Risk The Adventure [on DR Thursday]

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On Monday, I pulled out the Chicken-Marsala-rough-draft folio. I was searching for a rough concept sketch. It was an early-Chicken idea, a joke mostly, but I thought it would be a good choice, an encapsulation of the melange, for our anniversary week. In it, Chicken Marsala is a nascent angel en route to his very first assignment. He is in full resistance. His mentor angel is pushing him forward. She’s trying to convince him to that this first mission is ideal, a cake-walk, but he knows better. It’s a mess. He’s being assigned to an aging couple. Newlyweds. Two artists. Chicken screams, “But they’re BOTH artists!” The mentor-angel responds, “Get in there, tiger! They’re lucky to have you!”

How many times in life, in your moment of resistance, have you heard, “It’ll be good for you.” Translation: what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. The problem with this bit-of-wisdom is that being killed is one of the options. In the face of hungry tiger, who doesn’t need a push!

I found the sketch of angel-Chicken but got lost looking through the hundreds of drafts and idea sketches in the folio. If you are looking for something to lift your spirits on a cold and bleak winter day, flipping through the Chicken folio is guaranteed to bring some sun and a smile. He became a festival of optimism. He jumps for the joy of jumping.

The  joy of jumping. That is a much better and more accurate encapsulation of the melange. It is not a story of survival or resistance. In fact, at this one year mark, by measures of survival, it makes no sense at all. Our original intention, making a living, has long ago given way to something more essential. We are doing it because we love doing it. We write for the joy of writing. By measures of joy, of vibrant living, nothing else makes sense.

We regularly slip off of rocks and find ourselves sitting in the water. It is the necessary risk for doing what we love. Life rule #1: Have the experience first; make meaning of the experience second. “Risk,” as Chicken has taught us, is just another word for “Play.” Jump. Welcome the adventure. And, see what happens.

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read Kerri’s blog post on RISK & ADVENTURE

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here’s the full panel

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Make A Mark [on DR Thursday]

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k.dot & d.dot see an owl, mixed media, 24 x 48IN

Every once in a while I paint a chronicle piece, capturing an event from something that happened in our lives. Early in our relationship, sitting in Adirondack chairs in the front yard,  sipping wine, listening  to music, we broke into a spontaneous fit of dancing.  Dancing In The Front Yard was the first of the chronicle paintings.

Picasso said that painting was just another way of keeping a diary. I suppose that makes all of my work or any artist’s work a chronicle. A record. Jackson Pollock’s ‘action paintings’ are considered a record of the artist’s movement, a visual register of the painter’s dance.

I knew a man whose passion in life was rock art. Petroglyphs and pictographs. Human-made markings on stone. He traveled the world to the caves or cliffs – sites – where these ‘records’ are found. We had many conversations about the “why” of it – why people so long ago scratched images in rocks, ground minerals to make pigment and painted walls deep in a dark cave. Ritual or roadmap? Worship or whimsy? Both/and?

A diary? A register? A reaching? A marker? Maybe it is simple: humans make marks. And then give the marks meaning. Or, perhaps more to the point, we make marks and believe the marks give us meaning.

Kerri and I saw an owl in the pine tree in our backyard. It was thrilling. We thought it was a good omen, a gift. We slipped into the house to get the binoculars, careful not to move too fast to scare it away. Later, standing before a blank canvas, all I could think about was the thrill of seeing the owl.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about K.DOT & D.DOT SEE AN OWL

 

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k.dot & d.dot see an owl ©️ 2015 david robinson

Meditate [on DR Thursday]

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It’s a universal theme that I’ve painted over and over throughout my life. Mother and child.  Sometimes the painting is inspired by a dear friend becoming a parent. Sometimes, like this iteration, I look up and find it staring at me from the canvas. When that happens I know I need to follow it.

img_3998I learned when I was a teenager that the act of painting was, for me, a form of meditation. Sometimes the meditation has nothing to do with the image that I am working with. The process becomes an exercise in presence. Sometimes, like this painting, the image has everything to do with the meditation. The image is the meditation.

So. Birth. New life. Possibilities. Life giving. A good meditation for the middle of winter. A good meditation for an artist surrounded by good friends retiring from work, becoming grandparents, asking what is next. A universal theme. A universal symbol.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on MOTHER AND CHILD IN PROCESS

 

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mother & child (in process) ©️ 2019 david robinson

Make The Climb [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Roger and I used to talk about art in terms of levels of sophistication. For instance, no one masters an instrument the first time they pick one up. There are layers of learning necessary before the musician “knows” how to play. The “knowing” has little to do with the accumulation of information and everything to do with giving over to what the body learns. Finally, it is a letting go (of the mind) into an undefended sharing. Flow. It has nothing to do with knowing and everything to do with availability. This ‘availability to experience’ is what we called sophistication.

Both the artist and the audience pass through layers of greater sophistication. The artist wants greater and greater challenges. The audience wants greater and greater challenges, that is, they want to participate in something that demands more from them. It requires that both artist and audience show up, open, give over. Union is the ultimate purpose of art. Participation in something greater than your self. That is how art informs and transforms.

And then, there is the flip side, the anti-art. You can feel it. The absence of the genuine experience. The demonstration of accumulated knowledge. I cringe when a curator launches a three-masted-ship-of-study that tells me what the art is about, what the artist felt, and what I should see and feel. When the actor attempts to control what I see, when the art is so conceptual that it precludes me or anyone save the artist from entering the conversation, when the  knowledge priest stands between me and my god…you’ll know the levels of sophistication have left the building when the conversation is one way, judged, controlled.

Kerri calls this the blah-blah. When a real moment is disrupted by an agenda, when the flow is dammed by an unnecessary display of knowledge. And, the kicker is, we are all guilty of it. I am. It is a necessary step in climbing the ladder of sophistication, slipping back down the ladder of sophistication. To confuse technique with art. To garble the necessity of the open heart with  the realm of the intellectually abstract.  To give a standing ovation to something that put you to sleep. To try to control what the other person sees or thinks or feels; a fool’s errand. The great artist trap. The great life trap.

And, the best you can do (truly, the best thing), is to catch yourself in the moment of blah-blah, laugh at yourself lost in the trap, pull out the ladder, and begin again to climb toward simplicity.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AN UNNECESSARY DISPLAY OF KNOWLEDGE

 

 

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Catch it. Release It. [on DR Thursday]

“…no one can tell us because life is not something which can be understood from a book.” ~Krishnamurti, Think On These Things

My sketchbook is part diary, part thought-catch-all, part quote repository, …and part sketchbook. And, sometimes the disparate rivers run together. A thought inspires an image, a sketch and a quote collide. Occasionally, on a day that the muse is sleeping or if I stumble into an experimental mood, I paint one of my collisions. And then, generally,  I paint over it. The point of any experiment, in art as well as science, is to find out what works by discovering what does not work. Trailing behind me is a long line of mud, mess, and poor composition. Much of my finished work is the visible layer of a sedimentary strata of experiments.

Like the rest of humanity, I am a seeker. Seeking is the point of a sketchbook or a diary. Reflection. Capturing. Exploration. Elusive mastery. Fickle contentment. Status. Safety.  Agreement. Peace.

We seek these things as if they were destinations. From my long line of mud and mess I’ve learned (and continue to learn) that none of what we seek is achievable. Seeking implies finding but that is a misnomer.  Life moves. Meaning is fluid. There may be answers for a moment but they will, as they must, open greater questions. Or, they will be a borrowed answer, a truth found in a book, lived by the author, celebrated and shared but unincorporated in the reader.

img_3997It is a bird that you hold for a moment. A relationship with something wild. A relationship with yourself. The meaning flutters in your hands, opens you to an experience, and then will die if not released.

A sketchbook, this painting, No One Can Tell Us, is merely a trace left by that fluttering relationship. The top layer.

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on NO ONE CAN TELL US

 

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no one can tell us ©️ 2015 david robinson

 

 

 

Weep [on DR Thursday]

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‘and so he weeps.’ a morsel of weeping man

And so the story goes that one day, deep in the forest, Parcival was knocked from his stallion by a warrior who wore no armor. His magic sword, the object that he believed carried all of his power, was shattered. He lay on the ground like a turtle on its back, trapped by the weight of his shiny armor. He was tired of fighting. He was sad that, despite all of his victories, – he’d never been defeated – the world kept getting worse and worse. And so, laying on his back, exhausted from the fight, he stopped struggling. He gave himself over to his death. He let go.

But the nature-warrior disappeared. Parcival, alive but shattered, for the first time in his adult life, stripped off his armor. He dropped what remained of his sword. And, sitting amidst the wreckage of his life, the fragments of his power, he wept. He let go.

There is a path out of the wasteland. It necessarily leads through weeping. Through loss of illusion. P-Tom would call this a sacrament. Joseph Campbell would call it a threshold.

In any case, letting go of the illusion is necessary before the next chapter can begin.

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on WEEPING MAN

 

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weeping man ©️ 2015 david robinson

Ask The Question [on DR Thursday]

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a morsel of Tango With Me. Kerri calls this one ‘Palm Trees.’

I’m proud of Skip. He decided that learning to paint with a palette knife was the best way this year to work on his soul. In my eyes, it is a sure path. He sent photos of his first efforts. Luscious in color and texture, they are abstracts. He showed his efforts to his wife and received the single question that no artist can answer yet it is the first question that every viewer-of-art asks: what is it?

It is the assumption of representation. The need for location. The desire to be told what “it” means. No one wants to be wrong or offend so they ask the artist to provide the interpretation – which will rob the viewer of their own experience. It will short-circuit the relationship between viewer and painting. As Joseph Campbell quipped, ” If the artist doesn’t like you, he (or she) will tell you what it means.”

Color, form, composition, and movement. Art. Abstraction. In a world of individualism, abstractions are capable of telling a different story unique to each individual. They refuse to locate you and, instead, ask you to participate. Make meaning. Don’t seek what is expected, bring to the painting what is evoked.

It creates a tension. It calls us to sit in the paradox of our times. Is there one meaning or many? How is it that people so devoted to self-expression believe they can best express their individualism by shopping together at The Gap?

At the center of potent art, at the bottom of great learning, is the same question: what is it to you?

 

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Tango With Me, mixed media, 39 x 52IN

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PALM TREES

 

 

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tango with me/palm tree ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood