When stuck, add energy!

For awhile now, I’ve been stalled as an artist.  The problem has been a commissioned painting.

(I keep promising myself not to accept more commissions.  The stress isn’t good for my creativity and it can be downright detrimental to my artwork.)

A couple of weeks ago, I looked at how the 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 is a Catch-22 in a way: I need to complete the commission… to feel free of the stress that keeps me from completing it.


Recently, I was invited to an event at a NH hotel owned by friends.  As I thought about that hotel and the landscape around it, I realized that I’d love to capture it in a painting.

Then, I realized how enthusiastic I felt about that subject for a painting, as opposed to how glum I felt every time I worked on the commissioned piece.

My solution?  I started the hotel painting.  The sketch (in red paint) is shown below.

Each time I reach a stopping point on it, I’ll switch to the commissioned painting until it’s finished.  Ta-da! The energy & enthusiasm carry forward.spalding1

(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.)

So, back to the story:  I visited the hotel and took a bunch of 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 is 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, I laid it in in cadmium red paint on the white canvas.  That’s it, above at left.

It’s going to show the hotel at night.  That’s the 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. (Van Gogh reference) However, a certain amount of that kind of texture may be essential.  Well… maybe.

It’s still a little early to decide.

spalding2Yesterday afternoon, I worked on the hotel painting.  It’s started very well.  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 painting, when I’d reached a good stopping point with this one.

Everything’s moving ahead nicely.

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, and asked if we could figure out how he solved it.

Nobody replied.

Then he explained that the solution was to 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), but the increased flights only slightly increased his expenses while nearly doubling his income.

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

P.S. If you recognize the hotel in the painting, don’t tell my friends who own it.  It’s going to be a surprise when I give it to them.

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