Day 18. When the Tears Come (Again)


Molly 2, 6×6, oil on gessoboard SOLD


Yesterday, I was so eager to paint Molly. One of her nine godmothers, Donna (day 1), had been telling me about her for years. Karen’s beautiful recounting of the months leading to Molly’s birth deeply moved me– something about expectations and re-envisioning a world we’ve seen too narrowly.

Painting Molly started off great. I was organized. I sketched her at my little spot at the gym where I work while Ezra plays. I wrote Karen’s story.  I said a little prayer.

When the work of lunch and playtime was finally done and Ezra was quiet in his bed, I got to the work of painting. I loved Molly’s face, loved her story and the beginning of the painting was joyful. I don’t know exactly when things went downhill. My daily paintings usually take me anywhere between forty five minutes to two hours. Three hours in, and I was warring with the canvas. I continued to work well after Ezra woke from his nap. Too many strokes. Contrasts too harsh. Her face too light, hair too dark. Green too green, not soft enough for what I wanted to capture.

But maybe it was just me. Perhaps the painting and I had been together too long and in the morning I’d see it again with fresh eyes. I posted it anyway because if I didn’t, I’d have nothing for day 17.  30 in 30 has become almost a compulsion– as though waiting, sitting with the painting overnight, being patient would annihilate my entire month’s work.

I posted the painting to my blog, and then I had a good cry. This was not my best work, and I had wanted so much for it to be.  And that’s when the gremlin’s came. You know them. Steven Pressfield calls them resistance.

You can’t do this. What a stupid idea. You aren’t an artist. Have you seen so-and-so’s portraits?  Quit and quit now.

So I listened to them for a while, let them keep me company while I cried. They are good company but bad friends. Then, in rebuke, I posted my painting, had a glass of wine, prepared dinner, put Ezra to bed, and went back to the easel. Molly, part 2.  I tried to be more gentle, more subtle. Softer, this time.

I woke up early this morning and went back to the easel again. There was Molly 2 smiling at me. Not a perfect painting by any means, but more of the spirit I’d set out to capture.

For someone who considers herself a free spirit, I am undeniably rigid.  I couldn’t possibly do the same subject matter, same story two days;  that, obviously, would defy all the written-in-stone rules of a 30 in 30 challenge.  Well, here’s to this goodie goodie breaking a few rules. Better yet, to letting go of self-imposed rules that don’t really exist. To re-envisioning. To trying again. To being painfully imperfect.

If Molly can have nine godmothers, I can have two tries at painting her, right?  Here’s a picture of Molly with those women who love her so dearly.


This Saturday I’ll be in Breaux Bridge showing some paintings at Teche Fest. If you’re in the area, come on by!  I’ll be at Monroe’s, 136 East Bridge St from 10-6.

Sunday, I’m heading to the Saints game so that they can get their first win.  Trust me, they need me, and all is going to be well with this season. I’m not really sure how I’m going to get the weekend’s paintings done, but I assure you that I am going to do them, somehow.  The stories coming up are some of the most stunning yet. I know they will inspire you as they have me.

Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

September 18, 2014

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