A Blessing for Rest


I’ve been into blessings lately. Not the #blessed variety of social media where pictures of wealth, health, or beauty read like advertisements for some magical and exclusive elixir that feels just out of reach. I mean the kind we confer on one another as if to say: this is my deepest, sincerest hope for you– not your veneer, but the you that is more than appearance, circumstance or even personality. 

I was first intrigued by the idea of blessings when I started following author Kate Bowler who writes them for the messier aspects of existing in a world that is both terrible and beautiful. And then I listened to a blessing by late poet John O’Donahue read on a podcast, and it seemed as though it had been written specially for the painting I’d just completed. I made a video where I painted it onto the back of the canvas.

 

A Challenge Proposed

I was talking with an art friend recently who was lamenting her trouble releasing her works into the world. They feel so personal, to release them so vulnerable, she said. Do you ever feel like that, she asked. No, I don’t, I answered, and then tried to explain how much I want my work to leave me, how deeply I know its imperfection and how little that makes me want to hold it back. 

She proposed a challenge that I’ve not been able to stop thinking about: create something that would feel a bit tricky to share. 

It finally came to me. I’ve been writing blessings lately. Mostly they are for me, hopes for myself and for those closest to me. It turns out they are the tricky, vulnerable things for me to share. I’m not as good at them as I’d hoped I’d be. They are infinitely better in my head than they are on the page.

But I want to answer my friend’s challenge and share one with you even though it feels awkward to do so. 

One of my newest paintings is called “Be Still and Know” and is a rework of an old painting I had long abandoned. I changed the background and added a halo of stars. Just like that, it felt redeemed– a mere three years later. 

As I looked at the new image, I couldn’t help but think of the hummingbird, known for its darting quickness, those wings that beat at 53 beats a second and how deeply I relate to her hustle. I dart from one activity or to-do list to the other and checking boxes never seems to leave any boxes checked but only creates new unchecked ones. 

How beautiful and hard rest is.

How wonderfully sacred it is not to produce, achieve, or toil. And how contrary to what I once believed so irrevocably true. 

So here it is, a blessing inspired by a painting that spent three years resting before it really emerged. If this blessing speaks to you in any way, it would certainly be one to me to let me know in the comments. 

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Written by Denise Hopkins

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Why I came around to art prints

I was an original-only holdout for quite some time. I equated art print with what you can buy at Hobby Lobby or Home Goods. And then my artist friend, Gretchen, sold the original of a watercolor I loved and wanted before I could grab it from her site, so I bought and framed a print of it instead. It hangs proudly in my entryway; there isn’t an evening spent on the sofa where my eye does not gravitate towards it, and then linger there in delight. 

Prints bought directly from artists can be beautiful and meaningful, I realized. So I spent more money than I’m willing to admit on an “art to print” course to teach me how to create beautiful, high-quality reproductions of my work. Several lessons in, and I was in over my head: the technical color matching, the never-ending editing, the complicated scanning and photography, not to mention the super expensive equipment I’d need to invest in to even make it to that point. I quickly realized if I was to become even average at these tedious tasks, I would never paint (nor be happy) again. 

Maybe the money on the course was well spent because it taught me, definitively, that there was no way I was going to be able to do it. I was disheartened. And then I met Katrina. 

Katrina owns BSL prints, a local printing company that specifically does printing for artists. She now makes all of my prints in house right in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Her work is flawless, and I love that I can now offer reproductions that I am proud of. 

In a perfect world, I would own the originals of all the pieces I love by all the artists I admire, but until then, prints allow me to collect a variety of art in a variety of sizes. I am able to pick work that is meaningful to me in sizes that fit my space and my budget. 

In this spirit, I launched the print of the month– a new print each month offered in all its forms at 15% off all month long. This month’s print is pretty dear to me so when my social media followers voted it for November, I was thrilled. You can read more about creating “Persistence” in this post from several months ago. 

So what are your thoughts on art prints? Do you own any? How do you display them? Do you only buy originals? Let me know in the comments!

