Imagine The Dinosaur [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

I was 52 years old when I finally had children and, luckily for me AND for them, they were both adults. As I told Kerri, I was fortunate to become a parent when our children were already fully cooked. Just kidding. Or not.

We often speculate about what life might have been like had we met when we were younger. Once, on a road trip, we were making ourselves laugh hysterically with the names we would have given to the poor beings that might have had us as parents. We landed on Chicken Marsala and almost crashed the car. We pretended Chicken was in the back seat. He was voicing his concerns at our driving, snack choices, and need to stop so often [Kerri likes brochures…].

Having artists for parents left Chicken feeling a bit anxious. We found it somehow comforting to finally have a responsible adult present in the car with us.

read Kerri’s thoughts on this Saturday Morning Smack-Dab.

smack-dab. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Come Home [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“I search for the realness, the real feeling of a subject, all the texture around it…I always want to see the third dimension of something…I want to come alive with the object.” ~ Andrew Wyeth

The first time I walked into this house, I felt that I’d come home. It was a potent moment because I’d never felt that before, not in my entire life. I was a wanderer, even as a small child.

I’d come to meet this woman named Kerri. I’d been writing emails to her daily for the previous six months. A job afforded me the opportunity to stop over and meet her face-to-face. She picked me up at the airport [she was the one holding the daisy], we held hands and skipped to the car, talked non-stop during the hour-plus drive from O’Hare airport. When we arrived at the house, I laughed when she asked me to wait at the front door. She wanted me to come into the house through the front door but the key hadn’t worked in years, so she ran around back to come through the house to let me in. When the door opened, with my rolly-bag in tow, I stepped into the house and caught my breath. I almost started to cry but inhaled my overwhelm back into my body. Home. I knew this place.

It was a festival of texture. Raw wood exposed through the aging, flaking paint. Immediately I could see that this woman populated her world with stories, surrounded herself with rocks and wood and tin. She lived in a tangible world, loved the raw and the real, and had a designer’s eye. The dining room was a miracle of tortoise-esque pattern made when she stripped the wallpaper. She loved it so much that she abandoned her plan for paint and left the marks exposed.

This was an artist’s house. The hardwood floors creaked. Some of the antique door handles popped off if you pulled too hard. “It’s an old house and has its quirks,” she explained as she pulled a screwdriver from the silverware drawer to tighten the screw that holds the screen door latch in place. I learned over time that there are somethings you fix and others that you don’t because to fix them would interrupt the relationship with the house. Now I, too, weekly pull the screwdriver from the silverware drawer and tighten the aged-nearly-stripped-screw that holds the screen door latch in place.

Shabby-chic. They gave her style a name and she beamed the first time she heard it. “That’s me!” she exclaimed, “Shabby-Chic!”

When my dad came for our wedding, he stood on the back deck and said to me, “If you don’t put a finish on this deck, you’re going to lose it.” I told him that Kerri liked it that way. In fact, she’d throw herself in my path, she’d break my fingers, if I attempted to clean it, let alone paint it. He nodded and said, “Well, that’s all that matters really.”

Home. All that matters. Alive with stories that reach back and back and back. Texture and piles and projects everywhere I look. The lock on the front door still doesn’t work. And, like my wife, Kerri, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

read Kerri’s blog post on SHABBY-CHIC

Conceal To Reveal [on Two Artists Tuesday]

When I was tilting at windmills, one of my favorite things to facilitate was mask work. I brought masks to lawyers, to CEOs, to teacher’s, government workers, elementary school students, corporate trainers, business coaches and sometimes to actors. There’s nothing better than a mask to pop open possibilities and challenge petrified thinking.

Masks conceal and reveal. They serve the paradox and, therefore, are tapped into the root of truth.

It’s impossible to work with masks for long before realizing that the faces we wear everyday are also masks. We “put on” a smile. We attempt to hide what we feel by the mask we manufacture. Some faces freeze in masks of indifference or masks of disdain. We perform ourselves, and craft our masks accordingly.

