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

 

 

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

Eat The Marshmallows [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I know it’s confusing. In my life there is H, also called Horatio. And then there is H, not Horatio at all, but a 93 year old man who is one of the few elders in my life that did not grow angry with age. H grew sweeter with time, and, therefore, wiser. He is my master teacher in how to age with joy.

I sit next to H in choir. He loves to sing. He has been singing his entire life and, so, he is easy in his voice. Ease of voice. I suspect that’s one of the main reasons he has such ready access to his humor. He isn’t trying to keep his voice down. He’s not editing himself or otherwise tying off his expression. He’s paid attention to keeping his creative channels open and free flowing. He wheels in with his walker, drops his coat, and teeters to-and-fro before dropping into his chair with a giggle. Even sitting down has become an oddity and rather than grouse about it, he smiles. “Made it!” he announces after hitting the chair with a thud.

‘Yes,’ I think to myself, ‘You made it.’ We should all make it like H.

I know H has had tragedy in his life. I know he had and continues to have a hard road. He sings in a church choir but I accuse him of being a secret Buddhist, so joyfully is he participating in the sorrows of the world.

Picasso famously said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” H has made of his life a great painting that even Picasso would enjoy. He has circled back to the child, the innocent appreciation of the great gift of living.

There are no lines of import in H’s coloring book and he inspires me to take out my great big Jethro Bodine bowl and fill it full with Lucky Charms. Pour the milk! Why wait.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about H

 

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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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Study It [on DR Thursday]

Although this news will come as a blow to my ego, I am not a genius. My work is not opening new and exciting doors in the trajectory of western art. My boyhood fantasy of becoming the next Picasso has evolved into the happy reality of becoming the only…me. I love to paint. That is more than enough. Becoming, with no end in sight.

I rarely do studies or rough drafts. Only when a painting is giving me fits do I stop and study it. And, if I actually stop to do a study, the next step is to wipe the painting off the canvas. You might say that the act of doing a study is a warning to the elusive painting. “Last chance, dude.”

FACE THE SUN began as a study, a warning to CHASING BUBBLES. I was ready to wipe it away. In fact, I was cackling at the satisfaction a fresh start would bring. Kerri intervened. She has an uncanny sense for knowing when I am about to wipe away a painting. More than once, at the very moment my hand is reaching to annihilate the trouble-maker-painting, she rushes in to plead its case. I knit my brow. “You’re kidding, right?”

CHASING BUBBLES lived to see another day. Cleaning the studio, I saw the study that saved the painting. I liked it so I finished it and called it FACE THE SUN. Kerri came into the studio and said, “That painting makes my neck hurt.”

“What?! You’re kidding, right?”

She smiled her “gotcha” smile. Not only am I not the next Picasso but the painter that is becoming me is gullible. I am not a genius but I am an easy mark.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FACE THE SUN

 

 

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face the sun/chasing bubbles ©️ 2019 david robinson

 

Love The Mud [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” ~ Picasso

It would seem to be a no-brainer. Mastery comes from a lifetime of doing. Trial and error. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule: success is nothing more than practicing the task for many hours over many years. As the old joke goes, it’s how you get to Carnegie Hall.

Efficiency. Ease. Body knowledge. Body of Knowledge. Flow. Wisdom. The blossoms of a long-body of experiences. The farmer, over a lifetime of living and working the same plot of land, knows the signs that no one else can see. They sense the storm coming. They smell the time for planting. They waste no time; their 10,000 hours having developed a solid relationship, a kinship with their environment and work.

An artist, over a lifetime of living and working the same plot of music or paint or dance, knows the signs that no one else can see. Artistry is efficiency, a single line saying more than 20. A musical phrase capable of reaching deeper into hearts than was once possible. Like the farmer, their 10,000 hours becomes 20,000 and then 30,000. Their worth, their work, after so many hours of hands in the soil or fingers on the keys, is incalculable.

Awash in abstractions, organizations play by a different set of understandings. Bottom lines are blind to mastery. You’d be amazed (or not) at how many people I know who’ve been “let go” because a younger, less expensive person, might “fill the role” and “cost less.” Mastery as deficit. You’d  be astounded (or not) at how many people I’ve coached who were punished because they became highly efficient. Their life-of-experience made their work look too easy. They were either squeezed for more or released as unnecessary.

What happens when all of the organizational knowledge, the ease and efficiency that comes via experience, becomes a liability? Wearing my consulting hat I’d routinely shake my head at the standard folly of leadership – people in power suits and ties a hundred miles from the dust and grit of the boots-on-the-ground – determining with pencil and paper the time and worth of a task. Abstracting the worth of a life. Budgetary efficiency driving the carefully calculated undervaluation of experience. Actual efficiency red-lined by abstract efficiency. As John would say, “Penny wise and pound foolish.”

Maturity in season of life. It comes from a job description that came across Kerri’s desk. Maturity as a job requirement! A search for someone with the experience necessary to paint like a child. Seeking the mastery that results from years and years of plowing the same fields.

I wonder if the hiring committee merely tossed out flowery language or actually understood that their ideal candidate would come through the door with boots made muddy from a lifetime of walking the fields?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MATURITY IN SEASON OF LIFE

 

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Distort! [on DR Thursday]

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Lately, when picking images for the melange, I go into the studio, quick snap a few photos, toss them to Kerri and ask her to choose one. It’s that random. This week, I tipped a stack of canvases, much like you’d open a book, shoved my camera in the ‘open page’ and snapped this photo. A morsel of LOVERS. Also, because the painting was tipped, there is an angle of distortion that I like.

Angle of distortion. I like the phrase. It implies that there might be a viewpoint without distortion. As an artist it doesn’t take long to learn that a point of view – every point of view – is a distortion. Follow people through a gallery displaying your paintings and you quickly discover the varied and surprising nature of perception. A single painting. A multitude of interpretations, few of which have anything to do with the painting you thought you’d painted.

My grandfather used to count the fingers and toes in my paintings. Sometimes there were six toes, sometimes four fingers. It puzzled him. My response, that I live post-Picasso, was of no comfort to him. He was puzzled and delighted by my straying from the standard number. He would knit his brow if I’d have told him that I live post-Michelangelo. Those renaissance artists knew how to distort things and get away with it!

Reality. Normal. I’m no longer sure what those words mean anymore other than “agreement.” A gathering of the distortions at the crossroads to compare notes.  My grandfather would have shaken his head and told me that idea was nuts.  “We live post Einstein,” I’d say, much to his chagrin. What do you see in this painting, deep within the age of relativity? Well, it all depends upon your angle of distortion.

 

lovers - full copy

lovers, 18 x 37.75, acrylic on canvas mounted on hardboard

 

read Kerri’s blog post on LOVERS

 

 

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lovers ©️ 2012 david robinson

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