Pace And Shed [on DR Thursday]

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underpainting

Like all artists I pass through periods of discontent with my paintings. They become like ill-fitting clothes. I want to shed them. I’m embarrassed to claim them. I start poking around for something new. Something that fits.

It took me more than a few cycles of discomfort to realize that discontent was actually a gift. It is the leading edge of curiosity, the fire storm that makes way for rejuvenation. Artists are not immune to holding on tightly to the safety and comfort of what they know and need a good dose of discontent to loosen their grip. At least I do.

Discontent makes me range around. Try stuff. Tear things up. Scribble furiously. Wonder if my muse has abandoned me (feel sorry for myself). Make really bad art (not on purpose). Make really bad art (on purpose). Take walks.

Discontent allows my empty well to refill. It pops any illusion I might carry of perfection. It turns my ship and hoists full-sail toward the edge of the world. And, it is always when I sail into uncharted waters that I find my muse waiting. She drums her fingers and says, “I thought you’d never get here.”

Ten years ago, when becalmed in the middle of my artistic ocean, I saw a pile of tissue paper in the corner of my studio. In a fit of why-not-nothing-else-is-working, I tore pieces of tissue and slapped them onto the painting-of-my-discontent. There sat my long missing muse, fingers drumming. “Texture,” she yawned. “You might want to see where this takes you.”

It’s taken me a long way. And, to my surprise, just a few weeks ago, I woke up and my paintings, like ill-fitting clothes, no longer fit me. I look at them as if someone else painted them. “Yikes,” I thought, “I hope no one saw these…” My muse packed her bags. She is nowhere in sight. I paced a little. Discontent like fog descended.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about UNDERPAINTING

 

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sometimes the underpainting becomes the painting…this is a slice of Newborn

 

newborn ©️ 2019 david robinson

 

 

Chase The Bubbles [on DR Thursday]

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Some paintings don’t make it to the finish line and I suspect that this painting, Chasing Bubbles, will be one of those. I’ve been working on and off with it for weeks and that’s the problem. I’m not paying enough consistent attention to the painting to actually develop it into something good. Like an absent father I return to it every once in a while and wonder why the relationship isn’t progressing.

The playwright John Guare said that writers need to write ten bad pages to get one good page. Remove failure from the equation. Place the emphasis on the process and not on the product. Experiment. Play. Make strong offers.

The same principle is the reason why actors rehearse or artists do drawing exercises and rough drafts. A photographer for National Geographic (whose name escapes me) said that he shoots a thousand shots to get one really good photograph.

For an artist, silly notions like perfection interrupt the necessity of flow.

Kerri just thumped me. She looked over my shoulder and read what I was writing. “I like this painting!” she declared. She wants a stay of execution. She rapidly listed all of the reasons why I shouldn’t paint over it. “At least consider it,” she said, glaring at me.

I will consider it. After all, that is exactly what I have been doing. Considering whether or not to keep working it or start anew. Trying to find a way, given my spotty attention, to bring life to this Frankenstein. In either case, I am certain of one thing: this bad page will eventually lead to something good.

 

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Chasing Bubbles in process or perhaps in its last hours (thump).

read Kerri’s blog post about CHASING BUBBLES

 

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chasing bubbles (for better or worse) ©️ 2019 david robinson

Re-Member [on DR Thursday]

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a morsel of ‘alki beach’

I was surprised. This was the first painting Horatio pulled from my stacks. It’s an older painting, a piece I’d forgotten.  “I like this one,” he said, and told me why.

Horatio is a great artist so it was a rare treat to rummage around the studio and talk about my work. I don’t often talk about it, not really. When showing paintings, people ask questions and I usually deflect the question back at them. It’s a rule. Artists often get in the way of the relationship between their painting and an observer. I want people to see what they see, not what I think they should see. There is no right answer or any one way of seeing a painting.  That’s the point; they have the power to re-create it for themselves. The magic is on the purity of the relationship. I’m more interested in their re-creation than I am in what I think they should see.

