I do a painting a day every January to set the tone for my year, establish strong creative habits, and to make sure I prioritize my art which, over the years, has become synonymous with prioritizing myself. But when February (finally) came, as it always does, life hit like a tornado of weird schedules and unforeseen obligations, and I went two whole weeks without ever opening up a tube of paint or holding a palette knife. I thought I might drift off into the ether where no art is ever made, no motivation ever found. I thought having been untethered from my daily ritual, I’d be lost forever.
And maybe I am, just a little.
But during the second half of the month, I found my way, almost sheepishly, back into the studio and slowly tried to get back to it even amid what still felt like chaos. And then a totally unencumbered afternoon approached me just when I’d started to think they no longer existed. I thought about it. I agonized a little. And then I met the afternoon not with a paintbrush but with a long and quite unnecessary nap.
During that nap, I dreamed of my paintings and saw exactly what they needed. Where I needed to go with them. I saw the lines and textures. I saw the way the colors needed to interact with one another.
Just like that my nap became some of my most important work.
Can I say that again maybe a little differently? My nap became some of the best work I’d ever done.
I know not all my decisions to rest instead of produce will be so on the nose. But the message was clearly received: Rest is not just some unfortunate part of the creative process but absolutely vital to its efficacy.
My oldest stepson is a brilliant musician– the kind of person who seems to be made from and of rhythm and sound, for whom it comes so naturally– he’s the unencumbered fish and the rest of us have tanks and gear just to last a few minutes underwater.
But he got injured, nerve damage likely from such a rigorous practice routine. And he put away his trombone for a while. A long while.
Yesterday, I heard him, via video, play again after such a long hiatus. And what can I tell you except that, even on my phone, it was deeply moving, beautiful, stirring? There’s no way I can be certain, but I do wonder if his long and no doubt frustrating, maybe agonizing, break added something ineffable to the music. Did it pour forth from a deeper well or was it like a delicate wine, aged and ready?
If music is an ocean, this land dwelling/non-swimmer can’t really answer one way or the other. But I have great hope that rest matters for all of us. That to fill every silence is to cease to have music, to paint every corner is to eradicate art.
I wrote the blessing below back in November, but it means more to me now as I’m learning from my dreams as much as my actions, my silence as much as my voice.
I’ll be the first to admit this is tricky, delicate. Where’s the line and what’s the balance? I’d love to know how and if you find both time to rest and time to hustle and how you know when each is called for? Do you feel guilt or shame for resting? What are we supposed to do with that? Looking forward, as always to your wisdom. If you’ve got a second or two let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Leave a Reply
Subscribe to Blog via Email
Written by Denise Hopkins
More From The Blog
Day 31. Blessing for the Seeker
"Seeking, Striving, in it with all my Heart" 48x48in oil on canvas “I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.” -Vincent Van Gogh This is the part where I stare at the blinking cursor on my screen. Because there’s a jumble of thoughts, of what I could...
Day 29. Probably had been for quite some time.
"Expanded Horizons" 10x10 oil on canvas This bird has been my mind all month, but I’ve resisted the urge to do 31 paintings of her. I’ve seen several since the start of the month: on a drive where she flew over me for at least a mile and I had to force myself to focus...
Day 28. For A New Beginning
"Courage Kindled" 6x6 oil on canvas Today’s painting did not come swiftly or easily. I scratched off more of it than I added. But, in the end, I really think this is the painting that wanted to be brought to the surface. This is the one that took all that scraping off...
I needed to read this right now. I’m walking away from the laundry and going to sit outside and read a book. Thank you!!
There’s probably not much better than the book + outdoor combination. I hope you are blessed by your time (and I hope someone else does the laundry).
Amazing… I too have experienced a similar pause in my Artwork.
I was out of town for 6 weeks. When I returned I was filled with inspiration and eager to start a new Art project. I thought I’d rest a bit from my travels first….. It’s been a month now and I’m still at rest but Today I Ventured into my Studio. I had an idea , that’s a start. I got out my sketch book… Worked out a New Design. Don’t know if it will be a painting or a quilt wall hanging. All I know is it’s a beginning of something I really want to create.
And Yes I Truly Believe Rest is Important and I Need it To Feed My Creative Soul.
Beautiful! How is the project going?
Great insight and beautiful poem! 🙂
Thanks so much, Kathy!
I wanted the heart emoji to stand on its own, without comment! But now I’ll also add that rest being vital to the creative process and, well, life, very much hit home with me. I’ve personally been working on that and am finally starting to feel like it’s paying off.
I always appreciate the heart! I’m glad to know you’re having a similar experience and especially to know that it is paying off for you. I know intellectually that rest is important but my gut doesn’t always trust it right away so I struggle to put it into practice.
This is fascinating to me- dreams that speak to your art- I’ve never had that happen, but often taking a rest from my paintings, I understand and see what I need to do next, what needs modification, etc. I definitely think hustle is overrated and rest is an integral part of the artistic process.The 31 days teaches so beautifully about our rhythms as creators .And although the balance of work and rest is probably unique to every artist, finding it is one of the most important aspects of the artists journey.❤️
Yes to all of it! The dream was pretty new. Mostly rest, for me, does exactly what you say– shows me what I can’t see when I don’t take the time to remove myself and let the painting “breathe” as I let myself breathe too. I think the dream helped me understand that by being so on-the-nose helpful. I can be dense and the universe has to sometimes knock me over the head before I get it.