Setting out to change this painting of Reelfoot Lake for me, could mean adding a bit more color or more texture. If I’m channeling Bob Ross, maybe another Happy little tree! Sometimes that’s what I do for change. Other times I dive in and completely redo the whole thing. In this painting, I mostly changed the color choices and it changed the whole mood. It became more somber. Less dramatic. The same basic painting with two completely different moods. That’s part of the fun of being an artist. Changing moods is a good thing. It’s ok to be moody!
The main reason I changed this one was that I have had it for too long. It was growing moldy! It has been shown a few times with no interest. OK. It needs a change. But what kind of change? One criticism said it had too much purple. Less purple, check! The thing that had always bothered me was how the one cypress knee looked like a shark fin. No sharks in Reelfoot Lake! More cypress knees, check! But what else? Less purple and more cypress knees is not a lot of change.
With no particular direction, I began to paint. I let the mood float over me. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what I was thinking or feeling. I just let the mood flow. I was in my studio space without any distractions that day. It was just me and the paint. We were having some good communication time. The mood was streaming right into the brush and onto the canvas. I was in the zone.
Once the new mood was complete, I stood back and looked. Usually I make frequent pauses to check how things are going. Not this time. What was inside was coming out and moving smoothly. My first thought was that this was a whole new painting. Only it wasn’t. All that was different was new paint and a new color scheme. In spite of that, there was a whole different mood that gave it the feel of a whole new painting.
As I reflected on this whole new painting, I went back in my mind to this scene at the Lake and the inlet known as Lids Pocket. When the road dead ends at the lake, this is the spot of the first glimpse of the lake. I have seen it so many times. Starting from the time I was barely old enough to hang over the front seat of the car to get a better look until now when my memory speaks louder than vision. It was an exciting view. I’d be bouncing up and down on the back seat to get to the pier so we could get a better look out over the water. There might be a heron hiding behind those trees. I was always in a hurry to find out.
The redo of this painting does not reflect the exuberance of a child. It is quiet, somber and thoughtful. As I wondered why, it hit me. This scene no longer exists. It was wiped away in the tornado. At the spot where the road mets the lake there was a quaint motel, docks for fishing and boat rental, a business office with gift shop and across the street, a restaurant. It was all in the direct line of the tornado and now it’s all gone. The trees were uprooted or sheered off. The docks were smashed to pieces. The buildings totally destroyed. And people lost their lives at this spot. I don’t recall thinking that while I was repainting. Somewhere inside I was mourning the loss of life and a beautiful spot with many happy childhood memories. Somewhere inside the feelings lurked, then surfaced into this painting. And with the feelings bubbling out, the mood changed.
A violent weather phenomenon left behind devastation. What was once a beautiful spot lives on in memory as peaceful and serene, a tribute. Proof that sometimes we are not controlling what we paint. It is out of our hands.
For more on the horrific Quad-State Tornado: