Frame It [on DR Thursday]

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Meaning is made through a frame of reference. Concepts of time, of nature, of community, of the divine, are not universal. They are local and they provide the distinct frame through which individual and communal experience is interpreted. No one reaches the age of 2 without the installation of a frame.

What we call truth is largely a result of the frame we see through. For instance, is it best to protect the rights of the individual or the needs of the community? The preference largely depends upon what kind of society is asking the question, individualistic or communal.

Frames pop forward certain aspects and make other aspects retreat. Put a frame on a painting and various colors and shapes seem to stand out. Put another frame on the same painting and entirely different shapes and colors dominate. The same is true of every lived experience. Mood is a passing frame. Expectation is a made-up frame.

One day, for grins, Kerri and I took a few paintings to the frame store to see how they might change. CLASSIC was one of the paintings we took that day. I had an entirely different vision for what would make it sing. I’m generally not a fan of big frames but, when Kerri placed CLASSIC in a heavy, slightly ornate choice, I nearly fell over. Not only did CLASSIC sing, but it surprised us with an aria. Gorgeous. Grounded. The frame brought forward the simplicity.

I love it when my paintings blow back on me and I see them again as if for the first time. That is the gift of a frame: the opportunity to see again.

 

classic framed copy 2

yoga series: classic, 20 x 16IN

read Kerri’s blog post about CLASSIC

 

 

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yoga series: classic ©️ 2013 david robinson

 

Invite Magic [on DR Thursday]

NapMorsel

We are going on an adventure. Our adventure comes with a house on the lake. It is work and although some people might not consider work an adventure, we are not those people. The challenge is great. The work seems oddly destined. It “fits.”

Among the first things we moved into our adventure-home was this painting, Nap On The Beach. One of the quirks of being an artist is investing in the belief (or, perhaps, the cultivated-and-embraced-delusion) that the art you make sometimes carries “power.” This painting is autobiographical. It carries a good memory. It evokes a way-of-being. An intention for living. Once, early in our lives together, we fell into a magic sleep on a beach. We were so comfortable, so at ease entering our new life together.

Magic.

We wanted to invite magic and this way-of-being-together into our adventure-home and our next phase of work. And, so, we hung this painting. There are other paintings poised to join Nap On The Beach. They invite a different spirit. Unfettered, free. But, for now, there is this: comfort. Ease. Peace. Giving over to something much, much bigger. An invocation. An adventure.

 

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about NAP ON THE BEACH

 

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nap on the beach ©️ 2017 david robinson

Continue To Learn [on DR Thursday]

Studio Shot copy

Last week we helped our dear 20 pack his late father’s paintings. His dad, Duke Kruse, was an exceptional and prolific artist. As we wrapped the pieces, preparing them for storage, I couldn’t help but study them. Duke was free and bold. His color palette was precise. His technique was impeccable. And, a few years after his death, his work has nowhere to go. No gallery. No museum. After the estate sale, we will catalogue it. 20 will store it.

It was bittersweet. I got to spend time with the work of an extraordinary painter. It was inspiring and thrilling. I learned. I also got a glimpse of what will most likely happen to my work after I am gone. It will be catalogued. It will be stored.

My work is similar to Duke’s: I have fine technique and my subject matter is not widely accessible. Like Duke, I have individual buyers. My paintings are in collections across the nation. But, also like Duke, no collectors seek my work. At this late stage, like Duke, I have no greater gallery representation. No one, besides me, is actively promoting my work. I paint. I take a photograph of the new piece, catalogue it, and then throw it onto the stack. It begs the question, ” Why do it?”

Horatio is a gifted artist. During his recent visit, we descended into my studio and we waded into the stacks. I was delighted to pull out and show him my paintings. I value his thoughts and opinions. He rarely shows his work. He doesn’t paint to show. He paints for himself. He paints, like Duke and like me, because he has to. He paints because the paintings work on him, too. They paint him. They challenge and change him.

This afternoon we will move the final load of Duke’s work. I doubt if Duke would care much that his paintings will disappear into storage. He did his work and the paintings served him well. They made him soul-rich and laughter-filled.

And, so, from Duke, – and Horatio – I learn. From my paintings I also continue to learn. It begs the question, “Why not?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE STACKS

 

 

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See [on DR Thursday]

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These days, I draw to sort out a composition. That’s it. I open my sketchbook if I need help seeing beyond what I am thinking.

I used to draw everyday. It was a rule. It was an essential part of my daily life and artistic development. I now know that, during that phase, I was teaching myself to see.

Nowadays, I take my sketchbook when I go on vacation. For a few moments every morning, I open it and do a series of quick gesture drawings. 10 seconds max. I rarely look at the page. Quick gestural lines of what’s right in front of me. Quick capture of a memory I want to record. Eating watermelon on the deck. Picking up a shell to see if it’s occupied. Seeing the moment. Seeing the memory. I close my sketchbook and later in the day take a peek at what I drew.

