Day 18. You don’t have to be good.

“Heading Home Again” 12×9, oil on paper

When I was contemplating a title for this one, my mind kept saying “Bird Brain,” a reflection of how I’m feeling at the moment– a little tired, not from painting itself, but from thinking about painting.

I have been so drawn to these images on paper this month, but holding them out from myself a little as though they might be a reward for doing some things on canvas first. But after several canvases didn’t turn out, I let myself have it, the paper. And just as it usually happens on this kind of surface, the image just kind of poured out of me. I like using the white of the paper in the design. I like the looseness the paper seems to inspire in me, asking me to really think not only about what I’m adding but about what I’m leaving out. 

Today’s painting was free-flowing and intuitive. When the birds arrived (as they almost always do) I was thrilled to see them, a little trinity of wonder floating around up there, guiding me towards my truest longings, my most honest desires.

The poem I most frequently reference on this blog is Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” which starts, and I often repeat to myself: You don’t have to be good. And I think that’s what this image and how it came to be really is– a letting go of this notion of “good” and being more interested in what the world is offering to my imagination. 


Wild Geese 

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


All 31 paintings will be on display at our gallery celebration February 24th from 5-8pm. The show will also feature other artists who have been part of a 31 in 31 community.


Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

January 18, 2024

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