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How it all started…

It’s 2013 and I’m having dinner with my best friend at our current favorite restaurant in New Orleans. I had recently told my therapist that I want to be an artist. Like, for a job. To my surprise she didn’t laugh or, as the next door neighbor did, scoff and say, yes, but how will you make money? Instead she said, get an accountability person, someone you trust and respect. Tell her your plans and bounce your ideas off her. Pick someone who will check in, who will help you to follow through. 

So it’s our first artist-accountability meeting over paella and sangria, and I pour my little aching artist heart out to my friend turned business coach, and we formulate a plan. We have notebooks. I show her some terrible work I am unabashedly proud of. She does not recoil, although I know she knows I’ve got a lot of work to do. I speak to her with excitement in my voice– an excitement she has not heard from me in quite a while. I probably spill my drink and don’t care.

A few months later, it’s April 2014, and the 31 in 31 is born, although back then it was just 30 in 30. I do 30 paintings in 30 days for the entire month of April as my grand entrance into the world of art. By day two I’m afraid to post and certain (rightfully) that no one will notice if I don’t. I post anyway, reminding myself it’s not about any one day or the masses of people that are not eagerly awaiting my contribution; it’s about the process, the start, the inertia I hope with every fiber of my being I can build. I tell myself that even if there is not a soul in the world who would care if I do not follow through, I care. And for the first time that I can remember, I chose myself. 

It was a lot of by-the-seat-of-my pants energy after that. Countless randomly-timed 30 in 30s transformed into one 31 in 31 every year, every January, and eventually a little community formed as I invited others to join me in the practice of creating one thing, every day for 31 days. The group has had poets, writers, painters, yogis, musicians, cooks, photographers, doodlers, and just about anything else that requires intention, focus, practice. Unlike a new year’s resolution, the 31 has not been about necessarily adding something to your life, but about digging deep to discover or uncover what is already there. It’s about honoring your ability, your call even, to create out of the richness of your beautiful and unique spirit. Yes, yours. 

So, in a very rare and probably unrepeatable move for me, I’m going to invite you now, i.e. before Halloween even, to join me January 1st in a process I can say without hyperbole has without a doubt changed my life

Will you join me?

Is there some creative process you’ve always wanted to make space for? Are you a painter who doesn’t paint, a writer who doesn’t write, a cartoonist who doesn’t cartoon? Do you long to take a walk every day? Touch your toes? Write a novel? Do you have a practice already but long for community? Do you just like compliments? 

The 31 can be your accountability partner. 

Signing up for the 31 will give you a supportive space to post your 31 day practice. No one will judge you if you don’t hit all 31 days, but we will absolutely celebrate every day that you show up. 

How it works

First of all, it’s free. If you think you’d like to join, enter your email below. You’ll get some encouraging emails as January approaches, and then one each day during the practice. You’ll be asked to join the private facebook group where participants can share their work. Feel free to dive right in, or join just observe (for now). There’s no one way to 31.

Please let me know what questions you have below. If the question is “is this for me?” the answer is most likely yes. But I’m happy to reiterate it as many times as you need. 

Want to see my 31 from last year? You can check it out here.

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Written by Denise Hopkins

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On a long drive last month, my sister introduced me to the enneagram, which my brother had introduced to her. Ask my husband, and he will tell you that the Hopkins siblings are an intense bunch. We do not do or take things lightly. This is no exception. If you are not familiar, the enneagram is a system of personality typing that describes patterns in how people interpret the world and manage their emotions using nine personality types mapped on a diagram to illustrates how the types relate to one another.

Certain none of the numbers would be able to describe me (classic quality of a four), I finally acquiesced to my obvious fourness. Fours are the individualists also called romantics or artists. We value creativity and authenticity, and can be in touch (or slightly obsessed) with our own inner workings. We are emotional and empathetic, prone to melancholy and prepared to read profound meanings into the coffee grounds spilled on our countertops or the way the daisy’s petals are moving ever so slightly in the wind. We want to be different and are not fans of conventionality. I’ll say it so you don’t have to, there are times when fours are exhausting.

I tell you this because it has shed a light for me on why I do so many of the things I do. Case in point: I once painted pelican after pelican after pelican because I was deeply sad and they moved me. Having lived nearly my whole life near the water in South Louisiana, I never really noticed them before. Maybe a better way to say it is that I never really cared about them, and then I found myself grown(ish), my life so far beyond my control, it sometimes felt hard to breathe. And there they suddenly were– everywhere. In the Bayou outside my porch window and flying directly beside my car as I drove the twenty-four mile bridge across Lake Pontchartrain. Apparitions maybe– the holy spirit descending not to make all things well, but to make me well as everything I thought sacred went up in flames. 

I stopped painting them for the exact same reason I started– I saw them everywhere: every gift shop, boutique, and art booth boasting “coastal” or “local.”  When it became clear I was doing what so many other people were doing, the magic dissipated, and I stopped doing it. 

They still whisper to me– something like comfort mixed with nostalgia, a dash of hope. Having moved to the Mississippi coast, I still see them everywhere, and doing so still feels less like “seeing” and more like “beholding” even as I catch myself looking away more quickly than I used to. 

I’ve opened this post with one of my favorite pelican paintings from a few years ago. I came across it on my phone as I was scrolling for something else. Oh, yes, I thought. I remember you. Thank you.

I don’t think our personality types are the end all be all to how we must or should or can act in the world, but they can help us to see when we’re going that familiar route and can perhaps take a detour instead. 

I’m working on some new pelican minis at the moment and there are definitely times when they feel a little trite, but then I remember what deep meaning they hold for me and I paint on. What can I say, I’m a four. 

My hope is that I will find an interesting way to intergrate them into some of my newer work so that I can satisfy both my need to be unique and my need to tap into what strikes an emotional chord. Does that make any sense?

Let me know if you know your enneagram number and if its given you any insights. I’ll be sure report your findings to my siblings at our next, probably intense discussion 😉 

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Written by Denise Hopkins

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I named this painting “The Places We Will Go” because I was thinking of my youngest and our early bike rides together. The countless ones with him in the seat or trailer attached to my bike, then his own shaky, training wheels ones, the even shakier sans training wheels ones that eventually dissolved into long, effortless, look-before-you-cross-the-street ones through the neighborhood or on the way to school. The ones were I rollerbladed and he pedaled. Ones where he got red-faced, sweaty, and painfully slow. Ones where he flew, a little blur of life and boundless energy I realized I’d never be able to contain or fully protect.

We’ve lived in several different literal and not-so-literal places. We’ve traveled through dark times and discovered family waiting for us on the other side. 

I don’t have many vivid memories from my own early childhood, but I do remember learning to ride a bike, the driveway that seemed a mile long, my dad utterly convinced for some insane reason that I could do the impossible– balance on just two wheels. The joy of actually doing it. 

If I had to pick just one symbol for childhood, I’d pick a bicycle. It speaks to me of where we’ve been, where we’re going, and the unknown places we might hope to go. It says yesterday and tomorrow in the same breath.

When I decided to do a print of the month, I knew “The Places We Will Go” had to be the first in what I hope is an ongoing practice. For the entire month of October, all “The Places We Will Go” prints will be 15% off when you enter “places” at checkout. 

Comments

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Written by Denise Hopkins

More From This Category

Painting in a series and what it taught me

Painting in a series and what it taught me

I have always painted in series. When one subject or idea strikes the proverbial gold, I keep digging. But not in some organized, focused way. I flit from this to that. Some series have lasted years, others hours, and I tend not to focus on just one series at a time. ...

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I’m not sure where I learned them, but as soon as I did, I realized how powerful they were. They work best to dispel my natural tendency to let a simple disappointment snowball into a full-scale self-directed character assassination. I can’t tell you how many of my...

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read more