“How the Light Gets In” 8×16 inches, oil on canvas

Today’s painting is a bit of a shift. A couple weeks ago my family was invited to one of our most dedicated and long-time 31 in 31 participant’s new home on a huge, sprawling span of land complete with a large pond and a perfectly placed red canoe right at the water’s edge. When my husband and son immediately climbed in, I couldn’t help but start to rewrite in my head the famous William Carlos Williams poem: 

so much depends



a red wheel



glazed with rain



beside the white



In my mind it was more like


So much depends 



a bright red



Glazed with mud water

Below the white 


Anyway, I tried to use my people in the red canoe as inspiration for one of my daily paintings but, well, it was, to borrow from the kids these days, exceptionally “mid.”

But it got me thinking about families, ours in particular, and how the word blended so often gets paired with the word broken. What if we might look at families in light of those Japanese bowls– Kintsugi – where they repair broken pottery by mending it with gold, silver, or platinum as a way of treating “breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.”

Expert Christy Bartlett explains, “Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated.” Most agree that this process makes the art more beautiful, more compelling. 

 A dear friend of mine who is not particularly religious started wearing a medal of a saint around her neck to inspire her towards a particular calling she feels in her bones. And I wondered, who is the patron saint of stepparents because maybe I could use a little of that kind of inspiration. 

So I painted St. Joseph, who I know so little about perhaps because so little is known about him. This painting came swiftly, nearly painted itself as though the honoring of what the world calls broken was moving my hands.

I wasn’t thinking about the Japanese bowls until just this moment when I sat down to write, but I think it fascinating that the background of my painting has “cracks” in it where the layer of color from the previous layer can shine through. 

As Leonard Cohen taught me, and I say to myself at least once a day, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

You might notice some red on Joseph’s beard and you’d be correct if you guessed that was because I wanted to put some of my husband into the image since his role as my son’s stepfather inspired the whole thing. Perhaps I did paint a little of the red canoe after all. 

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.

st joseph painting



  1. Anonymous

    So beautiful. And your writings too. 💗

  2. Anonymous

    I love this painting! I own a “matching” print of our Lady holding Jesus in the same pose that you painted a few years ago. It hangs over my bed and I think of your talent often when I gaze at it. Stepfathers (often) are a gift! Keep up your good work.

  3. Anonymous

    Thank you so much Denise! I love it!


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Written by Denise Hopkins

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