Compose [on DR Thursday]

Many years ago I attended a workshop facilitated by Sam, a brilliant landscape painter. I was delighted and amused when he demonstrated his technique. Rather than paint what he observed, he took great pleasure in rearranging the elements. He moved the trees, altered the hills, relocated the barn. He laughed while mixing up his elements. His eyes sparkled with mischief. Rather than a workshop on painting, the day became an exercise in joy-in-art. Seeing and playing with what we see.

This morning I read that the word ‘composition’ means “putting together.” Definers-of-art-terms associate composition with freedom. “The artist has freedom when choosing the composition of their artwork.” It is a mistake to believe that compositional freedom is the sole province of an artist. If the mind is a canvas then thought is a composition. It is patterned and composed. Arranged and rearranged. We choose where we place our focus. Point-of-view is cultivated, it is not a default setting. We design the story-we-tell-ourselves-about-ourselves. And, then we project it onto the world.

The trick in both art and thought composition is not to wear ruts in the road. Sam was joyful in his art because he was constantly challenging and engaging with what he saw. Art was fun, not morbid tradition. Art was delight-full, not rule-bound or laden with the pressure to capture. Recall that stepping out of the rut was the first lesson in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Morning pages and artist’s dates are meant to both see the ruts and open new paths. The same process applies to the thought-canvas. See the rut. Step out of it.

As Sam taught me so many years ago, seeing and playing with what we see begins with letting go of what we think we see. It begins with a blank canvas, an unfettered mind, and the freedom to choose the composition.

read Kerri’s blog post about COMPOSITION

Unfettered ©️ 2018 david robinson

Practice Thinking [on KS Friday]

“The capacity to think astutely is often undervalued in the world of action. But philosopher Hannah Arendt identified the capacity to think as the foundation of a healthy and resilient democracy. Having experienced totalitarianism in Nazi Germany, then having fled it, she devoted much of her life to studying it and its opposite, democracy. She believed that thinking thoughtfully in public deliberations and acting democratically were intertwined and that totalitarianism is built upon and sustained by deceit and thought control. In order to resist efforts by the powerful to deceive and control thinking, Arendt believed that people needed to practice thinking.” Westley, Zimmerman, Patton, Getting To Maybe: How The World Is Changed

If thinking clearly is the hard line between democracy and totalitarianism, then we in these once-united-states are in a world of trouble.

For evidence, look no further than this past week. I begin with a single word: debate. Full stop. To assume thought is to assume too much. It was painful to watch conservative pundits attempt to spin sense and justification into 90 minutes of lie-vomit and fact-abuse. It was even more painful to watch thinking people, already exhausted by years of gaslighting, grasp for some sense of what they had just witnessed. The transience of the American experiment.

I shook my head during a post-debate-news segment when a woman cloaked in MAGA swag said that there shouldn’t be fact checkers at the debates because, “People should be able to say their truth.” Where-oh-where has our thought-practice gone?

Beneath the noise of the debate was a ruling in a slander case brought against Tucker Carlson of Fox News fame. The court ruled in Fox’s favor citing,”… that given Mr. Carlson’s reputation, that any reasonable viewer ‘arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism’ about the statements he makes.” It has not been my experience that watchers of Fox News are necessarily awash in reason or any amount of skepticism. They believe the spin they hear in that big bubble of fantasy. The judge wrote, “The “‘general tenor’ of the show should then inform a viewer that [Carlson] is not ‘stating actual facts’ about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in ‘exaggeration’ and ‘non-literal commentary.’ “

O accountability, where is thy sting? O thought, where is thy champion?

Democracy is dependent upon our capacity to discern between exaggeration and fact, lie and truth. We are now a nation that cannot grasp the simplicity of science in a pandemic. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Those two actions could have saved thousands of lives. They still could save thousands of lives. I shook my head in despair when people I love repeated with gusto the claim that our numbers of infection are so high because we do so many tests. I thought but did not say, “Think! For god’s sake, just think about what you are saying!” It is too much to ask.

