Day 23. Caution: Artist at Play

“Inspiration Does Exist” 16×20 inches, oil on canvas

I have been working on today’s painting for several days now. It’s a good bit bigger than my paintings so far, and I had no idea where it was going until it got there. First one bird. Then two. Then three and four, in a circle around a crowned head (where did that come from?). 

Weeks ago, I’d bought some plastic stencils from Michaels, and they proved useful in creating that floral pattern on the clothing in the bottom right. 

I want so much to say something profound about this one. I want to offer you a poem or perfectly crafted sentence that you enjoy as much or maybe more than the painting. But I don’t have one, and I’ve been looking at the screen long enough to know it’s not coming. Don’t mind me, I’m just the anguished lady at the train station staring wistfully at those barren tracks.

Almost ten years ago, when I started painting full-time, I often quoted this line from Picasso: “Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working” because as soon as I started working on painting, really working on it, showing up to it to the same extent that I had shown up to any of my other full-time jobs, that’s when inspiration would strike and not before. It was always the act of painting that revealed some new idea, some new strategy to me. 

But now on Day 23, I’m seeing that it’s not just working that inspiration finds compelling enough to visit. It’s play. This painting was almost all play, from beginning to end. I scraped off as much as I added. I used weird palette knives with odd edges. I used a plastic stencil; I finger painted. I was willing for it never to find its way. 

I think I remember my artist friend Gretchen coming to a similar conclusion on her blog long ago, but I was too busy working to really understand: Inspiration does exist, but it must find you playing

It’s so obvious. I could have learned it by watching children in a school yard for five minutes. I could have learned it when we played Dungeons and Dragons over the holidays (see day 13). And maybe I did and it took all those times to finally get it today. 

Please note: 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 23, 2024

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