Tell The Story [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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In our house, everything is a story. Sooner or later, all things are personified and become a character in our play. The old air conditioner units are cranky. The soap dispenser has eyes bigger than its stomach and routinely takes on too much soap. Gluttony in bubbles.

The cat does a killer soft-shoe, paws dancing on the table. The studio calls. The piano yearns. The pots and pans complain about the inconsistent burners on the old, dare I say ancient, stove. Rather than retirement, the stove dreams of holding the longevity record for kitchen appliances. Frankly, we think it has a good shot at fulfilling the dream.

And then there is the stuff we do. That, too, finds its way into story-dom. For instance, a few weeks ago we took a rug on a train. It went with us to an urban grocery store and helped us buy a bag of chips. It rode the escalator up and then down, went through a revolving door, evaded a collision with a stranger’s hat. Then, it strolled with us for a few miles, looked at the changing leaves and finally came to rest in its new home, Craig’s apartment. I think it appreciated seeing a bit of the world before meeting its destiny as an area rug. At least, that’s the story I tell myself. Rugs are hard to read so I might be projecting the contentment it felt when it finally left my shoulder for the floor.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE RUG

 

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Project, And Swim Away! [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Sitting on schoolhouse beach, a brilliant clear day, Kerri began her shadow puppet play. Her characters struck poses. They shape-shifted into other characters. Like a kid watching clouds I’d say, “That one looks like a dinosaur!”  And then there was a butterfly. And Mr. Magoo!

Making sense of shapes. Making stories of the shapes in motion. The shapes became powerful or meek, threatening or pleading (“You must pay the rent!” “I can’t pay the rent!”). The shadow players fulfilling their roles.

Shadow puppets, the wayang kulit. Stories told through shadow to remind us that what we see are shadows merely – and then we fill in the gaps with what we project onto those moving shapes. Projection thrown onto projection, an infinity mirror.

Kerri’s shadow puppet Loch Ness monster tried to eat the camera. The camera was too large to fit into its mouth and so Nessie swam away. A story of triumph for the camera (it celebrated wildly) and as for the monster, the hunt goes on.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on SHADOW PLAY

 

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Realize And Reach [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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A beautiful thing happened ages ago when human beings, gazing at the night sky, recognized patterns in the myriad of blinky bright stars. The recognition was so profound that it lit a roaring fire in their curiosity. It propelled them to do what human beings do. They studied the patterns. They mapped them. They philosophized about them. They storied them. They argued about them. They created models. They claimed them and named them. They projected onto them their thirst for meaning and order, their need for reassurance in a greater design. If there is pattern and predictability in the stars then there must be pattern and predictability in the arc of a human life! They navigated their ships and their days according to their relationship with the stars.

During my life in Los Angeles, for a few eye-opening months, I volunteered at a school. The students at the school risked their lives everyday to attend. They had to cross rival gang territory. In some cases, the students had to literally check their guns at the door before entering the building. Some of the faculty, in an attempt to help the students dream of a better future, used the phrase, “Reach for the stars.” One day, watching a class, I recognized that the students had a limited capacity to relate to the phrase because they’d never seen the night sky. In their experience, the meager few stars that they could see through the light and haze of the Los Angeles sky were less than inspiring. The staff took the students to a place where they could see the stars. The shock and awe of standing beneath the unobliterated night sky was profound. It reoriented them to a universe of possibilities more vast than the tiny gritty city that had always before seemed so large and given them context.

It is possible to reach for vast visions when you recognize how tiny you really are.

In a moment of uncertainty and confusion, 20 told us not to fret because the opportunities unfolding before us were in the stars. In the stars. Safe. There was pattern and predictability. Things were lining up and all we need do was play our part. These things were meant to be. Kerri and I held hands and stared, like our ancestors, into the myriad of blinky bright stars, feeling very very small. “Do you think 20 is right?” she asked.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about STARS

 

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Find The Kindergartner [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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On a famous day, we drove the entire width of the state of Wisconsin to pick up the puppy that would one day become known as DogDog. On our drive back across the entire width of the state of Wisconsin, Kerri had a moment of panic. What if BabyCat and the not-yet-named-puppy-dog didn’t get along? What if BabyCat felt rejected? Replaced? What if the dog ATE the cat? What if the cat ATE the dog? The horror story variations of dogs-and-cats-living-together ran amok in her mind.

The flip-side scenarios never occurred to her. What if they love each other? What if they play together? What if they are the best of pals, share bowls, look out for each other? Well, there’d be no problem. Nothing to fret about. No horror story to captivate the imagination.

What is it in an adult mind that defaults to the worst possible assumption? Why, when cutting paper with a razor, do I always think, “I hope I don’t cut my finger off.” It could happen. Once, when my dad was pulling the cord on the chainsaw, I heard him say to himself, “I better not cut my leg off.” Sage self-advice!

