Spread The Warm Disobedience [on Merely A Thought Monday]

The roads around here are a mess. There’s a major road-widening construction project that’s in its second year. Orange barrels, heavy machinery, multiple lanes too quickly squeezed into a single pathway (“Zipper merge!” we mock-shout and laugh, borrowing a phrase from Kirsten), lines painted and repainted making a Jackson Pollock mess of the guide stripes. People in the midst the holiday rush are amped-up angry drivers, impatient with the mess, leaning on their horns, cutting off other drivers to get-there-first.

Get-out-of-my-way meets the-season-of-giving. Defensive driving morphs into aggressive driving. It brings back memories of life in Los Angeles and Dwights-survival-advice: “You have to force traffic if you want to get anywhere alive,” he said. Hesitation is deadly. L.A.-style dog-eat-dog-driving has come to Kenosha, Wisconsin.

And then, when you least expect it, in the middle of the snarl, a person slows, makes space for a car trying to enter the fray at an impossible junction, and gestures, “Come in.” Their simple act, considering the needs of another, is shocking. ‘You first,” seems revolutionary.

My favorite part: it sends a shock through the roadway and ignites a momentary ripple of kindness. Drivers make space for other drivers. Courtesy returns for the blink of an eye before disappearing back into the fury.

Kindness ripples. It happens every time some brave soul slows down in the violent storm and realizes that they are not alone on the planet and wonders, “How can I help right now?” Their act of warm disobedience spreads.

read Kerri’s blogpost about KINDNESS

Choose The Lesser Chaos [on DR Thursday]

“If I choose abstraction over reality, it is because I consider it the lesser chaos.” ~ Robert Brault

And what isn’t an abstraction? Dealing with ideas rather than events? Not-the-thing-but-is referential-to-the thing?

Every word in every language is an abstraction. Every thought that zips through every brain is an abstraction. Not the thing but referential to it. The word “chair” is not a chair.

I caught myself in a sticky net. Not once, several times. I’ve tried again and again to paint “abstractions” only to whine, ‘I can’t abstract!” [insert laugh track]. A painting of something is, by definition, not the something. Picasso had a heyday playing with people’s minds around this idea, this abstraction.

After an unexplainable medical event, my doctor shrugged and said, “Sometimes there is no explanation. People like to rationalize things. They think if they can explain it, they can control it.”

Explain Pollock or Rothko. Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series. Ellsworth Kelly.

And who wouldn’t rather spend time pondering the sense of Richard Serra than anything we read in the news?

read Kerri’s blog post about ABSTRACTION

earth interrupted © 2012 david robinson

Break It [on KS Friday]

Breaking space with a line changes the dynamic of the entire composition. I played with those dynamics for years. Vertical breaks. Horizontal lines that read like confused measure bars, segments of inconsistent time. Sometimes the lines tilted and pulled to the past. Sometimes they leaned into the future, urging the image forward. All of those interpretations were, of course, in my mind; I have no idea how others interpreted the lines on my canvases.

We are in the season of fog. Sometimes it’s so dense that we stand on the rocks and cannot see the water. Lake Michigan is hard to hide! The fog is a worthy magician.

The fog-magician also has the capacity of pressing three dimensional objects into seeming flat two dimensional images. The sudden silhouetting of the world pulls Kerri out onto the deck every time. “Can you believe it?” she asks, grabbing her camera and stepping through the door and into the fog. Dogga and I watch. We are happy in three dimensions and resist the call of stepping into flatland.

When she returns to our dimension, she shows us her photographs. “I love this one because the wire made a line,” she says. “It breaks the image.”

I smile. Vertical breaks in the composition. I say, “It reads like an abstract painting.” Three dimensions becoming two, a line breaking space, capping or pulling or simply interrupting.

Jackson Pollock believed his paintings were recordings of movement. Paint dancing. Who really knows how others interpret his paintings. Beyond the curator or art historian, who cares, really? The relationship between art and audience is meant to be direct, pure. No third party interpretation necessary.

