Appreciate The Other Life [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Every so often we pick images for the melange according to a theme. A few weeks ago all of the images were green. This week we noticed that we had several photos of words or phrases so we decided to have a theme week. Yesterday featured a message on the tailgate of a truck, “Every day above ground is a blessing.” Today, the other life. La Otra Vida.

Kerri and I met in middle age so our history together is short. Our pals are couples who’ve been married for decades. It is common for us to leave dinner with friends, after lively conversation of raising kids, vacation stories or tales of pets from the past, and need to talk about the eras in life that we didn’t pass through together. Our cartoon, Chicken Marsala, came from a conversation about the kids that we didn’t have. What kind of parents would we have been together? What would we have done differently in life had we met when we were younger? Would we have fallen in love had the previous-versions-of-ourselves met at an earlier phase in our lives?

La Otra Vida. The other life. We’ll never know the answers to our speculative questions. I was not the person at 25 that I am today. Kerri did not know me during my train-wreck years. I was – and in many ways still am – a restless wanderer but I have developed over the years the capacity to sit still. To appreciate where I am.

Last night, sitting on the deck sipping wine, the sun was down and we had the torches burning. Dogga was asleep at our feet. We were listening to the soundtrack from the movie About Time and Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel, a heartbreaking piece for piano and cello, began playing. I memorized the moment because, in another life, at a time that I was not so happy, I knew that La Otra Vida was out there somewhere. The other life. I knew someday, minus a few demons and with a few more miles behind me, that I would one day sit outside on a cool evening, my wife’s hand in mine, my dog asleep at my feet, and know with absolute certainty that life could not possibly be better.

I savored the moment. I will never take for granted this, the other life.

read Kerri’s blog post about LA OTRA VIDA

Soothe The Storm [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

My favorite early Chicken Marsala sketch was of an angel delivering Chicken to his new assignment on earth. The angel says, “Get in there, champ! You can do it!” And a very resistant Chicken cries in desperation, “But they are BOTH artists!” Kerri and I are artists with all that term implies. Passionate opinions. Quirky (okay…volatile). Often in need of a perspective-giver. What Chicken didn’t know is that the two artists in his assignment, namely Kerri and me, are great soothers of each other’s storms. We have the gift of never ranting at the same time. When one of us becomes a rocket, the other becomes grounded earth. There is a beautiful equal-and-opposite equation, too. When one of us enters into a creative high, it pulls the other up.

Chicken had a great assignment and just needed to look beyond the wrapper. That angel knew what she was doing.

read Kerri’s blog post about RANTS

smack-dab. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com

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

Laugh At Yourself [on DR Thursday]

Had you come across our website during the era of The Roadtrip, a play that Kerri and I wrote from the several-months-email-conversation we had before we first met face-to-face, you’d have read this phrase: smack-dab in the middle of middle age…a true story of quiet hope and the arrival of life’s second chances.

Smack-dab. In the middle of middle age. We met. We married. We walk the neighborhood arm-in-arm. We write these blog posts each day. She brings her wise-eyes into my studio and I tell her what her music makes me feel and think.

For an intense year or so, we tried-like-crazy to syndicate a cartoon strip called Chicken Marsala, the imaginary child of two people who met smack-dab in the middle of middle age. In the course of writing and drawing Chicken, we also pitched a single-panel cartoon, Flawed, and another called At The Door. Chicken Marsala had several iterations because the syndicate liked it…almost. They asked for improvements though never specified what those improvements might be – in the writing? The art work? In this age of too much information, no answer ever came back to us.

In the face of unspecified and uncertain improvements, this ONE thing is certain: we generated a mountain of material in the hunt for the elusive improvement. Oh, and this, too: we laughed heartily at ourselves. The mountain of material was about us. We were poking fun at the things we do and say each day.

This morning I found Kerri furiously working at her computer guffawing. She’d pulled up the old Chicken file. There was an iteration of the strip that was pre-Chicken, the middle-aged couple prior to the appearance of their imaginary son. We sat this morning and laughed again at ourselves. These things actually happen and how joyful is it to chronicle yourself in-and-as a cartoon?

I suspect we are going back to the drawing board. This time, we’ll not hide behind our imaginary son. This time, we’ll pull the blankets on the source. Smack-dab. In the middle of middle age. Two artists met and got married. What could be a better set-up for ridiculousness?

read Kerri’s blog post introducing SMACK-DAB

*don’t believe a word she writes, she guffaws all of the time.

smack-dab ©️ 2021 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Try [on DR Thursday]

The operative word in this Chicken Nugget is “try.”

To try is a verb, an action. It’s also a noun but the synonyms used in either variation are mostly the same: attempt, endeavor, make an effort.

Try. It’s such a small word but its impact is unfathomable. It is the defining line between intolerance and empathy. Empathy begins with trying to see what others see. Intolerance begins with refusing to try to see what others see.

Try. It is the epicenter of advise that every parent offers to their children. Take a crack at it. Why not put it out there. Give it your best shot. You can’t win if you don’t run the race. You’ll never know unless you try.

A verb. An action. Try. A noun. A way of being.

Try is the foundation stone of curiosity. Wanting to know, wanting to experience what is “just over there.” To see not only what others see, but why they see it.

I sometimes try to see the unbridled enthusiasm that Dogga sees in each and every moment. I try to see the world of unlimited possibilities that Dawson sees every time he touches a crayon or paint brush. I do not delude myself. My eyes are not so pure. But I try.

Imagine what we might do in this world if we only gave it a try.

read Kerri’s blog post about TRY

Root In Love [on DR Thursday]

The truth is that I loved drawing Chicken Marsala. There was the cartoon strip and there was the single panel variation. Chicken strips and chicken nuggets…we are clever that way. The syndicates entertained them for a minute but they ultimately went nowhere. We put them on the pile and moved on to other ideas.

Unlike the million-and-one other ideas stacked on the pile, Chicken occasionally calls. “Have a look,” he whispers, “just for yourself.” He called to us this week. Out of the blue. I’m so glad he did.

It seems that life offers a variety of possible roots from which to choose. Chicken’s call, root in love, might seem like so much cotton candy but I distinctly remember drawing this nugget and considering all the facets of love. Once, out of love, I screamed at a child running into the street. He cried and, when he stopped running, I cried, too. Love can be fierce.

The first time I laid eyes on Kerri we linked arms and skipped through the airport. Love can be spontaneous and ancient at the same time.

Tonight, just like last night and the night before, DogDog will lay on our bed and wait for us. He will feign exhaustion but his tail will wag as we approach the room. We’ll scratch his ears, give him a belly-belly, some gentle words, and he will jump down and get into his crate. Love can be tender.

Kerri and I are in the ashes-phase of our phoenix-cycle. I think that is the reason Chicken called. It’s in the ashes that other roots make themselves available. Cynicism. Anger. Why-bother. All roots ultimately lead back to the main but that’s sometimes hard to see with ashes in your eyes. Love is the main root. “Why waste your time?” Chicken asked. “You’ll get there sooner-or-later so why not choose sooner?”

That Chicken! He’s a smart boy. Simple. He cuts-to-the-chase.

I think that’s probably why I loved drawing him so much.

read Kerri’s blog post about ROOT IN LOVE

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Power Up! [on DR Thursday]

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I was going to write about something else but given the news-of-the-day this seems more pressing. Simply this: I believe in the power of imagination. Why? I’m glad you asked!

It takes imagination to lead. A lack of imagination is the only requirement to blame or bully.

It takes imagination to unite people. No imagination is necessary to divide people. Division is a well-worn tool of the fearmonger and the gaslighter. For instance, the weakest chimpanzee will bang pots and make enough noise that they might be deemed leader for a day.  On day two, however, the community learns the difference between empty noise and actual capacity.

It takes no imagination to tear things down. Imagination is essential to build, to create, to change.

Imagination is always a step toward something true and beautiful. Imagine it! Can you? Imagination always reveals. The opposite of imagination, namely deception, deflection, and lie are the smoke that fills the void of absent imagination.  Deceit is meant to conceal the false promise, a step away from what is honest and true.

And so, in this era of pandemic, climate change, social change, and economic uncertainty, division and bluster will only take us deeper into the wasteland. The opportunities for a better world are knocking at our door. More than ever, this world needs your good imagination. It needs our good imagination.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GOOD IMAGINATION

 

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visit society6.com for Chicken Marsala products [mugs and pillows and wall art and other stuff]. Kerri designed a million of them when Chicken was running around our house.

 

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chicken marsala ©️ 2016-17 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Step Into The Ripple [on DR Thursday]

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I’ve never understood faith as a religious term. Look up the word in the dictionary and you’ll come across trust, belief, and conviction. Rather than a lofty word reserved for worship day, it has always struck me as an everyday something – that becomes extraordinary when you realize how ever-present-and-ordinary it actually is. Stepping blindly. Blindly stepping. Each and everyday.

We surround ourselves with calendars and lists and routines and rituals and patterns – all necessary mechanisms to plan our days but they also serve to protect us from the truth of our walk on this earth: there is not a moment, an hour, or day that is actually known before it is lived. Every moment of every day is a step into the unknown.

The real practice of faith is not about an abstraction.  It is a recognition that walking in faith is an essential part of the human condition. The real practice is in realizing it. Being right where you are, open to the reality and empty of the illusion of certainty that you know what is coming. You do not. The true spiritual practice is to empty yourself of the need for the illusion of control.

Fully inhabiting the moment. Standing at the crossroad of past and future without the map of ‘I-know-what’s-going-to-happen’ dulling the experience.

Spiritual practices are not meant to be other worldly. They are, at their best, concrete relationships found at the intersection of past and future, in that tiny slice of infinity called “the moment.” It is a miracle of unknowns and surprises.

The practice of faith is the practice of putting down what you think you know – dropping the notion that you know what will happen- and stepping fully and with intention into the rippling unknown.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FAITH

 

 

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chasing bubbles ©️ 2019 david robinson

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Listen To Chicken [on DR Thursday]

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The original conceit behind Chicken Marsala came during a road trip. Kerri and I started talking about what life might have been like had we met when we were younger. Our conversation wandered into the question of mutual children and then became utterly hysterical when we started tossing possible names back and forth. Chicken Marsala, the imaginary child of two people who met late in life, was born.

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Chicken had friends. Chicken went to school. Chicken had a full blown imaginary life. Chicken terrified his parents, making them do and say things that they would not have otherwise done. Chicken became the inner and outer voice of two artists trying to make their way in a world where they do not necessarily fit.

All of my life people who have cut themselves off from their inner artist have asked me, “Where do I begin?” They build studios for themselves, buy supplies, and then sit, frozen. Tom McK used to tell me that there was only one answer to that question: a writer writes and a painter paints. There is no magic. The muse can’t help unless you pick up the clay and throw the pot. Write many, many bad pages and soon you will discover that you are following an impulse rather than grinding “it” out or making “it” up.

One day, someone asked Chicken’s mom a question about composing. “How do you do it? What’s your secret?” It was a question from someone desperate to uncover their long buried inner artist. What’s the secret charm, the divine key? Chicken leaned into his mom and whispered: Sometimes you just have to put your fingers on the keys and follow the music.

It is no mystery, after a few years banished in the drawer, that Chicken is suddenly pulling on my sleeve. I haven’t been active in the studio for months. ‘A dry spell,’ I tell myself. ‘All of my creative energy is going to other things.’ ‘I’m bored with my work!’ ‘I’m blank…’ Yada Yada. Chicken shakes his head. ‘Not again!’ He giggles.

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Put your fingers on the keys. Pick up your brush. Use that great imagination to play rather than plague yourself. Follow the music. It will always lead you home.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FINGERS ON THE KEYS

 

 

 

 

 

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chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

play 2 play illustration ©️ godknowswhenprobablybeforeyouwereborn david robinson

 

Leave It At The Door [on DR Thursday]

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There is a simple exercise that I am particularly fond of but less than terrific at practicing. It goes like this: don’t drag yesterday’s trash into today. See this day as it is: new. Live this day without the control fantasy of believing that you know what will happen, that you know or can control what other people think. Recognize that the burden you carry is exactly that – something you carry. Put it down for a spell. It will be there when you are ready to pick it up.

It’s not an exercise in denial. It’s actually the opposite. It’s an exercise in dealing with the real moment rather than the imagined monster. You’ll be amazed at the world of light, color, and possibility that opens when yesterday’s trash stays in yesterday, when the weighty story wrapped around the past-moment drops away.

I used to tell my actors, when entering the rehearsal hall, to leave their day at the door. Rehearsal halls, like artist studios, are sacred places. The art of the theatre is the mastery of presence and it’s a necessary skill to tuck the story-of-the-day into a safe keeping box before stepping onto the stage. And, what if, as master Will wrote, all the world is a stage? It seems to me that the art of living is the mastery of presence.

I call it the “garbage layer,” those moments when I am first coming out of sleep. Coming up from the bottom of the slumber-ocean there is a surface layer where all the trash floats. It is coming through the garbage layer that I have the option of leaving behind or picking up yesterday’s flotsam. The nagging to-do list, the contention, the worries, the fears and fights can all be scooped up and hauled into the new day or the story-of-yesterday can be left at the door.

And when I leave yesterday’s garbage in yesterday? An entirely different set of experiences and assumptions become available. Awe at the light in the trees. Awe at the smell of coffee brewing. Awe at the sun and the enormous cat that purrs when I sit close.

[Chicken Marsala was one of our cartoon creations. He tickled the syndicates but never got picked up. We love him still. We designed all manner of cool prints, cards, cups and other stuff that you can find here]

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ASSUME AWE

 

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chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

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face the sun, mixed media, 18 x 24IN

 

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

face the sun ©️ 2019 david robinson