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Yes, I am blogging about hotel lobbies. And why am I blogging about hotel lobbies? Because I spend a lot of time in them. So I decided to paint them. Most are unremarkable, but two that I stayed at recently definitely warranted the time to try to capture them on paper.

The first is the Hotel Monaco in Philadelphia (click here for photos of the Monaco lobby). I stayed there recently on a weekend business trip. My meetings weren’t until Saturday afternoon, so I decided to spend some of Saturday morning with a cup of coffee in their very eclectic and colorful lobby.


I tried to stay very loose with the sketch, capturing various people as they moved through the space. I’m trying to bring more texture to my paintings by adding darker colors for shadows. You can see it clearly on the red pillows in the foreground. Color mixing was a challenge and joy for this particular painting. I don’t know what the designer was thinking (or smoking?), but somehow it all works. These colors are pretty close to the colors of the actual lobby, believe it or not. It was very tricky to capture the range of colors, shapes, and textures without overwhelming the painting (some might say I didn’t succeed…).

The second hotel is Andels Hotel in Lodz (pronounced Woodj), Poland (click here for photos of Andels). Andels is a beautiful converted factory building (Lodz was the center of textile manufacturing in the Russian Empire). The scene in the painting is the view looking from the lobby area into the restaurant. Again, I tried to capture more dimension by adding textures, highlights, and shadows. I like how the pillars turned out, as well as the people sitting on the bench/couch in the restaurant. I also like how the brickwork turned out.


I’m not crazy about the purple ceiling (I was trying to capture a shadowed ceiling, but I think I would have done better to use a light gray). And the perspective on the second roof beam from the left is off – it should be straighter. But perhaps the biggest problem is the composition. A common mistake that I make is that I paint what I see without giving thought to exercising my artistic license. In retrospect, I think I should have split up the foreground objects (the 2 people sitting and the large plant) and located them on opposite thirds rather than in the center of the painting.

Another thing I painted without much thought is the windows. Specifically, the bottom ledges of the windows were at eye level, which, when painted accurately essentially hides them. While this is accurate, I think it makes the perspective of the windows a little strange. Again, with a little forethought and artistic license I would have raised the horizon line slightly so that the bottom window ledges would be visible.

In talking this over with Ellen when I returned, we had the idea of a pre-painting checklist. So now I have a sticky in my sketchbook that I can move to the next blank page after each painting to remind me to be thoughtful before I dig into a painting. Here’s what it says:

Before starting:

  • Draw a border (rather than painting right up to the edge of the paper)
  • Composition (it helps to stand back, consider how you might want to change reality, and then draw a composition sketch before starting the real painting)
  • Perspective lines (I really need to spend time studying the perspective lines to get them right)
  • Shadows and light (either I need to really study the lighting as it is, or if I don’t like the lighting as is, I need to be thoughtful about how I will paint the lighting)

Painting Reminders:

  • Blur the eyes to see the predominant colors (rather than painting a bunch of separate colors, there is often a predominant color that my eye ignores because it likes to go for the color variety (this was relevant in a recent painting where I painted individual book colors in a bookshelf rather than the predominant colors, making the painting very busy))
  • Clothing colors can be bland in reality (when I’m painting a painting with a lot of people, I tend to create a greater variety in color than really exists, creating a painting that’s too loud)

In general my goal is to not spend as much time in hotel lobbies (or anywhere else in hotels, for that matter). But as long as I find myself in beautiful lobbies, the next best thing is to sit down with some coffee (or whiskey…) and really notice what’s going on. And there’s no better way to do that than to sketch and paint.