Jump Out Of Your Chair [on KS Friday]

If I want to think clearly – or clear my thinking – I walk. Sitting still has always been and continues to be an invitation for thought-log-jams. It was a problem when I was a student. Classrooms come with desks and an expectation that the learner will sit still. I became a master of the controlled wiggle, not because it broke the logjam but because it helped maintain my sanity. For me, sitting still is like a hair shirt with an itchy tag. Sitting still makes my IQ plummet several points. Sitting still interrupts my synapses.

Tom Mck told me that the alternative schools were populated by artists. I intimately understood his observation. Artists need to move to think. They thrive in an alternative to still-sitting.

I’ve made sure that my work throughout my adulthood included movement. Directing plays. Painting big paintings. Facilitating workshops. Even as a teacher I cleared the room of desks. This morning I saw a headline in Forbes Magazine declaring that children learn more through play than through guided instruction. It was curious to me that this was a headline. Sugata Mitra’s been shouting the news for decades. Neil Postman spent his life reading the research and advocating for what the research implied: turn little people toward a passion and get out of the way. Curiosity and desire are an unbeatable team. They will move faster than you might imagine. Move, move, move. Dance. Paint. Sing. Construct. Act. Play. They will let you know when they need you.

I’m learning the lesson again. My work places me squarely in front of a computer for hours each day. Flow. Eddy. Logjam. Wiggle. Move. Sigh, as the synapses start firing up again. Repeat. At this advanced stage of earth-time, you’d think I’d have grasped the full understanding that, for me to be effective, I have to move around. Each morning I review the previous day’s work and immediately know whether or not I found a movement/sitting-still balance.

When we stepped on the trail and entered the woods in North Carolina, my mind was chock-full-of-thought-logs. Like everyone else, I stare at the screen and lose track of time. A day can pass me by and I never leave my swivel chair. I swivel for survival. For months, I’d been swiveling and forgetting to stand up and dance my ideas. Fifteen minutes into our hike, the jam broke free. My mind cleared. I could see the subtle landscape inside and outside. I breathed a deep breath. The forest was gorgeous. My mind was spacious and flowing! I resolved, once again, yet again, to attend to the necessity of movement that keeps my mind and heart flowing. Wiggling is maintenance, merely. Swiveling is not a solution. The real game, the full flow, is only available when I jump out of my chair and move-it.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE FOREST

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

meander/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Step Out Of Time [on DR Thursday]

The color was other-worldly. The morning was cool. Low clouds hung in the valley. We walked on a deep carpet of leaves through a white oak forest. We chatted. Periodically, Linda and Bill stooped to move branches off the path. I couldn’t take my eyes off the beech trees. The leaves of the beech were paradoxically soft yet electric, quietly luminous. I felt as if they were guardian spirits. Forest creatures. I could have watched them all day.

The path led to a tiny cemetery. Bill told stories of the man who owned the forest, now the newest resident in the grave yard. There were stones so weather-worn that the names and dates had vanished into time. The 19th century. We wandered. “Look at this one,” and we’d gather. Speculate on a life lived before electric light and power tools. The beech trees holding vigil. Another paradox: time made timeless.

I will paint my entire life and never be capable of capturing the color of the beech leaves. I have no name for the hue. Not to worry: the camera could not capture it, either. It was like attempting to photograph a specter. The life of the spirit dodged the lens.

The path led back to the road. The alpaca led the way. Stepping onto the asphalt felt like waking up after a long quiet sleep; blinking into time. Rip Van Winkle. I stood for a moment and wondered about the world we’d find, now that we were re-entering time. I was disoriented.

“Are you okay?’ Kerri asked, taking my hand.

“Yeah,” I said, “I just can’t stop thinking about those leaves.”

read Kerri’s blog post about THE LEAVES

Three Graces © 2012 david robinson

Color The Language [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

In the cartoon version of our life, Kerri cleans up my language. I never use the word “beeswax” when there are more colorful options available. I’m an artist. Color is my thing.

It’s hard to explain the inner imperative that drives an artist to spend their precious life composing or painting or dancing, even amidst the knowledge that heeding their inner call might never pay the bills. I know many, many people who’ve snuffed their artistry because it simply doesn’t make financial sense. They are now like boiled fish. The ‘”good living” that they make doesn’t replace the vitality-in-life that they ignore. Source is source.

I also understand that the answer, “Because I have to…” must sound childish to someone who has never operated out of an inner necessity or something more meaningful than making-money. I actually understand their eye-roll and less-than-subtle-but-always-predictable response about the need to “take responsibility…” They’re really saying, “Grow up.”

What I’ll never understand is the gap. For instance, Kerri’s music is all over the world. She is regularly stopped on the street or contacted by people who reach to tell her that her music moves them, touches their souls, makes their day, opens their hearts, calms their fears… And, then, she’s asked what’s she’s really going to do (for a living). Or, better, if she’ll play for free. Or why it bugs her that Pandora or Spotify make money – lots of money – on her music – and that is the reason why she is not. The gap between those two poles is…mind boggling. And, into the gap, the question is always dropped: What are you really going to do?

So, I paint the question with vivid colorful language because it makes my love laugh but definitely needs scrubbing before publication.

read Kerri’s blog post about BEAUTY

smack-dab. © 2021-2 kerrianddavid.com

Gain The Force [on KS Friday]

It seemed appropriate, in order to conclude our year of water, that we travel to visit a region of the country with 250 waterfalls. Of course, we didn’t know about the waterfalls until we arrived. Water, water everywhere. I howled with laughter and secretly affirmed that our unintentional pilgrimage to the waterfalls might appease the great WHATEVER and finally release us from water-resistance into the watercourse way.

I will someday look back at our journey to the falls and realize the extent to which we “let go.” It already serves as a marker, a breaking through the resistance and fight of the last chapter and into the next. The new chapter.

Yesterday, at work, I had the opportunity to tease apart a question en route to asking a better question. I am fortunate to have a team of collaborators that, instead of rejecting my alternate perspective outright, even amidst the frustration of my challenge of the norm, ask me to lean into it. My assignment was to return next week with a better question. I am a firm believer that the form of a question – the way that it is asked – determines the answers that are seen or – more importantly – not seen.

Better questions are like the watercourse way. They show up when, instead of swimming against the current, against “what is,” the swimmer/questioner turns and allows the current to carry them. Wu-wei. Natural action. Every creator knows the moment of frustration when trying to force something into being. More force can only produce more frustration. Or, it breaks something. The best thing to do, when force can only produce an eddy, is put down the brushes, step back, and look at what-is. Force never produces a better question. Stepping off the mountain so it becomes visible – or acknowledging the direction of the river’s flow and giving into it, always reveals new possibility.

It is what I remembered for myself at the waterfall. It made me chuckle, then, when my first moment back at work, I was doing for my team what I’ve done all my life: attempting to flip or free a perspective by lobbying for flow; acknowledge what exists-in-the-moment versus what we want to exist. The better question – for me – and others – is always found when we turn and gain the full force of the river.

[I can’t imagine a better piece of music to carry us into 2022. Give yourself a treat – truly – and listen to Riverstone]

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WATERFALL

riverstone/as it is is available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

riverstone/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Note The Beautiful [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

There is a genius in simplicity.

Lately, one of the conversations swirling around me, a conversation I very much appreciate, is about beauty. What is a beautiful building? What makes a software beautiful? Certainly, beauty is subjective though I suspect a sunrise over the ocean is beautiful to all. A baby’s smile. A first kiss.

We are surrounded by noisy advertisements telling us what is (and what is not) beautiful. By this standard, most of us fall into the not-beautiful category. Though, deep down, we know, that the real test of beauty is not in what is concealed but in what is revealed. A warm heart is more potent than skin creme or make-up.

My niece had a birthday yesterday. She is on this earth to help people. She is creating a beautiful life. She probably doesn’t know it – and, that’s a mark of true beauty – it doesn’t need to call attention to itself.

Every collaboration I’ve had with MM was beautiful. We had fun. We explored ideas. We have nothing but respect for each other. We’ve made each other better people, better artists. When I revisit any one of the many projects we created together, I smile and feel rivers of gratitude and pride. A memory that inspires a smile is the very definition of beauty. It brings the goodness of the past into the present moment. Light travels.

20 is a master of the beautiful because he knows the power of simplicity. A heart shape torn from a piece of paper – acknowledging grief that goes beyond words. A construction paper bow. He’s not forgotten the lessons he learned in kindergarten. Laughter, he knows, is the most beautiful gift of all and we receive it from him weekly.

What makes a design beautiful? Aspen leaves shimmering in fall. I’ve stood in front of paintings by Picasso, Matisse, John Singer Sargent…and cried. They were so beautiful. I’ve held Kerri’s hand, walking on a trail, and wanted the moment to never end. Simple.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE BOW

Take Another Sip [on DR Thursday]

I am spending a significant amount of time studying software. An unlikely task for an artist that prefers brushes and canvas over screens and keyboards. This improbable exploration follows a trend in my life: much of my work has taken place in foreign arenas. I love it because I learn. I love it because I am completely prepared to fail: a trait necessary to walk an artist’s path. To learn, it is necessary to begin in unknown places and make big mistakes. The same rule applies to creation. “Make big offers,” John used to say to his actors. “See what happens.”

Yesterday in my software study, I read about Mathilde Collin, the CEO of Front. She inspires me. She believes work should make people happy. She believes people shouldn’t dread getting out of bed in the morning. She believes in balanced-lives and finding each person’s “genius zone” and leaning into it. She knows a healthy culture doesn’t just happen, that it must be created and tended. And modeled. She believes paths to prosperity must include everyone.

I’ve also spent some time with Evariste Galois. He was a French mathematician who died in a duel at the age of 20. The night before he died, so the story goes, believing it was his last night on earth, he compiled and wrote his thoughts, his life’s work. What he left behind has kept mathematicians busy for more than two centuries. I’m not a mathematician but I am a systems guy and Galois’ Group Theory is useful when studying cultural change – or, more to the point, why it often looks like change but doesn’t really change. Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s useful to consider when products are being developed – or stories – when they iterate but go nowhere.

When I come down from the office I am often glazed. Kerri gives me a glass of wine and steers me to the Covid table. While I stare at the bubbles in the wine she makes a snack. Food and wine always bring me back to the land of the living. After a cracker and cheese, a sip or two, I blink my eyes and she says, “Welcome back.” She knows better than to ask what I did at work. A time or two I’ve taken her hand and headed back toward the mind-cave and she’s learned to dig in her heels. “I learned the most amazing thing,” I say. She responds, “Take another sip and we’ll talk about it later.”

Mathilde Collin. Evariste Galois. Both are French and it only just occurred to me that they share the same country of origin. Revolutionaries both, believing that the systems should work for the people – rather than the people working for the system. Life should feed passions. Evoke personal genius. Happiness.

All of this good stuff from a stumble into the land of software.

“Take another sip,” Kerri prompts. I blink my eyes. “We’ll talk about it later.”

read Kerri’s blog post about WINE BUBBLES

in dreams i wrestle with angels © 2017 david robinson

Become Simple Enough [on KS Friday]

I took a photo of Kerri taking this photo. There’s nothing more inspiring to me than watching an artist at work. Her focus was singular. Pure. I saw her “see” this possibility. She turned, left the reality that the rest of us occupied, and approached the window as if it was an animal in the wild. Carefully, quietly. Reverently.

Her photo immediately brought to mind Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, his temple of light. The vibrant squares of color. Someday we will make a pilgrimage to the Blanton Museum to stand in Austin and, in that moment, I will remember Kerri’s window.

In a world of just-get-to-the-point, time-is-money, and bottom-lines, and the centuries-old-delusion that we are rational beings and the analytical is supreme, an artistic heart and mind is an outlier. We use too many words. We are not reserved in our gesticulation. We express what words cannot reach because we see what lives beyond words. And, developing eyes-that-see takes time. Ellsworth Kelly designed his Austin in his last years. It takes years and years to become simple enough to see the sacred.

Recently we were told, not for the first time, “So many people want what you have but they don’t want to pay for it.” Kerri and I looked at each other. Her great pet-peeve, the pinnacle of all pet-peeves, is how often she’s been asked to play, not for money, but for exposure. She’s considered by Yamaha, the maker of fine pianos, to be one of their select artists, a modern master. Yet, all of her life, with frightening regularity, she’s heard, “It will be good for you!” the face smiles, “It might lead to something.” Yes. It does lead to something: more people wanting what you have but not willing to pay for it. Point in any direction to anyone who’s achieved the pinnacle of their career, and imagine asking them to perform surgery or keep the books or go to trial or build the house for exposure. Can you imagine? She – we – have heard it throughout our lives.

And, when she turned and saw the window, her sudden awareness shocked the people in the gallery into silence. Everyone turned, made space, and watched. She had no idea that she was on stage. Pure. And, without exception, everyone in that room wished they could see what she was seeing. They wished they could see how she was seeing. Sacred. It takes a lifetime. Austin. The window. Priceless.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WINDOW

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

Do The Double-Double [on DR Thursday]

Kerri moved through the gallery as if on a photo shoot. Capturing light, shapes in architecture, I loved that she turned the opening into something other than a stuffy social event. For her, the art-occasion was an opportunity to make art. Double-double.

Since moving to Wisconsin I’ve not shown my paintings – other than online. I had paintings splashed across Seattle every day for over a decade. Showing had lost its luster. Plus, my paintings tend to be large; they require a truck and some serious effort to move and hang and remove. Plus, my Seattle studio was on the 4th floor. Large paintings didn’t fit in the elevator.

Also, I couldn’t show. There’s a harsh financial cliff to monitor when your healthcare is through the ACA. Go a single dollar over the allotted amount and we’d have been taxed into oblivion. So, to show was to court bankruptcy. It was best – safer – to roll up the canvas and hide the paintings in the basement. When friends asked, “Why don’t you show your work?” my pat response was, “I live in the United States.” A conversation stopper every time.

It was a symbolic gesture that I needed to make when I was finally free from the ACA cliff. I entered a painting in a local show. We went to the opening to see one of my pieces, too long in the basement, hanging on a gallery wall. And, my favorite symbolic-detail? The painting I entered is titled Unfettered. Double-double.

unfettered © 2018 david robinson

Relax And Prime [on KS Friday]

“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

I spent a good chunk of the afternoon yesterday drawing cartoons. I had to get away from the computer screen. I’ve learned – relearned – that staring into the screen too long makes me myopic and unimaginative. I’m not certain if this is true for everyone but I am kinesthetic. There’s a necessary balance. Sitting still and staring at a screen without the opposite focus are creative-killers for me. I do my best thinking when I move around, when I stop trying to solve or deconstruct. I’m fortunate that drawing with a #2 pencil at an old-fashioned light table is part of my job.

Greg lives his life in front of a screen – multiple screens – and, to get away, he dives. His underwater photography is gorgeous. In a meeting a few days ago, he said that diving clears his mind. His greatest insights come when he’s underwater or sitting on the beach after a dive. There’s good science behind his insight. Relaxation triggers dopamine: the more dopamine, the more creative. Comfort and relaxation prime the creative pump. Stress and tension unplug the pump.

The best thing to do when trying to squeeze out a revelation is to walk away. Take a drive. Take a shower. Stop thinking so hard. Daydreaming is very productive. I’ve learned that anger and frustration rarely – if ever – lead to creative insight and generally produce the opposite of what’s desired. Anger (like too much time in front of a computer screen to me) is myopic. It narrows. It squeezes off the dopamine. It blinds the mind and heart to possibility.

Kent Nerburn wrote that, “For those of us in the arts, enthusiasm is never outlived. The sun is always rising before us, and our wonder at the world, the true source for all meaningful art, only grows stronger as life slows from passage to moments…” There’s always a next painting to paint. Another song to write. A photograph to take. It’s one of the reasons I love taking walks with Kerri: we rarely get very far before she gasps, and stops to take a photograph of some small miracle. And, while she’s collecting images of small miracles, I look to the sky and let my mind wander, a walking meditation, a creative pump primer.

And, almost always, somewhere on the trail, the dot that refused to connect while I was too-long staring at the screen, takes me by the hand and says, “It’s so simple. Do you see?”

read Kerri’s blog post about EVERGREEN

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

Lose The Rant [on Not-So-Flawed Wednesday]

I wrote a post and decided not to publish it. I was deeply disturbed by the news. A parade. More violence. Senseless. More and more. And more. Jim wrote that he was going to chisel into his sidewalk the now ubiquitous (to us) phrase: I just can’t believe it.

I wrote about my escape fantasy. A quiet place. A place where people know how to hold differences of opinion as a constructive force for good instead of a destructive pout to be right.

This weekend, people gathered at the gallery to see art. To experience art. Painting and sculpture and photography. I have not been in a crowd since the pandemic began and I was both wary and encouraged. I wonder about the new normal.

After the opening we made dinner for 20. Kerri’s inner composer broke through and we saw, for the first time in a long time, the light and warmth of her artistry lift and shine. She turned up the sound and asked us to listen. The music soared. I cried. It was nice to see her again.

Tomorrow is the day – just a day – isn’t that odd – that is set aside for giving thanks. I am thankful to have had a glimpse of the composer. The artist. The lift of her music. I am thankful for people who gather to share art. I am thankful for a dinner with 20, laughter, and our shared nonsense. I am thankful for Mike who finds a way forward against all odds. I am thankful that Bruce passed this way and stopped to say, “Hello.”

I am thankful that I believe that the people of the world are better than the news leads us to believe. I am thankful that I did not publish my rant. I am thankful for my escape fantasy, my quiet place.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE PATH