Nightmares and Dreams Come True: 31 in 31 is here!

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Recently, I woke up from a nightmare– the calendar said January 16, and I had yet to start my annual 31 in 31 daily painting challenge. 

In the dream I was in a panic– was it too late to start? What about everyone else who joins with me each year? Had they been chugging along without my noticing it? How had it gotten to be January, much less the middle of, without me realizing it? Should I send out an apologetic email?

Reality, when it finally set in, was kind to me– deep breaths, girl, you’ve got nothing but time, nothing but now. In a perfect world, I would have been prepping for this since October. I would have been rounding up the troops, ordering my canvases, picking a theme, maybe sneaking in a few practice rounds. But, as we all know a bit too well these days, this world is far from perfect.

Which is why I need this 31 in 31. It sets the tone for my year. It gives me agency when chaos dances all around. It feels good to chip away at something slowly and methodically– a little effort each day and then VOILA! a huge accomplishment at the end. 

In 2014 I did my very first 30 day painting challenge to launch what has become a full time art career, a dream I never thought would come true. It was the “just start!” of my constant “what if’s”, the first foot forward after planning a long walk for ages. And, without a doubt, it changed my life. Not with a lightning bolt or the sky opening. This was a subtle and quiet epiphany.

These days I start every year (and sometimes global pandemics) with a daily painting practice– 31 paintings in 31 days, one for each day of the month. I also write about each one, something I only do occasionally throughout the rest of the year. 

Over the years, I’ve invited people to join me in my practice– create or do one small thing every day for 31 days. There’s a facebook page where people can share, lament, celebrate, and encourage. One year, Cece did yoga each day. Butch, well, he writes the most interesting cowboy poems full of shady and heartwarming characters. One year, Jen decluttered her house one small task at a time, and Stephanie used coloring books to reflect and explore. There’s plenty of painters too– Donna does these delightful florals; Gretchen is a master of watercolor; Riley expresses herself vividly through art. Greg takes breath-taking photographs and then writes about them with engaging prose. My husband Kelly practices and records classical guitar. My mother-in-law Myra writes spiritual poetry. This is just a taste– there are so many more I haven’t mentioned. 

This group is a collection of people I know quite personally and those I don’t at all, but somehow have come to through our shared practice. Every year, our number grows and our practices become more eclectic. The only thing we are missing is you. Yes, you. 

I wish I’d asked you months ago but, as I mentioned at the start, I’m not that great at planning ahead– sometimes it gives me nightmares. And that’s okay!  Which I think just might be my motto for the new year. I still don’t know what theme or idea will guide my paintings this time around– and that’s okay! All I know is that for 31 days straight, I’m going to show up. Sometimes it will be just for a few minutes, other days it will be for hours– and that’s okay! 

If you’d like to join our group with a daily practice of your own for the month of January, please let me know in the comments, via email ([email protected]) or a facebook or instagram message. You’ll also need to send me a facebook friend request, and then I’ll add you to the group. Starting is the hardest part– I promise. Hope to see you soon.

Below is a collage of my paintings from last January 🙂

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Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

December 28, 2020

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