Balance [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Each day we sit on the deck and watch the personality of the lake change. We are witness to the power of the elements at play. Wind drives wave. Wave evaporates and moves wind. Lighting hits earth. Rain feeds the plants. Too much rain, too much wind, too much fire, devastates.

Balancing the elements. It is the central thought in many traditions. The cardinal directions are associated with a color and an element. North, south, east, west. Air, fire, water, earth. People need associations in order to talk about things. In order to know where they fit.

The colors differ from tradition to tradition. Sometimes black, white, red, and yellow. Sometimes blue, green, yellow, red. Sometimes there is a fifth element. There is always a center. When there is the understanding of center point there is also an acknowledgment that separations, experiences like north, south, east and west, are illusions.

Balance is a radically different intention than dominance. Taming-your-nature is not the same as balancing-your-nature. In the tame-your-nature idea, nature, your nature, is corrupt and needs to be controlled. In the balance-your-nature idea, your nature is neither good nor bad, it is a dance of energy, a push-pull of wind and fire, air and earth. In the balance-your-nature idea, there is no such thing as “wild.” because there is no intention to “tame.”

As you might imagine, the artist that explores the tame-your-nature mindset understands their artistry much differently than the artist that explores balance. I was born into and oriented toward the culture of tame-your-nature and so I divine through brush and story the push-pull between goodness and badness. Combat, combat everywhere. Right/wrong. Us/Them. Good enough/lacking.

I desire to see through the other lens. I suspect this desire is the epicenter, the driver behind my paintings. To understand the world I inhabit as energies at play, to know beyond an intellectual understanding that the distinctions don’t really exist; wind is not separate from water, earth is not separate from fire, people are not separate from planet. Illusion. Our division is a play of shadow puppets at best.

I think it is why we hang prayer flags at our littleislandhouse and at our home. Surrounded by combat, we are drawn by the desire to balance, we are enticed by the possibility of harmony.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PRAYER FLAGS

 

 

 

 

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island prayer flags photograph ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

Harness The Energy [on KS Friday]

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Lately, in my new role as co-managing director of a performing arts space, I find myself repeating the same simile/metaphor over and over and over and over… (insert Kerri’s eye roll). This week, my favorite-simile-repetition goes something like this: communication is like a river, it needs proper banks if it is going to flow. Without banks, it spills out all over the place flooding basements and creating havoc.

Needless to say, our job thus far is largely about placing proper banks on this flood plain of communication. Placing proper banks, at first, creates consternation and resistance. No one likes a limit until the limit works in their favor, until the constraint makes life easier.

Boundaries. Limits. Constraints. It is what I adore about the arts: freedom of artistic expression is the result of discipline, technique, and practice. And, the heart-desire of discipline, technique and practice is unfettered play. It is a paradox. It is boundaries placed on a rushing torrent so it can flow. The harnessing of creative energy. Communication is an intentional art and art is communication with an intention.

Kerri’s BOUNDARIES is a bubbling brook, bright with the morning sun, tumbling and playful within its banks. It seems so easy, her flow. But I know the truth. This ease and flow, this call to put your feet in the brook and rest for awhile with the sun on your face, comes from the years and years of hours and hours and hours of practice. Boundaries. A riverbank, a limit that will work in your favor. It is the creative flow through a heart that desires to play and play and play.

 

BOUNDARIES on the album RIGHT NOW is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BOUNDARIES

 

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boundaries/right now ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

Listen Well [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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When I wore my life/business coaching hat, many of my clients secretly wanted to be painters or writers. After wading around in the depths of their dissatisfaction, they’d finally say something like, “What I really want to do is write a book.” And then, they’d divert their eyes and say, “I just don’t know how to get there.”

The path was always simple to say but difficult to execute. Write. Write everyday. There is no magic path. As Tom would say, “A writer writes. A painter paints.” The action is rarely difficult to do; the story wrapped around it is…well, another story altogether.

The difficulty comes in the form of a many headed monster called vulnerability. “If I write (paint, dance, act…) people will judge what I write (paint, dance, act…).” It’s a heavy cloak to wrap around the creative heart. Yes. They will judge. Some will diminish you and some will praise you to the sky. However, that has little or nothing to do with being a writer or painter, with becoming a better writer or painter. Neither the praise nor the derision is truth or accurate or meaningful.

Both accolades and critiques can pull an artist off-center. To listen to either is to ignore  the quiet prompting of the muse. The essential will be lost in the chatter.

My mind is a tumble of truism. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” etc. There is no other way to be a writer than to sit down and write. There is no way to become a better painter than to stand at the easel and paint. And, while writing and painting and acting, there is a necessary skill for an artist to develop: learn to let the opinions and judgments of others pass through. They have nothing to do with creating and everything to do with what others are seeing. The artist’s job is not to determine what others see. The job is to write and paint, to create what the muse whispers in your ear.

There is no other way. Artistry is not an achievement. It is an action, a relationship.

Act well your part. Paint well your painting. Write well your novel. Listen well to your muse.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ACT WELL YOUR PART…

 

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Turn And Open [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Real education is understanding the significance of life, not just cramming to pass examinations. ~ Krishnamurti

Tom used to call it The Little Green Bottle theory. The illusion of learning at the expense of real learning. It is the worst fate for a curious mind to confuse active pursuit with passing the test.

The worst fate for an artist is to be revered. Artists who are revered regardless of what they do, stop growing – or worse – they twist. They confuse themselves with their art. And, because they are lauded for any and everything thing they do, they lose their muse. They no longer need to listen or seek or try.  They insulate and turn in on themselves. Knowing that their feedback loop – called an audience – will give them a perfect score no matter what they do, oddly makes their work not matter at all. They – and their work – and their audience – become an energy eddy, an empty bottle with no substance. The circle closes.

Long ago, I guest-directed a play at a college. There was a student, an extraordinarily talented young man, who was coddled by his professor. She heaped praise on him. He was cast as the lead in all productions. In fact, I was (hush-hush-nod-nod) required to cast him. He was protected from the rules and rigors his peers were required to follow. He simply needed to show up.  I crossed his path again a few years later and he was a very sad and empty young man. He left his small pond and didn’t have the skills or work ethic to swim in the ocean. He wondered why no casting director would work with him, why no masters program would admit him. He expected reverence. His talent collapsed on itself. Many of his peers, those who had to work, to grapple, to reach, to struggle, had solid and thriving careers. Rather than helping him grow, his professor, his college community, stunted his artistry. His circle closed.

The waters are so calm this morning. Hog Island seems to float in the air. Sitting on the dock, I feel perplexed. Lately, the world so often feels upside-down, in service to the opposite of what it professes. Islands feigning connection. Closed circles working hard to stay closed even awash in the knowing that they can only breathe when opened. They can only grow when challenged, when they open the gates. They can only thrive when they turn, open the circle, paddle toward the limitless horizon and face the unknown.

The muse is out there, waiting.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE DOCK

 

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photograph: on the dock of the bay ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

Play Again Please [on KS Friday]

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I just broke the first rule of the melange. I peeked over Kerri’s shoulder to see what she was writing. It’s true, she misses her piano. It’s true, last night, as we were closing the theatre, after a day of high anxiety, she walked onto the dark stage, opened the 9 foot grand piano delivered for the chamber music festival currently performing from our TPAC, and began to play. I sat in the dark and listened. Her anxiety and frustration transformed. She nurtured herself into artistry. And, once again, as I always do in these moments, I thought what a pity it is that I am the only person on this planet privy to the full breadth and depth of her artistry.

Streaming services, although great and free for listeners worldwide, have filled artists like my wife with a gigantic Why Bother. The streaming services are making a great living off of her music. More than a million people each year listen to Kerri’s compositions. She profits not at all. The streaming services stand between her and the money her music produces. They toss her less than a bone.

She just wrote that she misses her piano but I think it is more than that. I think she misses the vitality, the good heart that grows inside an artist when they produce, when they challenge themselves, when they explore new territory and bring what they find back for the rest of us to hear. It nurtures the artist. It nurtures the audience. Left unexplored, an artist’s heart fills with anxiety and depression, it closes against the pain.

Last night, after the chamber music had died, in a dark theatre, I listened to a second concert. It was more powerful than the first because it was pure. It was an artist talking to herself, reaching through the Why Bother door and touching, even for a moment, the answer: because it nurtures you to play. It nurtures you to create. I know it nurtures me to listen.

 

NURTURE ME on the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART  is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about NURTURE ME (and don’t tell her I peeked)

 

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nurture me/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

 

 

 

Continue To Learn [on DR Thursday]

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Last week we helped our dear 20 pack his late father’s paintings. His dad, Duke Kruse, was an exceptional and prolific artist. As we wrapped the pieces, preparing them for storage, I couldn’t help but study them. Duke was free and bold. His color palette was precise. His technique was impeccable. And, a few years after his death, his work has nowhere to go. No gallery. No museum. After the estate sale, we will catalogue it. 20 will store it.

It was bittersweet. I got to spend time with the work of an extraordinary painter. It was inspiring and thrilling. I learned. I also got a glimpse of what will most likely happen to my work after I am gone. It will be catalogued. It will be stored.

My work is similar to Duke’s: I have fine technique and my subject matter is not widely accessible. Like Duke, I have individual buyers. My paintings are in collections across the nation. But, also like Duke, no collectors seek my work. At this late stage, like Duke, I have no greater gallery representation. No one, besides me, is actively promoting my work. I paint. I take a photograph of the new piece, catalogue it, and then throw it onto the stack. It begs the question, ” Why do it?”

Horatio is a gifted artist. During his recent visit, we descended into my studio and we waded into the stacks. I was delighted to pull out and show him my paintings. I value his thoughts and opinions. He rarely shows his work. He doesn’t paint to show. He paints for himself. He paints, like Duke and like me, because he has to. He paints because the paintings work on him, too. They paint him. They challenge and change him.

This afternoon we will move the final load of Duke’s work. I doubt if Duke would care much that his paintings will disappear into storage. He did his work and the paintings served him well. They made him soul-rich and laughter-filled.

And, so, from Duke, – and Horatio – I learn. From my paintings I also continue to learn. It begs the question, “Why not?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE STACKS

 

 

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Feel The Mountains [on Two Artists Tuesday]

 

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Look carefully. In the distance you will see the mountains. “It kills me, “Kerri said, staring out the window as we drove east out of Colorado. She craned her neck and watched as the mountains faded into the distance. She took a picture more to reach than record them.

The mountains make her weep. Seriously. Driving up the canyon, leaving the flats of Denver behind, she catches her breath and then the tears roll down her cheeks. “It’s so beautiful.” she utters, wide-eyed, incapable of taking it all in.

Leaving them is harder still. I watch her writhe in her seat, growing more agitated the further away that we get. “Damn it,” she fumes. These mountains are her holy land. They inspire songs and poems and musing. Leaving is not a geographic equation. She feels the separation.

In every corner of our home you will find a pile of rocks, mementos from our travels. And, in each pile, among all the other treasures, there is always a special rock, a mountain rock. She surrounds herself with mountains, even living on this great plain, a block away from a great lake. An artist knows where her power comes from.

She sits at her piano. She opens her computer to write. Surrounded by mountains, she composes. She feels the connection and it fills her with inspiration. Going home is not a geographic equation.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MOUNTAIN IN THE DISTANCE

 

 

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