Know The Moment [on KS Friday]

“A work needs to relax toward finality. It cannot be pushed, it cannot be worried, it cannot be analyzed to completion. Pushing against the natural rhythms of creation will just churn up the waters. Clarity comes only when the waters settle and the air clears.” ~Kent Nerburn, Dancing With The Gods

Because I tend to speak in metaphors in a world enamored with goals, what I say often, at first, goes unheard. Skip is stewarding an amazing creation and has, from my perspective, just passed a significant milestone. I told him that, in working with many playwrights and painters and actors, there is an initial phase in every creative process in which the creator works for form. It’s like the tide going out, dumping everything down on the page to gather and find the story-form. Then, in a beautifully mysterious moment, the tide turns and finding form is no longer the intention. Clarity becomes the aim. Skip is a listener. Metaphors tossed into an analytic frame generally seem out of place or perhaps arrive too early to the party. But I’ve learned they are seeds that, when planted, begin to work their way up through the crusty soil.

John Guare said that a writer has to write ten bad pages to arrive at a single good page. The ten bad pages are the search for form. Reducing ten into an essence of one is the work of clarity. The phases, the exhale for form and the inhale of clarity, are two different yet interrelated energies.

When I am working on a canvas I might evolve the image for days. Sketching, painting, wiping, adjusting, wiping, sketching, painting. The search for form. Adding and subtracting. Moving the composition, tilting the symmetry. And then, something clicks and I know. The painting is formed and now the pursuit is to hold its hand and bring it into the light. Inhale.

Because my father recently passed, followed hard upon by my dear Ruby, I have been reviewing much of my life. Roger used to say that the first 30 years of life were about trying to become something and then, one day, you realize that you are that thing you were trying to become. The rest is learning how to be it. Searching for form. And then, clarifying. I think Roger was half-right. Becoming and being are cycles, not arrivals.

The cycles of my life are explicit. I enter into worlds that I know nothing about – either by accident or invitation. That I know nothing about the world is precisely why I’m invited in – or bumble in. I see it. I bring it metaphors. It is uncomfortable to not-know so I learn about the world as an outsider. It helps me see more clearly. I know the moment when form turns toward clarity. I see when the process roils into an eddy. I understand how to free stuck energy. I’m a midwife to creative process, a guide across unseen bridges.

We stood in the November sun admiring the giant flowers against the blue sky. I loved the idea that I was experiencing an ant’s view. These past many years I have been looking for the new form. Pushing. What was I? What am I now? And, in a beautifully mysterious moment, I realized that the tide was at long last coming in.

read Kerri’s blog post about GIANT FLOWERS

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Get Lost [on DR Thursday]

We delight in taking Sunday drives. Sometimes we have a destination but most of the time we have no idea where we are going. We head “out into the county,” the farm land, and with great intention, we get lost. “Left or right?” Kerri asks when we come to a crossroads. “Left.”

The goal is to “not know.” Drive down roads we’ve never experienced. There is a direct correlation between “not knowing” and “clear seeing.” When lost, we open our eyes. It’s something that every artist understands, “always-knowing-where-you’re-going” is a killer of the magic. It is the dividing line between art and craft.

I’m currently working with a team of analytical minds. “Lostness” is often interpreted as failure. It’s not welcome. But, to my great delight, even in the most analytic of creative processes, the engineers and entrepreneurs, shaking their fists at the sky when adrift, find their greatest magic arrives only after time spent wandering the wilderness.

After many twists and turns, rolling country roads and, “Which direction are we headed?”, we pop out of lostness and know exactly where we are. “Hey!” we laugh, “How did we get here?”

The art of getting lost. The art of exploration. The art of having an experience without a predetermined outcome. The art of having an outcome and letting it go, making space for something better. It is the art of cultivating surprise, allowing for the bigger idea to come through. “Left or right?”

It’s a practice. Learning-to-see and letting-go-of-needing “to know.” It’s the same thing. And, a great way to practice, is taking a nice Sunday drive.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE ROAD

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Gather And Share [on DR Thursday]

Back in my Don Quixote days, with the onset of a camera in every phone, one of my favorite exercises to give to groups was to send them out in search of textures. Gather texture. Gather pattern. It was quite literally eye-opening. It was also, quite literally, presence-enabling and life-invigorating.

There is enormous power in the simple phrase, “Stop and look.” See.

In “gather” there is no judgment. Consequently, the photos that came back, rich in texture and collision of texture, patterns revealing themselves everywhere, were gorgeous. Dynamic. But, mostly, they were revealing. Otherwise serious adults, who believed that there was nothing new, that life was less-than-exceptional, came back from their texture-gather with open eyes. Some giggled. These people, claiming that they did not possess an ounce of artistry, would show their photos to the group and say, “I pulled that in so we could see it better.” Or, “Don’t you just love how those two things come together?” Or, my favorite, “You didn’t give us enough time! I couldn’t gather it all!”

Ah. Not enough time to see it all. Not enough time to take it in. Now, isn’t that a statement of the-love-of-life? Isn’t that the epicenter of an artist’s life. Isn’t that a more interesting path than, “Same-old-same-old”?

Dots. Diamonds of dots. Lines. Pattern. Texture. Too much to see. Too much to experience. And the best, most simple way to step into vibrancy is to stop and look.

But, there is one more step, the part that made the exercise powerful. The essential part was and is almost always overlooked. Stopping and looking and gathering is great but only has meaning – only becomes artistry – when it is shared. Without fear or judgment. Stop. Look. Gather. Come back to the center and share what you see.

read Kerri’s blog post about TEXTURE

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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

Causal Your Effectual [on DR Thursday]

KDOT Underpainting copy

under-painting of One Chord Ahead

This is my version of under painting. It’s the base layer for what-comes-next. In school, they teach that under-painting is mostly monochromatic. It’s meant to give value definition and basic shape to an-already-determined composition. For me, it serves another purpose altogether.

It is true that I already know what this painting looks like when it is finished. I have the image in my head. It is also true that I have absolutely no idea what this painting will look like when finished. There’s a magic point in the process when the painting takes over and I follow the leader. I’ve learned that the real dance of artistry is to let both of these truths be…true. Know and not know. Lead and follow.

Under painting, for me, is psychological prep work, readiness to enter the paradox. It is my process of thinking-things-through so I can stop-thinking-things-through and enter the dance without focusing on the steps.

Causal and effectual. I first encountered these phrases when I waded into the world of entrepreneurs. They are process terms. Causal basically means that you begin with a goal in mind and map your steps to meet the predetermined goal. Effectual is the inverse. Looking at the maps (choices) and available resources, the goal is identified based on what’s available; the goal is fluid and changes as you progress.

Raphael was causal. Jackson Pollock was effectual. Maybe.

I laughed when I first heard the terms. They gave me some good language to use for my creative process. Causal/Effectual. Both/And. For me, one cannot live separate from the other. Start with an image in mind or start with a canvas, some paint, and see what happens. Either way, one process will inevitably cross paths with the other. Jackson Pollock, at some point in his random painting dance, became intentional and compositional with his spatter. Raphael, at some point in his tightly predetermined composition, allowed his brush to flow, to move intuitively, freely.

Under painting = I have to make color messes and utterly stifle a composition before I can stand at the edge, jump, and set myself free.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about UNDER PAINTING

 

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Laugh [on KS Friday]

In our ongoing effort to bring you quality programming on the creative process, we offer this insight to inspire you to greater and greater creative heights. These 7 steps are the secret key to your artistic fulfillment and ultimate success. Watch at your own risk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

want to watch again and again? Go to see Kerri’s blog post on THE CREATIVE PROCESS!

 

go here to hear real recordings of my brilliant wife’s music

 

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

Write A New Song [on KS Friday]

you're here songbox 2 copy

In the final week before the holiday, Kerri was preparing for a band rehearsal. She wanted to go over the music for the schmear (her name for the cantata). She played  through the pieces as we waited for Guitar Jim to arrive. I was setting up music stands and mic cables when I saw her wrinkle her nose. “I hate this piece of music,” she huffed. The pages were unceremoniously hucked from the piano.

I’m generally a slow study but I’ve worked with enough artists to know when something new is about to emerge. Artists are often like volcanoes. They rumble and grumble before the lava finds its way to the surface.

With the piano now free of the offending song, she started noodling on the keys. She made up a lyric. She sang a phrase. Played it again. By the time Jim arrived she had a snippet of a new song. “What do you think of this?” she asked. He nodded his musician nod of approval.

The next morning, after about an hour of playing and scribbling notes, she had a new song to replace the schmear-offender. She shaped it a bit over the remaining few days of rehearsal. It’s gorgeous. She debuted You’re Here at the schmear and she sang it again at the holiday services.

Just like a volcano, an artist needs to create, needs to make new earth. The creation feeds the creator and vice-versa. I can think of no better celebration for the solstice return of the light than for a composer, a singer-songwriter to write a song. To bring new light.

The technology on my phone made it possible to record it. Left to her own devices she might have never captured a recording of You’re Here. She is fairly despondent about recording these days. Like a sand painting it would have existed for a moment and then returned to the earth. But, thanks to my trusty phone, it’s possible for you to hear it, too. New earth. Go here to listen.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about YOU’RE HERE

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you’re here ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

Ask, “Why?” [on Merely A Thought Monday]

guidance framed copy

I’m told that every evening of her life, Margaret would stop what she was doing, and go outside to watch the sun set. If she was on the phone she would hang up. If she was doing dishes she’d turn off the water. She’d step into her back yard and attend the setting of the sun. It was her ritual.

Last year, Kerri, my mom, and I took my dad back to visit the small town where he grew up. He wanted to live his life there but that was not to be. Now, he is sliding into dementia. Before his sun set he wanted to make at least one last pilgrimage to the place he’s always considered home.

I draw and paint. Not because I want to but because I have to. As far back as I can remember that has been true. The rest of this world seems like Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole. Mad. Illusory. Missing the point. I know what is solid and true when I step in front of a canvas. It’s a paradox, yes?

Why do people make paintings? Why do they compose music? Why are we tellers of story? Inventors of story? Poets? Budget makers and parents alike caution that there is no real value in the arts. They rarely make money. Money making as the ultimate arbiter of value makes for an empty world, indeed.

Why do people climb mountains, jump out of airplanes, or kayak over waterfalls?

“Why does she say, ‘guidance is eternal?'” Kerri asked. We were streaming an episode of Life Below Zero on the National Geographic site and the Boeing commercial came up for the umpteenth time. Amid images of advanced technology and machines that fly, the narrator begins a countdown, 10, 9, 8, guidance is internal, 6, 5,… “I think she’s saying that guidance is internal, not eternal.” We looked at each other. Either way, what a great phrase! Guidance is internal. Guidance is eternal.

Why do people step outside each evening of their lives to watch the setting sun? Return like salmon to their birthplace? Listen to the wind and run to their piano?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GUIDANCE

 

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Make Them Visible [on DR Thursday]

AndThenTheyDanced copy

rough sketch (detail): and then they danced

When I first met Kerri she had two Adirondack chairs in the front yard. We spent many summer evenings in those chairs, sipping wine, talking through the sunset. One evening, she brought out her ipod and speaker. We listened to music while we chatted and then a song came up that inspired us to dance. We danced that song and then the next and the next. Soon, she was playing DJ. We wiggled and roared through her rowdy picks and lightly stepped through the slow songs. The first painting I did for her is about that evening. It’s called Dancing In The Front Yard.

This summer I have been empty. I left the studio in early June knowing there was nothing left. It was time to let the cup refill. Over the summer I’ve often visited the studio. I sat in my chair in the dark and felt the place. I’ve shuffled paintings around, reviewed my life’s work and wondered, as I always do in the empty times, if I’ve painted my last painting, if the deep well will ever replenish.

The other day, as always happens, I was passing through my studio en route to the tool room and something stopped me. The empty canvas propped against the easel shouted, “Look at me!” And I did. Turning on the lights I saw them, the dancers, the dancers in the front yard, and I laughed. Dancers. Of course. What a great welcome back; a celebration. A dance. Our dance. Like a thirsty man crawling to an oasis,  I slowly entered the space, picked up the charcoal, and made my dancers visible.”Welcome back,” they whispered, as I dusted off my hands and reached for my brushes.

 

Danced phase 2

a process shot for Skip, step 2: underpainting

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AND THEN THEY DANCED

(Lydia! I remembered two days in a row! Progress?)

Stop At The Beginning [on DR Thursday]

Aqua Agua Mit Rouge. Kerri laughed and clapped her hands when she named this morsel. It is a process snapshot of the early under-painting, the base layer of what would become Earth Interrupted VII. It is loose, fluid and free. It is a special layer – a visual marker of what happens before my thinking mind kicks in. Free. Fluid. Loose. Flow. For me, the first moments of painting are all intuition.

More and more I am learning from these morsels. I’ve spent countless hours gazing at finished paintings asking myself how I might grow, become a better painter. Reach into deeper pools of experience. It is only recently – because of the morsels – that I am spending time gazing at my process, the previously unconscious parts, and asking the same questions. How do I grow? Become better? Become more Fluid? Loose? Free?

The answer of the moment is as funny as it is clear: stop at the beginning. See through the eyes of intuition, feel your way forward. Stop before that talky brain weighs in with all manner of blah blah blah.

 

earth interrupted VII copy 2

earth interrupted VII,    mixed media, 48 x 36IN

 

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STAY TUNED! The FALL VIRTUAL GALLERY SALE starts this weekend. An announcement is coming!

read Kerri’s blog post about AQUA AGUA MIT ROUGE

 

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aqua agua mit rouge/earth interuppted vii ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood