Day 7. Thank God for Art

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“Space Between” 6×6, oil on canvas

I try to stay at least one day ahead with my paintings and my blog posts. That way, when life inevitably throws a curve ball, I’m prepared and can still get all 31 paintings in during the month. I wrote the post below before the events of yesterday unfolded, and, honestly, it feels a bit silly now. I wondered if I should write something else instead. But then I thought about what my friend Kama wrote yesterday– Thank God for art. Art is the thing that helps me find peace in chaos– the big, world-on-fire chaos, and the little day-to-day stuff.  This post was about the day-to-day stuff. But the practice of art making of which this is just one instance– that seems to really matter on a larger scale. That’s my disclaimer. Here’s the post:

When I started this 31 days I made a mental list of things that would certainly happen. I can’t even tell you how many of these 31 day challenges I’ve done– 10 at least– so I know what to expect: There will be one day where I’ll think I’m absolutely brilliant; one day where I cry in frustration; I’ll spend more time one day getting paint out of something rather than onto something; and there will be at least one day where my heart swells with joy. 

That’s why when the tears came yesterday I was relieved more than anything. So soon? I asked. Well at least we can check that box. If you remember from my day 1 post, I love to check a good box. 

Yesterday was rough not because of anything in particular but because nothing seemed to be going right– not my parenting, not my work, not my mental space. And as I sat on the floor of my garage studio, tears staining my cheeks, I held a freshly prepared canvas in my lap. You have to learn how to say no, I told myself. You have to figure out how. So I took the first colored pencil I could find and wrote the word “no” over and over again on that canvas until the “N” looked so funny I almost had to look up if I was writing it correctly. Did it need another line? No, that would make it an “M”. As I wrote, I thought about all the things I needed to start saying no to. They were little things mostly– no to my made-up urgency of that load of laundry, no to my own insistance on cooking that millionth from-scratch meal, no to negotiating with a child, no to putting my work last. 

And then, on top, I painted a great blue heron. That beautiful self-assured creature who seems to do and go exactly where she wants and needs to. The bird that looks you in the eye and dares you to come closer. 

And wouldn’t you know, after all of that, the composition didn’t quite work. I’d put the bird too far to the left of the canvas, so I added another one to the right side. Maybe it still doesn’t work because your eye is brought not directly to either one but to the space between them. But, I don’t know, maybe that says something too– the space between my needs and others’. That’s the space I’m working on. That’s the space I’m learning to navigate. 

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Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

January 7, 2021

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