Reflect On It [on KS Friday]

her palette - the piano copy

I so loved Kerri’s post yesterday that, today, I’m reflecting it back to her.

Do we ever really know what it takes to do someone else’s job? We don’t know the tools used, the research done, the years of training and experience, how someone perceives their own work. We can only guess and, most often, fall desperately, arrogantly, audaciously off the mark.

Kerri’s piano dominates her studio. A black 6’7″ Yamaha grand. It is not a show piece, it is a workhorse. Littering the music stand are stacks of composition notebooks, idea journals, sketches (she is visual) and pile after pile of church music – old hymnals, new downloads of pieces she’s considering for her ukulele band, choir or handbell choir. On the floor are several heavy binders arranged in alphabetical order with the music already played, binders from the 30 years of experience as a minister of music. There is yet another stack reserved for pieces she’s considering playing with Jim, her brilliant guitarist. Lining the walls are ukuleles, a few guitars, a cello, a keyboard, several music stands, more stacks of the original recordings of her albums (note: they are not stored as sacred artifacts. Rather, they are piled willy-nilly for easy reference). My wife is a Yamaha artist (look it up) and her constantly shifting studio topography (ever-moving piles) is testament to the music in her soul, her very-long history of artistry.

Now, I’ve sung a song or two in the shower. When I met Kerri I told her that I didn’t sing and she fairly quickly called my bluff. I sing in her choir. I delight in singing with her and Jim. They are kind and pretend that I add something to their mix. Nowadays I can even pick out a slow tune on the ukulele!

All of this, however, does not make me capable of really understanding how Kerri plays or composes. I can pluck a note. I can warble a song. I will, however, never have mastery of all the instruments, I will never approach her capacity to transpose on the fly, or compose poetry and melody. I will never hear the nuance she hears, the music of silence. I do not have a natural gift of music nor an entire lifetime to exercise and explore it.

I do not know the tricks of the trade she has accumulated over decades of honing her expertise. Nor do I know the knowledge base she brings about other artists, other musicians and compositions, the instrumentation, the way she ‘feels’ an audience and adjusts, the very technical details and the very heart-based intuitions she has learned through many, many years of study and practice. I can’t understand or even try to predict the amount of time it takes (or doesn’t take) for her to conceptualize, to explore, to create, to review, to assess, to adjust, to re-create. I can respond to her work but I cannot define it, nor would it be credible for me to even try to do so. Out of respect for her work, this ‘music’ that is one of the essential things that define her, I know that I really have no idea. I will never approach all that she knows. What I can do is appreciate the enormity of her talent, the endless hours of study, pursuit, practice, passion, experimentation, frustration, rehearsal, writing, performance, teaching, research, recording, pondering, pounding and playing and playing and playing – a lifetime of experience – that has brought her to this place where she creates beautiful music that seems to take no effort whatsoever.

Making it look easy. It takes a lifetime. The woman who delivers our mail has been a postal carrier for 30 years. It is hubris to think I know what that takes. It is utter arrogance to think I could pick up a mailbag and simply know what she knows, do what she does. Experience is invisible. Value is too easily reduced to dollars and cents. As Kerri wrote yesterday, with regard to anyone, the work they do, the life-path they bring to their work, we have no idea. It is both humbling and respectful to take a step back and consider the invisible, to remember that what appears easy comes from years and years of very hard work.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on KS FRIDAY

 

 

their palettes website box copy

 

Bring Peace [on DR Thursday]

PAX morsel copy

a morsel of PAX

Coming out of a deep sleep I pass through the flotsam layer at the bottom of consciousness. I call it the ‘garbage layer;’ the place where fears fester and worries lurk. It is the monster layer, the place where Grendel lives. When passing through the garbage layer I’m careful not to hook any of those thought-demons and bring them to the surface with me. Give them light and they will eat your day.

Just as I broke through the garbage layer, feeling the pull of a new day, my eyes not yet open, I was warmed by this thought:

Bring peace to your day and you will experience a bit more peace. Bring joy to your day and you will experience a bit more joy. Bring anxiety to your day and you will experience a bit more anxiety. Bring fear to your day and you will experience a bit more fear. Bring hope to your day and you will experience a bit more hope. What will you bring to this day?

My eyes popped open and I was floating on a raft of hope. A raft of my own choosing. A raft I could share.

This painting is called PAX (the kiss of peace). Like the thought that awaited me above the garbage layer, it is a meditation on the power of what you bring to your day. It is a meditation on the raft you choose to create.

It’s a simplicity. Bring peace. Experience peace. Bring hope to your day. Experience a bit more hope in your day. Share a bit more hope in your life.

 

PAXunframed copy 2

PAX, 24 x 24IN, mixed media

read Kerri’s blog post about PAX

 

slow dance party cropped website box copy

PAX/PAX morsel ©️ 2015/18 david robinson

Distort! [on DR Thursday]

lovers distortion1 copy

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

 

 

cheers! shopping in chicago website box copy

 

lovers ©️ 2012 david robinson

Hear Yourself Think [on DR Thursday]

painting FOR PEACE I PRAY morsel copy

Ultimately, if you are lucky,  you come to the realization that you are in prayer, in meditation all day every day. What rolls through your noggin each moment of each day is your meditation. It is your prayer. The question is this: what is your meditation?

We need not go to the mountaintop, enter the big stone building, or walk a thousand miles to the sacred site to find it. It’s all a sacred site. There is no class or teacher that can show you the way to understanding your meditation. I learned in my travels that the high priests in Bali are in prayer/meditation all day, every day. Chanting mantras, reciting prayers. Directing their thought. The only difference between the priests and the taxi driver is that the priests know that they are in constant prayer. They understand the creative power of their thoughts.

I love to paint because my rambling river of thought simmers down. I become quiet. I can ‘hear myself think.’ And, from what I hear, my thoughts, are mostly ridiculous fear fantasies. Rabbit chases. Human-made-up-separation-anxiety.

Beyond all the noise and the chanting is the quiet place. That is what this painting, FOR PEACE I PRAY, is about.

ForPeace,IPray copy

a rough shot of the finished piece. it sold before I took an archival shot. in fact, the image on my site was taken before the words were painted in. go see the difference.

sketch

the sketch

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FOR PEACE I PRAY

 

footprints in sunlit snow website box copy

 

 

for peace i pray ©️ 2016 david robinson

Chase Bubbles [on DR Thursday]

morsel copy

a morsel from Chasing Bubbles

“I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up!” ~Mark Twain

Lately, I’ve been hoping that my paintings are really more iconography than autobiography. When I sit and review my pieces I see a festival of introversion and introspection.  Lots of figures looking inward. Or down. It is true that I would have made an excellent hermit. Most of the news of the day seems to me like so much noise. I mean that literally. It’s too loud and drives me in search of quiet places. All of this is to note that my autobiography would most certainly be a snore to read so I worry that my paintings – if autobiographical – put people to sleep.

So. The sweet saving grace, the possibility of symbol. A reference to something bigger. Chasing Bubbles. A few years ago at the farmer’s market I saw a young girl racing after a  huge bubble. She was laughing with delight in the chase and I took a photo thinking, “This would make a great painting.” And, then, I thought (this is a confession)…a great painting of the human condition. We are bubble-chasers all.

This is the point where Kerri routinely tells me to ‘gear down.’ “You think too much!” she gasps, clutching her now-aching noggin. “Why can’t it just be a painting from something you saw!?” Well, that would make it autobiographical. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

It’s a dilemma.  And, there I go again, chasing bubbles.

 

 

Bubble Chaser in process copy

Chasing Bubbles (in process). It still has a long way to go. Mixed Media 33 x 48IN

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CHASING BUBBLES

 

not our best morning minturn website box copy

drc website header copy

Chasing Bubbles (in process) ©️ 2019 david robinson

 

Risk The Adventure [on DR Thursday]

without risk close no lines copy

On Monday, I pulled out the Chicken-Marsala-rough-draft folio. I was searching for a rough concept sketch. It was an early-Chicken idea, a joke mostly, but I thought it would be a good choice, an encapsulation of the melange, for our anniversary week. In it, Chicken Marsala is a nascent angel en route to his very first assignment. He is in full resistance. His mentor angel is pushing him forward. She’s trying to convince him to that this first mission is ideal, a cake-walk, but he knows better. It’s a mess. He’s being assigned to an aging couple. Newlyweds. Two artists. Chicken screams, “But they’re BOTH artists!” The mentor-angel responds, “Get in there, tiger! They’re lucky to have you!”

How many times in life, in your moment of resistance, have you heard, “It’ll be good for you.” Translation: what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. The problem with this bit-of-wisdom is that being killed is one of the options. In the face of hungry tiger, who doesn’t need a push!

I found the sketch of angel-Chicken but got lost looking through the hundreds of drafts and idea sketches in the folio. If you are looking for something to lift your spirits on a cold and bleak winter day, flipping through the Chicken folio is guaranteed to bring some sun and a smile. He became a festival of optimism. He jumps for the joy of jumping.

The  joy of jumping. That is a much better and more accurate encapsulation of the melange. It is not a story of survival or resistance. In fact, at this one year mark, by measures of survival, it makes no sense at all. Our original intention, making a living, has long ago given way to something more essential. We are doing it because we love doing it. We write for the joy of writing. By measures of joy, of vibrant living, nothing else makes sense.

We regularly slip off of rocks and find ourselves sitting in the water. It is the necessary risk for doing what we love. Life rule #1: Have the experience first; make meaning of the experience second. “Risk,” as Chicken has taught us, is just another word for “Play.” Jump. Welcome the adventure. And, see what happens.

anniversary haiku copy

read Kerri’s blog post on RISK & ADVENTURE

risk full version no lines copy

here’s the full panel

drc website header copy

archeswebsitead copy

heart in sand happy valentine's day copy

Write The Essential [on Merely A Thought Monday]

button to button copy 2

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.

love needs no words jpeg copy

if you'd like to see more CHICKEN... copy

read Kerri’s blog post about A YEAR IN MELANGE

 

chicken and perseverance website box copy

 

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood