Getting a Little Lost on the Way Forward

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A couple weeks ago my teacher friend and all-around super-human posted to Facebook this image of a page from a children’s book she had been reading to her daughter. Her post then explained:

I love keeping up with my students on social media because I love seeing their dreams come true. I like to see the posts that say, “I did it! It happened! I’m happy!” I really do enjoy that. But I love you more in the struggle.

That usually doesn’t get a mention on social media, but I love you all for being persistent, hard-working, resilient women.

So if you woke up this morning to go to that summer class because you switched majors, or your car battery was dead, or you got the call that the audition fell through, that the job went to someone else; if you’re headed to work when your friends are headed to the beach; if just getting out of bed and putting clothes on felt exhausting; if your body hurts and your soul is tired; if you feel like the only one in the world who is totally lost . . . Today is still forward progress to what comes next. It counts.

Love the struggle. Be kind to yourself. Keep fighting. Get a little lost on the way forward.”

It is hard to love the struggle when you can’t see what’s waiting on the other side of it, but my friend’s reminder has been resounding in my head since I read it. Love the struggle. Be kind to yourself. Get a little lost.

I can see now that my personal “dark ages” may have been a natural stage of living– a winter where leaves died only to come back fuller and brighter when that long-given up on spring finally came. I want to believe that spring always comes– that personal seasons vary in length and intensity, but none of us is exempt from the darkness or the light.

I think all of this is why I’ve been so into painting flowers lately. I am obsessed with beauty juxtaposed to brevity; the idea of blooming, growing, and changing– the colors and shapes that form slowly and fade quickly. I love that my loose representations of flowers serve to freeze in time a transient moment in nature– a reminder, I hope, of potential and beauty when things seem most bleak.

Making art is an experience in being lost. It is going into a dark room and feeling around the walls for a light switch. Every day is a new experience in lostness and thus a new potential for discovery. I am particularly lost when it comes to this very blog. From day one it was important to me that it existed– a companion to the images I would create and share. But now, as I refocus my energies on it and being consistent with it, I wonder what it is about at all (parenting, making art, specific paintings, self help?) and who exactly it is for (other artists, collectors, fellow parents or entrepreneurs?). I realize that very many of you will immediately think yes! All of the above! But how do all those things fit together in a way that is coherent and engaging? What am I missing? Where’d the path go that used to be right under my feet?

Regardless of whether you’ve been reading my blog for a while or for the first time today, I’d love to know what you think. What’s the point of an artist’s blog? What do you get out of it? What do you want to get out of it? What’s crazy boring? What’s interesting?

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Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

July 24, 2017

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3 Responses

  1. My answer will be brief but hopefully helpful. Blog posts like this one on being lost help me in a few ways. Firstly, they articulate for me what I often can not put into words myself. I don’t always know why I’m composing a photo beyond having a need to compose it. Sometimes It’s only after I take the photo that I begin to.understand what I was trying to accomplish.

    Secondly, reading your analysis of your work gets me thinking about ideas and themes I keep coming back to in mine (e.g., I’m obsessed with clouds for similar reasons you are obsessed with flowers right now) as well about what new directions I might want go in. I’ve been thinking a great deal, for instance, about how I can start capturing depression in my work in a more direct way.

    Thanks for sharing your insights on painting, and keep on blogging!

    1. Thanks, Greg! Will do. And I LOVE your photos. Maybe we could do a collaboration of some sort in the future?

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