Kerri and I have met walls of angry criticism when we ask folks to check their media sources. How dare we suggest that propaganda isn’t news! It’s easy to check whether or not you are being led by the nose if you care to do it. And that, I fear, is where the line between democracy and totalitarianism dissolves. The care to do it. We would rather be comfy and fixed in our news bubbles, gloating in our mutual agreement, than practice thinking.

Without that hard line, the foundation of our healthy and resilient democracy can only crumble.

TRANSIENCE on the album RIGHT NOW is available in iTunes

read Kerri’s blog post about TRANSIENCE

transience/right now ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

Listen To The Hatter [on Flawed Wednesday]

keep yo mouth shut copy

“I don’t think…”

“Then you shouldn’t talk!” said the Hatter

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The entire world is down the rabbit hole though, we citizens of the U.S.A., have fallen into a deeper darker hole. We’ve found a way-out-wacky cast of characters at the helm that challenge in strangeness the inhabitants of Wonderland. Truth, as it turns out, is much stranger than fiction.

Sometimes out of the mouth of madness comes a whisper of truth. If you do not first think, you should probably not talk. The Hatter’s advice is sage.

For kicks, I asked the mystic Google this question: What did Alice learn in Wonderland? It’s been a few years since I held her hand and went down the rabbit hole.

Alice learned that bullies are really two-dimensional and ultimately vapid. The pandemic is exposing our very own Queen of Hearts, a man who, like the Queen, gets his excitement from belittling others. Diminishing others is really the only card in a bully’s  deck. Here we are.

Alice learned that a bully is powerless without the support of minions. So, to garner support, a healthy cadre of minions must also agree to be flat and loud but remain thought-free. As it turns out, minions are powerless without a bully. It’s a loop. Well. Here we are.

The Caterpillar asks Alice, “Who are you?” She has no answer. She finds herself in a wholly strange world. The rules of life as she understands them no longer apply.  It is madness everywhere she looks. Yup. Here we are.

Her experiences with the madness expose who she is. That is my favorite of Alice’s lessons. Our madness is also exposing many things about us. It’s revealed the bully. It has called forward the courageous. It has uncovered the minions. It lays bare the deep cracks in our foundation. And, perhaps, to take some advice from the Hatter, since the bully and his crew has undermined science, morality, ethic, facts, jurisprudence, and is taking partisan bites from the constitution, it might be time for us to start thinking.

“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.

“I won’t,” said Alice.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about Mouth Shut

 

donnieandmarie uke website box copy

 

PigeonPier copy

pigeon pier

 

 

 

 

 

Decide To Create A Better Story [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

hate has no home here copy

To anyone who entertains the mistaken notion that they are not creative, look no further than your thoughts. Thought is a creative act. It leads to the chicken-and-egg conundrum of creating. Do you create your thoughts or do your thoughts create you? Either way, what happens between the ears ripples with creativity.

We live within our thoughts and our thoughts live within us. We feed our thoughts with our fantasies and fears. Universes open or close. For instance, focus on contention and you will see contention everywhere.  That is, you will create contention.

It is, and has been the dirty little secret of governing people since before Machiavelli: keep the masses focused on division and they will be easily manipulated. Create difference whether it exists or not. That way the good people will fight with each other and not focus on the actions of their leaders. It’s a magic trick. A sleight of hand. It is a strategy, not a conspiracy.

A people united as one is a very potent force. A united populace is dangerous to a corrupt and fearful leadership.

Before you roll your eyes with my esoterica, put your highly creative thought on this: is it true that our nation is deeply divided? Yes.  Do we create division ourselves without question, eating heartily the divisive narrative we are being fed? Yes. We are daily meditating on division and daily claiming it as truth. We create division together.

Narratives are powerful and just as capable of obscuring as they are of revealing. Obscurity is a creative act. So is deception. Propaganda. Denial. Conspiracy theory. Lie.

It is the definition of ignorance to embrace a narrative without questioning it. Which brings us back around to the chicken-and-egg conundrum: do you close your mind or does your mind close you? Yes. Hate has no home in a questioning mind.

Are we capable of questioning? Of telling a common story? It depends on what we decide together to create. Yes.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on NO HOME FOR HATE

 

shadow in surf HH website box copy

Blow Up Your Feathers [on DR Thursday]

EarthInterrupted3 copy 2

Earth Interrupted. This painting is the third in the series. It’s not as political as it might seem. Every time change comes an earth is interrupted. Configurations dismembered and then reconfigured.

A long time ago, when working with groups on perspective shifts, I used the phrase, “Blow up your feathers so they can re-settle in a new pattern.” I liked the phrase because I love the notion that thoughts are just so many feathers that have settled into a random pattern.

This series was (and is) my attempt to blow up my artistic feathers, to interrupt my earth. My feathers are still airborne. I’ll let you know when my earth settles down, when my feathers find a new pattern.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about E.I. III

 

 

EarthInterrupted3 copy 2

E.I. III, 48x36IN, mixed media

 

seagull in fog website box copy

 

earth interrupted III ©️ 2018 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

Choose Your Meditation [on Not-So-Flawed Wednesday]

peace marbles copy

We found Peace Marbles in a basket at the door of Leap Of Faith, a small shop in Cedarburg. It’s one of our favorite shops for obvious reasons. Many faiths are represented in the shop so translate the accompanying lyrics/prayer/meditation accordingly.

The idea is ancient. What fills your mind-space, your meditation, is what you will create. Meditate on hate and that is what you will see. Focus on lack and that is what you will experience. Although it might not seem like it, what you think, what flows through your noggin on a daily basis, is a choice.  It is a placement of focus. It is a prayer. A meditation.

Peace comes when people collectively focus on peace. A community chooses where to place its focus as readily as does an individual. It’s all in the narrative, the stuff flowing through our conversation, our storytelling, on a daily basis.  It is a creative act – not something that ‘happens to us.’

It seems we could use all the help we can get. And, you never know, a fleet of little blue marbles rolling around in pockets and purses as reminders might be just the thing to help us choose to place our focus on the better things. It certainly couldn’t hurt.

 

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on BLUE MARBLES

 

 

cropped head kiss website copy

 

DR Thursday

layered meditation with frame jpeg copy

kerri calls this morsel, Layered Meditation. a perfect name as it comes from my painting, Meditation.

I believe that every moment of life is a meditation, conscious or otherwise. Your current meditation may be about the anxiety of  having enough money to pay the bills. It may be about the frustration of being stuck in traffic – again. It might be about a perceived injustice; blame meditations dominate most of our inner monologues. Of course, you might also be meditating about what to get at the grocery store or what to plant in the garden this year. You might be meditating about how to make life better for your children. Not all meditations are worrisome. Generally, we dedicate a small sliver of the meditation pie chart to the generative.

And, that’s really the point. We choose where we place our thoughts, we decide where we aim our focus. It is a dedication, not a runaway train.

One of my favorite moments in Carlos Castaneda’s book, The Teachings of Don Juan, happens when the master, Don Juan, refuses to place any value in the continued angst of his student, Carlos. Laughing at Carlos’ dedication to his misery, Don Juan says, “You indulge like a son-of-a-bitch!” Discovering and shedding indulgences is a many layered exploration. Shedding indulgences, like cutting junk food from your diet, comes when you recognize that you choose what you consume, not the other way around. You choose what you think, you choose your meditations, not the other way around.

Meditation10.17 copy

Meditation, 48 x 48in, mixed media

I am relearning this lesson. Lately, in the studio, I find I am meditating on my personal hall of monsters and past injustices. I’ve been taken aback at my dedication to replaying these tales of woe and unfairness.  And then I hear Roger’s voice in my head saying, “What kind of a sissy word is ‘fair!'” And I laugh. Laughter is great for rededicating the thought-train. Laughter loops me back to another favorite Don Juan-ism: “The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.”

 

LAYERED MEDITATION reminder/merchandise

society 6 info jpeg copy

layered meditation METAL WALL ART copy

metal wall art

layered meditation LEGGINGS copy 2

layered meditation FLOOR PILLOW copy

layered meditation BEACH TOWEL copy

it makes a cool beach towel!

stationary gift cards, mugs, framed art prints, and more.

