NORTH HAVEN, Maine — Eric Hopkins has a simple rule: If the sun isn’t shining, he doesn’t paint. He’ll work, maybe with wood or glass or some other material, but he won’t pick up a brush. He needs a blue sky to fill a canvas with the bold, vibrant colors that bring his Maine landscapes and seascapes alive. “Best way to kill a painting—put me to work on a gray day,” he says.

In a career spanning more than forty years, Hopkins has become one of Maine’s most prominent artists. Growing up on the island of North Haven, surrounded by nature, had a profound effect on him. By the time he was in his late teens he was making money selling funky little creatures he created out of lobster shells. He’s made a living from his art ever since.

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Hopkins is a man of energy--it’s just about impossible to imagine him lounging in a hammock—and creating art excites him, but he does it on his own schedule. “You know, a lot of people say, ‘Oh, it’s good to have deadlines, it’s good discipline, blah blah blah.’ That’s crap. For me, I just love to come to the studio and do whatever I damn well please.”

As I watched Hopkins paint—he moves briskly, without hesitation or indecision—I asked him if the way he works has changed in the last twenty or thirty years. “Yeah,” he said with a tinge of regret. “I’ve gotten actually tighter in my old age, and I don’t like that.” He paused as he added another brushstroke to the canvas. “I like to be loose, fast and furious, and that just hasn’t happened quite as much.”