Find Your Flower [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” ~ Lao Tzu

Lately I am learning that I don’t need to immediately accomplish every task. Our house has been an excellent teacher and I have gained the useful phrase, “delayed maintenance.”

Kerri and I have two different operating styles. Mine is a straight line and hers is a circle. She can start a project and leave it and think nothing about it. On the other hand, if I start a project, I can’t stop thinking about it until it is complete. I am only now learning that I tend toward the obsessive. I have a gift for the myopic.

I thought I was kind of a zen guy, easy going, and am shocked to discover that I can be a hot mess of fixation. Thus is the nature of self-discovery. Life is helping me loosen up.

We sat on the deck last night and talked of our childhood homes. The games we played. I drew pictures on typing paper with a #2 pencil for hours and hours. The world disappeared. I’d wait until the rest of my family was asleep and then I ‘d get up and paint on my wall. I thrived in the quiet of the night. I suppose myopic comes naturally to me. Single focus. Disappearing into my work.

I marvel that butterflies seem like drunken sailors, careening this way and that, yet they always clear the fence. They always alight on the flower of their intention. My career has been like the flight of a butterfly. I dare anyone to make linear sense of my resume. Drunken sailor. Yet, somehow, I clear the fence. I find my flower.

People ask me if I like my job and I tell them I love it. They, of course, want to know why I love it and I tell them that I never know in the morning what I am going to do that day. Each day the work is good. I fall into my myopic ways, sail into my conceptual universe, but have no expectation of completion. It’s like wrestling with a shape-shifter. And, so, to keep in the match, I, too, must shift my shape. I’m honing my inner chameleon.

There is a post-it note on the wall next to my desk. It reads, “Live as if the universe was tipped in your favor.”

Fly like a drunken sailor. Like Dogga, run in circles of delight. Learn to love your myopic ways, yet do as the Balinese taught: know that “it’ll happen when it happens.” What else? Sight – seeing the flower (myopic and otherwise) – is fully available when practiced without expectation.

read Kerri’s blogpost about WHITE MOTHS

See The Pattern [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see over-all patterns in our lives.” ~ Oliver Sacks

Entrepreneur Ash Bhoopathy said, “The more you see, the more you see patterns.” It’s true. Take some time and sit on a busy street corner and watch. If your eyes are open, you’ll notice that you are surrounded by patterns. Not only the bricks in the buildings but the patterns of travel. The space between a red light and green light. The beeping of the crosswalk. The suits and ties. The paths walked by busy commuters.

“Comfort” and “home” are defined by patterns. What do you do to get comfortable? How do you signal the end your busy workday? Is it the same as you did yesterday?

Expectations are patterns, too.

Study “story” long enough and you’ll discover, as Kurt Vonnegut did, that there are patterns beneath every plot. We tell ourselves the same storyline over and over. Hallmark has its story pattern defined to the minute. It’s the secret to their appeal: the comfort of knowing the pattern. The comfort of asking, not “What” will happen, but “How” will it happen.

It’s a great paradox. The more you see, the more you see pattern. Yes. Yet, in order to see, often it’s necessary to disturb your patterns. That’s the beauty of patterns. When you are inside them, living a day of your life, you rarely see your patterns. It’s the reason Julia Cameron built artists dates into her Artist’s Way. Do something different. Break your routine. Challenge your expectation. Get out of your pattern rut. Only then will you be capable of seeing the pattern.

If you desire to change anything about your world, about this world, the change you seek will ultimately be a change in pattern. It’s a good practice to begin seeing them.

read Kerri’s blogpost about PATTERN

[the pattern image is the mat at our backdoor]

Discern [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

It’s a little over two miles to Steve’s garage. When we drop the car for a repair, especially in the early morning, we like to walk home. The route takes us by the lake. We take our time, more stroll than stride, and breathe in the early morning quiet.

We are dedicated walkers. We’ve become dedicated seekers and creators of quiet. It’s as if we are counterbalancing the crazy-noise-of-the-news with a stalwart sanctuary that we take with us wherever we go. We walk slow enough to notice. We walk slow enough to appreciate.

