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

Flip It [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Standing on the trail, the cold breeze stinging my face, I stared at the trees in silhouette. I was overcome with the illusion that I was observing the trees upside-down. I was seeing their tangled root system, reaching. My illusion made me dizzy. What’s top is bottom. What’s bottom is top.

I’ve been pondering things like “leadership” and “power”. My belief of these concepts is the reverse of most peoples. I think leadership is a team sport and that power is created with others, not wielded over them. Roots to the sky.

Before the software start-up went away I pondered things like the abundance of content with no relevant context. Information without a home. Information sans application. Information run amok. It requires people to make-up context for the rootless material crossing their screens. In contemporary discourse, we call this made-up context “bubbles.” It’s an apt term since popping is the destiny of every bubble. No substance. The Villages.

Thank goodness for the cold wind. It snapped me out of my flip-flop illusion. The silhouette was righted. I remembered the shadow puppets in Bali. What we see is projection on a screen. Silhouettes. The real stuff, ripe with dimension and color, the massive system of roots and vibrant moving energy, stars and flow, creating forms and taking them down, happens whether we see it fully or not.

read Kerri’s blogpost about SILHOUETTES

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

Immerse [on Two Artists Tuesday]

The bright green ring in the tree beckoned. A time portal. Climb the tree and slip through the hoop to another time. Another place. What will you find there? It was one of many awe-inspiring moments in the immersive light experience at the Chicago Botanical Gardens.

A few weeks ago Rob suggested that I consider producing immersive experiences and my walk through the Gardens started a thought-wander.

Immersive is a new word in town. Well, it’s an old verb sporting a new adjective meaning. It’s a tech term. Surrounding “the user” with a generated 3-D image. Wander around town and you’ll find Immersive Van Gogh or Immersive Monet or Frida Kahlo, also Immersive. Technically, escape rooms are immersive. So is Disney World. A 3-D created experience.

A walk in the woods cannot be considered immersive since no technology is involved.

Immersion, one step beyond immersive, is the “perception of being physically present in a non-physical world.” Virtual reality. Dreams might be considered immersive except, like nature, technology is absent so the experience cannot be considered virtual or immersion.

To immerse means to dunk yourself in liquid or to dive deeply into a passion. When I stand before my easel and brush color onto canvas, I leave the world as I know it. I immerse in my paintings, though viewers of my paintings are incapable of having an immersive experience with my less-than-3-D-paintings. Is paint a technology? When Kerri plays, she enters a transcendent place. She fills the room with energy and light and I am transported. Am I having an immersive experience? I believe so.

Rounding a bend the night we walked through the Garden we came upon a field of illuminated pillars, colors changing and hopping with the beat of the music. I told Kerri that I saw this very display 20 years ago in an art gallery, though the technology 20 years ago was new and not nearly as impressive as what flashed in the field in front of us. The pillar-field was alive and was both mesmerizing and familiar.

The Gardens themselves, sans lights and music, are immersive. Groomed and created, meant to transport us from our everyday lives. We oooh and aaaah every time we visit. An explosion of color in a petal. The shape of a leaf. The quiet of the grove.

I loved the lights, the heightened immersive experience. We’ll make it a tradition. I’m excited to immerse in Van Gogh or thrill my way through Cirque du Soleil. As for producing immersive experiences, I am content to smear color on canvas or fall head-long into a story. Or, best of all, walk our path through the woods. There is no greater transporter of time-and-space than to suddenly find myself eye-to-eye with a fox crossing the trail.

read Kerri’s blogpost about HOOPS

Move The Eye [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“If you think good work is somehow synonymous with perfect work, you are headed for big trouble. Art is human; error is human; ergo, art is error.” ~ Art & Fear, David Bayles & Ted Orland

The winterberries came as a shock. Vibrant red pops in a bleak landscape of brown and grey. “They look like maraschino cherries!” Kerri laughed as she waded into the brush to get a photograph. In Wisconsin, the mere mention of maraschino cherries invokes immediate and widespread mixing of brandy old-fashioneds. Even though it was early in the day, I imagine people for miles around sensed the invocation and sprang toward their liquor cabinets.

“Sour or sweet?’ I asked, trying to be clever, but she was too engrossed in her photograph to hear my quip.

Watching her crouch to capture the shot, I thought, “Red makes the eye move.” It’s a lesson I learned beyond the abstract and used in my narrative paintings – a series that I’ve had on the back burner for ages. Limit the palette, move the eye with winterberry red. It’s a director’s thought. Guide the eye. It’s a playwright’s plot; tell the story through the anomaly. Create movement through curiosity rather than control.

Explode the idea. Run toward the edge. Extol the sore thumb!

I let my eye roam across the fields. Winterberry shock to Winterberry shock, electric reds pulling my eye across muted purple and drab green. The wind rattling branches, antlers clacking in the sky. I breathed it all in as she waded through the grasses back to the path. “Make big mistakes,” I heard Quinn whisper.

“The bigger the better,” I whispered in reply.

read Kerri’s blogpost about WINTERBERRIES

Locate The Center [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“The very center of your heart is where life begins. The most beautiful place on earth.” ~ Rumi

What, exactly, is the heart of the matter?

If you listen, what does your heart tell you?

What does it mean to “Follow your heart”?

Heart land? Heart song?

