Listen To Them [on Merely A Thought Monday]

cleared the path bridge copy

Saul taught me to look beyond anything I understood as an obstacle and, instead,  place my focus on the field of all possibilities. “Place your focus on the obstacle and you will deal with the obstacle. Place your focus on the possibilities and you will deal with possibilities.”

Tom taught me to choose my battles and to fight only those worth fighting. “You don’t want to die on every hill,” he said. “In life there are really only one or two hills worth dying on.”

Ironically, Quinn, one the best storytellers I’ve ever known, taught me not to make up stories. Pointing to the big tall bank building he said, “See those people up there on the top floor? They don’t know what they are doing, either. They’re just making it up, too.” Or, maybe, he was attempting to teach me to tell a better story about myself.

It is not an understatement to say that I am rich in guides, teachers and mentors.

Doug, a Vietnam vet and one of the best teachers I’ve known, one day called me into his office and showed me a tattered, ruined book of poetry. “I bought it in the airport on the way to the war,” he said. “It saved my life.” He told me the story and it made me weep. Doug taught me the power of art. So did Paul and Roger. My two MM’s (Master Marsh and Master Miller) continue to teach me this lesson. Dawson, too.

Kerri and I are in a period of change that is simmering with unknowns. It is not the first time in my life that the dense fog has come in. She asked, “What do you think will happen?” I said, “Well, ultimately we’ll die.” She punched me. “That’s not what I mean!” she groused, adding a second punch. “Geez.”

Later, after the double punch, we took a walk on the Des Plaines river trail. An elderly man came around the bend and said with great jest and enthusiasm, “I cleared the path for you! It’s all clear.”

“Clear.”  It’s a poetic term. It means ‘possibility.’ And I heard them, my chorus of teachers and guides. All of them. Loud and clear.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CLEAR PATH

 

muddy boots blue website box copy

 

Mix It [on DR Thursday]

palette copy

True confessions: I never clean my palette. I like the messy build up of color. I like the chunky texture. It serves as a gunky history of my work, a genealogy of paintings past. And then, over time, it becomes a tactile work of art in its own right. Unfettered by any of the mental gymnastics or over-ponderous considerations that plague my “real” work, it is the closest to child-mind that I will achieve. It is accidental. It is free.

This might be a stretch but it is, for me, nevertheless true. I love my palette because it is the place of alchemy in my artist process. It is the true liminal space. I begin with pure color. I smashed the pure color together with another color and transform it into a third color, the hue I intend. On a palette, color becomes intention. And then, once transformed, with a brush or knife I lift the color-intention from my palette and in an action that is often more responsive than creative, I place it onto a canvas. It transforms yet again relative to all the color it touches. An image emerges. More color is called for.

And, somewhere in this call and response of color, I become like the palette. The pass-through of alchemy, the door that color passes through en route to something beautiful. And, in the process, perhaps I, too, in my messy build up of life/color, grow closer to that child mind. Unfettered. Accidentally interesting. Free.

“You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough” ~ William Blake

 

read Kerri’s blog post about my PALETTE

 

roadtrip reading website box copy

 

Horses FullSize copy

untitled, mixed media 48 x 48IN

 

 

 

 

Paint The Can [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

duke's painting copy

I imagine this still life is a painting that Duke merely tossed off. It was an exercise, something he painted because, well, he wanted to paint but wasn’t awash in inspiration. He looked around for a subject, any subject, and laughed when it occurred to him that the coffee can stuffed with brushes and tubes of paint lying willy-nilly on his table would make a sufficient study. When it was complete, he liked it enough to hang in the hallway of his house. It hung there for years. I imagine he and his wife, Eileen, looked at it everyday – to the point that they probably stopped seeing it. It was the norm. Part of the hallway.

It remained in the hallway after his death.

A few weeks ago Kerri and I helped Duke’s son, 20, move his mom into a nice assisted living apartment. After the furniture was moved in and the dishes and lamps, the final piece was Duke’s painting of brushes in a coffee can. It is the piece that made Eileen’s new apartment feel like home. Before we hung it on the wall we took some time and studied the painting. Duke was great painter!  I imagine that he had no idea on the long-ago-day that he decided old brushes in a coffee can would make a nice study, that his coffee can, like the Velveteen Rabbit of paintings, would come to mean so much. That it would carry associations like “home” and “Duke.”

It’s probably good that an artist cannot know the destiny of their work.

I imagine he put on the final touches of paint, the highlights, stood back and thought, “It’s good. I like this one.” He dropped his brush in some turpentine and made his way upstairs the get another cup of coffee.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DUKE’S PAINTING

 

 

k&dbw backs website box_ copy

Ask, “Why?” [on Merely A Thought Monday]

guidance framed copy

I’m told that every evening of her life, Margaret would stop what she was doing, and go outside to watch the sun set. If she was on the phone she would hang up. If she was doing dishes she’d turn off the water. She’d step into her back yard and attend the setting of the sun. It was her ritual.

Last year, Kerri, my mom, and I took my dad back to visit the small town where he grew up. He wanted to live his life there but that was not to be. Now, he is sliding into dementia. Before his sun set he wanted to make at least one last pilgrimage to the place he’s always considered home.

I draw and paint. Not because I want to but because I have to. As far back as I can remember that has been true. The rest of this world seems like Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole. Mad. Illusory. Missing the point. I know what is solid and true when I step in front of a canvas. It’s a paradox, yes?