There is, of course, a direct correlation between pace-of-movement and paying attention. It’s hard to smell the roses when racing through the day. Lately, much of my work-in-the-world involves addressing information overload. The pace-of-movement need not be physical, it also applies to the river of information rushing across our screens. It’s no wonder we’re angry and anxious and aggressive. I’ve adopted a phrase from my colleague, Greg; he calls the info-torrent More/Faster. We live in the age of info-gluttony and have difficulty discerning between what has nutritional value and what is dross.

Until we slow down. There is a correlation between the pace of movement and peace-of-mind. There is a correlation between pace and the capacity to determine relevance.

It’s why we walk to or from Steve’s Garage. It’s why we end the work day holding hands and walking the neighborhood. It’s why we begin each day sitting side-by-side writing. To slow it down. To discern relevance in a fast moving info-river of dedicated draff. To see what matters in a More/Faster world racing too fast to see anything at all.

We smell flowers. Feel the dew on leaves. Turn our faces to the sun as it reaches through the morning clouds. Real stuff. Stuff of the moment. The small discoveries available when racing to the next thing is the last thing you want to do.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MORNING SKY

Learn A Thing Or Two [on KS Friday]

A decade ago I wrote and self-published a book. I called it The Seer. The see-er. A few days ago I pulled it off the shelf and began a slow-read-through. It’s a good book! I’m actually learning a few things from my younger self.

Yesterday I made a spreadsheet (I’ll never again confess to making a spreadsheet so appreciate this moment). The purpose of my spreadsheet was to build a database for Kerri of the cartoons that I’ve drawn for work. She takes my pencil drafts and digitizes them, colorizes them, and adds some quirky dynamics. They begin as mine and complete as ours. To finish my database it was necessary to open every file and look at each cartoon. They made me laugh. I’m proud of those cartoons, our work. I’m excited to share them beyond the small circle of eyes that currently see them. I know I’ve learned a few things because they are so simple.

We have a few sparse analytics on our blogs so can see when someone reads a post from the deep past. Lately, when someone reads a post from several years ago, we read it, too. “Where did that thought come from,” Kerri asked herself after rereading her long-ago-post. Often, after I dive into the archive, I want to rewrite what I read. I’m a much better writer now that I have a great editor reviewing my posts every day. The grammar police should have sent me to the gulag years ago. I am fortunate now to have a daily read through and revision with the-daughter-of-beaky-who-won’t-tolerate-improper-grammar. It’s too soon to know but I might be learning a thing or two.

We had occasion to revisit 2015. We didn’t mean to but were looking for a picture of a lanai and a pizza. It was the year we produced and performed The Lost Boy, illustrated and produced the first of Beaky’s books, we lost her a few weeks after the book release party, we were married in the fall of that year, we inadvertently created our first cartoon character, Chicken Marsala. “We’re content-creating monsters,” I said during our reminiscence. “We’ve learned a few things,” Kerri replied.

We walked to the channel. The last time we took this walk was before Covid. It seemed like a stroll into the past. A walk into a former life. So much has changed. We stopped at the waterpark to take some photographs. Children danced in the fountains. Parents smiled. Innocence at play. Elders occupied benches.

“Look at this,” she said, showing me the picture of the fountain. “I think maybe I’ve learned a thing or two.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE FOUNTAIN

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

good moments/this part of the journey © 1997/2000 kerri sherwood

Find The Universe [on DR Thursday]


“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

I don’t know why but Van Gogh is lately on my mind. He died at age 37. Most of his paintings came through him in the last few years of his life.

He wrote letters to his brother. That’s why we have so many of his words. His contemporaries thought he was mad. They had plenty of evidence of his mania so that was what they saw. Crazy Vincent making crazy paintings. Nothing serious. Swirls of color in an age of dreary.

Only a crazy man would assert that artistry is to love other people, right?

As a young man he was an art dealer and his experiences in the market drove him to become a missionary in Belgium. The art market drove him to religion and he found religion so depressing that he started to paint. This, of course, is my telling of the tale.

Like Vincent, run to the edge of society. Run to the very margins, turn around and look. What do you see?It’s enough to make anyone turn away from sane society and start painting swirls of color. You’re certainly crazy if you consider society and its politics sane. Right?

Vincent painted and moved further out, beyond the margins. Beyond the power games and posturing. The pretending-to-be. He left behind the Joneses. He found entire universes in simple things: sunflowers, the night sky. Bowls of blueberries.

He must, at the very end, have turned and looked back, again. This time seeing through the eyes of a painter. Was it wishful thinking that he saw artistry as love? Was it a prayer for humanity?

Oscar Wilde, Vincent’s contemporary, a man brutalized by the society that once adored him, wrote, “Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.” Oscar tried to live on the margin and in the center, all at the same time.

Love makes us giddy. It helps us drop our pretense and gaming. I think Vincent saw, not through the lens of madman, but life without a lens., into pure life, pure love. Swirls of color. Entire universes in bowls of blueberries and in other people. Artistry.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BLUEBERRIES

bass player © 2002 david robinson

Lay It To Your Heart [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“This entire week is about noticing,” Kerri said, looking at the week’s photos we’d just uploaded into our site. Sometimes the melange has an intentional theme and sometimes a theme announces itself. Our lives have become about noticing. I suspect all of our writing is, in one way or another, about noticing.

This is Blue eryngo. Flat Sea Holly to the poet. Eryngium planum to those more interested in species categorization. Shakespeare would know it as a thistle, a cure for love sickness. “And lay it to your heart.”

The evening breeze turned our steps toward the marina. It was a brutally humid day and we were restless in the air’s oppression. Arm in arm we talked of how long it had been since we wandered in this direction. It used to be a daily stroll but more recently we’ve sought trails away from people. The forest quiet rather than the crowds at the shore.

The color of the plant stopped us. I felt as if I was looking at a magical universe of purple-blue planets or something more likely found under water. While Kerri snapped photos I marveled at the color. The shape of the leaves reaching from the thistle center. Little blue suns.

Our chance encounter with the Flat Sea Holly blew some nice air into our sails. We walked on talking about the gift of noticing, taking photographs, how to be better artists, amazing sights all around.

Shakespeare’s thistle cures more than lovesickness. We lay it to our hearts and it lifted our humid-heavy- spirits.

read Kerri’s blogpost about FLAT SEA HOLLY

Stroll [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Yesterday, for some reason, I revisited days of early childhood. I played four-square in the driveway. I threw dirt clods at the site of new home construction. I raced my cars off the side of the abandoned building above Del and Dorothy’s house in the mountains; the cars tumbled and I ran to retrieve them so I might send them flying again and again. I ran home in a panic the day I learned that Nancy’s little sister had drowned in utility hole that was filled with water. It was on the route I walked to school and passing the hole filled me with trepidation, it was a dark portal, my first experience of death. I didn’t really understand it.

Late at night, Kerri and I sometimes talk about everything that has happened in the short time of our relationship. We’ve lost parents and lost careers, spiraled in a free fall of uncertainty, had surgeries and broken bones. We’ve also climbed mountains, watched sunrises and meteor showers, we hold hands when we walk, we write together every day. We dance in the kitchen. I am the sous chef to her cooking artistry.

I’m not sure if we practice paying attention to our moments or it’s something that has come naturally to us. She is rarely without her camera, noticing the smallest flower, capturing the angry sky. I hold the space and hope someday she stops apologizing for stopping again to take a photo; I love watching her discover the shapes and colors of this world. Besides, I get to see what she captures in her lens with an excited, ‘Lookit!”

Today the plumber comes. Yesterday we appealed to the company that destroyed our yard replacing the waterline to come back and strip off the top layer of soil, now filled with hardware and concrete and asphalt. Slowly, we are digging out, repairing and replacing all that was destroyed or delayed in our free fall. Our lessons seem to be about stress – or, rather – not stressing. We are having experiences, rich and varied. Some things we can control. Most, we cannot. The best we can do is hold hands and stand together in each experience. Appreciate them no matter whether they look like tragedy or comedy. We’ll make meaning of them later down the road.

The artist dances with death. The appreciation of the fragility of life. Each day I walk by that metaphoric utility hole, only now it does not fill me with trepidation. It makes me squeeze her hand and fills me with gratitude for this life, this moment, this shadow we cast together as we take our time strolling through the garden.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE SHADOW

Do It Together [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Our house is beginning to breathe. As each bag or box leaves, as another load goes to Goodwill, space opens. Air moves. Stuck spaces relax. New possibilities circle our imagination. And, as the house takes a deep inhale and long slow exhale, so do we.

This is a task she must do on her own. In the past I tried to make it happen and only created more turmoil. I am a relative newcomer to this house so my memories do not run as deep. What looks like junk to me might carry a sacred family story.

That is the continual lesson of my life. My eyes can never see the full extent of your story. Your eyes can never see the complexity of my story. The creation of “our” story requires constant tending. It’s always best to ask a question. “Our” story becomes vital, rich, and inspiring the moment I cease trying to get you to see my way. There’s a space between – called “relationship”- that we can both see because, together, we create it. Together, we speak to it.

Those few simple lessons apply to all relationships, even the most casual.

And so, while I’m working upstairs, she is downstairs unpacking boxes and bins. Sometimes I hear her sigh. Sometimes there is laughter and I know a good story will come my way. Each day, before I climb the stairs, I ask, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Her reply is always the same. “I don’t know but, if there is, I’ll let you know.”

read Kerri’s blog post about CLEANING OUT

Sit In The Quiet [on DR Thursday]

Years ago I directed a production of Into The Woods and I wanted a set design alive with David Hockney colors. The production was gorgeous. The set the designer created was a vibrant fantasyland with the dark undertones wrought by dinosaur-size-too-big foliage. Tiny people in an oversized children’s pop-up book.

If I were going to direct the musical again today, I’d approach it through a different lens. I wouldn’t place it in the vivid palette of fantasyland; this world we journey through is fantastic just as it is. When Kerri and I walk, I am sometimes stunned to silence by the shapes and patterns and pops of color. Ominous and serene. Alive.

For reasons that have nothing to do with reason, I started using imagined leaf shapes, plant-symbols in my paintings. I know when I someday return to my easel, the plant shapes will be present – perhaps even dominant. There is no end to the eye-popping variations. Our walks in nature have me “seeing” again.

A few years ago, Brad and I talked about the deep backstory of why an artist creates. Of course, there’s not a single driving reason – it changes over time as we change over time. I know many artists who’ve set down their brushes, singers who stopped singing. They satisfied their backstory. They channel their creative juices into other forms. Based on the evidence, these days I am a writer. Lately, I spend more time drawing cartoons than painting paintings. And yet, I still think of myself as a painter.

In the past, a step away from the easel was acknowledging a fallow season, letting my batteries recharge. This time, the step away is different. My reasons are spinning, changing. The younger me-artist was finding a place to transform pain into presence. The middle-age-artist-me entered the studio because it was the only place on earth that made sense. It was a sanctuary. A quiet place.

Each day I walk down the stairs and stand for a few moments with the canvas on my easel. It’s a stranger. I hear my easel whisper, “Not yet. Soon.” I am content with soon. I feel as if I am in an extended meditation, borrowing a tradition from Japanese masters, sitting in the quiet until there is no space between me and the brush, no space between me and the motion. No space between me and the shape, the pop of color, the infinite variance of pattern. No space between me and the surprise-of-what-will-happen. No space between me and the story.

read Kerri’s blogpost about TRILLIUM

joy © 2014 david robinson

Dissolve And Do [on DR Thursday]

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

“A writer writes. A painter paints.” Wise words from Tom. It was a mantra and his patent response when asked how one becomes an artist. I imagine Tom learned this wisdom from DeMarcus. DeMarcus certainly learned it from his mentor. Artistic ancestor to descendent, the quality that makes an artist is the practice. Nothing more. Ask me what makes an artist and you will hear what I learned from Tom.

There’s a special, hidden layer in this mantra. Someday, if you are a lucky artist, you stop thinking of yourself as an artist. The role dissolves in the doing. It no longer matters how others see you or the label you apply to yourself. It’s nice to separate yourself from the herd yet service to the herd is the point. That, I am coming to understand, is the moment that artistry fulfills itself. A deep trust ensues. No blue ribbon or large sale or shiny prize will change the essential. No outside eye or opinion or judgment or praise alters the fact in the least. A writer writes. A painter paints.

How do you pursue an artistic life? We take walks and pay attention. French blue sky and early tree blossom. And then, each day, as is our practice, we write or draw or compose.

read Kerri’s blogpost about TREE BLOSSOM

Newborn, 48x32IN, mixed media

newborn © 2019 david robinson