This weekend the question was asked, “Do you think there is an absolute truth?” I amused myself thinking of the oxymoron in the terms ‘absolute’ and ‘truth’. I am almost certain – but not absolute – that the question was really about the location of the center of heart. Is there a heart center? Where is the center of the universe? Here. And everywhere else.

Kerri pitched the small piece of chain onto the counter, saying, “This goes in the special box.” It landed in the shape of a heart.

“Hi, Pa!” I thought, and we laughed.

We wear pull chain as bracelets around our left wrists; the original pieces came from her father’s workbench. They are connective tissue to him and to each other. Heart chain. They periodically break so we are many generations from the original. The current chain is symbolic. This heart-piece was from my most recent chain break.

“What are the odds?” she asked.

Yes, indeed. What are the odds that a piece of pull-chain could so quickly bring us to the heart of the matter?

read Kerri’s blogpost about HEART

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

Share The Merlot [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Among my many escape fantasies is a not-so-far-fetched roadtrip across the country to perform our play, The Roadtrip, for Valentine’s Day in Mike’s theatre in the central valley of California. In my fantasy it’s a fundraiser for Mike. He’s generous and kind. He’s also the funniest person I know and a few laughs never hurt the soul. We’d park our fantasy RV at Rob’s house because, like Mike, he’s one of my favorite humans and I always feel better about life after time spent with him. Plus, he and his wife, Bea, are fabulous cooks and are wine-crazy like us. What could possibly refuel our art-jones better than good food and good wine shared with good people around a table of raucous laughter?

If you read the full text of our Roadtrip, our six month email exchange before we actually met, you’d read about two people falling in love. You’d also be awash in conversation about steaming mugs of coffee and appreciation of merlot.

As part of our wedding ceremony, we read a few of our Roadtrip exchanges. Julia reminded us recently when she left this hysterical and lovely decoration on our door. Julia is also a gift-of-light in this world. A spirit-lifter. Her note read that she immediately thought of us when she saw this and had to get it for us. We laughed out loud. The sentiment could not be more true. Her generosity could not be more moving, timely.

“You had me at merlot,” Kerri read, smiling. “I think we have a reputation.”

I think we are surrounded by extraordinary people. Julia, Mike, Rob, and others will certainly make an appearance later today when we sip our merlot in this life that we once could only imagine – and share together gratitudes in our Daily Gorgeous.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MERLOT

Ask A Familiar Question [on Two Artists Tuesday]

I’ve asked this question of clients a thousand times: What’s beneath? What’s beneath the fear, the yearning, the resistance, the denial, the dream? Asking, “What’s beneath?” is one way of “getting to the heart of the matter.”

The-heart-of-the-matter is rarely visible on the surface. The engine room, the place of power and life, is usually hidden at the bottom of the ship. It makes a lot of noise and is generally deemed “not pretty.” Getting to the-heart-of-the-matter usually requires a trip to the lower decks, a willingness to take off the mask or the armor, at least for a little while.

There is a stop on the way to the-heart-of-the-matter. This stop holds two contradictory options and both are misunderstood as the heart. Option #1: To stand out. Option #2: To fit in. To be valued and to belong. Both are wildly important and provide fuel for the trip but neither is the heart, yet it is a common stopping place for most people in their search for the heart-of-the-matter.

The real work of a heart is never dependent on the opinions of others. To get to the heart, one needs to press on.

When my job fell to dust, my first action was to let go of my symphony project. That choice surprised me. A younger version of me would have held onto that performance as if it was a life buoy. A way to stay afloat. A way of knowing who I am. This version of me knows the folly in that way of thinking: my artistry is not a flotation device. It is not a separate thing.

This time, near the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy, I find myself in a wide open space, with an abundance of love and belonging and no absence of esteem. I am at the top and bottom of the pyramid at the same time! It’s a great opportunity to ask myself an all too familiar question: What’s beneath?

In this life, what is the heart-of-the-matter?

read Kerri’s blog post about BENEATH

Call Attention [on Two Artists Tuesday]

I spent the past two years working with engineers. I was constantly amazed at what they could not see and what I could not see. They were blind to what was apparent to me and I was equally blind to what was obvious to them. It’s what made us a good team. Once, Scott sent a spreadsheet and I stared at it like it was an alien. And it was. Numbers in columns and rows become visual statements for me. I lose the data in the pattern. The information melts into a design on the page. It was beautiful and incomprehensible to me. I had to ask, “What does this mean?”

Yesterday, Kerri and I took a long hike on a trail that we hadn’t walked for a few years. It was a beautiful day. I was overcome with appreciation. I recognized that we do not walk like other people. We stop often to look. Kerri takes photographs of detail. She sees the smallest of miracles and, rather than walk-on-by, she stops. She engages. She calls my attention to it. While she snaps pictures, I close my eyes. I feel the air. I hear the cranes and geese flying overhead. I call her attention to it.

The crystals on the window stopped me in my tracks. Standing in the door of my office, I looked across the hall through a room and to the window. The ice-branches sparkled in the morning light. They were like a magic kelp forest frozen in time. I called to Kerri and she came running, camera in hand.

I cherished the moment, not because it was unusual, but because it is our ordinary. What happens on the trail also happens in our home. We are not in a rush to get “there.” We stop often to look. We call attention to what we see.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CRYSTALS