Draw [on DR Thursday]

Peri Winkle Square copy

Sue’s request was clear: write a story that is hopeful but does not pretend that everything will be easy or rosy in the end.

In 2005, while Sue Eskridge was teaching a course on children’s literature at The University of the Pacific, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast of America. Sue had an idea. She refocused her class to help children who were displaced or had lost their parents in the storm. Her class approached several artists and children’s book authors and asked them to write and illustrate a story, to make single-copy-books. The books would be bundled with other supplies and through service organizations would go to children that needed them. “We want to give them hope but not false hope,” she said when she asked if I would “quick do a book.”

What do you do when the forest fire comes? The hurricane? The pandemic? Run. Hide. But then what? People pull together. People pull apart. The disaster invokes the best in us. The disaster invokes the worst in us. Ultimately, we realize that we are in it together and our togetherness can be defined through selflessness or through selfishness.

What defines us? I lived in Los Angeles during the riots and martial law. People turned on each other. I also saw the same community, just two years later during the Northridge earthquake, pull together. 9/11. AIDS. Our rhetoric does not define us. Our actions do.

I did as Sue asked. I quick did a book, Peri Winkle Rabbit Was Lost. I only had a few days and managed to write the story and smack out 16 illustrations. A story of personal gifts brought to communal need in the aftermath of a fire. When I bundled the original and sent it off to Sue I promised myself that I would someday go back into the story and draw all the pictures, fill in the 10 or so illustrations that I did not have time to realize.

This week, we retreated into our home, this pandemic hot and frightening and eerily invisible, except for the growing and incomprehensible numbers on the screen. The unreal reality. The hurricane that cannot yet be grasped.  I asked myself what might be a worthwhile project to do while isolating?  And then I remembered my promise to Peri Winkle Rabbit.

Draw. And perhaps a new story? One that deals with the hot fire now raging through our divided world? Two narratives. One pandemic. What are the odds that this crisis will burn off our national division and clear our eyes so that we are capable of stepping into a single story. I will ask Peri Winkle Rabbit.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on PERI WINKLE RABBIT

 

 

their palettes website box copy

 

Point Your Nose Toward The Moon [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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This moon called us. We were leaving rehearsal, pulled out of the parking lot and were hit in the face by an enormous orange moon. “We have to go to it,” Kerri whispered. We drove to the shore and sat with the moon for a while.

Staring out of the truck (it was a very cold night and with broken wrists it was easier to keep Kerri buckled in), my energy running low, this super moon reminded me of a long-ago-book, LUCY AND THE WATERFOX. The last few illustrations feature a beckoning moon. This is the Waterfox’s lesson for Lucy and, as it turns out, the Waterfox had a few words for me, too, on this moon-full night:

“The Sky is where you belong! Fulfill your heart’s longing and let the pack think what they think! Everyone knows that most foxes don’t swim and most foxes don’t fly, it’s not that they can’t, it’s because they don’t try. A fox whose heart soars like yours needs to dance in the air. Remember: words are like magic, misused they are tragic and belief is a great and most powerful word!” With that he gave her a wink, tipped his big hat and swam out of sight.

And so, while the other foxes nestled deeper into sleep, Lucy pointed her nose toward the moon. She took to the sky repeating his words so she’d never forget: words are like magic, misused they are tragic and belief is a great and most powerful word.”

 

Illustration 25

from my children’s book, Lucy & The Waterfox

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the SUPER MOON

 

 

moon website box copy

Know That You Are Funny [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Before the world of text messaging, it used to be a game for me. Sit in a coffeehouse and catch snippets of conversation. There were little word hysterics everywhere. If you care to listen, so much of life sounds like the first line in a children’s book. I’m not sure why any of us should take ourselves seriously. We are a very funny species when taken in dribs and drabs.

Now that the world conversation has been reduced to tweets and texts, word hysteria is so pervasive, there is no longer a need to venture into a coffeehouse to capture them. I don’t even have to scribble madly to capture them. They come pre-written.  They are flinging through our news. The word hysterics are channels for policy. So few words given so much weight. We are being ruled by children’s book. I can only hope that historians will have a better sense of humor than we currently do. Taken out of context, the hysteria is hysterical.

It is refreshing, then, when someone sends a text and they KNOW that they are being funny. The dachshunds ate by candlelight. John Oz sent me to the floor with gales of laughter. The power was out. The dogs had to eat. What a terrific first line of a children’s book! It opens worlds of possibility (and, what great illustrations!)

Knowing that you are funny. Not taking yourself so seriously. Precision in humor rather than reduction of communication. Pretend connectivity. I breathe a sigh of relief when a bit of intentional consciousness comes through a text. It helps balance the pervasive other kind, the kind we take so seriously, the word hysterics that are meant to close thought. To reduce our thinking. It is funny how easy it is to blunt minds.  So few words; no poetry. Black and white. Children’s book thinking. It’s almost funny.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on DACHSHUNDS

 

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Use Your Magic Wisely [on DR Thursday]

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…and the wily old story fox told the pack, “Words are like magic, misused they are tragic…”

“Words are like magic, misused they are tragic, but handled with care they bring insight and good cheer. So listen, dear friends, listen with care.” ~ The Story Fox

I wrote and illustrated Lucy & The Waterfox in 2004, long before this common era of weaponized language use.

Declan Donnellan wrote that, “There will always be a gap between what we feel and our ability to express what we feel. The more we wish the gap to be smaller, the more we want to tell ‘the truth’, then the wider the perverse gap yawns.”

The more we need words, the less capable they are at expressing what we mean. That is the blessing and curse of language: it can never achieve the goal. It can only point us in a direction. The closer we step toward ‘the truth’, the less language can actually reach it. Which, if you think about it, requires us to keep reaching for it. Conversely, we can stand directly on a lie and say exactly what we mean. Dead air.

‘The truth’ is a verb. It is a moving, alive, relational thing.

Language is imprecise and, so, easily manipulated. Endlessly interpreted to fit an agenda. That is precisely why language requires respect and care in the handling. Words are more powerful than most people understand. They are capable of starting wars. They are capable of creating peace. They are capable of inciting division. They are capable of inviting unity.

When the ‘perverse gap yawns’, when words become the weapon of the small minded, it is incumbent upon us – all of us – to listen beyond the words, to recognize and acknowledge the agenda. It is incumbent upon us all to handle our powerful magic with care and use it wisely.

Waterfox coverLUCY & THE WATERFOX is a story for children and adults about believing, following your own path, the power of word

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LUCY

 

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chicken and perseverance website box copy

 

lucy & the waterfox ©️ 2004 david robinson

Complete The Trilogy [on DR Thursday]

square shayne for melange 21 copy

 

Just before she passed away, Kerri and I rushed to illustrate and publish a trilogy of children’s books that Beaky had written years earlier. Beaky saw the first of her books published, Shayne. We held a release party and author reading of the first book. She was a rock star. Her first sale was to someone in The Netherlands and I teased her about being an international author. Beaky was both thrilled and ever humble.  She died 18 days later while we were racing to lay out the pages of the second book in the trilogy.  We published it, Shayne & The Yellow Dragon, soon after, for what would have been her 94th birthday.

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the author

It’s been three years. Today would have been Beaky’s 97th birthday and we are certain she is tapping her foot wondering what is taking so long. So, we decided that it was time to complete the trilogy. The illustrations and scans are back on the table. In short order, someday very soon, we look forward to announcing the publication of Beaky’s third book, Shayne & The New Baby.

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read Kerri’s blog post on Shayne

 

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the creative team

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

shayne/shayne & the yellow dragon ©️ 2015 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

Make A Good Team

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an illustration for Shayne And The New Baby

The lake is very still today. Usually the lake, Lake Michigan, behaves more like an ocean than a lake. The breakers roll onto the beach. It is famously fickle and can change moods in a heartbeat. It regularly swallows tankers. This winter it swallowed more than a little bit of the shore. The Coast Guard routinely practices search and rescue missions off the coast; we’ve stood on the rocks many evenings and watched the helicopter go through its paces. Today there is calm. Today there is peace.