Horatio gave me a great gift. He helped me see ALKI BEACH anew. He helped me remember and in remembering I saw the painting again as if for the first time. It was like meeting an old friend after many years. Since Horatio’s visit I’ve had a chance to chat with ALKI BEACH over coffee. We reminisced about the day, the event that inspired it. I remember how the sun and air felt walking that day so long ago on Alki Beach. I remember sitting in my chair in my studio staring at a blank canvas. I remember the birds, the gulls and crows and eagles. I remember reaching for the charcoal.

I remember my surprise at what emerged on the canvas, the day I stepped back, paint on my face and hands, and saw ALKI BEACH for the first time. I remember thinking, “I like this one.”

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ALKI

 

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alki beach ©️ circa 2009, david robinson

Mix It [on DR Thursday]

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True confessions: I never clean my palette. I like the messy build up of color. I like the chunky texture. It serves as a gunky history of my work, a genealogy of paintings past. And then, over time, it becomes a tactile work of art in its own right. Unfettered by any of the mental gymnastics or over-ponderous considerations that plague my “real” work, it is the closest to child-mind that I will achieve. It is accidental. It is free.

This might be a stretch but it is, for me, nevertheless true. I love my palette because it is the place of alchemy in my artist process. It is the true liminal space. I begin with pure color. I smashed the pure color together with another color and transform it into a third color, the hue I intend. On a palette, color becomes intention. And then, once transformed, with a brush or knife I lift the color-intention from my palette and in an action that is often more responsive than creative, I place it onto a canvas. It transforms yet again relative to all the color it touches. An image emerges. More color is called for.

And, somewhere in this call and response of color, I become like the palette. The pass-through of alchemy, the door that color passes through en route to something beautiful. And, in the process, perhaps I, too, in my messy build up of life/color, grow closer to that child mind. Unfettered. Accidentally interesting. Free.

“You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough” ~ William Blake

 

read Kerri’s blog post about my PALETTE

 

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untitled, mixed media 48 x 48IN

 

 

 

 

Paint The Can [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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I imagine this still life is a painting that Duke merely tossed off. It was an exercise, something he painted because, well, he wanted to paint but wasn’t awash in inspiration. He looked around for a subject, any subject, and laughed when it occurred to him that the coffee can stuffed with brushes and tubes of paint lying willy-nilly on his table would make a sufficient study. When it was complete, he liked it enough to hang in the hallway of his house. It hung there for years. I imagine he and his wife, Eileen, looked at it everyday – to the point that they probably stopped seeing it. It was the norm. Part of the hallway.

It remained in the hallway after his death.

A few weeks ago Kerri and I helped Duke’s son, 20, move his mom into a nice assisted living apartment. After the furniture was moved in and the dishes and lamps, the final piece was Duke’s painting of brushes in a coffee can. It is the piece that made Eileen’s new apartment feel like home. Before we hung it on the wall we took some time and studied the painting. Duke was great painter!  I imagine that he had no idea on the long-ago-day that he decided old brushes in a coffee can would make a nice study, that his coffee can, like the Velveteen Rabbit of paintings, would come to mean so much. That it would carry associations like “home” and “Duke.”

It’s probably good that an artist cannot know the destiny of their work.

I imagine he put on the final touches of paint, the highlights, stood back and thought, “It’s good. I like this one.” He dropped his brush in some turpentine and made his way upstairs the get another cup of coffee.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DUKE’S PAINTING

 

 

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Make A Mark [on DR Thursday]

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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

 

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

Meditate [on DR Thursday]

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It’s a universal theme that I’ve painted over and over throughout my life. Mother and child.  Sometimes the painting is inspired by a dear friend becoming a parent. Sometimes, like this iteration, I look up and find it staring at me from the canvas. When that happens I know I need to follow it.

img_3998I learned when I was a teenager that the act of painting was, for me, a form of meditation. Sometimes the meditation has nothing to do with the image that I am working with. The process becomes an exercise in presence. Sometimes, like this painting, the image has everything to do with the meditation. The image is the meditation.

So. Birth. New life. Possibilities. Life giving. A good meditation for the middle of winter. A good meditation for an artist surrounded by good friends retiring from work, becoming grandparents, asking what is next. A universal theme. A universal symbol.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on MOTHER AND CHILD IN PROCESS

 

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mother & child (in process) ©️ 2019 david robinson