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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unfettered ©️ 2018 david robinson




Pivot [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Art In Me copy 3

I learned many things following Skip through the curious world of technology entrepreneurism. Peculiar terms like ‘incubator” and “accelerator,” once reserved for premature babies or the gas pedal in my car, were reassigned to ideas: ideas in need of nurturing or, more remarkable, ideas pumped up with steroids and released ravenous upon investors (who were also ravenous but more composed by virtue of their power position).

Among the most important lessons was this: despite the best incubation, even with warp speed acceleration, the best idea, the best product, was probably obsolete the day it hit the market. Someone, somewhere in the world, had already improved upon it. A better mousetrap has little or no shelf life. And so, I also added to my vocabulary a new understanding of the word ‘pivot.’ I love how similar an entrepreneur’s terminology is to a ballet dancer. Pivot, move, fluid, flow, swivel, turn, revolve. Keep your center. Keep your eyes on the spot or you will grow dizzy and fall. The spot is not the individual product, the single idea. It is the business spawned from the idea. It is the ongoing relationship with relevance/obsolescence.

Those in my age group are distinguished by our dance with obsolescence. Graphic designers, publishers, musicians, educators,…artists. We are distinct in having one foot in an analog world – I prefer easel and canvas to stylus and computer screen –  and the other foot in the digital tsunami. The art is innate. Relevance is another story entirely. Reinvention (another word for pivot) is a necessity. Entrepreneurs and artists are not so different.

After seeing our melange post on Surfing Uncertainty, Master Marsh  reflected that surfing uncertainty was more than a design, it was my credo. Horatio jested that I was either a dilettante-from-hell or a bodhisattva. I laughed. Illumination seems a bit out of my reach. I think technology makes dilettantes of us all!

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read Kerri’s blog post about ART ALREADY IN ME


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i was came into the world with art already in me ©️ 2016/2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson


Think “And”

a second version, a second point of view of my painting Shared Fatherhood

I suppose it is the great trap in human nature to define life through oppositions. Was your experience good or bad? Are you liberal or conservative? Are you your brother’s keeper or is it every man for himself? Oppositions provide the illusion that there is a right way or a wrong way, that any issue can be reduced to a simplicity, a singular path. One way. Oppositions are great language devices for dictators and the righteous. They remove the grey tones and blunt the grey matter. With an opposition, us or them, “god” can be exclusively on your side (a small god, indeed) which self-grants permission for all manner of abuses enacted by “us” on “them.” The problematic word when employing oppositions is “or.”

“And” is a much more useful (and honest) term to employ when dancing with oppositions. Can you be your brother’s keeper AND take care of yourself? Certainly. Can you survive entirely by yourself without the participation of your brothers and sisters? Certainly not. No one lives in a vacuum; “or” is the great creator of illusory vacuums. “And” guarantees a conversation and perhaps a host of useful, challenging and robust perspectives. Both/And is always more functional than Either/Or.

AND the first version of Shared Fatherhood

The snag in “Or” is that there is very little truth in any reduction that ultimately lands on just One. This or that. All life is movement and all movement stops in One. Creative tension requires at least two points and a desire for someplace place to go. There is no single arrival station in real life. There is no achievement that stops all the presses. Every answer inspires new questions. Each question opens doors to multiple possibilities. Agreement is a fluid target at best and must be nurtured. Compromise is never an end state; it is a relationship imperative. Life is never found in the static “or.”

Do an experiment: go to the grocery store, choose any item and ask yourself how many people it took to bring your chosen item to the shelf at that moment. If you are not astounded by the complexity of participation, how dependent we are on actions of others, your imagination has most certainly failed you. Skip, entrepreneur extraordinaire and mentor to entrepreneurs taught me that a business cannot succeed until it serves its customer’s customer. Note the word “serves.” Businesses serve. Not simply a customer but the complexity of a customer’s customer. Entrepreneurism is a service to the creative genius of a community and multitudes of communities beyond.

Entrepreneurism, like artistry, ….even, yes, like governance…like all things vital, moving, complex and growing, live in service according to the good graces of AND. Anything else is a mirage.




Reverse The Direction Of The Pull


Reverse The Direction


See It. Feel It.

I call this painting "Sleepers"

I call this painting “Sleepers”

Tom spoke of small actions, the gift of peanut butter to a food kitchen for the poor. He asked, “Will it change the world?” and answered his own question, “I don’t know. In some small way, bringing a bit of hope to anther person, or providing food for a day, maybe it will.” Tom has been meditating on the many ways we enact love but perhaps do not see. He has been wondering if small acts of generosity serve as small acts love. Are not these small acts of generosity capable of changing the world.

For the past year, since moving from Seattle and leaving my work with entrepreneurs, I’ve been pondering this impulse toward change and the ubiquitous desire to change the world. I learned last year that, in business start-ups, the intention to change people is the great sign of folly. Changing people is impossible. If the central intention of the new business is to change people, don’t invest. It’s good rule of thumb.

People pray for a world without violence, a world free of disease and poverty. People read the paper and wonder what has become of the world. Someone recently said to me, “It’s overwhelming. What can I do?”

