Initial oil sketch for Spalding Inn painting

When stuck, add energy!

A couple of weeks ago, I looked at how stress was affecting my work.  It’s straight out of The War of Art book. (I should at least browse that book once a week.  It is brilliant.)

This situation was a Catch-22 in a way: I needed to complete a commission… to feel free of the stress that keeps me from completing it.

(It was a painting for a friend, but I soon realized the subject didn’t inspire me. Worse, the friend was sure to be insulted if I said that.)

Meanwhile, I needed to maintain my sense of joy in art. That’s where this painting has come to the rescue.

Local inspiration

Living in New Hampshire, I’ve seen many landscapes that inspire me to paint.

The painting I’m working on started as a view from a highway near the White Mountains. I’m not sure where we were driving to, but the image out the passenger-side window was almost hypnotizing.

When I realized how enthusiastic I felt about that subject for a painting. It swept me up, and I had to turn it into art.

Of course, the view was magnificent but – as I studied it – the concept of the painting emerged. It had to present something engaging but also comforting.

It needed a focal point.

I decided to make that a hotel… a destination.

The painting is the destination?

I knew the building I probably wanted to feature in the painting. It’s the Spalding Inn, a quiet little hotel my husband and I had visited regularly, and my father’s generation had stayed at, too.

In the mid 20th century, I guess it was the place to stay. Today, it’s a nice alternative to more commercial hotels. (There was no way I was going to try to place the nearby Mountain View Grand Resort in this painting. Oh, it’s gorgeous, but it’s also a behemoth to try to paint.)

So, my husband & I visited the hotel and took photos from a variety of angles and locations.

I even stopped by the side of the road, about 20 miles away, to get a long-distance photo of the hotel’s setting.   (My idea was to place the hotel, like a jewel, in its magnificent setting amid the White Mountains.)

When I returned home, I worked on a pencil sketch until I had something I liked.

Then, the underpainting

The next step was a quick sketch, to use as an underpainting. It’s cadmium red paint on the white canvas.

The sketch (in red acrylic paint) is in the photo at the top of this page. That kind of sketch is where the current work really began to take shape.

Even better, working on it exhilarates me as an artist.


So, each time I reach a stopping point on this piece, I’ll switch to the commissioned painting until that’s finished.  Ta-da! The energy & enthusiasm carry forward.

(Have I mentioned how much I don’t like half-finished paintings sitting around my studio?  To me, they always look like failure trophies.)

I either want to finish the work, happily… or paint over it and pretend it was never there.

Ah, yes, studio drama! Well, at least I have my creative meltdowns in relative solitude.

Further refinements

I decided the painting should show the hotel at night.  The initial sun became a moon in the sky.  I’m also including several physical landmarks nearby, somewhat exaggerated to present a more lyrical context.

I’m going to avoid the “starry night” imagery as much as possible. (That’s a Van Gogh reference.)

However, a certain amount of texture may be essential.

Well… maybe.

It’s a little early to decide, yet.

spalding2Yesterday afternoon, I worked on the hotel painting again.  That’s it on the right.

Oh, there will be about six or seven more layers of paint on this.  The finished work will look only vaguely like this early, sketch-y version.

That said, I’m pleased with it.

And yes, I was able to work on the other (commissioned) painting, when I’d reached a good stopping point with this one.

Everything’s moving ahead nicely.

When one project falters, add a second one?

Throughout this process, I was reminded of an old friend, “Hap” Hazard.  In the 1970s in L.A., I heard him talk about how he nearly went broke with his flight business.

He presented the dire figures and his dilemma.

Then he asked if we could figure out how he solved it.

Nobody replied.

His answer? Get a second airplane.

His other expenses (hangar, PR, etc.) were all fairly constant, but by increasing his fleet, he not only looked like a more successful business (attracting more customers), the increased flights only slightly increased his expenses.

Meanwhile, he doubled his income. And that kept him in business.

From that, I learned that cutting back isn’t always the answer to problems. Sometimes, you have to increase your reach for success.


Later note: I finished the painting and I love it. It’s now in the collection of the friends who’d encouraged me to paint it.

Spalding Inn - landscape painting
Spalding Inn, Whitefield, NH