“Walking Peace”

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About a month ago I painted live at a gala for St. Tammany Parish Hospital Foundation. They had asked me to do an abstract– something I love but had not done in quite some time. The morning of the event, I took to my easel to try to work out what kind of painting I would make– a practice round. There’s something thrilling and difficult about abstracts– without any limitations, I often feel paralyzed by the possibilities. I wasn’t about to paint in front of others without a solid plan.

I started with some vertical lines inspired by tree trunks (pictured on the left). It was okay. Eventually, and in a panic to come up with something I could live with, I scraped through the whole thing and went to back to the idea that inspired my very first abstracts years ago– horizons. I drew fluid shapes on the top half of the canvas and left the bottom one large rectangle. From there I filled in with color, letting the little orange-pink of my original wash peek through. Not fully satisfied, but enough to call it a day, I packed my supplies and headed to the event. 

The painting I did that night was one of my favorites (pictured below). The practice round gave way to an effortless “abstract” that was unapologetically landscape-y. More importantly, the painting was FUN and even in the midst of a somewhat crowded though relatively social distanced gala, I found the strokes to be peaceful, light hearted even. If I’m honest, I’ll admit I was not particularly looking forward to the event. When it was over, I felt renewed. 

A couple weeks later, my great aunt and art mentor passed away. I wrote about her influence in depth here. She was one of the kindest, most gentle people I’ve ever met. Her friend used to describe her as “walking peace.” The next day, I went for a tear-filled early morning run on the beach and witnessed the sunlight breaking through the clouds in a way that, at that moment, felt exactly like her spirit. Peace and heartache rushed through me. 

From then on I worked in my studio determined to bring the spirit of my first art teacher to the canvas. Since I felt her peaceful presence in the sky and in the horizons, I kept painting them– like the one from the Gala– but this time even more loosely, even less constrained. Not tethered to visual realism, but seeking some spiritual truth. 

I feel her calm influence on my life now more than ever. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I whisper a prayer of petition, asking her to guide me. Art for her was not painstaken or strained. It wasn’t a hair-pulling, nail-biting effort. It was free of anxiety or judgment or hardship. I imagine it flowed freely from some deeply centered interior life. 

I am more delighted by these paintings than any series I’ve yet created. They remind me to be gentle, to be calm, to be astonished, to be free of worry. They remind me of the woman who taught me that art is about more than what you create, that it is a holy and profound undertaking. She was this little sprite of a woman with an abundant spirit–one of endless landscapes, suns rising and setting, peace flowing like a river.

Collection release, November 11 at 10 am.


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Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

November 10, 2020

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