PURCHASE THE ORIGINAL PAINTING: MEDITATION

read Kerri’s blog post about LAYERED MEDITATION

melange button jpeg copy

kerrianddavid.com

layered meditation & meditation ©️ 2018, 2012 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Look To Each Other

my latest work-in-progress

my latest work-in-progress

Josh laughed from the back seat of the car. He read aloud the text that made him laugh: I’m in MoMA (the museum of modern art) and someone dropped a glove. Now, people are walking around it because they don’t know whether it is art or not!

I’ve spent a goodly amount of my time on the planet in museums of contemporary art and know that most folks passing through the museum have the same confusion about the pieces on the walls. What makes something art and something else not-art?

Almost a century ago Marcel Duchamp entered a urinal in an exhibition and gave it the title, “Fountain.” At the time it was scandalous and now represents a major milestone in art history. Today, a urinal in a museum exhibition would get the same treatment as the glove on the floor: confused consideration. Is it or is it not art? The beauty of the glove moment, the thing that binds it to the urinal moment, is that, in both cases, the gallery goers looked to others, perfect strangers, to ascertain a proper response: it is art if they say it is. Art, in this case, is an agreement.

This agreement, looking for approval about how to behave when confronted with the art-or-not-art question may seem superficial until you consider that recently people in Paris lost their lives over a disagreement of what was art and what was not. In recent history (2001), the Taliban destroyed centuries old giant statues of the Buddha in the Bamiyan Valley. They considered the statues idols (not art) and dynamited them off of the face of the earth (I will leave you to discover and ponder the irony between my Paris and Bamiyan Valley examples).

the words written into my work-in-progress

a close-up: the words written into my work-in-progress

Art is meant to open our perspective, to make us question, to help us see. A society that is capable of seeing is also a society that is capable of questioning; they go hand-in-hand. Questioning is always present when people are growing – so is art. Questioning also begets tolerance – it requires us to doubt our perspective and consider the view from someone else’s shoes. In these times when I hear someone bemoan the end of civility and the horrors in the world, I wonder if they’ve argued to cut art from the schools or  recently attended a concert to hear music to move their soul. Art is dangerous to leaders who like their people blind. Art is offensive to people who want their community thought-less. I delighted that somewhere in the world, in a museum of modern art, a group of people walked around a lost glove and looked to each other for guidance.

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See The Elegance

659. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Bryan and I talked tonight about the elegance of design. He told me that many years ago he became interested in the Golden Mean, which led him to research the Fibonacci sequence, which led to an interest in eclipses. He became fascinated by the simple elegance and paradox of astronomer’s capacity to precisely determine when an eclipse would happen and the impossibility (due to weather) of predicting if we would be able to see it. The Golden Mean and the Fibonacci sequence are simple equations that, when replicated, maintain the integrity of design throughout very complex structures and calculations. They are fractals. Much of classic architecture is based solely on the Golden Mean. Much of what you will learn in contemporary art school about composition is based on the Golden Mean.

Our physical bodies are complex structures based on a simple cell design. We are at the same time miracles of complexity and simplicity; more space than solid, more water than mineral, reducible to a small pile of dust and yet expansive beyond all imagining. We are elegant in our design, as nature only designs elegant forms from the same simple notion and very simple (yet complex) building blocks.

Our thoughts run according to the same principle. I once read a statistic that showed that we think mostly the same thoughts each day, day after day (don’t ask me how you measure such a thing….). We build our thought on a few replicable principles and then go holographic with them. A few simple assumptions will lock you in prison or set you free. Check out the pattern of the story you tell yourself each day. Are you locking yourself in or opening the cage? I realized years ago that the epicenter of my coaching work – or any other form my whacky work takes – was really about story change. I often say this to groups: change your story and you will change your world. They mostly respond, “It can’t be that easy!” or “Pie in the sky!” I didn’t say it would be easy – we are after all deeply invested in our stories; we are great fighters for our limitations. The wrong assumption is that it need be complex. We are elegant in our design, even down to our repetitive thoughts. Change the simplicity and you will some day be capable of manifesting an entirely new soaring cathedral of thought.