Pull The Weeds [on KS Friday]

My very first painting teacher offered me some sage advice. I was painting figures while the rest of the class worked on landscapes. Being the odd-child-out I assumed something was wrong with me. She said, “Tree painters are a dime a dozen. Someday, being the only one will seem like a gift so ignore what they are interested in and paint what is interesting to you.” Jospeh Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.” It’s the same advice that Jackie Fry gave to the boy-version of me.

I never imagined myself with a back yard. And, now that I have one, I find it a place of rest and peace. This is a confession that I’ll never admit to in the future: weeding is meditative. Each day I find myself taking a few moments to go out and yank the invaders out by the roots. No thought. No other thing to do. I simply tend the garden, knowing I am accomplishing nothing since weeds are good at growing and more will appear tomorrow. We are strange allies, they provide me with a daily meditation.

If I was as an art teacher, I’d send my students into my back yard. Nature is a masterful teacher of color. Orange and green. Highlights of yellow. Barney provides subtle blues, purples, and pinks. The orange and green of the lily pop against the purple and blue of the aging piano. Warm colors come forward. Cool colors recede. It’s all there.

I read somewhere that, as an artist, “to discover” is more potent than “to invent.” See what is there, beyond what you think is there. Everything is fluid so the discoveries are endless. While I weed the sun passes beneath a cloud. Everything changes. The sun reappears and the colors change again. Not the same. Different. I’ll never be able to capture it and that is the best held secret of an artist. Another wisdom from Jackie Fry: you will never succeed. Art is a relationship, not a transaction. So, no pressure. It is a relationship, complex and dynamic. It is not about capturing an image. It is about freeing your sight and possibly freeing the sight of others. Facilitate discovery. Play to play, to become a better player. Open a small door to peek into the vast inner universe.

It’s a paradox. It’s impossible to eradicate the weeds. That is not why I pull them. It’s impossible to capture life in an image. ‘Capturing’ is not why I paint. Relating is why I paint. I do it because I’ll never create anything more beautiful than the Tiger Lily dancing with Barney. I paint so that I might see and share in the dance.

ALWAYS WITH US on the album AS IT IS by KERRI SHERWOOD

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about the TIGER LILY

always with us/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Take A Second Chance [on Merely A Thought Monday]

This is a story about second chances. Both of us had first go-rounds and neither went according to the dream. The gap between life and dream is sometimes daunting, vast. But, the good news with all-things-daunting is that, if you are lucky – and we are, you emerge on the other side, not only with a better sense of humor, but an understanding of the hard work it takes to make dreams a reality. Or, said another way, you live into a better sense of yourself. Kerri and I could be the poster children for people who’ve crossed the gap and come out laughing.

Early in our relationship we danced in the living room to Rascal Flatt’s song, The Broken Road. After our dance, we spent a long evening talking about our broken roads. There’s something powerful (and telling) about two people who willingly pull out their broken pieces and spread them across the table for the other to see, not for a pity-party but to say without shame, “This is me. This is what I’ve done and where I’ve been. I don’t want to hide any of it from you because I want you to see me, barnacles and all.” It is the mark of the tribe of second chances. Vulnerability as a strength.

In a second chance you have the opportunity to discover yourself anew. That might sound thrilling – and it is in retrospect – but it requires a good deal of hot fire to burn away the former shell. It’s as if the rules of life that have always applied, the rules that have always provided orientation to the game-of-life suddenly no longer apply. Trying to hold onto the old version is like trying to hide the fact that you are aging. It’s impossible. We started collecting our beautiful moments of denial and rude-awakening because, well, they were and are funny. For instance, I looked in the mirror one day and saw my grandfather staring back. It happened overnight and I was horrified! I spent the rest of the day looking for soft light so I might delay Kerri seeing my new grandfatherly face.

Second chances come to all of us. We have friends and family in our circle that are recent empty-nesters. The kids are gone. The house is quiet. They are asking two questions: 1) Who is this stranger sitting across the table? And 2) Who am I, the person looking back at the stranger across the table? Like us, they are walking through the rule changes, the body changes, the purpose changes, the identity changes. We hope that they, like us, recognize their barnacles as a shared map forward, a reason to bond and learn each other, and themselves, anew.

That’s the reason and the story behind our comic strip SMACK-DAB. Like us, it is a second run at a good idea only this time, less armored. For now, we’ll publish a new strip every Saturday. Our chronicle of second chances. Smack-dab in the middle of middle age. The laughter and good love that comes from splaying all the broken pieces across the table and saying, “This is me and I want you to know and share every last shard. For the rest of my life.”

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you
~ Bless The Broken Road, Rascal Flatts

read Kerri’s blog post about SMACK-DAB.

