Use Your Magic Wisely [on DR Thursday]

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…and the wily old story fox told the pack, “Words are like magic, misused they are tragic…”

“Words are like magic, misused they are tragic, but handled with care they bring insight and good cheer. So listen, dear friends, listen with care.” ~ The Story Fox

I wrote and illustrated Lucy & The Waterfox in 2004, long before this common era of weaponized language use.

Declan Donnellan wrote that, “There will always be a gap between what we feel and our ability to express what we feel. The more we wish the gap to be smaller, the more we want to tell ‘the truth’, then the wider the perverse gap yawns.”

The more we need words, the less capable they are at expressing what we mean. That is the blessing and curse of language: it can never achieve the goal. It can only point us in a direction. The closer we step toward ‘the truth’, the less language can actually reach it. Which, if you think about it, requires us to keep reaching for it. Conversely, we can stand directly on a lie and say exactly what we mean. Dead air.

‘The truth’ is a verb. It is a moving, alive, relational thing.

Language is imprecise and, so, easily manipulated. Endlessly interpreted to fit an agenda. That is precisely why language requires respect and care in the handling. Words are more powerful than most people understand. They are capable of starting wars. They are capable of creating peace. They are capable of inciting division. They are capable of inviting unity.

When the ‘perverse gap yawns’, when words become the weapon of the small minded, it is incumbent upon us – all of us – to listen beyond the words, to recognize and acknowledge the agenda. It is incumbent upon us all to handle our powerful magic with care and use it wisely.

Waterfox coverLUCY & THE WATERFOX is a story for children and adults about believing, following your own path, the power of word

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LUCY

 

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lucy & the waterfox ©️ 2004 david robinson

Chase The Bubbles [on DR Thursday]

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Some paintings don’t make it to the finish line and I suspect that this painting, Chasing Bubbles, will be one of those. I’ve been working on and off with it for weeks and that’s the problem. I’m not paying enough consistent attention to the painting to actually develop it into something good. Like an absent father I return to it every once in a while and wonder why the relationship isn’t progressing.

The playwright John Guare said that writers need to write ten bad pages to get one good page. Remove failure from the equation. Place the emphasis on the process and not on the product. Experiment. Play. Make strong offers.

The same principle is the reason why actors rehearse or artists do drawing exercises and rough drafts. A photographer for National Geographic (whose name escapes me) said that he shoots a thousand shots to get one really good photograph.

For an artist, silly notions like perfection interrupt the necessity of flow.

Kerri just thumped me. She looked over my shoulder and read what I was writing. “I like this painting!” she declared. She wants a stay of execution. She rapidly listed all of the reasons why I shouldn’t paint over it. “At least consider it,” she said, glaring at me.

I will consider it. After all, that is exactly what I have been doing. Considering whether or not to keep working it or start anew. Trying to find a way, given my spotty attention, to bring life to this Frankenstein. In either case, I am certain of one thing: this bad page will eventually lead to something good.

 

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Chasing Bubbles in process or perhaps in its last hours (thump).

read Kerri’s blog post about CHASING BUBBLES

 

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chasing bubbles (for better or worse) ©️ 2019 david robinson

Re-Member [on DR Thursday]

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a morsel of ‘alki beach’

I was surprised. This was the first painting Horatio pulled from my stacks. It’s an older painting, a piece I’d forgotten.  “I like this one,” he said, and told me why.

Horatio is a great artist so it was a rare treat to rummage around the studio and talk about my work. I don’t often talk about it, not really. When showing paintings, people ask questions and I usually deflect the question back at them. It’s a rule. Artists often get in the way of the relationship between their painting and an observer. I want people to see what they see, not what I think they should see. There is no right answer or any one way of seeing a painting.  That’s the point; they have the power to re-create it for themselves. The magic is on the purity of the relationship. I’m more interested in their re-creation than I am in what I think they should see.

Horatio gave me a great gift. He helped me see ALKI BEACH anew. He helped me remember and in remembering I saw the painting again as if for the first time. It was like meeting an old friend after many years. Since Horatio’s visit I’ve had a chance to chat with ALKI BEACH over coffee. We reminisced about the day, the event that inspired it. I remember how the sun and air felt walking that day so long ago on Alki Beach. I remember sitting in my chair in my studio staring at a blank canvas. I remember the birds, the gulls and crows and eagles. I remember reaching for the charcoal.

I remember my surprise at what emerged on the canvas, the day I stepped back, paint on my face and hands, and saw ALKI BEACH for the first time. I remember thinking, “I like this one.”

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ALKI

 

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alki beach ©️ circa 2009, david robinson

Love The Mud [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” ~ Picasso

It would seem to be a no-brainer. Mastery comes from a lifetime of doing. Trial and error. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule: success is nothing more than practicing the task for many hours over many years. As the old joke goes, it’s how you get to Carnegie Hall.

Efficiency. Ease. Body knowledge. Body of Knowledge. Flow. Wisdom. The blossoms of a long-body of experiences. The farmer, over a lifetime of living and working the same plot of land, knows the signs that no one else can see. They sense the storm coming. They smell the time for planting. They waste no time; their 10,000 hours having developed a solid relationship, a kinship with their environment and work.

An artist, over a lifetime of living and working the same plot of music or paint or dance, knows the signs that no one else can see. Artistry is efficiency, a single line saying more than 20. A musical phrase capable of reaching deeper into hearts than was once possible. Like the farmer, their 10,000 hours becomes 20,000 and then 30,000. Their worth, their work, after so many hours of hands in the soil or fingers on the keys, is incalculable.

Awash in abstractions, organizations play by a different set of understandings. Bottom lines are blind to mastery. You’d be amazed (or not) at how many people I know who’ve been “let go” because a younger, less expensive person, might “fill the role” and “cost less.” Mastery as deficit. You’d  be astounded (or not) at how many people I’ve coached who were punished because they became highly efficient. Their life-of-experience made their work look too easy. They were either squeezed for more or released as unnecessary.

What happens when all of the organizational knowledge, the ease and efficiency that comes via experience, becomes a liability? Wearing my consulting hat I’d routinely shake my head at the standard folly of leadership – people in power suits and ties a hundred miles from the dust and grit of the boots-on-the-ground – determining with pencil and paper the time and worth of a task. Abstracting the worth of a life. Budgetary efficiency driving the carefully calculated undervaluation of experience. Actual efficiency red-lined by abstract efficiency. As John would say, “Penny wise and pound foolish.”

Maturity in season of life. It comes from a job description that came across Kerri’s desk. Maturity as a job requirement! A search for someone with the experience necessary to paint like a child. Seeking the mastery that results from years and years of plowing the same fields.

I wonder if the hiring committee merely tossed out flowery language or actually understood that their ideal candidate would come through the door with boots made muddy from a lifetime of walking the fields?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MATURITY IN SEASON OF LIFE

 

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Reflect On It [on KS Friday]

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I so loved Kerri’s post yesterday that, today, I’m reflecting it back to her.

Do we ever really know what it takes to do someone else’s job? We don’t know the tools used, the research done, the years of training and experience, how someone perceives their own work. We can only guess and, most often, fall desperately, arrogantly, audaciously off the mark.

Kerri’s piano dominates her studio. A black 6’7″ Yamaha grand. It is not a show piece, it is a workhorse. Littering the music stand are stacks of composition notebooks, idea journals, sketches (she is visual) and pile after pile of church music – old hymnals, new downloads of pieces she’s considering for her ukulele band, choir or handbell choir. On the floor are several heavy binders arranged in alphabetical order with the music already played, binders from the 30 years of experience as a minister of music. There is yet another stack reserved for pieces she’s considering playing with Jim, her brilliant guitarist. Lining the walls are ukuleles, a few guitars, a cello, a keyboard, several music stands, more stacks of the original recordings of her albums (note: they are not stored as sacred artifacts. Rather, they are piled willy-nilly for easy reference). My wife is a Yamaha artist (look it up) and her constantly shifting studio topography (ever-moving piles) is testament to the music in her soul, her very-long history of artistry.

Now, I’ve sung a song or two in the shower. When I met Kerri I told her that I didn’t sing and she fairly quickly called my bluff. I sing in her choir. I delight in singing with her and Jim. They are kind and pretend that I add something to their mix. Nowadays I can even pick out a slow tune on the ukulele!

All of this, however, does not make me capable of really understanding how Kerri plays or composes. I can pluck a note. I can warble a song. I will, however, never have mastery of all the instruments, I will never approach her capacity to transpose on the fly, or compose poetry and melody. I will never hear the nuance she hears, the music of silence. I do not have a natural gift of music nor an entire lifetime to exercise and explore it.

I do not know the tricks of the trade she has accumulated over decades of honing her expertise. Nor do I know the knowledge base she brings about other artists, other musicians and compositions, the instrumentation, the way she ‘feels’ an audience and adjusts, the very technical details and the very heart-based intuitions she has learned through many, many years of study and practice. I can’t understand or even try to predict the amount of time it takes (or doesn’t take) for her to conceptualize, to explore, to create, to review, to assess, to adjust, to re-create. I can respond to her work but I cannot define it, nor would it be credible for me to even try to do so. Out of respect for her work, this ‘music’ that is one of the essential things that define her, I know that I really have no idea. I will never approach all that she knows. What I can do is appreciate the enormity of her talent, the endless hours of study, pursuit, practice, passion, experimentation, frustration, rehearsal, writing, performance, teaching, research, recording, pondering, pounding and playing and playing and playing – a lifetime of experience – that has brought her to this place where she creates beautiful music that seems to take no effort whatsoever.

Making it look easy. It takes a lifetime. The woman who delivers our mail has been a postal carrier for 30 years. It is hubris to think I know what that takes. It is utter arrogance to think I could pick up a mailbag and simply know what she knows, do what she does. Experience is invisible. Value is too easily reduced to dollars and cents. As Kerri wrote yesterday, with regard to anyone, the work they do, the life-path they bring to their work, we have no idea. It is both humbling and respectful to take a step back and consider the invisible, to remember that what appears easy comes from years and years of very hard work.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on KS FRIDAY

 

 

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Mix It [on DR Thursday]

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True confessions: I never clean my palette. I like the messy build up of color. I like the chunky texture. It serves as a gunky history of my work, a genealogy of paintings past. And then, over time, it becomes a tactile work of art in its own right. Unfettered by any of the mental gymnastics or over-ponderous considerations that plague my “real” work, it is the closest to child-mind that I will achieve. It is accidental. It is free.

This might be a stretch but it is, for me, nevertheless true. I love my palette because it is the place of alchemy in my artist process. It is the true liminal space. I begin with pure color. I smashed the pure color together with another color and transform it into a third color, the hue I intend. On a palette, color becomes intention. And then, once transformed, with a brush or knife I lift the color-intention from my palette and in an action that is often more responsive than creative, I place it onto a canvas. It transforms yet again relative to all the color it touches. An image emerges. More color is called for.

And, somewhere in this call and response of color, I become like the palette. The pass-through of alchemy, the door that color passes through en route to something beautiful. And, in the process, perhaps I, too, in my messy build up of life/color, grow closer to that child mind. Unfettered. Accidentally interesting. Free.

“You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough” ~ William Blake

 

read Kerri’s blog post about my PALETTE

 

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untitled, mixed media 48 x 48IN

 

 

 

 

Bring Peace [on DR Thursday]

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a morsel of PAX

Coming out of a deep sleep I pass through the flotsam layer at the bottom of consciousness. I call it the ‘garbage layer;’ the place where fears fester and worries lurk. It is the monster layer, the place where Grendel lives. When passing through the garbage layer I’m careful not to hook any of those thought-demons and bring them to the surface with me. Give them light and they will eat your day.

Just as I broke through the garbage layer, feeling the pull of a new day, my eyes not yet open, I was warmed by this thought:

Bring peace to your day and you will experience a bit more peace. Bring joy to your day and you will experience a bit more joy. Bring anxiety to your day and you will experience a bit more anxiety. Bring fear to your day and you will experience a bit more fear. Bring hope to your day and you will experience a bit more hope. What will you bring to this day?

My eyes popped open and I was floating on a raft of hope. A raft of my own choosing. A raft I could share.

This painting is called PAX (the kiss of peace). Like the thought that awaited me above the garbage layer, it is a meditation on the power of what you bring to your day. It is a meditation on the raft you choose to create.

It’s a simplicity. Bring peace. Experience peace. Bring hope to your day. Experience a bit more hope in your day. Share a bit more hope in your life.

 

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PAX, 24 x 24IN, mixed media

read Kerri’s blog post about PAX

 

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PAX/PAX morsel ©️ 2015/18 david robinson