This afternoon I completed the 65th and final illustration in the Shayne Trilogy. Like the lake, when I cleaned my brush and put it aside, I was quiet inside. In the middle of March, after a call with Beaky, we decided there was nothing more important than illustrating and publishing the manuscripts that she’d written. And, there was no time to waste. We illustrated, designed, and published the first book of the series in record time. Beaky had her very first-ever book reading and author signing on April 11th. It was a triumph. That day I knew I that I would never do anything more meaningful or important in my life.

When Beaky passed away at the end of April, the second book was midway through the design phase. The illustrations were complete and Kerri was working furiously to publish it by May 1st. Beaky’s passing, of course, derailed all progress and I wondered if we would be capable of bringing all of her books to the finish. We were still for many weeks. We were breathless.

And then, last week, out of nowhere, a strong wind caught our sail and we were back at it with the same fervor as before. It was as if someone threw a switch; we did not get out of bed that day intending to resume the work, but by noon I was drawing the next batch of illustrations and Kerri was layering words over images. The second book, Shayne And The Yellow Dragon is, at this moment, a single click away from publication. Yesterday Kerri began laying out the final book in the trilogy, Shayne And The New Baby. At this pace, we are a few short weeks away from finishing what we started a lifetime ago in March.

the creative team

the creative team

The illustrations are simple. They came easily – as do all labors of love. They are just what Beaky wanted. “You two did all the work!” Beaky protested as we wheeled her toward the over 70 people that gathered for her reading. I teased her that she must have forgotten that she wrote the books. “We make a good team, Beaky,” I said, and she smiled.

 

Breathe Out. Breathe In

...if beakybeaky was a band, this would be the album cover...

…if beakybeaky was a band, this would be the album cover…

The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in. Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie.

Somewhere in the 22nd hour of our drive, the sun rose. Even through our exhaustion and bad fast food coffee, it took our breath away. It replaced, or, rather, swallowed, a brilliant sliver-crescent moon.

We’d stayed longer in Tampa than we expected. The day after Beaky’s book reading and signing, Sunday, we were exhausted so we delayed our return trip home for a day. The following day, Monday, was bad for Beaky – she was in tremendous pain and we were overwhelmed with the need to stay. So, we stayed, knowing the result would be a 24 hour dash home for rehearsals.

His voice dropped to a whisper. Let it come in. We think we dont deserve love, we think if we let it in well become too soft. But a wise man named Levine said it right. He said, Love is the only rational act.’” Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie

...and the truth of beakybeaky....

…and the truth of beakybeaky….

This year is unusual. I’ve done too many plays, paintings, and projects to count and each had its rewards and regrets. Twice since the turning of the New Year I’ve completed a project that was so fulfilling, so right, that I would not change a thing. Both have this in common: the intention was pure. I did them for the right reason: someone else. The first, The Lost Boy, was a message from Tom to his nephew, Seth, and I was the messenger. The second, Beaky’s first book, Shayne, was to make a dream happen. Every dream needs assistance to be born: the manuscripts existed. Beaky’s desire to share (publish) existed. They lacked an illustrator and designer. I did the illustration. Kerri did the layout and design; a dream fulfilled itself. For me, both are lessons in breathing out love so that I might also breathe it in.

Just prior to Beaky’s reading, we took a series of selfies with her. I told her that, if Beakybeaky was a rock band, the selfies would make excellent album covers. After our photo opp, we wheeled her to a standing-room-only crowd, many people that she knew and many more that she didn’t, people who’d gathered to hear an almost-94 year old author read and sign her very first book.

a dream fulfilled

a dream fulfilled

Breathe out. Breathe in. It turns out that an exhale is necessary for the inhale.