“If You Want to go Far” 24×30 inches, oil on canvas

I started this month with a bike, and I knew I wanted to end with one too. Only this time there’s not just one, but several. All month I’ve been thinking about the African proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” It was several years ago that I decided to stop going at this alone and invited others, anyone, to join me in a practice that had been both life-giving and life-changing. 

Ten years ago, I was certain that making art, whatever the kind, no matter how good or bad it turned out, was as vital to our well-being as eating balanced meals, getting enough sleep, or even friendship. What I didn’t know then was how lonely making art could be, how much the creative spirit would call out for kinship, would beg for validation, would hope to be recognized. I didn’t realize that creating things was as much about self-expression as it was about connection. Are we, in fact, dealing with a similar question to the tree falling in the forest without anyone there to hear it? If we make something and no one ever sees it, is it art? Is art not just something we do but something we share– creator to viewer, hearer, reader? Is it then, a conversation? Does it require more than one person?

Last month I ran a marathon and this month I did a painting a day, and I can’t decide which challenged me the most. In both, I had to do the work alone. No one else ran a single stride or painted a single stroke for me. But in both cases, I was surrounded and supported by family, friends, and even complete strangers who made the effort worth doing. Last month, when I realized I had a late-night, out of town, live wedding painting the night before the marathon I’d been training for and wondered if I should even do the race at all, my husband and I discussed why people don’t just run 26.2 miles on their own. Do people do that? Does it count?

Ultimately, I opted to run the official race because I wanted the fanfare, the ordination so to speak. The “bells and smells” churches use to say, “This matters. This is official. This means something.” 

And year after year I do this 31 day practice in a community that makes all of it feel official. Dear friends, I have only this left to say: No one can run your race or make your art but you. AND. You have only to look to your right or to your left or ahead or behind to see all those who are there, right beside you. They are an endless source of inspiration and motivation. They are an endless source of connection. Your journey is worth taking. Thank you for coming on this one with me.

If you’d like to participate in next year’s 31 in 31, I would love to have you. And why wait until December to decide? Why not sign up now?

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

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Written by Denise Hopkins

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