Cross Check [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“It looks like a horses head,” she said, snapping the photo from her window seat on the plane. We were on approach to land, coming in over the bay.

I remember teaching myself to draw horses. I had (and still have) a passion for drawing people so my foray into horses was more an academic exercise than an inner need. I thought I should expand my horizons so the 8-year-old-version-of-me acquired a “how to draw animals” book. It suggested beginning with geometric shapes. Two connected circles defined the torso, the head – a circle and a trapezoid.

It was the same technique used by the teacher in my very first art class. See shapes. Arms are two tubes connected by a circle/elbow. Knees are circles, too! Foreground and background, what’s in front and what’s behind was taught using spheres and cylinders. Perspective was taught using a box. Transform a circle into a sphere through proper shading and you’ll know forever the magic secret of artistry. See a dragon in the clouds and you’ll know forever the magic secret of the human mind. It projects. It seeks sense from chaos. It projects order onto nature.

All the while Kerri is snapping photos of the island that looks like a horse’s head, I am pondering the normalization of hurtling through the air in a tube. People chat. Some are reading. The man across the aisle is asleep. “Prepare to land” is ordinary, uttered thousands of times each day. It’s the flip side of seeing dragons in clouds, another key to the human mind. Miracles made commonplace through repetition.

One human child is a miracle. It’s why we are making the trip. To meet a miracle. Yet, 7 billion miracles walking on earth?

“We’re flying,” I said.

“It’s been a long time,” she replied, showing me the picture on her phone, “Look! Doesn’t it look like a horse’s head? Well, like horse heads that I draw. No ears,” she qualified and smiled.

Miracles and magic. All the way around. Seen and unseen. Cross check. Wheels down. Prepare to return to the ground.

read Kerri’s blogpost about the HORSE HEAD

Take The Time [on Two Artists Tuesday]

20 plays a game with us. When we are on the road he takes care of our house and Dogga. He amuses himself by taking photos of obscure details in the house and then sends them to us. “What is it?” he asks. Kerri inevitably guesses correctly while I might get one in ten. He has a great artist’s eye and is masterful at finding curious patterns or unique views.

Kerri and 20 share an artistic similarity. They are both drawn to detail. The sublime found in the small. I walk through life mostly missing the minutiae so I appreciate being surrounded by two dedicated particularists. Because they torture me with the tiny I now – occasionally – find myself caught on a finer point. However, I will never be able to participate in their passionate conversations about kerning. I love their ardor for fonts but in serifs I have my limits.

The deep freeze over the holidays brought amazing ice formations on the pond. John O’Donohue wrote, “Take time to see the quiet miracles that seek no attention.” Bundled up with hands freezing outside of her glove to get the photo, Kerri snapped this marvel.

I’ve learned from 20 and Kerri that the quiet miracles are all around us. All we need do is take the time to see them.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE POND

Dance [on DR Thursday]

“The human race has spent several millennia developing a huge and robust set of observations about the world, in forms as varied as language, art and religion. Those observations in turn have withstood many – enormously many – tests. We stand heir to an unstatably large set of meanings.” ~ David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear

The little girl shrieked with delight, “You can stand in it!” She raced inside the dome, her little body so teeming with enthusiasm that she danced. The crowd burst into laughter.

Joy is contagious.

She reminded me of the children I saw dancing at the base of Christo’s Umbrellas. She transported me back to the very first time Kerri and I stepped off the stage after our performance of THE LOST BOY. We were euphoric, so overrun with relief and triumph that we jumped up and down in the backstage hallway, laughing and hugging. Dancing. We couldn’t help it.

I remember that moment when people ask me why I make art since art makes no money. I’ve learned to answer the question, not with words but with a smile.

Value is perceived.

I stepped into the dome repeating to myself, “You can stand in it.” A dome of light. A constellation of thought. The earth rotates around the sun. Joyful participation in the sorrows of the world. Do unto others. There is not one way, there are many paths up the mountain. Discovery is better than invention.

Meaning is made. It’s an ongoing relationship.