Tom’s meditation has brought him to this: it is not the doing that ultimately matters. It is quality of the being that matters. If your doing changes your being, you have changed the world. If some small act of generosity or compassion opens you, it changes the world. In the year prior to my move, I walked across the city of Seattle twice each day. I made it a game to count the small acts of kindness I saw each day during my crossing. There were always too many to count. People opening doors for others, making space in line, helping someone who dropped their packages, blocking traffic for an elderly person to cross the street. My walks were steeped in otherwise small invisible generosities.

The mistake we make when desiring change in the world is to think of change as a bottom line, change as an outcome or end result. Change as a forced march or dose of castor oil. Changing the world is not an arrival platform. It is within every act of kindness. It is every generous thought. It is fluid, on going, never ending.

One thing I learned from my walk with entrepreneurs is that every single start-up came about because someone saw a way to make life easier for others. What makes an idea good is how effectively it helps others. And so, in pursuing their idea, in every small action, they change themselves. They play in the field of possibilities. In changing themselves, they cannot help but change the world.

Will a donation of a jar of peanut butter to a food bank change the world? Perhaps. If it feels good. If it changes you. Small acts do not exist in isolation. To change the world you need only change yourself. People do not exist in isolation. The river flows. Each act impacts others in small ways and large.

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Own It And Offer

797. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

All winter in the many arenas of my work, I’ve been hearing a question: Who are you in service to? Sometimes the question comes in the form of “customer.” Sometimes it wears the mask of “client.” Entrepreneurs and actors try to identify their “audience.” Most often the question of service comes hidden in the guise of “purpose.”

This last variation, purpose, is deceptive because when a person asks, “What is my purpose?” they automatically focus inside themselves. The question implies unique volition, an inner imperative. It implies ownership. All of that is true. Purpose is uniquely felt. Purpose is an inner drive. It is personal. It is also empty if not offered. Arrows need targets. Businesses need buyers. Pastors need congregants. Artists need audiences. Purpose needs receivers. Purpose is all about relationship.

It comes as a great curiosity to me that the block entrepreneurs experience most is rooted in the fear of reaching out and talking to potential audiences. They fear that their idea might be stupid. It is better to not know than to put it out, ask and adjust. Their fear is akin to the data that tells us that most people fear public speaking more than death. Think about it. Rather than be seen, most of us would rather die. We want to speak but only if we know what we have to say has merit before we speak. Young actors have to learn not to shield themselves from their audience. They want on the stage only to hide. It cancels the purpose. The challenge is the same – it is playing out in many arenas.

In other words, purpose is all about relationship yet we are deeply invested in controlling or restricting our relationships. We blunt our purpose in the restraints we put on sharing. Ownership of purpose is related to freely sharing our offers. Share. Ask. Engage.

This work, my purpose, is at the center of Flipped Startup (my new collaboration). Yesterday I realized it is only incidentally aimed at entrepreneurs. This work is for everyone. In this world we are of necessity all entrepreneurs and wrestling with the same question: who am I in service to? Own it. And offer it.

Look Beyond The Word

758. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

According to my dictionary, an entrepreneur is a risk taking businessperson. This is not much of a definition. The word is French in origin and it meant to undertake. It was a verb. To get out of bed and undertake the tasks of the day makes us all entrepreneurs. Especially these days when risk, according to the dictionary, means that there is a chance something might go wrong. I’ve yet to live a day when everything went right. For instance, last night I opened a jar of curry powder with too much enthusiasm and curry exploded everywhere. I think there is a more appropriate definition of an entrepreneur: someone whose not invested in things going right. In fact, entrepreneurs look for things going wrong because that provides the opportunity necessary for new creation. Entrepreneurs see the world beyond right and wrong. They see opportunity. Risk has nothing to do with it.

An artist, as defined by the dictionary, is a creator of art, a performer, a person with skills or a cunning person. The origin of this word is either French or Latin. We are cautioned in the dictionary not to confuse artist with artisan. An artisan is engaged in a craft. An artist is engaged in a fine art though I can’t find any mention of what distinguishes a craft from a fine art. From the definition of artist, the phrase “cunning person” shouted to me so following the word chain I learned that cunning means crafty and deceitful, clever or cute. So, artisans, unlike artists, must not be deceitful, clever or cute though they are, by definition crafty. In the Venn diagram of artist and artisan, craftiness is the crossover. So, to sum up: artists are cute, crafty, clever and deceitful while creating something fine. Artisans are rough, dull and honest while also crafty. Can one be crafty and dull at the same time? I have a more appropriate definition for artist: someone who lives beyond the abstractions of thought. They engage with what is there, not what they think is there. In other words, someone who has made presence a priority in his or her life is an artist. Artists guide their community to presence.

Words like “risk” or “fine” blind us. They distance us from our potential because we think we need to take risks to be entrepreneurial; we think we need to do something fine to be and artist. Artists and entrepreneurs explore. They engage. They discover. They act first and then make meaning of their experiences. They master their “doing” because they are not invested in win/lose games. They step into the unknown without reservation. Artistry, like entrepreneurship, defines a way of being not something achieved.