Contrast [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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It is the ultimate cliche’: we only know light because of dark. 20 calls this the contrast principle. Images juxtaposed illuminate. It’s how stories are told in film. Once. Upon. A. Time. It is how images pop off the canvas, blue next to orange, green meets purple. Contrast makes the eye move. Contrast makes shapes emerge. Movement has no meaning without stillness.

It’s relative. Related. Relationship. Without relativity, without contrast, nothing makes sense. Or, more to the point, nothing is sensed. Difference, in fact, is the secret sauce necessary for knowing anything. Category. Class. Classification. Group. What is like what? What is related? What is unrelated? Cubicle. Caste. Lines on a map.

Contrast can be wielded like a sword. They are not us. Division.

Or, contrast can be used to unify. A crossroads of diverse perspectives, innovation.

Nature is dynamic at its edges. Water meets beach. Earth meets water. Air breathes fire. Hot meets cold. Convection current. Contrast. Changing energies. Creative movement.

Kerri stopped during our walk. “Look!” she exclaimed. Her eye was drawn to the lone daisy in the midst of the sea of black-eyed susans. “Beautiful,” she whispered as she approached with her camera. “Look at the contrast.”

So similar. So different. Yellow meets white. Black meets yellow.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CONTRAST

 

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daisy in the black-eyed susans ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

Coexist and Thrive [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Kerri told me that this was an image of coexistence. Cultivated plants sharing space with the wild ones. What-has-been holding court with what-just-popped-up. Intention linking fingers with the spontaneous. Stop me before I over-analogize myself!

Diversity is what makes nature tick. Googling biodiversity, I came across this phrase-that-says-it-all: greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms. Nothing, truly nothing, is independent. No thought, no being, no creative impulse is without precedent or ancestry. Great sites of innovation are – and have always been – found at the crossroads of culture. Life feeds life.

Picasso stepped onto the shoulders of Cezanne and painted his first cubist masterpiece in the same year that Einstein published his theory of relativity. These are not accidental statements.

Great artists, like great scientists, know that they are more discoverer than originator. They carry forward traditions, explore variations, rather than invent entirely new paths. Curators like to propel the story of ‘original’ because it makes a better story. Being the first to step on the moon is a better story than being the second but it is always wise to keep in mind that neither invented the moon.

Cultures that isolate are doomed to wither. Fear of otherness forges nationalist and moralists alike. Purity is a nice word, an abstract that may exist in a laboratory but is not found anywhere in nature.  Innovation, growth..all of life, yes, even economies, need rich diversity in order to thrive. Just like dandelions in a cornfield.  The evidence is all around us and all we need do is open our eyes.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about COEXISTENCE

 

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Juxtapose [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I come to this eve of the new year holding two images, two art experiences juxtaposed. One is a review of the past. The other a resolution. Together they resonate.

The first, the review of things past that influence things to come, is Peter Jackson’s World War I documentary film, And They Shall Not Grow Old. It is a miracle of film making (stay to see the segment about how it was made that rolls after the credits. You will shake your head with wonderment). It takes you into the trenches and horrors of war.  We left the theatre both wowed by the film-making and shocked by the utter senselessness of war. Wowed by the human capacity to innovate and despairing at our capacity to willingly destroy ourselves for imagined gains. Both are technical achievements.

The morning after seeing the film I opened Brain Pickings and, given the film, I was smacked by a photograph of Earth taken from The Voyager spacecraft in the mid 1990’s. The Pale Blue Dot. It brought instant perspective to war – and everything else we imagine to be so important. Within the vast expanse of space, “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” I had to look twice to see the speck that is Earth. Our imagined importance is out of perspective with the realities of our circumstance. The fragility (the miracle) of our existence is generally lost in our daily myopia.

Two images.  Juxtaposed.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on THE NEW YEAR

 

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Chicken Marsala Monday

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High atop the list of obstacles we erect on our creative life path is this: I don’t know how…. As a coach, I heard it daily from clients. As a consultant, I heard it regularly from business leaders and educators (the pronoun changed: we don’t know how…) Artists regularly lock up in the face of a monstrous HOW?

