Day 2: All “Puffed Up” and No Where to go

“Puffed Up” 6×6, oil on canvas Buy Now

It’ll be easy, she said. You’ve done these a hundred times, she smiled. No need to get too fancy too fast. It’s only day 2, for crying out loud.

And then she (ahem…me) proceeded to agonize over this little, tiny, insignificant hummer. I wanted to try some darker backgrounds…nope, that’s funny, let’s go back to neutrals. I want to blur edges, you know, because hummingbirds are so fast, oops, too much, where’d the top of his head go?

It’s funny how when you set out to do something specifically so that it will stretch and challenge you, and you try to beat the system by easing in, starting with what’s so familiar, the thing you can’t mess up, and that’s the thing that really challenges you.

I have battled with hummingbirds and I have lived to tell about it. I think this one is finally as I want it to be (sorta).

My inspiration for this little guy was the Brene Brown quote that I’ve mentioned many times on this blog and have been trying to make my mantra: Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Stand on your sacred ground. Hummingbirds “puff” up when they are cold. Also when they feel threatened.

I’ll be honest, I’m a shrinker. When I feel threatened, I typically sink inside myself. Walk away. And on those rare occasions that I don’t, I’m all puffed up– feathers in my eyes and unable to see that sacred ground I stand on. Recently, when confronted with conflict, I thought about what shrinking would look like. And then what puffing up would involve. And to the best of my ability, tried “stand your ground.” The results are difficult to process. Perhaps this is one of those things that becomes more natural, more fine-tuned the more we practice? You know, like painting.

I’ve got some more birds planned for this month, but also some figure paintings which I’ll say I’m pretty nervous about. Also– don’t forget that every painting this month is 20% off the day I post it. If you don’t want to miss a day, be sure to subscribe to this blog (different from my newsletter) to receive new posts in your inbox.


*** One last thing. I wrote this post before reading today’s news. It feels a bit silly in light of it. To quote my friend Jen, please, “Love each other radically and fearlessly today.”


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A Lesson from the Hummingbird: Open Doors and Closed Minds

One summer I was visiting my parents and as I walked through their garage to get to the side door, I heard a little bumping sound. Even though both garage doors were fully open, a hummingbird had gotten trapped and was banging its head against the ceiling believing the only way out was up.

After a few minutes of googling, I learned that hummingbirds often get trapped in garages. They are stubborn little things and will buzz around the ceiling of the garage searching for an opening “up” until they become so exhausted and anxiety ridden that they keel over dead. Sunshine, blue skies through the open door be damned. They just won’t go down to go up.

Two weeks ago in my post I felt very much like that stubborn hummingbird I’d seen years ago (don’t worry my dad was able to get her out gently using a garden rake). And, as fate, would have it, I was working on a hummingbird painting that just wasn’t working when I was at the height of my frustration. After an hour or so of doing the same thing over and over again with my knives (up, must go up!) I abandoned the painting all together. Took a break.

I went back to it with fresh eyes yesterday. Magic.  Distance often creates perspective. When I stop banging my head, sometimes, I can see the opening, the escape, the fresh air that was there all along.

I’m proud of this painting partly because it was born of struggle. When I get sad or upset, sometimes my almost-five-year-old will look me in the eyes and say “Don’t give up, Mommy,” a phrase I now repeat back to him when he’s struggling. By temporarily throwing in the towel on this one, I gained the perspective I needed to not give up on it in the end. Worth it.

It’s hard to know when you’re finding solutions or just banging your head. But I think taking a break is always a good idea.


Care to take a break from your undoubtedly busy life? This painting, and many, many like it will be on display and available at my upcoming show. Details below:

Open and Free to the public

Featuring: Classical Guitarists Kelly Roth & Dr. Kerry Alt,

and the artwork of Denise Hopkins

When: 4:00pm: Music – 5:00pm: Art and Reception

Where: Christ Episcopal Church, 912 South Beach Blvd, Bay St. Louis, MS 39520

Click here for more info.