Set It Free [on DR Thursday]

Horatio told me that, according to the happiness index, the good folks in Iceland sit atop the happiness-mountain. One reason, he explained, is that they’ve removed failure from their national equation. They cheer the effort, not the outcome.

Removing failure from the equation is the main ingredient for fun and success in all arenas, especially the arts. It is impossible to learn color theory without making some extraordinary messes. Ask a dancer how many times they tried and fell before they made that astounding leap look easy. Throw many pots and, over time, mastery will come – and mastery is nothing more than the understanding that there is no such thing as failure. It is the feel and touch of a long relationship with clay that can only come from not being afraid to throw it, to see what happens if…

Sometimes, no matter how hard I struggle with it or adjust it, a painting just isn’t working. Usually it doesn’t work because I’ve forgotten the rule about failure-removal. My brush is too timid. My brain is in the way. And yet, sometimes, in the middle of a painting that isn’t working, there is a small piece, the actual inspiration for the painting, that isn’t stilted, that remains alive and free of my fear. It’s easy to see. It captivates my eye, a warm island in the middle of a frozen sea. Every so often, rather than paint over the whole thing, I’ll lift the island, cut it out, set it free from it’s too-labored surroundings.

“Brutal,” Kerri said. “I liked that painting.”

“I’ll do another,” I replied. And maybe, I thought, another and another and another. Who knows, learning to cheer the effort takes some not-so-serious practice. It’s the only road back to the freedom of finger painting and the joy of playing in the sand.

Beautiful K.Dot, 12 x 9IN, mixed media

read Kerri’s blog post about CUT OUT

beautiful k.dot ©️ 2021 david robinson

Prepare For The Jump [on DR Thursday]

On the upside, an in-studio-waterfall, after the shop-vac-a-go-go, the sodden-carpet-padding-removal, the baking-soda-ballet, amidst the-we-are-still-hunting-for-the-proper-gasket-to-stop-all-leaks-quest, an opportunity arises. It’s been awhile since I sat with my life’s work. It’s been awhile since I made time to stare at my paintings, each and every single one.

I confess that this year has been rife with artistic mourning. I have barely picked up a brush. I have sat in my studio like a visitor at a wake. I feel the emptiness as a loss and have asked myself the fear-question again and again, “Where did it go?”

One of my favorite books is Art & Fear. Recently, I flipped it open and read, “Your reach as a viewer is vastly greater than your reach as a maker. The art you experience may have originated a thousand miles away or a thousand years ago, but the art you can make is irrevocably bound to the times and places of your life. Limited by the very ground on which you stand.”

A second flip brought me to this passage about change: “Yet it’s demonstrably true that all of us do (from time to time) experience such conceptual jumps, and while ours may not affect the orbits of the planets, they markedly affect the way we engage with the world around us.”

The times of our life. The world, for us, stopped when Kerri broke her wrists. She was in casts when the pandemic washed over all of us. Our jobs disappeared. Our community fragmented. Our city burned with civil unrest, a young militia-boy murdered two people a few blocks from our home. My father took rapid steps toward the abyss. Kerri took a second fall, tore ligaments in an already injured wrist. Our BabyCat left us. We talk about 2019 as if it was decades ago. “Doesn’t it seem like years since we…”

I know this death I feel will find its springtime. There was a “me” before this time. There will be another “me” after. Sitting on the stairs, looking at my paintings, I know for the first time in a-year-that-feels-like-a-century, that a conceptual jump is bubbling. I remember the man who painted these paintings. I look forward to meeting the man who will one day pick up his brushes and dance with the muse again.

In the meantime, I sit with my paintings. I stand in the ground of my times. I will find the right gasket so water no longer rains into my studio. I will prepare for my jump by putting all of my pieces back together again.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WATER STUDIO REVIEW