Day 31. Contradictions.

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I’m not a huge fan of before and afters. When people finish a new exercise or diet program and post a split screen, I find myself yelling into the computer: you were also good and beautiful in the “before!” So when I share some before and afters of this month, please know that the “before” is not an illustration of my unworthy self and the “after,” me perfected. It’s more an invitation to look at what an imperfect person can accomplish with one tiny, daily devotion that adds up to something big. Let us not forget it’s the “before” person who did the work. 

Before this month I was a good oil painter with a messy, hardly bearable studio. After this month, I am a good oil painter who has added watercolor to her repertoire in a space that is far more enjoyable to work.

My last little bird of the month is based on a photograph a friend sent me quite a while back– his son had been in Australia and shared a picture of the Australian Kookaburra bird, which he correctly assumed I would enjoy.

There are many things I file into the “later” folder, but sometimes, rarely, I do eventually open it up.

I’ve been “latering” my studio reorganization for over a year now. It took me half of January just to build up the nerve, but eventually, little task by little task, I found my inertia– A person in the doing mode wants to remain a doer.



Every 31 in 31 I take on provides unique challenges and unique rewards. This time around I was gifted insight into a new medium all together, one that surprised and delighted me. I tried something new even as I worked within the very familiar. I faced disappointment in the form of a pile of rejected paintings and a Superbowl dream that died with a flag that never emerged from the shadows.

Into the background of today’s last painting of this 31 in 31, I’ve written reminders of this month’s insights, many of which are contradictions. “Try new things” appears more than once, but so does “paint what you know and love.” “Tidy up” has a counterpart of “be okay with messes.”

Among the other reminders– take up space, lose control, and disappointment paves the way for joy.

Once again, I have thoroughly enjoyed the work of all my fellow 31ers– poets, artists, musicians, writers, peace-seekers. Together, we have exercised that most human impulse to create and connect. I can’t speak for you, but I suspect what is true for me might be for you also: this month I have felt just a bit more alive.

All my watercolor paintings from the month (and a few bonuses) will be available soon on my site. Be sure to subscribe to my mailing list to be the first to know when.

If you’ve been following along for 31 days (or even just one or two), thank you. If you think you might want to take on a 31 day challenge in the future, you’ve got just under a year to get ready. The next one starts January 1, 2020. I hope you’ll think about it. 

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Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

January 31, 2019

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