“Persistence” 15×30, oil on canvas

This is a backwards “s” painting. I’ll explain.

I’ve been having this memory playing on repeat in my mind recently. I was around six years old and reading a book with my dad. I don’t remember the book, only that it had one of those “This book belongs to” pages in the beginning. My dad asked me to write my name, which I did. Both the “s’s” were backwards. So he told me to do the one at the end of Hopkins again. So I did. Backwards. Try again he urged. Backwards again. I just can’t do it, I told him. He didn’t let up. Perhaps uncharacteristically calm, he just assured me that I could and remained unconcerned that it was taking so many missteps to get there. I remember that I was writing in pen and absolutely horrified that my mistakes were being so permanently recorded in an actual book. 

I have a very clear picture of two rows of backwards “s’s” ending in one that faced the right way. Something like this:

This isn’t the part where I tell you that practice makes perfect. 

Because it doesn’t, and it can’t.

What transpired in that children’s book was what has transpired ever since. The result was far from perfect. My name had at least ten too many letters at the end, the majority of which were backwards. But my dad looked at it with a pride that engendered some in me too. I had finally figured it out! 

I’ve been working on the painting that begins this post for years, and it was always just a little “off.” There was never a human figure in it until recently, and when she came into the painting, she did so slowly. I was cautiously thrilled to discover her, and I kept thinking, “Finally.”

The iteration just before this final version included a vase, the textures of which you can still see in the woman’s face— those textures are my backwards “s’s,” and, unlike when I was six years old, now, I adore them.

I am more proud of this painting than I am of the ones that came swiftly, without trial, error, sweat, or tears. 

I think this might be true: There are never too many tries. No wasted efforts. No such thing as perfect, and beauty to be found in every crevice. 

“Persistence” hits the website along with 14 other new paintings Tuesday, April 26th at 9 am. It will also be available as a print. Subscribers will get special pricing. 

As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Let me know what you think and if your imperfect persistence has ever paid off.

Written by Denise Hopkins

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