We imagine. We assume. We project. It is a potent and powerful force, this capacity to story ourselves through imaging. We learn to imagine the obstacles. We learn not to allow the possibilities.

How many times in my life have I asked students or clients to imagine themselves fulfilled? Too many to count but the actual number is equal to the number of times students or clients have responded, “I can’t.”

What? Yes. You can. Dream in the direction of possibility. Remember that once you were a kindergartner and a teacher asked if you were and artist. Your YES was wild and enthusiastic. Your capacity to dream hasn’t gone away. It’s gone underground.

Guts and gore, dogs fighting cats, fingers flying off; the horror-story-imagination is more immediate.  Sometimes it takes a bit of archeology to find the kindergartner.

Oh, and DogDog and BabyCat? Best of friends. We often find them in the afternoon sleeping back to back. Who could have imagined such a thing?!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOGDOG & BABYCAT NAPPING

 

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Reach With Wonder [on DR Thursday]

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“One of the reasons that we wonder is because we are limited, and that limitation is one of the great gateways to wonder.” ~John O’Donohue

I loved this canvas before I painted Cloud Watchers on it. It was old and used. Chunky with layers. I can’t remember how it came to me but I do remember thinking that it was the Velveteen Rabbit of canvas. Loved. Well worn. A long history – that is to say – filled with lots and lots of story. Perfect.

And, how appropriate that it is living a next chapter as Cloud Watchers, part of a series that  I call ‘narrative.’ All narratives – inner and outer – are projections. Life’s stories are image transfers, meaning imposed just like the meaning we place upon the movement of clouds. There’s a duck! Look! There’s a dragon, a dinosaur, an elephant. A fear. A goal. An opinion. Mr Magoo! Belief! There’s Thomas Jefferson! The Buddha.

We reach with wonder from our isolation. We touch through imagination. We are cloud watchers full of story, filling the air with our stories. We are glorious creators all!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CLOUD WATCHERS

 

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cloud watchers/morsel ©️ 2002 – 6/2018 david robinson

Fill It In [on Flawed Wednesday]

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A truism: In everything there is a story and rarely do we know the full story. At best, we see partials, a snippet, and from there we draw conclusions, make judgments, fill in the gaps with dedicated certainty in made-up meanings, interpretations, and projections from our own experiences. Imagination runs rampant whether we recognize it or not.

We laughed when we saw this note. It was lodged in a gutter, having blown from the spot where the last of the 2-4 year olds was claimed. Kerri said, “Darn! I wanted a three year old.”

“Why a three year old?” I asked.

She shivered, shaking a specific memory from her mind and replied, “Anything to avoid the terrible twos.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FREE 2-4 YEAR OLDS

 

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Laugh More

my idea book for our coming-soon cartoon, Chicken Marsala

my idea book for our coming-soon cartoon, Chicken Marsala

There is laughter coming from the next room. Across the way, a woman bursts into tears and a man with a ponytail leads her away from a group. They whisper. He tries to calm her. He makes her laugh. She wipes her eyes and they walk back to the group and all act as if nothing had happened. And, maybe nothing did happen. I am too far away to know the circumstances of her tears. I know the circumstances of her laughter.

Today it rained. I sat at my drafting table and worked on a cartoon strip. Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog sat at my feet. For the first time in over two years I streamed NPR and listened to the day’s news and some other stories. There was a story of a hunger strike in Chicago over the closure of a school. There was a story on public figures and apologies. There was an age-old story of the division in congress. I felt the same way listening to the news as I just felt watching the woman in tears. I am too far away to know the circumstances. I am too far away to know with certainty the truth of any of it. I’ve developed a healthy distrust of news reports. All I know with certainty is that truth is relative, truth is a point of view. I inked my drawings and listened as I might listen to a book-on-tape.

There is more laughter. It is coming from a meeting. I find comfort knowing that a committee in charge of anything can laugh. I hope that they are laughing at themselves.

Ann once told me that they key to success was to find a need and fill it. This world seems to have no shortage of needs. It does seem to have a shortage of laughter.

Recently, David shared with me his thoughts of Plato’s analogy of the cave. Perception as projection. It’s all shadows. Once I watched a Balinese shadow puppet master perform. The performances always take place in the outer ring of the temple and are meant to remind people that what they see in this life is a shadow, a projection merely. One of the messages: we are too far away to know Truth. Another message: our projections are worthy of our laughter and not much else. The puppet master had us rolling on the ground. His characters were mostly tricksters, stooges, and in their over-serious pursuits they were hysterical in their folly. Another message, perhaps the most important: the quickest route to the divine, to the connective tissue, is through laughter.