Pace And Shed [on DR Thursday]

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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

 

 

Drink It In [on DR Thursday]

I wrote to Master Miller. He is one of my favorite artist confidantes. I told him that I was in a dry spell and so I was taking advantage of my artistic empty well by playing with sketches and revisiting old themes. Drawing memories.

He was (as always) enthusiastic. He regularly bubbles with love of art and artists. He often sends me photos of his young son painting. They have become a source of great joy and inspiration for me. Curiosity and freedom. A father and son, both artists, at play.

I remember a spring day in Colorado. A mountain trail. It was hot and then the afternoon rains came. A short burst, a downpour. There was nothing to be done but turn and face it, open and drink it in.

facetherain morsel

a close up

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FACE THE RAIN

 

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face the rain ©️ 2019 david robinson

 

 

Reach Back [on DR Thursday]

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Artists are constantly reaching backward and forward through time. They daily pay visits to the work of the masters. They periodically revisit their own past creations. Their work sends ripples of inspiration and opportunity far into the future.

When Beethoven was young he wrote a ballet called The Creatures of Prometheus. It calls for a legion of dancers and is way too big for most contemporary ballet companies to attempt. Contemporary symphonies, on the other hand, desire to play the music because Beethoven, for the rest of his life, reached back into his ballet, mining for musical phrases, developing some of the phrases into his most famous work.

How to play the music from a ballet written in 1801 as a symphonic piece in 2009?

Yaacov Bergman, the visionary and laughter-filled director of the Portland Chamber Orchestra had an idea. Why not tell the story of the ballet. A storytelling would provide the connective tissue, weaving the music together into a cohesive symphonic performance. Because Beethoven wrote a ballet, 207 years later, I had the great good fortune to write and perform the story of The Creatures of Prometheus with the PCO.

And, since we were crossing time boundaries, why not cross a few artistic genres, too.  Yaki hired artist Liz Gil-Neilson to paint and produce a visual storytelling that was projected during the performance. Music, storytelling, contemporary visual art. Ripples, ripples, everywhere.

But, that was not enough. Since I am also a visual artist, Yaki asked that I translate my story into a visual statement. So, I painted three large canvases (Creation, Garden, Resurrection), one for each movement of the symphony, that hung with Liz’s original images during run of the symphony at the George Broderick Gallery in Portland.

Reaching forward. Reaching back. Today, more than a decade after our collaboration, I mine my experiences and paintings for inspiration. As new collaborations arise, as I stand at the base of a new series of seemingly impossible tasks, I’m fortunate to have my Creatures of Prometheus to remind me of the possibilities. They nudge me forward.  Like Beethoven, I reach back into my past work to find a path forward.

It makes me smile to know that in 1801 Beethoven, with a quill pen and ink, scribbled notes at his desk and those scribbles turned into dances and symphonies that inspired stories and paintings and a wacky multi-media collaboration (a phrase that did not exist during his lifetime). And more: a morsel image digitally altered for a blog post written on a computer keyboard. Pen and ink are hard to come by. Reaching backward. Reaching forward.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about Prometheus morsel

 

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prometheus resurrection ©️ 2008 david robinson

Bend It [on DR Thursday]

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The terminology in art reads like so much poetry. Zero point perspective. Chiaroscuro. Foreshortening. Rococo. Image plane. Vanishing point. Oblique projection. Intaglio. It goes on and on, these tasty and magical words.

They should be poetry. They describe fields of possibility. They attempt to codify the making of illusion or the impulse of an explorer. Bending space. Deconstructing and reconstituting. Perceptual distinctions. The visual language of cultural norms.

There has been for centuries a mathematics of art. Optics and relativity, movements in science that have their conjoined artistic twins. Rebellions. The maintenance of form. Rules and rule breakers.

I sat in on a class taught by a master artist. He was a lover of landscape (another yummy word) and taught his students an earth-shattering lesson: reality, like time, cannot be caught. It’s a fools errand to try. Painting is a conversation. It is an infinite game. Bend space. Move the tree. Color is fluid, moving, never fixed.  Be like color. Play. Discover. Transform.

I do not consider myself a landscape painter. And then I remember the master teacher and I remove the word ‘landscape’ from my vernacular. And then, suddenly, there is a universe of movement, color, light, and shapes to bend.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about a LANDSCAPE SKETCH

 

Newborn copy

newborn. deconstruction. reconstitution.

 

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newborn /landscape sketch ©️ 2019 david robinson

 

 

Study It [on DR Thursday]

Although this news will come as a blow to my ego, I am not a genius. My work is not opening new and exciting doors in the trajectory of western art. My boyhood fantasy of becoming the next Picasso has evolved into the happy reality of becoming the only…me. I love to paint. That is more than enough. Becoming, with no end in sight.

I rarely do studies or rough drafts. Only when a painting is giving me fits do I stop and study it. And, if I actually stop to do a study, the next step is to wipe the painting off the canvas. You might say that the act of doing a study is a warning to the elusive painting. “Last chance, dude.”

FACE THE SUN began as a study, a warning to CHASING BUBBLES. I was ready to wipe it away. In fact, I was cackling at the satisfaction a fresh start would bring. Kerri intervened. She has an uncanny sense for knowing when I am about to wipe away a painting. More than once, at the very moment my hand is reaching to annihilate the trouble-maker-painting, she rushes in to plead its case. I knit my brow. “You’re kidding, right?”

CHASING BUBBLES lived to see another day. Cleaning the studio, I saw the study that saved the painting. I liked it so I finished it and called it FACE THE SUN. Kerri came into the studio and said, “That painting makes my neck hurt.”

“What?! You’re kidding, right?”

She smiled her “gotcha” smile. Not only am I not the next Picasso but the painter that is becoming me is gullible. I am not a genius but I am an easy mark.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FACE THE SUN

 

 

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face the sun/chasing bubbles ©️ 2019 david robinson

 

Will Her Safe Passage [on DR Thursday]

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a morsel: motherdaughter

Lately I am learning about parenthood. Actually, to be more specific, I am learning about the power of motherhood. Even though her children have flown the nest and are living vibrant lives a thousand miles in either direction, Kerri senses their movements. She feels their triumphs and their pains as if they were her own. We have a game: mention Kirsten’s name in casual conversation and she will almost certainly text or call within minutes. It is uncanny. The daughter and the mother are deeply connected.

This winter, Kirsten taught snowboarding lessons in Telluride and coached a team in Aspen. It required a four and a half hour drive on Friday night to Aspen and a Sunday night return trip to Telluride. Friday and Sunday evenings, Kerri tracked Kirsten’s travel path. Snowy roads. Ice. Avalanches. The mother’s eye casting a cloak of protection over the daughter, willing her safe passage. Holding her in a mother’s sheltering embrace.

Anyone who doubts the power of sympathetic magic has never been a parent, a mother willing the universe to keep her girl safe.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MOTHERDAUGHTER

 

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motherdaughter ©️ 2019 david robinson

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