Why do people make paintings? Why do they compose music? Why are we tellers of story? Inventors of story? Poets? Budget makers and parents alike caution that there is no real value in the arts. They rarely make money. Money making as the ultimate arbiter of value makes for an empty world, indeed.

Why do people climb mountains, jump out of airplanes, or kayak over waterfalls?

“Why does she say, ‘guidance is eternal?'” Kerri asked. We were streaming an episode of Life Below Zero on the National Geographic site and the Boeing commercial came up for the umpteenth time. Amid images of advanced technology and machines that fly, the narrator begins a countdown, 10, 9, 8, guidance is internal, 6, 5,… “I think she’s saying that guidance is internal, not eternal.” We looked at each other. Either way, what a great phrase! Guidance is internal. Guidance is eternal.

Why do people step outside each evening of their lives to watch the setting sun? Return like salmon to their birthplace? Listen to the wind and run to their piano?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GUIDANCE

 

slow dance party cropped website box copy

 

Make The Climb [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

display of knowledge in frame copy

Roger and I used to talk about art in terms of levels of sophistication. For instance, no one masters an instrument the first time they pick one up. There are layers of learning necessary before the musician “knows” how to play. The “knowing” has little to do with the accumulation of information and everything to do with giving over to what the body learns. Finally, it is a letting go (of the mind) into an undefended sharing. Flow. It has nothing to do with knowing and everything to do with availability. This ‘availability to experience’ is what we called sophistication.

Both the artist and the audience pass through layers of greater sophistication. The artist wants greater and greater challenges. The audience wants greater and greater challenges, that is, they want to participate in something that demands more from them. It requires that both artist and audience show up, open, give over. Union is the ultimate purpose of art. Participation in something greater than your self. That is how art informs and transforms.

And then, there is the flip side, the anti-art. You can feel it. The absence of the genuine experience. The demonstration of accumulated knowledge. I cringe when a curator launches a three-masted-ship-of-study that tells me what the art is about, what the artist felt, and what I should see and feel. When the actor attempts to control what I see, when the art is so conceptual that it precludes me or anyone save the artist from entering the conversation, when the  knowledge priest stands between me and my god…you’ll know the levels of sophistication have left the building when the conversation is one way, judged, controlled.

Kerri calls this the blah-blah. When a real moment is disrupted by an agenda, when the flow is dammed by an unnecessary display of knowledge. And, the kicker is, we are all guilty of it. I am. It is a necessary step in climbing the ladder of sophistication, slipping back down the ladder of sophistication. To confuse technique with art. To garble the necessity of the open heart with  the realm of the intellectually abstract.  To give a standing ovation to something that put you to sleep. To try to control what the other person sees or thinks or feels; a fool’s errand. The great artist trap. The great life trap.

And, the best you can do (truly, the best thing), is to catch yourself in the moment of blah-blah, laugh at yourself lost in the trap, pull out the ladder, and begin again to climb toward simplicity.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AN UNNECESSARY DISPLAY OF KNOWLEDGE

 

 

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Ask The Question [on DR Thursday]

palm tree copy

a morsel of Tango With Me. Kerri calls this one ‘Palm Trees.’

I’m proud of Skip. He decided that learning to paint with a palette knife was the best way this year to work on his soul. In my eyes, it is a sure path. He sent photos of his first efforts. Luscious in color and texture, they are abstracts. He showed his efforts to his wife and received the single question that no artist can answer yet it is the first question that every viewer-of-art asks: what is it?

It is the assumption of representation. The need for location. The desire to be told what “it” means. No one wants to be wrong or offend so they ask the artist to provide the interpretation – which will rob the viewer of their own experience. It will short-circuit the relationship between viewer and painting. As Joseph Campbell quipped, ” If the artist doesn’t like you, he (or she) will tell you what it means.”

Color, form, composition, and movement. Art. Abstraction. In a world of individualism, abstractions are capable of telling a different story unique to each individual. They refuse to locate you and, instead, ask you to participate. Make meaning. Don’t seek what is expected, bring to the painting what is evoked.

It creates a tension. It calls us to sit in the paradox of our times. Is there one meaning or many? How is it that people so devoted to self-expression believe they can best express their individualism by shopping together at The Gap?

At the center of potent art, at the bottom of great learning, is the same question: what is it to you?

 

TangoWithMe-Final copy

Tango With Me, mixed media, 39 x 52IN

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PALM TREES

 

 

cheers! shopping in chicago website box copy

tango with me/palm tree ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Let It Catch You [on DR Thursday]

the shadow of division copy

a morsel of Earth Interrupted IV: shadow of division

Sometimes you have to stand still to let what you seek catch up to you. Kerri said that to me one day. Her words found their way into me and then became a poem and then the poem found its way into a painting, Earth Interrupted IV.

This week the painting found its way into a morsel for Studio Melange. A wisdom inspired a poem, became a painting, became a morsel called Shadow Of Division. Today, it becomes a post. Which, I am sure, will inspire another poem or a song (anything is possible in our house).

Art begets art. The well of possibilities is bottomless. And, rather than chase the possibilities as was once my strategy, I am learning to stand still. A wisdom, a poem, a painting, a morsel, a post about cycles and all things life giving.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SHADOW OF DIVISION

 

shadow des plaines river trailwebsite box copy

My favorite thing about shadows? They blend divisions. They make cool new and surprising shapes out of seemingly separate things. Transformation is so simple and just a small shadow away.

 

shadow of division/earth interrupted IV ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood