Time to Try to Really Create
April 12, 2004
Rhea's Journal 10

Running back and forth to the wetlands each week of late has been a wonderful adventure and provided lots of research material for future paintings. I realized last week, however, that these numerous ventures were also excessively eating up time that I would have ideally spent painting for the Marsh Mission in my studio. So, I decided to just stay home and paint for this past week. Since my husband was out of town on business, and most of my friends thought I was in the wetlands, I was able to paint day and night without being interrupted by telephone ringing.

During the previous week, I explored the southern part of the Atchafalaya Basin by boat with C.C. and several visiting journalists, who were being shown our Louisiana wetlands (see C.C.'s last journal). On that reconnoiter I was initially struck by the reality that the water level in the basin was somewhat higher than it had been relatively recently and quite a bit higher than the very low levels I experienced during the months of this past winter. All of a sudden rising water was lapping around the bases of the cypress trees that had been high and dry, and there was very little visible land left where it had been extensive. The previously barren deciduous trees around us were finally beginning to bud into a bright green canopy that reached high up above the tangled underbrush.

Because of the relatively high water, it was possible to navigate our small boat right into the midst of a very visually pleasing stand of cypress trees. As I absorbed its extraordinary beauty, I decided to try to paint it soon so that viewers would feel like they were with us in this sacrosanct swamp "cathedral."

I then returned to my studio with that scene, naturally, fresh in my mind. My paintings usually show what are called "long views," which position onlookers to see far into the distance. This time, however, I decided to attempt something sort of different. After sketching the composition with thinned paint, I became really excited while thinking that this creation had the potential to become a breakthrough painting. I had believed that it was going to be one from an innovative, hopefully engaging, perspective by being so loose that it would walk that "fine line" between abstraction and realism! Somewhere in between that initial sketch and my beginning euphoria and the frustrating disappointment of my painting colors that were too over-painted and heavy to come anywhere near that captivating, elusive fine line, I lost the initial magical vision. The result was not at all what I had imagined it could have been.

That very imperfect painting is now sitting on my studio floor turned facing the wall. Maybe in a couple of weeks, I will be able to overcome my disappointment, look at it again, and see a way to resurrect it; I don't know. Having painted for more than thirty years, I don't let an initially failed painting discourage or immobilize me. But, like all such others before it, this yet-to-be-completed work will haunt me until I solve its mystery. Of course I'll move on to other paintings, but that stubborn one won't give me a moment of peace until it walks that subtle "fine line" on a canvas of mine! Now that I think about it, perhaps I should hurry back to the extraordinary wetlands to become re-inspired.