Come Look! [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“The artist finds, rather than creates and controls.” ~ Declan Donnellan

I’m not sure when I began including floral shapes in my paintings. I’ve always appreciated the shape of symbols and shapes as symbols. One day in my Seattle studio, I lined the walls with my most recent paintings and was surprised to discover leaves and plants and stems etched into figures and the spaces. My charcoal and paint flora was generic; they were not studies of plants nor in any way representational. They were shapes. They were accidental.

Even when my plant-shapes became intentional they remained generic, improvisational. I didn’t go outside and study the shapes of leaves. It never occurred to me to step into the field next to my studio and look at the plant life. I’m slow that way.

And then I met Kerri. We walk almost every day. While my mind wanders into the ethers and gets lost in the sky, she is busy looking at life’s minutiae. She stops often and takes photographs, usually of a tiny treasure. A forest flower. The bud about to burst on a limb. A butterfly nestled into the leaves. “Look!” she exclaims and kneels on the path, camera in hand. She navigates thorns, wades into tall grasses, climbs over rocks, all to get close enough to see, really see the miniature miracle.

Because she sees, I see. She is single-handedly responsible for my ongoing Georgia O’Keeffe revival. And what I’ve re-learned as Kerri beckons me to, “Come Look!” is that my vast imagination is not capable of creating the amazing shapes and colors and delights that surround me. I’ve been walking through this intense world of marvels my whole life and noticed only the smallest slice. The best I can do is pay attention and dance with what I find.

It’s humbling – as it should be. I’ll never be a better creator than nature because I am a creation of nature. In fact, I realize again and again that my job as an artist is not to create, it is to discover what is already right in front of my face. To open eyes – my eyes and others’ eyes – to the enormity of what already exists. The wild shapes, the dancing colors, the glow of life that I’ll never be able to capture, no matter how great my technique or pure my intention. The best I can do is point to the mystery, with symbol, shape and color, and say, as Kerri does for me each and every day, “Look! Come Look!”

read Kerri’s blog post about SUCCULENTS

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

Leap And Skid [on Two Artists Tuesday]

dogdog pondering copy

Tripper-Dog-Dog-Dog has now seen some things that only a few weeks ago were unimaginable. His first deer sighting was a revelation. His first pelican experience was monumental, something akin to an alien landing. The world, he is discovering, is much bigger and more vibrant than he once believed.

His new reality has made him something of a contemplative. He gazes at the horizon. He watches the surf. Sometimes he approaches it and jumps back and forth with it. It is a game he plays with the infinite, dancing with the BIG motion.

We take a walk early every morning. This morning the crows were out in force. He’s had previous crow experience but the sheer numbers, a full murder of them, was enough to make him stop and check in with me. “Is this to be expected?” he asked with his eyes. I nodded. They make me nervous, too.

DogDog has never been a fan of steps. There is no way to get into our littlehouse on island except by climbing steps. Our first few days here were problematic for DogDog. How to transcend the obstacle? At first he looked to us to solve it for him. We looked back and encouraged him. Now, the steps are no longer an obstacle. He’s developed a leap-the-steps-and-skid-to-a-stop technique. It has become fun for him. He delights in his new capacity to fly. The skid is great fun, too. Just like his world outside, his new inner reality is much bigger, much more vibrant than he once understood. Change is like that. Hard at first but then comes the leaping.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOGDOG

 

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Begin [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Let the adventure begin – if we were all illuminated, this would be the mantra beginning each day. Every day a new beginning. Everyday an unknown. Stepping boldly into each day as a discovery rather than a known, a dry list of tasks to complete.

However, we are –  I am – not illuminated, so this declaration of adventure is saved for the days when the ships course is set to find the earth’s edges, when there are obvious impossible mountains to climb.

Today, Kerri and I begin a new adventure. We’ve moved for the season to Washington Island, Wisconsin. We are, as of midnight, the co-managing directors of The Trueblood Performing Arts Center. We have no idea what that means – the word “manage” implies that the systems are in place, the root is established, and that is certainly not the case.  The challenges are truly unique. They are island challenges. Dials need spinning. Perspectives need flipping. New paths need exploring.

The community is special. Welcoming. And, although art on this island is valued and appreciated, the community sits atop the hierarchy. People help people. People celebrate people. The island turns out when there is a triumph to cheer or a loss to mourn. That is what makes this place, this island, special. The fabric of the community is intact.

A new beginning. We have many, many lists but hold no illusions that what lies ahead is known, containable. It is lively. It is, in every way, an adventure.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about The Adventure

 

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Live So Much [On Merely A Thought Monday]

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“So much life lived this week,” Heidi said to Kerri. Yes. So much.

It is, of course, true every week. Some weeks it is simply more apparent. The happenings seem bigger. A wedding. A graduation. A passing. A new job. A birth. A week of life.

Last week? A walk on the beach. Both children under the same roof; something that has not happened in years. Travel to another state. Staying present with my dad for those moments when he’d forgotten who I was. Staying present with my mom as a wave of fear washed over her. A job lost. Taking his keys and truck away. The deep gratitude of sleeping in my own bed, even for a night. So much life lived.