Many cultures around this world believe the mask opens a communication with the gods. Don a mask and something bigger-than-you speaks through you. When I paint I often have that feeling. Artistry sometimes means getting out of the way so the creation can flow.

It’s why I brought masks to lawyers and CEOs and corporate folks and teachers. To introduce them to the fields that bloom beyond their need to control. So much of their lives, so many of their problems and challenges were wrestling matches of control. They were actively creating the obstacles that they desired to remove.

What do we actually control when we harden our faces over what we feel? What do we gain by attempting to control what others see or think or feel? We are makers of our own prisons. We are deluded by our fantasy that we have the capacity to determine what others see. The only control we exert is upon ourselves.

The mask work makes abundantly clear that control is not power. Power – creativity – flows. It is the dance of the artist to master technique, to learn control, and then transcend it. To get out of the way.

My favorite moment, with every group, in every circumstance, came when the masks released the people and they slowly, respectfully said goodbye and removed them. Their faces was also mask-less. It was like seeing infant’s faces. Bright. Open. They would, for a few brief moments, look at each other, unmasked and unprotected. Simply astonished at being alive, together, in the world.

read Kerri’s blog post about MASK

Follow The Conversation [on Merely A Thought Monday]

I met Horatio on an airplane. With his wife, Teru, we were seatmates on a flight from Washington D.C. to Seattle. I’d just finished facilitating a workshop at the Smithsonian about story, he was stepping toward directing films, and Teru is passionate about writing life histories. We talked about storytelling clear across the country and our conversation continues to this day.

David and I sat next to each other at a conference. I’d only just moved to Seattle, I knew no one. I saw a sign for the conference and wandered in. It was my good fortune to pick a seat next to a brilliant visual and theatre artist. We started talking about life and art. Years later, every gallery I enter, every play I attend, I have conversations with David in my mind – and hurry home to write him or call him and share what we talked about.

To this day, MM is my greatest collaborator. We used to sit in my office and dream big dreams – and then go out and make them happen. He is the ultimate player-of-infinite-games, playing-to-play. When I need my mind opened, my pot stirred, or my obstacles surmounted, I turn to MM.

I was visiting Tom McK at his ranch. When he asked me to help him tell a story I had no idea that his simple question, the story that he needed to tell, would take more than a decade and would only be possible after his death. His story became my story to tell.

It was Tom’s story that I told to Horatio that day on the flight from D.C. to Seattle. It was multiple good conversations over many years with David about writing plays that finally brought me to clarity. MM was my constant companion. With his band, Mom’s Chili Boys, he composed the music that supported the telling of Tom’s story. He built the world of the play and then, together, we stepped into the world and fulfilled Tom’s request.

Fortuitous seat assignments on a flight. Following an impulse into a conference and taking any old seat. Playing an infinite game. One good conversation, again and again, and nothing will ever be the same.

read Kerri’s blog post about ONE GOOD CONVERSATION

Get To Work [on Two Artists Tuesday]

On page one of the despot’s handbook is this instruction: silence the artists. Mute the intellectuals. Authoritarians have power only when people become sheep. Silence in the face of abuse is tacit agreement. Permission to bully.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve stood before a school board and explained that art is supposed to be powerful, that it plays a very important role in a healthy society, I’d have a lot of nickels. I was generally called to speak when a play or a painting upset the apple cart, when the art made the community confront a truth or look at a reality. Brecht’s Epic Theatre or the plays of Artaud were/are meant to shake the irrational in people, force them into discussion and revelation.

Art can be beautiful, poetry can soothe, but that is only one side of the coin. It can also shine a light and expose an ugly truth. It can give voice to what is not-being-spoken. It can work out problems on the stage instead of sending the violence into the streets. It can ask us to take a hard look at ourselves and our motives. Picasso’s large painting, Guernica, a response to horror wrought by fascists on the people of a town in Spain, is a powerful art-mirror.

The conscience of a community, like the conscience of every individual that comprises the community, lives beyond the superficial, it bubbles in the place beyond words. An artist’s job is to reach into that place, pull the veil for a moment, root or re-root the community in its values.

