Marie had little confidence to publicly share her thoughts. Marines helped her take the stage for the first time. But even a writer and poet like Marie struggles to come up with words to describe Marines’ work.
“It can’t be described. There is no way to describe Bobby’s art. He’s always pushing the limits.”
Marines’ himself describes his work as acrylics on canvas using vibrant colors in a liberal manner in order to convey energy and moods as aesthetically as possible. The subject matter mainly consists of places or objects that have left a great impression on him.
“It’s whatever I want to do,” he said. “When I get up in the morning, I feel blessed that I get to do what I want for a living. But it’s bittersweet because I’m not sitting on my ass. It’s a lot of work. You wake up and you have to make your list. What am I going to do? What are my objectives from the retail perspectives? What are my objectives as an artist? Who do I want to reach out to? Who do I want to inspire?”
Though he didn’t attend high school himself, Marines has now been asked to work with young student-artists. He has spoken during art classes at Rochester Community and Technical College and this summer he will teach at an art camp at Crossing at Carnegie in Zumbrota.
Years removed from painting on cardboard, Marines has in recent years painted a mural at a Starbucks inside the Mall of America. Closer to home, one of his paintings decorates the entryway at Sontes, a restaurant in downtown Rochester. This June, he will showcase his best works at Crossings at Carnegie and this fall, he wants to turn “One Night of Art” into a block party. Marines no longer worries about being homeless. Fans of his work help pay his rent, which allows him to live on only money from his art. He says that now he’s living life “on my own terms.”
“I do it for those who can’t, for those who wish they would, for those who gave up halfway, for those who doubt me or doubted me and for everyone that looks up to me, whether it be here or my hometown,” he said. “It’s way beyond me now.”