At left is the completed Spalding Inn painting.
(If your monitor is like mine, the actual painting is about 30% darker than this photo appears. It’s not quite so “New England quaint” as this picture may look.)
I started this painting of the Whitefield, NH, hotel in February 2010.
The painting been through several incarnations, as you’ll see if you enter “Spalding” in this website’s search form.
This week — 17 March 2011 — I completed this painting and I’m (finally!) pleased with it.
The recent tweaks & changes made it “just right” for me. Those changes included lightening the roof and adding more lit windows.
I’d tried a dark roof — figuring (logically) that it’d be in shadow, opposite the light of the moon — but the entire building seemed to get lost. No matter what I did with the lights in the windows, or how much detail I added (in contrast with the deliberately simple landscape around it), nothing made the hotel stand out.
Changing the tone of the roof — from dark to light — helped right away.
Then, I experimented with the windows. I wanted the hotel to look welcoming but not quite full.
In addition, I wanted the hotel to look very cozy and home-like… but also have that hint of (happily) “haunted inn” that’s part of the Spalding Inn’s charm.
Now this 24″ x 30″ oil painting is on my living room wall, drying. In about three weeks — probably around mid-April, or whenever the hotel owners will be around — I’ll plan to deliver it. (It’s planned as a surprise gift for them.)
Taking this painting through its many stages has reminded me of the dance that artists do: We immerse ourselves in the rich emotions of the creative process, and then we step back to coolly evaluate the work in progress.
That balance is key. Unless the emotional content is there, the art can be vapid, no matter how great the artist’s technical expertise.
However, unless the artist can remove him- or herself from that emotional investment, at least enough to see what’s working and what isn’t, the painting won’t reach its full potential.
Last night, I felt that the painting was probably completed. This morning, when I looked at it again… yes, I’m happy with it now.
My later follow-up
I was treating this part of the story lightly, because it’s personal. However, I’ve realized that it’s an important part of the story of this painting.
So, here it is…
The day my mom passed away — on April 19th, 2010 — all I could think about was getting in the car and driving somewhere that would keep me above the grief and sense of loss. I knew that my mother would not want me to spend the day crying; she was like that, about death.
So, with my (adult) daughter who was visiting me, I got into the car and drove to the Spalding Inn. In New Hampshire’s White Mountains, it’s literally above the troubles of daily life.
In addition, the hotel’s fresh air and magnificent views connect me with Nature. The underlying rhythms of everyday life — the “Circle of Life” perhaps — make more sense to me in that context. Everything seems right with the world.
The Spalding Inn is a different kind of hotel. It’s not big and impersonal. That’s unusual in an era of chain “big box” hotels with identical lobbies, and staff in matching uniforms. Everyone who visits the Spalding feels like they’re among friends. It’s how the hotel owners — Jason & Grant, and their families — planned it.
And, when I went to the Spalding for a sense of serenity last April, that’s exactly what was waiting for my daughter & me.
I completed this painting nearly a year later, in March. That was the week of my mother’s birthday.
Seeing that continued rhythm in this work, it seemed fitting to deliver the painting as a “thank you” to the hotel — and as a tribute to my mom, and a sense of closure for me — on April 19th, 2011.
And that’s exactly what I did.