A despot’s job is to secure a unanimous vote, no questions asked. Sheep.

Art is not superficial. It is not the image or the words on the page. It is what the image, the words, the dance, the music, touch. Hearts. Souls. Conscience.

Without it, what remains is propaganda. Propaganda is never news, it is the opposite of art. It snuffs the question, it prevents the quest for meaning and deep-felt-truth. Without it, communities flatten, lose their center, wither, and fall apart. Silence, eyes downcast or sideways glancing. Permission to bully. Sheep.

It’s time for the artists to get to work.

read Kerri’s blog post about ARTISTS

Paint A Surprise [on DR Thursday]

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This painting hangs in Kerri’s studio. I painted it in secret. It was my wedding present to her.

More than once she came down the stairs into my studio while I was working on it. It’s harder than you might think to surprise someone that you are with 24/7. I’d hear the door open at the top of the stairs and scramble to put a sham painting in front of it.

“How’s it going?” she’d ask.

“Fine,” I’d pant, feigning nonchalance and hoping she wouldn’t notice that the paint on my brush didn’t match the painting on the easel. I’d dab a little here and there to sell my diversion.

She’d stand back and examine the sham painting. “Tell me what you’ve done since the last time I saw it?” she asked, puzzled.

“It’s subtle,” I’d say. “You probably can’t see the changes yet.” She’d squint and purse her lips and continue into the laundry room. I’d sigh and “work” on the sham until she went back up the stairs.

I love this painting. I love how I painted it (it was fun making a secret gift!) and I love why I painted it. It is both simple and complex (like we are). It is alive with symbols that trace stories about us, about our life together, our origin. It is a painting that becomes more “true” with each passing year.

Today, four years ago, I successfully surprised her with this painting. Later in the day, we skipped out of the church, transformed.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AND NOW [THE PAINTING]

 

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my bride at our reception! this picture captures exactly what i adore about her.

Give It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Janus is a Roman god with two faces. He looks to the future and peers into the past. He is the god of beginnings and endings, transitions, doorways, and passages. He is the god of gateways, the liminal spaces, the between.

Janus must certainly be the god that we dance with on this island, a community defined by divisions, married to its conflicts but also, at least rhetorically, desiring peace.

Kerri and I are the stewards of a performing arts center that is, as Julian Dawson said, punching above its weight. It is the symbol of division in the community, the epicenter of discord, the rope in a very ugly tug-of-war. All of the fault lines run through it. Yet, as Janus would remind us, it then must also hold the path to unity, the potential for common ground.

All in the community want the doors to be wide open; none want the responsibility that comes with access. They want the center, the art, to serve them. They do not yet comprehend that any alive and vital art space is, in fact, the opposite: a place of service to others. Arts spaces and the artists the enliven them are keepers of the commons, the stewards of the stories that unite.

In another life I ran an educational theatre company. It boomed into life the day that the artists, the students, grocked that art was in fact a gift given to others, something they brought to people, not something (like attention or fame or a spotlight) that they got from people.

This island, this center, will someday boom into life. They will discover that the rope in the tug of war goes slack when they walk toward each other. Pulling in opposition exhausts everyone. They will come alive when they cease asking, “What do we get?” and start asking, “What do we bring?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about EDGES

 

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Be A Part Of The Wind [on KS Friday]

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I am a sturdy proponent of The Paris Theory. I made it up so it only follows that I am a stalwart adherent. The Paris Theory goes like this: if you try to get to Paris you will end up in Kansas City every time; the fastest way to Paris is to shoot for Kansas City.

A quick read of The Paris Theory implies that Kansas City is a lesser destination but that’s to miss the point entirely. The point? Adventure, rich vibrant experience, is available everywhere. And, most often, the richest experiences come along because “the plan” collapsed, the plane was diverted, the seat reassigned. In The Paris Theory, Paris is not a place. It is an orientation to experience. The quickest way to Paris is to recognize that there is no greater or lesser place – especially when you are standing in it. Open. Look around. Art and life and love and danger and interesting people, food…vital experiences are everywhere.

Artists steal ideas and I must now confess that The Paris Theory is ancient. I slapped some shiny new lipstick on it to make it my own.

We are here for such a short time. The winds blow us here and there. Sometimes it feels like we are in control, bobbing along, but then strong winds come and push us in new directions. How much time do we spend wishing we were some other place and miss where we are? How much time do we delude ourselves into thinking there will be a firm and lasting resolution? An arrival? The winds never stop blowing. As Kerri said [and so beautifully composed], “We are part of the wind.”

 

PART OF THE WIND on the album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PART OF THE WIND

 

ChasingBubbles (full) copy

The Paris Theory = Chasing Bubbles

 

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part of the wind/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

chasing bubbles ©️ 2019 david robinson

Write The Essential [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I’m not sure what stacks up around your house. At our house, the stacks are paintings, cartoons, designs, composition notes, manuscripts, folios, notebooks of ideas, scraps of paper jammed into the notebooks of ideas, lyrics a-go-go, and the supplies necessary to make the other stacks possible. Colored pencils, brushes, too many composition books, canvas, tissue paper, paint, sketchbooks, art books, and the stacks-and-stacks of stuff teetering on the piano and bench that somehow resemble a nest.

All of this is to note that we are fantastic generators of content and equally inept marketers of what we generate. Thus, the stacks. It was this realization – and the necessity of making a living – that one year ago gave birth to the melange. Melange means ‘mixture’ or ‘medley.’

The idea was simple: Monday would be dedicated to our cartoon, Chicken Marsala. Tuesday would be dedicated to our Two Artists designs. Wednesday was Flawed Cartoon day. Thursday was for my paintings. Friday was for Kerri’s music. We created a Society6.com store for each day, set about designing 5 product lines a week (oh, god,…more content). Through our blogs we’d write about and publish the day’s selection, he-said/she-said-style. People all over the world would read what we wrote, be captivated by the cartoon, design or composition, and race to the Society6.com store to buy a print or a mug or a laptop sleeve or a greeting card. Content out, income, well…in.

And, it happened. People all over the world read our blogs. And, almost no one raced to the Society6.com stores. We studied a few things, learned a few things, reconfigured, tried a few social-media-marketing variations, bought ad space, waved our hands, jumped up and down, danced silly dances – we pivoted and pivoted again.

More readers. Less-than-no shoppers.

One day, after eight months, we looked at each other and considered pulling the plug and would have pulled the plug except for one small-yet-oh-so-important detail: we love to write together. In the course of a year, the melange managed to boil itself down to its essence. Each day Kerri writes her post. “Don’t look!” she says as I, sitting next to her,  write mine. And then, before posting, we share them. We read to each other. It’s always a surprise (though mine are predictably “heady” and hers are 100% “hearty”).

When I looked back at our first post one year ago I laughed at the irony. Love needs no words. Well, in this case, in our case, love revels in words. There are too many words for the love to contain. And, so, our stacks grow happily higher and higher and higher.

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if you'd like to see more CHICKEN... copy

read Kerri’s blog post about A YEAR IN MELANGE

 

chicken and perseverance website box copy

 

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Land Safely [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Two artists can get into a world of trouble. They (we) can also create our share of trouble. Our idea pile is mountainous. The word ‘reality’ requires more than a few footnotes.

If you’ve ever spent the time considering the melange (as I know you have…) you recognize that we lack the simple wisdom of knowing when to stop. In the corporate world we’d be known as constant content creators. In the mad mad realm of entrepreneurs, we’d be understood as being in a constant state of pivot. Our Two Artists designs were initially intended to be improvisational, gestural-let’s-see-where-this-goes statements. I dare you to find the bottom of that idea pool!

All of this is to say, you could leap from a very tall building and land safely – even comfortably – on the stack of pillows we’ve imagined and designed. There’s no need to test my assertion. Stay in your swivel chair. But, if you have impulse control issues, it might be a good time to buy a pillow. And I know just the place. Follow the link.

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THE LINK

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THROWING PILLOWS

 

BootsWeddingBoots website box copy

 

two artists designs/products ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood