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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Put It In Context [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Context (noun): the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

I love this photograph. It could be of the salt flats. It could be desert landscape. It could be the arctic snows. Absent of context, how can we know?

The headstone of the 21st century will read ‘Taken out of context.’ I was a teacher when the internet first washed over the land and the question on every educator’s desk was this: how do we teach students to discern what information is valid and what is not? Education is, at least partially, the pursuit and discernment of what is true and what is not.

Discernment (noun): the ability to judge well.

In a world in which any one can post anything about any topic in service to any agenda, void of context and with an astounding expectation of 280 characters or less, how do we judge well? No attention span available. No context necessary. Discernment is out of reach. As W.B. Yeats wrote, “The center cannot hold.” 

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”  (Yeats, The Second Coming)

Context avoidance and manipulation is not unique to the 21st century. It’s been around since the invention of preachers and politicians. We simply have the tools to amplify it and glut ourselves on the fat that remains.

‘Taken out of context’ comes with a cold surgical sister phrase: after the fact. They knew after the fact. He was an accessory after the fact. It was only after the fact that they saw what was there all along.

fact (noun): a thing that is known or proved to be true.

How do you know or prove something to be true? It is the same question educators faced so long ago: how do we discern what information is valid and what is not? Well, begin by slowing down enough, care enough to place the thought, idea, opinion, data, in its full context. Conviction, ideals, truths…all of these lofty words, have meaning and value, become grounded, solid, and meaning-full – in the presence of context.

(The photograph was taken from a ferry cutting through the surface ice at Death’s Door).

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pull the camera down and this is what you see

 

read Kerri’s blog post on ICE LANDSCAPE

 

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Collect Your Stories [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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We haunt the local antique stores. We rarely buy anything but, if we do, you can be certain the purchase is one of these: an old coffee pot, a wooden box, an old suitcase.

The suitcases are transformed into our “special boxes.” We keep the artifacts of our life – notes, ticket stubs, travel mementos… in our special boxes. They are stacked in our dining room and made more special by the flat rocks collected from our travels and cleverly arranged on and around our special boxes.

Kerri and I both have a thing for boxes and old wooden containers. Stand in the middle of our home and look any direction and you will spy a box. Some are small. Some are large. All are well traveled and have a story to tell. My brushes and paints live in one. I keep an altar-of-sorts in and around DeMarcus’ paint box. We have a box in our living room that is for the not-flat-rocks that we’ve taken from the beaches and forests and rivers that we’ve visited. Each rock tells a story.

Once, driving through Massachusetts, we stopped at a little antique shop and were attracted to a collection of small coffee pots. Four of the pots made the trip home with us and now live in our kitchen. They functionally serve as tea canisters (clever, yes?) but in deeper truth, they are markers in time. We moved out the old story and brought in the coffee pots, symbols of the new.

Coffee pots. Wooden boxes. Old suitcases. Containers of story. Containers for story. They make us conscious of the stories we collect and intentional about the story we live and tell.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about COFFEE POTS

 

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this beautiful photo courtesy of our dear 20

Step Forward [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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In story terms, before leaving home, before walking into the dark woods, it is necessary to take a moment and wander from room to room to remember. One last time, to touch the life you are about to leave.  Just as ‘how’ something is done can only be known after the fact, so too, ‘who’ you are can only be seen at the moment of leaving.

Isn’t that why we look back? To put a period on the sentence before stepping into the unknown. Each run up to the new year, amidst the celebrations and hoo-haw, we review the traveled path. We touch it,  label it, put it on the shelf, let go, celebrate and grieve, and make resolutions based on who we want to become. And then, we turn and step into the unknown woods, the new year.

This week, Kerri and I have been wandering from room to room in the melange. Lingering in a spot, laughing about some of the things we tried to do, amazed at some of the things we achieved, letting go of the ‘should-haves’ and lingering in appreciation of the ‘what-is.’ In a year, we did not achieve what we set out to achieve. In a year, we discovered what we never could have imagined.

Last year, at this time, the melange was the dark woods that we stepped into. We had no idea what we’d find. We had intentions and dreams and ideals (oh, those pesky resolutions!). We started with some good advice. It came from Beaky and was our very first Two Artists Tuesday design. Live Life, My Sweet Potato. Step into that dark wood. There are bears and swamps and mountains to climb. Experience all of it. The celebrations and grieving, the lost-ness and found-ness. Life is not found on the other side. Life is found in living of all of it.

That’s what we found, touching back to the first week of the melange. An affirmation. Step forward. Live it all.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MELANGE, WEEK ONE

 

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two artists designs ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

Write The Essential [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I’m not sure what stacks up around your house. At our house, the stacks are paintings, cartoons, designs, composition notes, manuscripts, folios, notebooks of ideas, scraps of paper jammed into the notebooks of ideas, lyrics a-go-go, and the supplies necessary to make the other stacks possible. Colored pencils, brushes, too many composition books, canvas, tissue paper, paint, sketchbooks, art books, and the stacks-and-stacks of stuff teetering on the piano and bench that somehow resemble a nest.

All of this is to note that we are fantastic generators of content and equally inept marketers of what we generate. Thus, the stacks. It was this realization – and the necessity of making a living – that one year ago gave birth to the melange. Melange means ‘mixture’ or ‘medley.’

The idea was simple: Monday would be dedicated to our cartoon, Chicken Marsala. Tuesday would be dedicated to our Two Artists designs. Wednesday was Flawed Cartoon day. Thursday was for my paintings. Friday was for Kerri’s music. We created a Society6.com store for each day, set about designing 5 product lines a week (oh, god,…more content). Through our blogs we’d write about and publish the day’s selection, he-said/she-said-style. People all over the world would read what we wrote, be captivated by the cartoon, design or composition, and race to the Society6.com store to buy a print or a mug or a laptop sleeve or a greeting card. Content out, income, well…in.

And, it happened. People all over the world read our blogs. And, almost no one raced to the Society6.com stores. We studied a few things, learned a few things, reconfigured, tried a few social-media-marketing variations, bought ad space, waved our hands, jumped up and down, danced silly dances – we pivoted and pivoted again.

More readers. Less-than-no shoppers.

One day, after eight months, we looked at each other and considered pulling the plug and would have pulled the plug except for one small-yet-oh-so-important detail: we love to write together. In the course of a year, the melange managed to boil itself down to its essence. Each day Kerri writes her post. “Don’t look!” she says as I, sitting next to her,  write mine. And then, before posting, we share them. We read to each other. It’s always a surprise (though mine are predictably “heady” and hers are 100% “hearty”).

When I looked back at our first post one year ago I laughed at the irony. Love needs no words. Well, in this case, in our case, love revels in words. There are too many words for the love to contain. And, so, our stacks grow happily higher and higher and higher.

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read Kerri’s blog post about A YEAR IN MELANGE

 

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chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Land Safely [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Two artists can get into a world of trouble. They (we) can also create our share of trouble. Our idea pile is mountainous. The word ‘reality’ requires more than a few footnotes.

If you’ve ever spent the time considering the melange (as I know you have…) you recognize that we lack the simple wisdom of knowing when to stop. In the corporate world we’d be known as constant content creators. In the mad mad realm of entrepreneurs, we’d be understood as being in a constant state of pivot. Our Two Artists designs were initially intended to be improvisational, gestural-let’s-see-where-this-goes statements. I dare you to find the bottom of that idea pool!

All of this is to say, you could leap from a very tall building and land safely – even comfortably – on the stack of pillows we’ve imagined and designed. There’s no need to test my assertion. Stay in your swivel chair. But, if you have impulse control issues, it might be a good time to buy a pillow. And I know just the place. Follow the link.

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THE LINK

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THROWING PILLOWS

 

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two artists designs/products ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Leave It! [on Two Artist Tuesday]

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what you don’t see in a picture is worth an additional word or two.

One of Kerri’s many nicknames is “Brat” and it is more-than-well-deserved. No one knows this better than Tripper-Dog-Dog-Dog. He silently suffers her full brat nature. He patiently tolerates her howling laughter when he is, once again, the object of her brat-ocity.

DogDog easily picks up tricks. And, as an Aussie, he is a hyper-sensitive-good-boy, so Brat takes full advantage of his trusting nature, his need to please, and contorts the tricks. This is a photo of “leave it:” drop any snack on the floor, tell DogDog to “leave it,” and he won’t touch it until he’s given the magic sign. Tell him to “leave it” and he won’t move. Instead, he will follow you with his eyes imploring you for the magic sign. On this day, instead of dropping his snack on the floor, she put a tortilla chip on his head. And left it there for a very long time.

I knew I would be in trouble if I gave DogDog the magic sign. I knew I would bring Brat’s focus on to me if I interrupted her chuckling mischief. So, like DogDog, I sat very still and followed her around with my eyes. When would she give the magic signal? Both DogDog and I quaked with unbearable anticipation. When?! She moved back and forth, Dogga’s and my eyes tracking her every move. She took a picture. Moved across the room and took another. “Don’t torture the dog,” I implored.

“I’m not torturing DogDog,” she smiled, giving DogDog the magic sign, “I’ve been torturing you!”

 

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Lydia! Here’s the link: read Kerri’s blog post about BEING A BRAT

 

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