I have taught myself, in my waking moments, to think, “Make this day a discovery.” I have given too many weeks of my life away, too many days, too many hours, too many minutes, believing that I knew what was going to happen. Dulling myself. Blinding myself to so much life happening. ‘Discover the day’ is a much better approach than ‘Get through the day.’ The truth: none of us really know what is going to happen.

And this week?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SO MUCH LIFE LIVED.

 

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Catch it. Release It. [on DR Thursday]

“…no one can tell us because life is not something which can be understood from a book.” ~Krishnamurti, Think On These Things

My sketchbook is part diary, part thought-catch-all, part quote repository, …and part sketchbook. And, sometimes the disparate rivers run together. A thought inspires an image, a sketch and a quote collide. Occasionally, on a day that the muse is sleeping or if I stumble into an experimental mood, I paint one of my collisions. And then, generally,  I paint over it. The point of any experiment, in art as well as science, is to find out what works by discovering what does not work. Trailing behind me is a long line of mud, mess, and poor composition. Much of my finished work is the visible layer of a sedimentary strata of experiments.

Like the rest of humanity, I am a seeker. Seeking is the point of a sketchbook or a diary. Reflection. Capturing. Exploration. Elusive mastery. Fickle contentment. Status. Safety.  Agreement. Peace.

We seek these things as if they were destinations. From my long line of mud and mess I’ve learned (and continue to learn) that none of what we seek is achievable. Seeking implies finding but that is a misnomer.  Life moves. Meaning is fluid. There may be answers for a moment but they will, as they must, open greater questions. Or, they will be a borrowed answer, a truth found in a book, lived by the author, celebrated and shared but unincorporated in the reader.

img_3997It is a bird that you hold for a moment. A relationship with something wild. A relationship with yourself. The meaning flutters in your hands, opens you to an experience, and then will die if not released.

A sketchbook, this painting, No One Can Tell Us, is merely a trace left by that fluttering relationship. The top layer.

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on NO ONE CAN TELL US

 

snowpath in bristolwoods website box copy

no one can tell us ©️ 2015 david robinson

 

 

 

Take Another Step [on KS Friday]

in transition song box copy

In the past year I’ve been reading books a few pages at a time. Some days I only read a few paragraphs at a time. I’m not reading to get through a book. I’m reading to ponder. It’s become a form of reading meditation.

A few weeks ago, I began a slow read of my own book, The Seer. I published it nearly five years ago and immediately abandoned it. Today I read this: change never comes from the direction of what you know. It is a prerequisite of learning, growth and change to step away from what is known, from what is comfortable. From what feels safe. Learning and change are always in the direction of the unknown.

Kerri’s IN TRANSITION is a musical mantra for stepping into the unknown. As is true of all transitions, it is a yearning in two directions. Yearning for what was. Yearning for what will be. But more than yearning, it is a river of determination. Take another step. And another. And another. Discover.

If you are in transition, as we are, stand still for a moment and listen to the yearning, steep yourself in the simple encouragement of IN TRANSITION.

 

IN TRANSITION on the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART available on iTunes & CDBaby. The physical CD is available here.

 

if you'd like to see kerri sherwood.. copy 2

read Kerri’s blog post about IN TRANSITION

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

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in transition/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Rise In The East [on DR Thursday]

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When I first began writing this blog I wrote everyday. I did not identify myself as a writer. It seemed an outrageous commitment to write every day and I wondered if I would be able to sustain it. I quickly learned that the opposite was true. I found that I had too much to write about. I found that the act of writing required me to pay attention. There was something to write about everywhere I looked. I was not only learning to write. I was learning to see.

I have always been a painter. Seeing is central to any art form but especially useful in the art of painting. You’d be amazed at the multitude of colors in everything you see that your brain blends into a single color. Yellow. Blue. If you can open your eyes and see beyond the dullness of expectation, the numbing of your mind, you will gasp at the riches of it all. This life is complex, intimate, moving.

I’m working on the seventh painting of my earth interrupted series. Prussian blues and ochre, reds and sienna. I laugh each day that I step into the studio and begin work on this series. “What am I doing?” I silently ask and laugh. The answer is obvious. I am sailing toward the edge. I am trying to find what exists beyond my horizon, my comfort zone.

thesunrises product BOX copyThese morsels, snippets of my paintings, are doing what my blog challenge did for me so many years ago: opening my eyes to new and unexpected possibilities. They are asking me to see something new and unexpected in something known. Or something I thought I knew. Kerri calls this morsel The Sun Rises In The East. It is under-painting, a layer of Earth Interrupted VII, which may or may not ever be completed. Voyages of discovery are like that. We’ll see.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on THE SUN RISES IN THE EAST

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

the sun rises in the east/earth interrupted vii ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood