The Metaphoric Pelican


“Memory Changing” 30×40 oil on canvas, $595.00 [creativ_button url=”″ icon=”” label=”Buy Now” colour=”red” colour_custom=”” size=”medium” edge=”straight” target=”_self”]

It’s been a while since I’ve done an entire painting in a day. I’ve been taking my time lately. Lots of editing. I miss the thrill that is constant change. I miss the sense of completion. The moving on. Although I think some of the paintings have prospered under continued care, quite often I’ve taken something promising and turned it into mush.

There’s a bit of power in the quick and perhaps under-thought painting. It’s a marker of a little “now”. The imperfections, I think, sometimes create the character, the spirit.

Nevertheless, I think spending more time thinking about the paintings I create, working and reworking them is exactly where I need to be. It’s not to say that I won’t eventually go back to a season of painting a day. Painting a day is my jump-start. It’s the sprint to get my heart rate up before a period of more concentrated exercise. My vision for my future is having enough time to do both: one quick, small painting daily paired with work on larger pieces that extends into the weeks and months.

In the spirit of reflection, I wrote a poem about this painting, something I haven’t done in quite some time, mostly because if I completed an entire painting in the limited work time I have, there was little to no time for writing as well (even as I write this I feel guilty that I’m not painting).

The poem, like the painting, had many edits. It changed. Though short, I didn’t write it in one day and I wonder if some of the magic of spontaneity is lost by this, it’s seventh draft.

It’s a bit of a farewell perhaps. I don’t paint pelicans as often because what they mean to me has changed. I no longer cling to them as symbols of well-being, promise, or fertility the way I once did before I had my son. I’m not sure what they are to me now, and I’m not sure if I will continue to paint them.


To the Metaphoric Pelican


The art advice I got:

Slow down. Sit with it for a while


Me: hardwood floor

oil paint

Worked into the grooves


You: In the sky flying

but still–

a cartoon just noticing he’s walked off the ledge

a second unmoving

Gravity requiring too much belief for my

              Pagan art


I used to watch you from my porch, my bike, my car.

Your nose pointing down

                                 A primal need to eat

Empty-bellied and afraid, I needed you to witness, represent

every void and sadness


Your long beak carried my heartache.

And when it broke the surface of the water

direct and focused,

an arrow piercing complacent waves

A baptism, complete with bird and water

Emerged with a fish: gulp, swallow still again

I knew hope.


Sitting with you now in your too-yellow sky

Years since I too felt something swim inside me

                                                                    Push against me

                                                                    Break and build me


I still like you.


But you longer carry the weight of my emptiness

on your broad wings


You: Your beak is yours

You fish your own dinner


       Me: Still watching, painting

Hold you still like a memory




Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

April 27, 2016

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