Monday, February 4, 2019

How to Inflate Your Life Raft

Let me begin by saying that 2018 was the most challenging year of my life. Through a series of mind-expanding experiences and very difficult decisions, I made some big changes. 
The mind is a very flexible tool. A curious phenomenon takes place when we venture beyond our limitations. It's like pulling the cord on an inflatable life raft - once expanded it’s hard to shove it back into its original shape.

“Realism is not based on the way things are, but upon things as you see and feel them”  Charles Woodbury

Gallery One Seventeen, Hamilton Bermuda
View of Elbow Beach, Bermuda 11x14
The best gifts I've ever received have been questions I couldn’t dodge. Good questions are better than good answers, in that they give us purpose. I'll admit it, I’m a pleasure centered person, the fear of being uncomfortable is a very palpable thing. But my fear of failure is overshadowed by the realization that life is a gift, we have to make the most of it and not waste a moment. I took a leap of faith, chose the road less travelled and let the universe direct me with a trust in the knowledge that I’m not in the drivers seat as much as I'd like to believe.

“It’s easier to paint the angel’s feet in another’s masterwork than to discover where the angels live within yourself.” – Art and Fear

In many ways the creative process is a metaphor for life: it’s letting go of fear, trusting in our abilities, and accepting our “mistakes" with patience. It’s also about asking tough questions. It’s problem solving on a visual level and the reality that painting is not a mindless escape. It takes a highly evolved, series of mental maneuvers to create a great work. That being said, believing that every painting you make must be absolutely perfect is an unrealistic goal. You’re never going to achieve it, so you become too scared to even try. Instead of aiming for perfection, strive for every painting to teach you something and learn from your mistakes.

Hog Penny Pub, Bermuda 8x10

I spent a lot of time in Bermuda over the past year, teaching and painting.The most satisfying thing about teaching is that I get to help people step outside of their comfort zones and stray from their intellectual neighborhoods long enough to learn something new. The first challenge is to break down the psychological barrier that you must be born with the ability to draw or paint. Art is a universal language and it is so because it's the expression of the feelings of all men. The word ‘truth' is often used in the discussion of painting. It speaks of the creative process as a soulful act. The power of seeing the world in the most truthful of ways requires extraordinary intuition, an insight into subjects which are dark to ordinary vision. Creativity is about engaging with the world and awakening an emotion in ourselves and in the minds of others.

"Have no fear of perfection you'll never reach it"  Salvador Dali

One of the most talented artists I’ve had the pleasure to meet is Nancy Guzik (married to Richard Schmid, another huge influence). While painting together on a cold winter day in Brattleboro, Vermont she compared the process of painting to a horse race. It’s important to pace yourself; lay in a good foundation, maneuver through the painting with confidence and skill and hold back till the finish line is in sight. This resonated with me because as in life, I lack patience and want to get to the good stuff first. The creative process does not come easy, it takes real effort to move beyond mediocrity. As is the case with professional athletes, musicians and great artists, this “ease” comes from years of hard work and practice. Our ego wants it easy. In reality nothing worth doing ever is.

I hope you'll join me for a workshop in 2019. 
The next journey is a Brush with Portugal May 20-28th. 
Visit for my workshop schedule in 2019

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Bermuda Journal: Living life in reverse

“Most have two lives. The life we live, and the un-lived life within.
Between the two stands Resistance." ~ WH Murray

Bermuda Surf
This is a story about living life in reverse. After 35 years, countless adventures and living everywhere from Cannes to California, I’ve come full circle and find myself back on “de rock”. I’m speaking metaphorically about Bermuda. The island captured my heart the moment I flew over its azure waters and has held me in a magical embrace ever since. Fresh out of college, my first experience here was working in advertising. The tools of my trade were an e-xacto knife and a slide ruler rather than a paintbrush and palette. The opportunity to revisit Bermuda, to spend unfettered time exploring, painting and sharing what I’ve learned with others, has been a dream for some time. 

Firefly Cottage Devonshire
You are the traveler, you are the path, and you are the destination. Be careful never to lose the way to yourself. 
~ Shihab al-Din Yahya Suhrawardi

Sunrise North Shore Road, Bermuda
It’s been said that fear is the thief of dreams. Our weakness forms us even more than our strength. So my return is evidence that when you act from passion and commitment to an idea, then providence steps in. 

I owe a huge debt to my benefactor, Tom Butterfield, the founder of Masterworks Museum of Art. Mr. Butterfield had the vision to amass a collection of work from artists who for centuries found inspiration on this little gem in the Atlantic. The collection includes such luminaries as Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley and Charles Demuth to name a few.

I have a mermaid soul…
The skies are ominous as I head out for an early morning of painting. Coming from Boston, I’m not very good at predicting the weather patterns here. Just as I set up, a massive front barrels through Hamilton Harbor. I think, “ok I can deal with this” and find cover under some palm trees. It all seems like an adventure until 30 minutes pass and my restless spirit gets the better of me. I climb onto my moped and ride through torrents of rain, sprays from passing cars add insult to injury and the water has managed to find places on my body that I didn’t know existed. 

My portable studio... painting at Devonshire Bay

Bermuda Plein Air Festival, Coral Beach
But it doesn’t matter because in spite of minor vexations, I keep having these serendipitous moments. The joy of getting lost on purpose is rewarded with spectacular views. I follow an unknown path and discover a jewel of scene. 

A big part of the experience is the people I meet while on location; an ex-marine shares with me his memories of Vietnam, the fishermen at Devonshire Dock with their strong Bermudian accents, good-natured banter and slang only a local can appreciate, bring a smile to my face. All are character studies, sketches for future paintings perhaps. 

"Snapper" cleaning fish at Devonshire Dock
The art of teaching…
Apart from my participation in the Plein Air Bermuda Festival, (thrilled to win an award for Best in Oils!) much of my time in Bermuda was spent teaching others the fundamentals of painting. I had the honor to work with truly gifted and giving people. Teaching ain’t easy and teaching art is even harder. First of all, talent is a myth. We aren’t born with talent, we develop skills over time through learning and practice.

My painting Coral Beach Club won Best in Oils
With Michael Harding, his wife and officials at City Hall Gallery
Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, 
and the architect of accomplishment.  
Zig Ziglar

Granaway Cottage

Genius is one percent inspiration and 
ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Many who’ve achieved greatness were failures in their youth. Einstein did so poorly in school that he nearly decided to drop out and sell life insurance. Steve Jobs was a college drop out. Deliberate practice produces a natural tendency. Love what you do and even on the worst days, try to remember that you gotta be able to stand being bad to paint anything good.

The Old Rectory, St. George's

Plein Air painters at Astwood Cove
The world of art is the place of the spirit’s freedom.

Hans Hofmann said “to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. The artists eye sees simply; making patterns of light and shadow, forming motifs. 

As the sun creeps over the horizon illuminating all, I find inspiration in the simple things I see along my morning walk. I prefer the grittiness of my North Shore neighborhood to the pristine beaches of the south shore. The patina of time-worn surfaces, tired and crumbling homes giving up and settling back to the earth. There is no end to the adventures we can have if we keep our eyes open.

Early Morning North Shore
The urge to capture and hold onto a memory of light is always present. I ride through the night and feel an exhilaration of being close to the earth. The smell of the sea, perfumed wind in my hair, tree frogs singing. I cherish my time here - knowing that sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.

Classes & Workshops at Masterworks Museum of Art
I’ll be teaching weekly classes as well as a two-day landscape and figure workshop on island in 2018. To learn more about the program click the link below or visit my website:

Painting at Pink Beach

The Bermuda Plein Air Festival on ZBM News:

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Portugal... an affair to remember.

The beach stretches out before me like a Constable painting… the gunmetal sea and dramatic sky with clouds piled high from the moisture in the air. After an easy flight from Boston and a short nap, I’m enjoying lunch along the enticing coastline of Cascais. "A Brush with Portugal" is a painting workshop that I'll be teaching for the next week and so far, I'm feeling very inspired.

Yarmouth Pier by John Constable, 1841
John Constable was one of the first Romanticists to explore a deeply personal vision of the landscape. With his honest approach to painting, he achieved a freshness of color to convey an impression of light enveloping the entire landscape. His methods of scumbling over lighter passages and broken brushstrokes were innovative and inspire artists to this day.

“The power behind beauty… feel intensely and see simply.”

"I have been running after pictures, and seeking the truth at second hand... I have not endeavored to represent nature with the same elevation of mind with which I set out, but have rather tried to make my performances look like the work of other men. The great vice of the present day is bravura, an attempt to do something beyond the truth.” 