Sometime you know that you enter it. Sometimes you don’t know and the dome you discover evokes a joyous dance.

read Kerri’s blogpost about DOMES OF LIGHT

Iconic, 54x54IN, mixed media

[my site is down. A new site is in the works. New works are also in the works. Good things]

iconic © 2010 david robinson

See The Unique [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Just for kicks I Googled “The secret life of snowflakes.” You’ll not be surprised to learn that there is a book by a scientist, Kenneth George Libbrecht, entitled…The Secret Life of a Snowflake. I think I must read it. Five stars. It traces the journey of snowflakes, which means it’s a story. And, it’s aimed at readers aged 6-12 so it’s right in my current-mindset-wheelhouse.

If you catch me reading The Secret Life of a Snowflake and ask me why-on-earth I’m reading a children’s book about snowflakes written by a snowflake scientist I’ll tell you with a straight face that I’m doing research. Kerri has a raindrop story that I want to illustrate – and will someday when she’s bold enough to share the full manuscript. It’s hidden somewhere in her studio and I know enough not to go poking around in other people’s studios. Snowflakes are raindrops in crystal clothing.

Each snowflake is unique. I’ve heard that tidbit of truth so many times that it’s become cliché. As I stare out my window at the accumulating snow, the full impact of the cliché hits me: my yard is stacking up with crystal uniqueness. This is no ordinary moment. These brilliant little forms falling from the sky and joining together to blanket my world will never pass this way again. Suddenly my mind is awash with a tune by Seals and Crofts.

This time of year we have snowflakes cleverly placed around the house. They are not real; you can tell because they are identical. And, they don’t melt. And, they are enormous compared to the real deal stacking up just outside on the lawn. They make us smile.

If you are like me you’ll find yourself suddenly in awe of human beings. We create plastic snowflakes to decorate our warm houses while the real-deal falls just outside our doors. Both the real and the symbolic give us pause. Just like the special adorned tree in our living room, e.e., we want to bring nature in-the-house for our celebration of renewal. Magical moments abound, snowflake by beautiful snowflake.

[I love Kerri’s Silent Night. Hear the sound of snowflakes…]

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora...or all over the web…]

read Kerri’s blogpost about SNOWFLAKES

Play [on DR Thursday]

“Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.” ~ Rainier Maria Rilke

The poet would have us understand this: our dragons are waiting to see us. They do not transform once we are beautiful and brave. Dragons do not suddenly appear as princesses. No, we transform. What we see changes. Through beautiful and brave eyes, princesses no longer appear as dragons.

Waiting to be seen. Waiting to see. I think Rilke knows that we are all beautiful and brave but are convinced otherwise. So, we hide. Or pretend. We don armor. The view from inside a tank is not as clear or expansive as the view from the outside. The poet would have us feel safe enough to open the hatch and step outside. It is there, in the expansive outside, that dragons facades fall away revealing princesses.

Another poet, Rumi, wrote, “Live as if everything is rigged in your favor.” Even before you see them as princesses, know that the dragons are on your team. That’s why they are waiting to see us as we are. Knowing the game is rigged in our favor is the surest path to seeing them as they are.

We decided to take a day away from the grindstone. We lifted our noses from the stone and took a drive to a small town. There was a specific shop in the tiny town that we wanted to visit. We drove back roads and successfully lost all sense of time and direction.

Instead of the warm day we’d hoped for, it was cold and rainy. Our fingertips ached and the ends of our noses were crimson so rather than wander the streets as we planned, we spent our time inside, imagining outrageous purchases and talking with shopkeepers. In those shops, laughing with those warm-hearted-people, our dragons fell from our sight.

We remembered: beautiful and brave are qualities of playfulness. To be seen, to see the dragons transform, play. The poet would have us play! Why wait?

The town was alive with sparkling light. Colorful picnic tables, undaunted by the rain, waited patiently for warmer times. We played and everything tilted in our favor.

read Kerri’s blogpost about COLORFUL TABLES

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

a dragon’s tale illustration © david robinson

waiting/joy! a christmas album © 1998 kerri sherwood

See Through The Trees [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

I was about to paint a new composition over an old canvas. Kerri flung herself in front of the old painting claiming that she loved it and had recently admired it. I wrinkled my brow at the impossibility of her claim. The old painting was an experiment I labeled “hotel art.” Also, it was sideways in the stacks. IF she admired it at all she was admiring it sideways. Standing between me and my canvas she said in all seriousness, “Do what you want, it’s your painting.”

