Day 14. Vriksasana: Seeing the Forest For the Trees



“Benito” 20×20, oil on canvas, $340.00[creativ_button url=”″ icon=”” label=”Buy Now” colour=”blue” colour_custom=”” size=”medium” edge=”straight” target=”_self”]

This one I’m not sure about. A couple weeks ago I walked to Bogue Falaya Park, just a few minutes from my house. I was struck by a particular dark shadow on top of which emerged several trees; some were celebrating fall, perhaps unaware that they reside in Louisiana where leaves stay mostly green.  I snapped a few amateur photos on my iphone and used them to create today’s painting.

When I got the following story, I immediately knew I wanted to use these trees for my painting. Trees are bumpy. They take twists and turns that are hard to follow. They don’t have precise patterns. Sometimes they don’t make sense until you back away.

Landscape is tricky. I try to see the big picture because when I focus too much on the details I get lost, frustrated and say things like, “God, you win. My art will never do yours justice. I will stop trying. I will just enjoy it and paint it to appreciate, not to mimic because I can’t.” 

This painting was a lot like the story– I’ve not come close mastering the landscape yet. But that fact will not stand in the way of my practice. There is too much to gain.

In 2014 I did a 30 in 30 challenge in which I invited other people to participate. Sidney did Bikram (hot) yoga every single day for thirty days. If you are at all impressed with my 30 paintings, just know that her yoga practice put me to shame. Here’s what she wrote:


When I first started doing Bikram yoga (all those 30 in 30 challenges ago!) I met a teacher named Benito. He was newish to New Orleans and while I could tell he was an advanced yoga practitioner, he was new to the teaching circuit. His words were awkward, and he didn’t have the “go back, fall back, way back” rhythm of other teachers in the studio. It was uncomfortable.

As the days went by I kept showing up for class and he kept showing up to teach. I would smile as he stumbled through some of the script and he would smile as I awkwardly tried to cross my legs and arms in opposite directions while standing on one foot. I believe we developed some kind of kinship during those first few weeks, he as a new teacher and me as a new student.  What leaves me speechless though is that everyday he would stand up in front of the class and put his growth on display for us. We got to see him for everything that he was and everything that wasn’t as he humbly led us through our practice. He was unapologetic, he was relentless, when he could have retreated to polish his imperfections he stepped into the studio and began again putting his growth on display.

After falling off the yoga bandwagon, I’m happy to say that I recently had the opportunity to take a class with Benito. He was a beacon. Instructions and adjustments rolled off his tongue. What was once a struggle was now second nature. I couldn’t help but smile as he spoke, this time for completely different reasons. Seeing his growth and his willingness to put it on display inspires my practice, and, if I’m honest, is a huge motivation for me to get in that hot room when my mind tries to lead me away. I’m the first to confess that personal growth is important to me, but putting personal growth on display for others is a level of bad ass-ery that I aspire to.


I still desperately need stories. When the 30 days is up, I’m sending a set of art notecards to all my contributors. Looking forward to hearing from you. Email me at [email protected].

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Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

November 14, 2016

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