When I was a young erector of massive obstacles in my path, Quinn would smile and say to me, “Nobody knows how. Just start.” I thought he was being flippant with encouragement but lived my way into recognizing that his advice was not only sound but it was sage.

Knowing how to do something is never a prerequisite for action. It is, however,  a really good excuse to prevent action.

Knowing how comes second. Always. It comes after the fact, after the experience of trying and adjusting and learning. It comes at the end of the day, looking back. That’s when “how” becomes visible. Today’s Chicken Nugget via the studio melange is timeless and simple advice. It would make Quinn smile: sometimes the best thing to do is start.

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SOMETIMES THE BEST THING TO DO IS START merchandise

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check out KERRI’S thoughts on this CHICKEN NUGGET

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sometimes the best thing to do is start ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

 

Let Yourself Go

I have no idea how, but I'm making a mess of sound and will one day play the ukulele.

I have no idea how, but I’m making a mess of sound and will one day play the ukulele. Kerri says that I already am…

My meditation on the word “how” continues.

At our recent Summit in Holland, Alan and I asked the question, “What would you do if you didn’t have to know how?” It is a great question. The short answer is this: you’d figure it out. You’d try things. And if your first attempts led nowhere you’d try something else.

In this musing I have often written that “how” is something that is known at the end of the journey. We can’t answer “how” with any honesty until the story is played. Today I recognize that there are two distinctly different “hows:” 1) the explanation, “This is how I did it. This is how you do it. This is the “how” that presumes a path or a prescription. When dealing with this version of “how” I ask groups or clients to consider their life story and tell me how they got to this day in this place doing this job, etc.. The answer is mostly, “A clear path with a lot of happy accidents,” or something like, “I have no idea. I didn’t try.” Yes. Ask me how to paint a painting and I will tell you that I have no idea. I’ve painted a thousand of them and I can teach color theory or composition but I cannot tell you how to open to the muse, how to become a channel for something greater to come through. To paint a painting, to act in the play, to write the book, there is something akin to letting go. There is a divine surrender. So, how did you get to this place in your life? Divine surrender. Happy accident. Unstoppable forces.

If the first form of “how” is an explanation, the second is akin to giving permission. I have worked with a legion of blocked artists who set up studios, buy musical instruments, sign up for improv class,…, and then sit in their studio, stare at their musical instrument, and forget to go to class. When they call me, they tell me their story and always finish the telling with, “I don’t know how….” For my fee, I could say a single, simple word: start. Instead, what we usually do in our work together is find their internal permission. When they realize that their block has nothing to do with “how” and everything to do with the fear of being judged (“how” is an internal braking system meant to prevent starting), when they are ready to, as Saul would say, “Orient to their own concern,” they allow that their opinion of their work trumps all others, they give themselves permission. They start. They play.

Recently, a brilliant woman, an attendee of the Summit, a maker of incredible mandalas, sent me an email with a photo of the start of a painting. She asked for my advice. I wrote: make a mess. Paint on top of the mess. Then repeat. Today in my inbox I received her beautiful mess with a note that their would be more messes to follow. She started. She picked up a brush. She splashed some paint. She splashed some more paint in response to her first splashes. That is how art is made. That is how light bulbs were invented.

This morning I laughed when I realized the double definition of the phrase, “Let yourself go.” In common parlance, it is used as a negative, when people give up, when they stop trying to maintain their health or their appearance, “He really let himself go.” The second possible meaning is to start. To go. The next time someone is sitting in their studio and asks me the question “how,” I will respond like this: let yourself go.

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Pick Up Your Ordinary

From Kerri and my travels: a photo essay about what our feet have seen

From Kerri and my travels: a photo essay about what our feet have seen

I continue to process all of the amazing events and experiences from the past few weeks working abroad. They have jiggled loose an old thought-bubble and I’ve been pondering it since it bobbed to the surface.

The old thought-bubble is a tenet that comes from improvisational theatre: put down your clever and pick up your ordinary. I’ve used this tenet in any number of facilitations and coaching relationships. The basic idea is this: any attempt at being clever actually diminishes personal power and inhibits the capacity to be present. Trying to be clever focuses the eye inside and robs a performer or presenter of the only thing that really matters: relationship in the moment.

Dig a bit deeper and the real wealth of the tenet shows itself. We rarely recognize our true gift because we think everyone possesses it. We miss our unique gift because we think it’s ordinary. We mistake our gift for something common and therefore not of great value. In truth, what we brand as ordinary (how we see the world) is our most unique, most potent and powerful gift. So, to put down your clever and pick up your ordinary is to value your unique point of view. It is to honor yourself and how you see the world and also affords you the capacity to be seen as you are, not as you think you need to be seen. To pick up your ordinary is to become accessible.

Trying to be clever is actually an attempt at trying to be something we are not – or someone we are not. It is to hide, put on a mask, or pretend.

Ordinary reveals; clever obscures. Ordinary facilitates flow. Clever needs to control. Attempts at being clever are manufactured moments. Experts need to be clever, they need to whip up a straw man and call it substance. Clever is always an ego need – in fact, clever is nothing more than a plea for approval. It is a thirst for adulation. Clever needs center stage. Ordinary shares the stage. Clever needs to claim territory. Ordinary expands horizons. Ordinary is accessible. Clever is protected, aloof, and closed.

All of this is old news. It was in the old thought-bubble. Just behind it came a few new little trailer bubbles. Clever is oriented on what it gets (adoration, attention, acclamation). Ordinary is oriented according to what it brings: a unique point of view in service to a relationship. Ordinary is a form of potlatch: give what you have; give away your wealth as the road to increase. Clever comes from a universe of lack. Ordinary comes from an abundant life. It is a paradox. Unique is found in the ordinary. New vision comes when we cease trying to say something new and simply offer our unique, one-of-a-kind perspective. The beauty is in what we see.

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Walk As One

From my archives. I call this painting, "Alki."

From my archives. I call this painting, “Alki.”

Alan and I talked today. We are planning our upcoming Summit in Holland in June. Our conversations are always as wide-ranging as they are deep dives into sense making and soul. There seems to be no horizon that we won’t step towards, no secret passage that we won’t explore. This has been true since the moment we met. We’ve always been verdant collaborators. We joked that someday clients will hire us just to listen to how our minds spark each other. And, given our conversation today, we’d be worth every penny. We are both in the business of facilitating perceptual shifts and transformation so we do it for each other. Our planning sessions are a festival of insight upon insight, shift within shift. Together, we are innovation squared.

Recently, I shared a short TED talk by neurologist V.S. Ramachandran about mirror neurons and how deeply and concretely we are connected despite our belief/experience that we are separate. It came up again for me because during our call Alan and I discussed the waves of far-reaching impact that any simple action or word generates. Paul Barnes used to say to young actors, “Never underestimate the power you have to influence another person’s life.” Most of us are unaware of the impact that we have on lives that we never directly touch. For instance, I have had great teachers in my life and I carry their work forward in every word I write and every group I facilitate. My teachers will never know the many lives they touched and continue to touch. And, neither will I. And, neither will you. The best we can do is know that our actions matter, our thoughts matter, our intentions matter. We are more powerful than we understand.

No one lives in a vacuum. No one creates without influences. No one has a purely original thought. In fact, if you grasp what V.S. Ramachandran is addressing, no one thinks or feels independently of others. We are not as isolated or as separate as we believe ourselves to be. We have to work at separation. We are, each of us, continually co-creating (to use Alan’s term) our world in every moment of every day. What might you see if you stopped and pondered the implications of co-creation, if you took a moment and considered that you are not merely a bobber in an ocean but, in fact, are the ocean? How might you read the news of the day or address your dreams if you understood that you were a participant, a dynamic part, a burning point for the ancestors, a sender of ripples through space and time, and not simply walking this path all alone?

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Or, go here for a hard copy.