Once, long ago, I was jammed up. A blocked artist. Liz had me do 100 paintings in an hour. Ink and a brush and no time to think. No separation between the seeing and the movement of the brush. It was fun and fast. No thought means no judgment means no blockage. It bears repeating: seeing = no separation. My block disappeared in a single night. My artistic well sometimes goes dry but since Liz’s lesson I have never again been blocked. She reminded me that artistry is about seeing and not about showing.

I sat on the deck overlooking the ocean. The morning sun, hot coffee and a few pencils. I opened my sketchbook and my eyes. As my hand moved quickly across the page, the world sparkled, and I knew that I was the luckiest man alive.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HILTON HEAD SKETCHES

 

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Be Iconic [on DR Thursday]

Watercolor-Tree copy 2

I’ve learned that much of my work traffics in ideals. A quiet picnic beneath a tree. A mother holding her child. A nap on the beach. Over time, the elements of my ideals congeal into patterns and symbols.

This watercolor painting was a study. It was one of the first paintings that this tree, circles of broad leaves, wispy floral shapes, appeared. I liked the symbol. It connected me to Giotto and the middle ages when artists were purposefully iconic. This tree made me purposefully iconic. It is a sentinel. It watches over. Like a mother holding her child or a husband and wife napping together on the beach.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on the WATERCOLOR

 

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watercolor tree ©️ sometime in the 21st century by the little known artist occasionally referred to as DR

Name It Or Not [on DR Thursday]

David Robinson 4by4 copy 2

I sold this painting a long time ago. It’s a big piece, four feet by four feet. George Broderick sold it through his gallery in Portland, Oregon. The day we hung it in his space, he asked me what it was called. He was making a label for the painting with the title and price. I didn’t have an answer and said the first thing that came to me. “It’s called Four by Four,” I said. George wrinkled his brow.

True confessions: I’ve never been good at naming paintings. In fact, I used to resist it. I think a viewer should name the painting. I think a viewer does name the painting in the first moment they see it but then they dump their response when they read the label. But, reality has a way of setting in. As you might imagine, it nearly impossible to keep track of multiple paintings when they are all called Untitled.

For a while – a short while – I tried giving each untitled piece a number. Untitled 624. Untitled 29. “Cop out!” was the cry from friends and gallery staff. “What’s it called?” There was no mercy.

I was much more snarky then than I am now, I so I responded to the requirement of proper names by keeping a notebook of words and phrases that I liked. When a painting was being readied for a show I’d randomly pull a notation from the notebook and tack it to a painting. “There! A name!” That, too, was a ridiculous strategy. It confused everyone, including me. When it comes to tracking things, random associations are not very memorable and I’d inevitably lose the notation. I was constantly opening my notebook and renaming paintings. Plus, at openings, artists are always asked about the names they give to paintings and people were forever asking about a name/painting and I couldn’t remember which painting carried which random tag. More than once I stared blankly and stuttered until the uncomfortable patron moved on.

It has come as a great relief to me that Kerri actually likes to put names on my paintings. Nowadays, my foolproof naming strategy goes like this: “K.Dot, what would you call this painting?” And, without fail, she  always has a response.

“Why did you call this 4 x 4?” she just asked, hoping that the name would spark something to write about on her blog.

“I can’t remember,” I replied, lying outrageously. “What would you call it?” I asked.

She squinched up her face and studied it for a moment. “Slumber,” she said.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on 4 x 4

 

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4 x 4/Slumber ©️ some date in the past and really who knows and who really cares?

Pace And Shed [on DR Thursday]

underpainting copy

underpainting

Like all artists I pass through periods of discontent with my paintings. They become like ill-fitting clothes. I want to shed them. I’m embarrassed to claim them. I start poking around for something new. Something that fits.

It took me more than a few cycles of discomfort to realize that discontent was actually a gift. It is the leading edge of curiosity, the fire storm that makes way for rejuvenation. Artists are not immune to holding on tightly to the safety and comfort of what they know and need a good dose of discontent to loosen their grip. At least I do.

Discontent makes me range around. Try stuff. Tear things up. Scribble furiously. Wonder if my muse has abandoned me (feel sorry for myself). Make really bad art (not on purpose). Make really bad art (on purpose). Take walks.

Discontent allows my empty well to refill. It pops any illusion I might carry of perfection. It turns my ship and hoists full-sail toward the edge of the world. And, it is always when I sail into uncharted waters that I find my muse waiting. She drums her fingers and says, “I thought you’d never get here.”

Ten years ago, when becalmed in the middle of my artistic ocean, I saw a pile of tissue paper in the corner of my studio. In a fit of why-not-nothing-else-is-working, I tore pieces of tissue and slapped them onto the painting-of-my-discontent. There sat my long missing muse, fingers drumming. “Texture,” she yawned. “You might want to see where this takes you.”

It’s taken me a long way. And, to my surprise, just a few weeks ago, I woke up and my paintings, like ill-fitting clothes, no longer fit me. I look at them as if someone else painted them. “Yikes,” I thought, “I hope no one saw these…” My muse packed her bags. She is nowhere in sight. I paced a little. Discontent like fog descended.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about UNDERPAINTING

 

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sometimes the underpainting becomes the painting…this is a slice of Newborn

 

newborn ©️ 2019 david robinson