Make Life Fun [on Chicken Marsala Monday]

notknowinghowtodoit WITH EYES jpeg copy

It used to make me profoundly sad when students would look at me in resistance and fear, saying the double-whammy, “I can’t! I don’t know how!” My next question always remained unvoiced: what have we done to you?

Curiosity is human nature. We are born hard-wired to sail toward scary edges, tinker with inventions, and attempt to grasp the un-graspable.  It takes a lot of work to blunt a child’s curiosity. It takes a concerted effort to transform vibrant imagination into fear of reprisal/shaming.

if you'd like to see more CHICKEN... copyThe good news is that curiosity might be contained but it never goes away. Chicken is here to remind us to step out of the cage, pick up the brush and splash the paint just to see what happens. His invitation is to to go do it – whatever it is – precisely because you don’t know how. The path to center leads directly through I Don’t Know How.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about NOT KNOWING HOW

not knowing how ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Find Your Poetry Tree [on Chicken Marsala Monday]

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I stood before a school board and found myself defending daydreaming. I’d piloted an experiential learning program in the district and the board wanted to ensure my students would be “nose-to-the-grindstone” every moment of every day.

Learning (a creative process) has nothing to do with grindstones. Constant activity, rote exercises and busy-work-for-the-sake-of-busy-work may give the appearance of learning but that’s about it. People learn when in the pursuit of something real and my students were making movies, writing plays or starting businesses. Staring out of the window, I explained, was not only valuable but necessary. I wasn’t making excuses. I had brain science and learning theory to back me up.

There are very good reasons that most “aha moments” happen in the shower, while driving, or, like my students, staring out a window. Inner-space and quiet are necessary ingredients for insight. A good gaze out the window is, in actuality, an inward look, it’s a mental walkabout, a mind-stroll that allows a noisy brain to take a breath and let the logjam of thoughts to relax and flow.

Quinn used to tell me to cultivate my serendipity. He meant that I should open myself to insight, to make myself available to surprises and possibilities, to the utter magic of “where did that idea come from?” Opening yourself requires a good window or, like Chicken, a special poetry tree. On this Chicken Marsala Monday, get your nose off the grindstone, find your poetry tree, and allow the insights to find you.

POETRY TREE gifts and reminders

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Read Kerri’s blog post about FIND YOUR POETRY TREE

www.kerrianddavid.com

find your poetry tree ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

find your poetry tree designs/products ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Teach [It’s Flawed Cartoon Wednesday]

A teachable moment on Flawed Cartoon Wednesday from studio melange

idiot FRAMED PRINT copy

This one is for all the teachers I know and love. They’ve made it their life’s work to seek the teachable moment and they are masterful at finding it. Everywhere.

On this Flawed Cartoon Wednesday, studio mélange pays homage to the elusive yet ever-present teachable moment.

TEACHABLE MOMENT gifts & products

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read Kerri’s blog post on TEACHABLE MOMENTS

www.kerrianddavid.com

teachable moment cartoon & designs ©️ 2016/2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson

Chicken Marsala Monday

fallingdown WITH EYES jpeg THIS COPYIf blocking  your creative arteries is the goal then there is no better illusion to consume than trying to be perfect. Eating the idea that you can be free of flaws or experience mastery without mistakes is guaranteed to clog your capacity to move. Notions of perfection turn the imagination toward the fear-monsters and breeds an especially severe  inner critic. Perfection is like the Medusa, give her your gaze and she’ll turn you to stone.

Imagination, creativity, learning, growing,…are words of movement. They are experiences of free flow. If investments like perfection crimp flow, then granting simple graces like trial and error, or “seeing what happens” will inevitably open the channel. Creative flow, like profound learning or wild imagination happens when inner-judges retire; it happens when nature is allowed to take its course. Nature is movement. Falling down is a necessary form of movement. Perfection is about appearances. Learning is about process.

From studio melange on this Chicken Marsala Monday comes this simple reminder. Try. Remove failure from the gallery of options. Get on the bike and ride. Expect to fall down. It’s the only way to learn how to stand up.

FALLING DOWN IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF LEARNING merchandise

chicken falling down mug     chicken falling down pillow

kerrianddavid.com

check out Kerri’s thought’s on this Chicken Marsala Monday

falling down is an essential part of learning ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

 

Learn To Question

My best place for asking questions

My best place for asking questions

20 (aka John) tells me that his coworker, Amy, aged 22, will have answered all of life’s questions within the next three years. He assures me that she will share her answers when she has them. “We just need to hang on for another three years,” he quips, “…and it’ll all make sense!”

The admitting nurse at the surgery center feels like a threshold guardian. She said, “People who pass through here learn just how little they actually control in life. Surgery is humbling. I’m here when their illusion of control bursts. That moment is hard.” She was quiet for a moment and added, “What gets me is all these people in the world who think they have all the answers – and they think their answer has to be the answer for everybody. All these rules made up by all these people who think they have the right answer for everybody! That’s why people are killing people everywhere.”

“It sounds like more people ought to have surgery!” I tease.

“You got that right,” she said, handing me my gown, hairnet and blue booties. “Put one of these on and you realize how little control you actually have; in this place none of your answers matter and none of your rules apply!”

It should be a mantra for educators and the only argument necessary to dismantle a test-driven system: Life is always found in the direction of the question. At best, answers are relative – and the best answers, if understood, are simply doors to more questions. Learn to question.

The best art follows the same mantra. It steps into big questions, wanders into unknowns and complexities. It tests and tries, explores and experiments. It leads us to explode our answers and like a good trickster does not allow us to hold our gods too tightly. It begs us to question.

“Shall we tell Amy that there are no answers?” I ask 20.

“Nah. Why spoil the surprise.”

From the archives. This one often calls to me

From the archives. This one often calls to me

Save

Be Clumsy

a detail of my painting, May You Be.

a detail of my painting, May You Be.

Clumsy (klum’ ze) adj. 1. lacking dexterity, grace or skill; awkward. 2. ungracefully shaped or made; unwieldy. 3. awkwardly or unskillfully said or done, ill-contrived.

“We don’t allow ourselves to be clumsy,” Kerri said. “Life is clumsy.”

Many years ago I read a commentary that suggested we moderns have a harder time of feeling good about ourselves than people of ages past. The argument went something like this: we have an impossibly high standard to meet and it is mostly illusory. For instance, our predecessors compared themselves and their successes against a relatively small village populace. We are swimming in pool that stretches around the earth. The athletes in our ancestral villages ran against their neighbors, the artists created for a specific purpose that served a tangible need in their community. Our young runners know to the hundreth-of-a-second what greatness requires. They run against the world. Our artists rarely know outside of their own inner imperative why they are creating. With no outer limit they spend a great deal of time wondering if their work has any impact or greater significance. With no outer limit it has no defined audience or community. Stephen, a gifted and prolific artist, used to ask, “Why don’t people recognize the value of art?”

The argument is largely a question of access. Our predecessors had limited and very abstract access to the news of the day, to the happenings beyond their region. We have a 24-hour global news cycle that comes to us on multiple devices that are designed to grab and keep our attention. It is not passive. On our multiple devices we are bombarded with images and messages of what we should look and feel like. Yet, almost all of the images populating our personal measuring stick are constructed. They are manipulated, retouched, powdered and Photoshopped. Legs are stretched. Wrinkles are removed. Sunsets are filtered. We measure ourselves against illusions.

Thus, intermediaries are everywhere. Interpreters abound. I rarely go into a gallery without a curator telling me why the work on the walls is important. The news of the day makes us the rope in a tug-of-war of interpretation.

Art, like life, like deep spirituality, requires direct engagement. It is made rich in the rough draft and the mistake. The broken road is interesting, vital. Learning is a process that takes time. It is messy. It is clumsy. It is not straight, paved, and has no road signs. And, it cannot be walked alone.

There is no forgiveness (of self or other) on the path of perfection; forgiveness is in short supply when the standard is both impossible to attain and an illusion. On the clumsy path, on the messy and muddy road, lives grace, generosity of spirit and deep forgiveness.

Clumsy (klum’ ze) adj. 1. Human

May You Be

May You Be

 

Dance!

A painting called JOY

A painting called JOY

“A dancer’s body breaks down,” she said, “Painters can paint all their lives. Musicians can play until they are old, but a dancer’s instrument, her body, gives out.”

To be a contrarian I responded, “And then there is Martha Graham. She danced into her 80’s, didn’t she?”

She wrinkled her nose and said, “Not very well.”

The lights dimmed, the movie started, and our conversation ended.

She was, in her youth, a dancer, classically trained. She’d spent the bulk of her adult life teaching and choreographing. And, as she told me, “Those things are all you can do when you can no longer dance. They are what’s left.” Had our exchange not bothered me so much I might have felt sadness for her.

Like an art-mantra, Tom used to say, “A writer writes and a painter paints.” I wanted to say to my seatmate, “A dancer dances.” I thought immediately of Linda who dances even when she is not dancing. She is a riot of movement, joy-in-motion; her need to dance is infectious. Even non-dancers find themselves jigging across the floor when Linda is dancing at the party. I once told her that she is my secret weapon for throwing a successful party.

I imagined my seatmate as a young girl. Before all the training, before the technique and expectations, there was enthusiasm. There must have been joy. There must have been lots of joy. She must have known the world by moving, twirling, spinning in it. Artists – before they call themselves artists – make sense through sound, through scribbles, through spinning. They only way forward in life, the only way to make meaning and to learn, is to scribble more, to engage and translate through movement. Lazy educators write off this imperative as self-expression.

The great artist deathtrap is called technique. It is a paradox. It is necessary. It is a kind of language mastery. It is, at first, a struggle of control. How do you say what you need to say when your language is visual, aural, or kinesthetic? Training is necessary. The path to full expression is always paradoxically through constraints, control of breath or brush. Yet, too often, as is the case with my seatmate, technique replaces the enthusiasm. It can turn joy into judgment. It can make an artist forget their WHY and replace it with a too rigid HOW. It is how artists limit themselves with their artistry. It made my seatmate, a healthy ambulatory woman, believe that she is not capable of dancing.

Later, I told Kerri about my conversation at the movies. She said, “That’s why fewer and fewer people are going to symphonies or galleries. People draw lines. Artists not only limit themselves with their artistry but they also limit access to their artistry.” Joy is infectious. Artistry without it is not very interesting (and, arguably, not artistry).