Last One, Best One

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“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” –Vincent Van Gogh


Last Monday I wrote about a simple, but profound mantra I brought from my yoga class to my painting studio– “do your best”.

I’ve thought about doing my best a lot lately as I’ve navigated through southern Louisiana snow (what is that!?), Christmas lists, and need-to-be-finished-by-Christmas commissioned paintings.

My five year old has recently taken up Mike Storm’s Karate in Mandeville where mantras are nothing new. As energetic kids work through their last set of leg raises or mountain-climbers while parents watch from the viewing area, you often here Sensei say and the students repeat, “Last one, best one”– a modification and companion to the phrase I’ve had on mental repeat since yoga. 

I have a tendency to throw in the towel at the end of a task. When I wrap presents– the first ones get ribbons that are curled and fluffed– the last are lucky to even get a pre-made, stick-on bow. Folding laundry always starts in neat, organized piles and ends in, I’ll just fold it while it’s still inside out and then fix it when I wear it.

But with “last one, best one” in my mind I’m making an effort to, in the words of my beloved 2010 Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints, “Finish Strong”. On all my runs lately, my last mile is always my fastest. When my son and I are picking up legos from the floor, we’ve even been getting the last ones hidden under the side tables. “Last One, Best One” has helped me quiet those tiresome voices that say “you can’t”, or “you aren’t”. 

I just counted– I’ve done 31 live paintings at weddings and events this year with two still left before 2018. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that I don’t always feel super energized to pack up all my gear and haul it to a wedding. Sometimes there are little voices that say, what if they don’t like it? What if they spent all this money for something that’s not even that great?

So at my last two weddings, as I’ve stared down that blank canvas I know has to be filled with people in a measly three hours, I have, under my breath, uttered, “last one, best one”– silencing those voices by laying paint to canvas. Inaction and blank surfaces amplify the voices of self-doubt; making marks cuts through their power, leaving them mute. I, afterall, paint with a knife. It feels inherently powerful.

I’ve painted at about 100 weddings total. I want always for the last one I do to be the best one I do. I’m not the same painter I was when I started. The miles on the canvas are adding up. I feel stronger, more competent.

As 2017 is coming to an end, I find myself filling sketchbooks and legal pads with big ideas for 2018. But for now, for today, I hope that my very last painting of 2017 is my very best one– my best effort, my whole heart. 


Just a reminder– there are just a few paintings left in my once-a-year holiday sale. It ends tomorrow at midnight.

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Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

December 11, 2017

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