“What do you think?” she asks.

“I love it,” I say. “It makes me want to paint.”

kerri’s albums are available on iTunes & streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about FOG

when the fog lifts/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

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

 

their palettes website box copy

 

 

unfettered ©️ 2018 david robinson

 

 

 

Play On Empty [on DR Thursday]

hotel art copy

“The artist goes through states of fullness and emptiness, and that is all there is to the mystery of art.” ~ Picasso

Usually in my state of emptiness I stare at my paintings and they stare back at me. It’s like an old Viola Spolin exercise in which the the actors stare at the audience and the audience stares back at the actors. I look at you. You look at me. The question becomes who is audience and who is actor? Who is the painter and who is the painting?

It is difficult when empty to stay clear of self-criticism. It’s easy to look at the archives and think, “I suck. This work is awful!” I’ve learned that this impulse to deride my past work is actually a necessary refueling stage. It’s akin to how a teenager treats their parents when preparing to leave home. Snarky comments make separation easier. And necessary.

In my current state of emptiness Kerri suggested that I play with color and form. Nothing serious is allowed. Smear, pull, scratch,…follow. This is my first experiment while empty. It was fast, fun, and mostly thought-less.

I took a photograph so I could use it on the Melange. I called the photo “hotel art.”  Kerri said that title sounded derogatory. But, here’s the kicker: she asked me if I was going to keep the painting. If I was going to claim it as a ‘finished piece’ or would it live for a while as an experiment until I painted over it?

Smear, pull, scratch, spatter, flick, erase. Jackson Pollock called his splatter paintings a recording of the dance. A map of the movement of making a painting. I look at you, you look at me.

Where is the line between ‘serious art’ and personal experiment, especially in the world of anything-goes-contemporary-art?  The banana is taped to the wall. Banksy dropped his painting through a shredder at the moment it was purchased at the auction house.

Experiment. Play. Intentional. Improvisational. Keeper. Throwaway. I look at you. You look at me.

All I really know is that I am empty and emptiness does not come with silence. It is a fertile ground for noisy, mostly useless, questions.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THIS PAINTING

 

 

wideopenmouths website box copy

 

hotel art ©️ 2019 david robinson [if it is taken seriously or perhaps this copyright should apply equally to messes, play, and fun]

Make A Mark [on DR Thursday]

see an owl with frame copy

k.dot & d.dot see an owl, mixed media, 24 x 48IN

Every once in a while I paint a chronicle piece, capturing an event from something that happened in our lives. Early in our relationship, sitting in Adirondack chairs in the front yard,  sipping wine, listening  to music, we broke into a spontaneous fit of dancing.  Dancing In The Front Yard was the first of the chronicle paintings.

Picasso said that painting was just another way of keeping a diary. I suppose that makes all of my work or any artist’s work a chronicle. A record. Jackson Pollock’s ‘action paintings’ are considered a record of the artist’s movement, a visual register of the painter’s dance.

I knew a man whose passion in life was rock art. Petroglyphs and pictographs. Human-made markings on stone. He traveled the world to the caves or cliffs – sites – where these ‘records’ are found. We had many conversations about the “why” of it – why people so long ago scratched images in rocks, ground minerals to make pigment and painted walls deep in a dark cave. Ritual or roadmap? Worship or whimsy? Both/and?

A diary? A register? A reaching? A marker? Maybe it is simple: humans make marks. And then give the marks meaning. Or, perhaps more to the point, we make marks and believe the marks give us meaning.

Kerri and I saw an owl in the pine tree in our backyard. It was thrilling. We thought it was a good omen, a gift. We slipped into the house to get the binoculars, careful not to move too fast to scare it away. Later, standing before a blank canvas, all I could think about was the thrill of seeing the owl.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about K.DOT & D.DOT SEE AN OWL

 

drc website header copy

 

chicago river website box copy

 

k.dot & d.dot see an owl ©️ 2015 david robinson