Now, I will never paint over that painting. First, because I can never forget the face she made when she sprang into painting-savior mode. It melted my boorish heart. Next, because her “Do-what-you-want” manipulation was so unmasked and shameless that I’d suffer deep guilt for the rest of my days on earth if I did what I wanted and dared touch my dreaded hotel art. It’s no longer my painting. It’s become a moment that I adore, a memory that I cherish.

The new painting, had it made it into the world, would’ve been called, “Trains Through Trees.” I’ve been making sketches for a few years but, until recently, never arrived at something I liked. It’s a narrative. Our favorite yellow trail circles near railroad tracks and often on our walks a train rumbles through. For weeks Kerri made a series of videos, trying to catch the movement of the colorful graffitied train cars through the trees. Train performance art. I loved her excitement at the approaching train as she raced to a good spot to take her video. Those moments inspired an idea for a painting. The dreaded hotel art was the ideal canvas shape.

Two passing moments collide. The trains through trees. The painting-savior. They speak volumes about our life. Tiny moments like a hot cup of tea on a cold misty afternoon. They warm me. And, aren’t all of our days rich-rich-rich with the best moments of our lives, if we only took the time to notice them?

read Kerri’s blogpost about TINY MOMENTS

Spot The Angel [on KS Friday]

This is a true confession: one of my favorite holiday rituals is watching The Season of Miracles. Patty Duke plays an angel. Lynne Redgrave makes a cameo appearance that reaffirms my belief in justice. A young Mae Whitman steals my heart. I blubber at the ending every time, even though I know it’s coming. Who doesn’t want to love-blubber during the holidays?

This is another true confession: we’ve walked in and around Library Park dozens of times and never spotted the angel. She looks similar to the angel statue from the movie. I’d like to suggest that she’s usually hidden behind the foliage but that would be untrue. Apparently, we are not nearly as observant as we like to believe. Recently, on a walk to the post office, Kerri gasped and pointed. “It’s the angel from the movie!” she exclaimed. She wrinkled her brow and asked, “When did they put an angel there?”

She’s been there for quite awhile. She is a memorial statue for fallen soldiers from World War I. I’ve actually read the plaque at the base but, somehow, not noticed the angel atop the pillar.

In the movie, people have significant encounters with the angel-in-disguise. They turn away for a moment and she is gone. I’ve decided that we’re having the mirror of the movie experience. Our angel has been here all along, unnoticed. Hiding in plain sight. One day, we turned and she was present. Now, it’s impossible not to see her.

I’ve also decided to claim the angel-in-the-park as our metaphor. She’s been here all along, a guardian helping us on our fraught journey. She’s visible now because, like Patty Duke in the movie, we need an angel-nudge toward the best path forward. And who doesn’t want their good angel to be Patty Duke!

True confession: we’re very, very lucky.

read Kerri’s blogpost about ANGELS

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

this season/this season © 1998 kerri sherwood

Get Some Perspective [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Oh, god…I feel a fit of moralizing coming on….” ~ Words to myself, uttered just a moment ago.

This would seem like a no-duh: perspective requires distance. Said another way: to see the mountain, one cannot be standing atop of the mountain.

Much to Kerri’s dismay, I think out loud about these things. A lot. She has to listen to my ruminating. Marriage requires her to be in the same space with me and I talk endlessly about the things rattling through my mind. Just ask her. Let’s just say she has no distance from my incessant blather so she lacks perspective. Or, her capacity to ignore my noise is the result of experience which provides her solid perspective. Don’t ask me. I am not in the position to offer an opinion.

When you dip your mind into the pool of information technology as I have, it’s nearly impossible to NOT think about the absence of perspective. Actually, if you read or listen to the news-of-the-day or take a swim in the social media cesspool, and are able to step back from it (thereby creating some distance), you’ll find that meaningful perspective has long ago fled the building.

For years I’ve been reading about the pace of change. At some point – and we’ve arrived at that point – the event horizon (that which enables perspective) is no longer in front of us. We sit on top of it. Information comes too fast and without pause. And, often without substance. Without perspective, the context of our lives is as fleeting and changeable as “Breaking News” or the latest posts on social media. Since the algorithms are driven by the most “likes” not the most relevant, the ugliest and loudest noise-makers garner the most attention and dominate the air-time (thank goodness for cute pet posts providing some humor in the onslaught).

Attention-getting is not known for its grounding in solid perspective. Just ask the boy who cried wolf.

As we know, crying wolf works well – for a while. Attention-getting is addictive. Once hooked, people will do or say anything to keep their buzz going. Sitting directly atop the event horizon, the only way to keep the attention is, of course, to scream louder and louder. Escalate the outrage. A news cycle churns as fast as the social media stream. Remember: the algorithms are not based on meaningful substance but on the ability to grab attention. Louder/uglier wins the day.

Without perspective, escalating outrage – the loudest and nastiest train wreck – will always win the attention grab. It’s human nature. We sort to the negative. It’s why we share complaints with anyone who will listen but dribble-out the good news to a select few.

There is an important disappearance that accompanies the loss of perspective: crap-detecting. Awash as we are in a raucous bluster of vapidness, the only hope we have is to take a step back and question. To descend from the event horizon and ask, “Is this or that assertion true?” Or, is it meant to make me mad, fuel my anger? Is it tailor-made for my perspective-less bubble?

Stepping back, gaining perspective, asking relevant questions. Crap-detecting. If a better world is what we desire to create, dedicated crap-detecting is the necessary first step in being-the-change we wish to make.

read Kerri’s blogpost on PERSPECTIVE

Retrace Your Steps [on KS Friday]

We completed the first loop and, rather than continue in the same direction as we usually do, we turned and walked the other way, retracing our steps. It was remarkable. Walking in the opposite direction seemed like a different trail altogether.

It is the way of memory. Take a walk backward in life through places you’ve already been. It is a different trail. Often unrecognizable. In fact, with each backward stroll, the path is surprisingly different depending on the reason for retracing your steps.

This is the season for retracing steps. Remembering people and places, tastes and smells. Kerri asked how we celebrated Thanksgiving when I was a boy. We spent the next several hours roaming through our forgotten lands. Some were delicious. Some painful. Some made us laugh.

I’ve been talking with Horatio and emailing with Rob about next steps. Where to go from here. This seems like a well-worn path: sudden job loss. Their advice is clear: do not walk the same path. Do not do the same old thing in the same old way. “My advice is mundane,” said Horatio.

As we set our eyes on a new trail, we also walk old paths in our minds. In order to avoid doing the same old thing -again – we must first see the loop that we’re on. Turning around and walking in the opposite direction seems prudent.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about STEPS

figure it out/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Wink With Piet [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

My first thought was of Piet Mondrian. Not the colorful compositions but a never-before-seen shadow side. Abstract reduction into simple geometry. An artistic vocabulary concerned with spirituality and universal values. I used to ponder how a utopian pursuit of the spiritual landed on clean hard geometry; bold primary colors set inside hard black lines. I’m certain that, given a similar pursuit, my visual vocabulary would have been softer. Ethereal.

It was the first snow. I looked down at the aging planks of the bench. A criss-cross-apple-sauce of workmanship dusted with white. We’ve never painted the loveseat. After so many years, so many winters and summers, rain and snow and sun, the grain of the wood is alive with texture. An aged face.

One of my favorite rituals of spring is the first sitting. After another freezing winter, another year of age, will the wood continue to hold my weight, our weight? We hold hands and sit slowly, gingerly. Our knees creak before our weight finds the planks. Like a baton pass, the wood takes on the groaning as our knees pass our load to the seat. We sit for a moment with eyes open wide. And then, after a slight bounce-test, we relax. The wood will hold. Our loveseat is like a faithful friend.

The snow melted as fast as it arrived. That is the way of first snow. Blink and you’ll miss it. Except for the love seat and matching chair, we hauled all the other summer furniture into the garage. The table and umbrella. The small ladders that serve as end tables. The fire pit. The first dusting of snow is the cue. The pond freezes so we pull the pump and fountain. Soon, we’ll stack the plastic Adirondack chairs and they’ll take the last available spot in our tiny garage. We push the loveseat to the wall beneath the kitchen window.

We stand on the deck and sigh, feeling the weight of coming winter. The dark days. For a moment, the yard seems bleak. But then, the birds land on the wire. The squirrel highway is open for business. We hear the ancient croak of the cranes in the distance. A cold gust brings a blizzard of falling leaves. A wholly different kind of abundance. The energy moves underground. A time for sleeping and quiet rejuvenation.

Simple geometry. Reduction to cold days and hard lines. Brilliant blue sky. A wink from Piet Mondrian.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE DECK