Day 16. Keep it About the Work


Untitled, 4×4, oil on canvas, $50.00 [creativ_button url=”″ icon=”” label=”Buy Now” colour=”blue” colour_custom=”” size=”medium” edge=”straight” target=”_self”]

It was bound to happen: my most productive day to date, and yet not a whole lot to show for it. I worked on FIVE paintings this morning. I nearly completed a big one I’ve been thinking about. It’s 36×36. But in this, my fourth daily painting challenge, I’ve learned to let things sit for a bit, not be in such a rush to call them “done.”

I’ve started a series of tiny, 4x4in. paintings. I think of them as warm-ups to bigger more elaborate paintings and they are priced as such. Today’s painting is one of those. Once I finalize a few more, I’m going to take a photograph of them all together– I think their impact is more significant as a group rather than individually. 

I’m out of stories for now, and as much as I didn’t want to let go of that aspect of this challenge, I think today was so productive precisely because I’d let go. The first half of the month gave me a lot of ideas I wanted to explore. Today I explored several of those ideas, and I didn’t have to fret about making the images work with a certain story. Not all of today’s paintings were successes. But it felt so good to do the work.

The other day I was flipping through my instagram feed and stopped at one of the Humans of New York posts. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a site that posts short stories or thoughts from (mostly) everyday people. The posts are accompanied by a photo. The site explores both simple and complex topics that affect people’s lives–snapshots of being human. It’s worth checking out. The one I read most recently was from President Obama. Regardless of your political leanings, I think you’ll appreciate his answer to the question “When is the time you felt most broken?” He said,

“I first ran for Congress in 1999, and I got beat. I just got whooped. I had been in the state legislature for a long time, I was in the minority party, I wasn’t getting a lot done, and I was away from my family and putting a lot of strain on Michelle. Then for me to run and lose that bad, I was thinking maybe this isn’t what I was cut out to do. I was forty years old, and I’d invested a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t seem to be working. But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself—if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ – then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.”

I’ve known my fair share of frustrated and stuck. But today was, and hopefully tomorrow will be all about the work. It has indeed given me a path. And since the work is never done, the path never ends.


Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

November 16, 2016

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