Demo of Cascais by Eli Cedrone
On our journey to become better painters we often copy the work of others instead of experiencing firsthand our own truth. Direct observation from nature helps to avoid assumptions about color. A variety of color lives in the landscape, especially in Portugal, with its dramatic scenery, colorful towns and the ever-changing light.

The Romantic Era embodied a new and restless spirit and defines my love affair with this country. I’ve never experienced a destination that has it all in such close proximity: beaches, mountains,  historic sites and charming villages. Foodies will rejoice in the fresh fish, roasted meats and delectable desserts. A mere 30 minutes from Lisbon, it’s easy to indulge in this moveable feast.

View of Sintra by Eli Cedrone

Queiladas da Sapa
It’s 9am and our guide Frederico (Amigo Fred Tours) is about to introduce us to Sintra, his hometown. Fred’s motto is “he takes care of everything”. This seemingly ambitious statement proves to be true. Our first painting location is a drop-dead view of the valley and cloud-shrouded hillsides surrounding the town. 

The weather is a bit unsettled so I have about 45 minutes for a painting demo before the rain comes. 

A bit wilted, we stop at Fabrica das Verdadeira Queiladas da Sapa, the most iconic cake shop in Sintra. Here we enjoy delicious little tarts made from cheese, almond and cinnamon. 

After lunch we visit the Quinta da Regaleira; a magical villa which was the inspiration of the Italian opera set designer, Luigi Manini.

Quinta da Regaleira

We brave the inverted, underground towers used by the Templars for secret, initiation rites. The caverns are reminiscent of Dante’s Divine Comedy and are said to represent the 9 circles of Hell. It's like a scene from the DaVinci Code. 

I make my way down the winding staircase and suddenly, my feet go out from under me. I land with a pride-bruising bang, covered in grey slime. I guess if you’re dumb enough to wear flip flops while descending into the depths of hell, you deserve to fall on your ass. No one likes a whiner, so I pick myself up and press on like a brave Rosicrucian. 

View from Azenhas do Mar

Lunch at  Azenhas do Mar, overlooking the sea was a feast for the senses. After which Fred takes us to another scenic location, in freguesia Sao Martinho. At the crest sits the fairytale, Pena Palace, home to the last kings of Portugal. The palace was Walt Disney’s inspiration for the Magic Kingdom.

The moody, late afternoon light slides across the distant mountain. We sketch and paint until it's time to go back to the wonderful Hotel Albatroz for our own ritual; martinis and a late night dinner.

The Portuguese writer, Francisco Manuel de Melo defined saudade as; "a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy." I must agree, the charms of Portugal leave a lasting impression and a deep longing to return.

I highly recommend: 
Amigo Fred:
TAP Air Portugal
Hotel Albatroz in Cascais
Conceito Cafe & Marsala, Cascais

Our next “Brush with Portugal” 
is scheduled for May 12th - 19th, 2018

For more info visit my website at:
To register contact Joan Hill at 774-487-0650 or visit Artful Journey’s:

Monday, April 10, 2017

Dharma Bums, On The Road Again...

The phrase "Dharma Bum" was coined by the Beat* writer, Jack Kerouac. Dharma is one of the most important words in the Hindu and Buddhist religions. Narrowly defined it means "your spiritual duty," or "your place in the universe." A Dharma Bum is a wanderer and a truth seeker, and in the case of Kerouac’s novel these divine vagabonds were bohemians, writers and artists who shunned the confines of society. This blog is about the sacred joys of painting and travel. 

A restless spirit, I've always found it difficult to work in a cubicle from 9-5. One of my most memorable jobs was with the DPW in the summer of '72. My days were spent riding around town in the back of a dump truck with 5 other teenagers, picking up trash in the local parks. Today most people would consider this court mandated, community service but for me it represented freedom.

Love Street Surf Shop by Eli Cedrone ©

Kerouac’s notion of the Dharma Bum could easily describe today’s generation of artists who travel the country participating in Plein Air events and teaching workshops. To outsiders this lifestyle may be viewed as eccentric but these painters are highly trained, well-organized professional artists. For many, this way of life can be creatively and financially rewarding.

St. Edwards, Palm Beach
So I’m boarding my Jet Blue flight for Palm Beach (with excruciating delay given the advanced age of most of the passengers). I’ll be gone for nearly a month; painting and teaching with a residency thrown in the middle so I can catch my breath. If like me, you've had days where you’re feeling old and travel seems best suited for the obscenely young, you’ll understand the need for the residency.

Painting on Worth Avenue, Palm Beach
My wall at the Plein Air Festival, Tequesta
First stop Tequesta, for the 4th Annual Plein Air Festival at the Lighthouse Art Center. This is my second invitation to the event so I see a lot of familiar faces - and some very talented painters. I’m in good company. The camaraderie amongst artists is historic and important for a number of reasons; a sharing of ideas, a competitive spirit and a chance to get out of the studio. These events also offer opportunities to get your work in front of new collectors and publishers. I sold a bunch of paintings and was awarded First Place by juror George Van Hook in the Quick Draw (artists must complete a painting on location in 2 hours.) A pretty blissful way way to end the week.

First Prize in the Quick Draw
My winning painting "Harborside" by Eli Cedrone
I was fortunate to have a week-long residency in Palm Beach and I had some time to do a little painting on my own. I love using small 6x8 panels for quick, field studies.

Painting at the Society of the 4 Arts, Palm Beach
Color study "Bougainvillea" by Eli Cedrone
Following my residency, I taught a 2-day workshop at the Lighthouse Art Center. The focus was on the fundamentals of figure drawing. We started with a lot of quick, gesture studies and I introduced a technique to simplify the figure in order to integrate them into landscape paintings. It was an amazing group of painters, many of whom had studied with me last year. Check out my website for workshops there in 2018.

The gang at the Lighthouse Art Center workshop
I’m traveling across Alligator Alley which coming from Boston, is a disturbing name for a highway. I have visions of being devoured by one of these prehistoric creatures. I’m also a bit unnerved by the fact that there are 20 people enrolled in my workshop at the Bonita Springs Center for the Arts, but that’s okay… I’ve totally got this.

I thought it would be brilliant to present a workshop on the techniques and methods of a variety of painters throughout history. In theory "Lesson’s from the Masters" was a great idea but it required a lot of “moving parts” in order to set up each day. The staff at the art center was heroic in this regard. I swear there are tiny elves on the payroll; each morning everything was in order... model stands, lighting, even hot coffee and pastries!

My demo at left, is a copy of a painting by Anders Zorn. The palette is limited to 3 greyscale values. I begin with the mid range value, eventually adding darks and lastly, the lights. The focus of this lesson is to paint correct value relationships and seeing in terms of "pixels" in order to render the fall of light and modeling of form.

The wonderful students at Art Center Bonita Springs
For me, the sacred joys of travel and painting are an act of self-actualization. Becoming your true potential is pretty rare in society. I guess that’s why there’s always this feeling that the daily grind police will catch up with me, and I’ll have to get a "real" job. But for now, I feel the pull of the north wind so I’m heading to Portugal to teach a week-long workshop in Casais and Sintra. Want to follow along? Just subscribe to my Art & Soul blog!

Some tips on how to begin your own creative journey…
Get a change of scenery with a quick, overnight painting trip to a new destination.
Visit the studio of other artists and explore a new medium or technique.
Take a course or workshop close to home without the cost of flights and hotels.
Indulge in some armchair travel with one of these great books…

- Art + Travel Europe: Museyon Guides, Step into the Lives of Five Famous Painters
- The Last Nude: Ellis Avery, Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka
- Kiki’s Paris: Billy Kluver, Artists & Lovers 1900’s
- Strapless: Deborah Davis, John Singer Sargent's Madame X
- The Moon and Sixpence: W. Somerset Maugham, Paul Gauguin in Tahiti
- And last but not least…
On the Road by Jack Kerouac

*Beat (Beatitude): a state of utmost bliss

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Musings on a winter day…

“Even the strongest blizzard begins with a single snowflake.”
- Sara Raasch

And so it is with painting; the first stroke on a blank canvas is like that single snowflake. The tabula rasa... the promise it holds, is built on the premise that all knowledge comes from experience or perception.

Art is the external expression of the intuition. As artists we are constructing an imagined thing. Each stroke building upon the last until form and content are in correct relation to each other and the idea is clearly expressed. 

"Mere copying of nature is not an expression of emotion. 
Raw emotion, without rules of academic correctness to govern its output, 
just produces nonsense. Great art, can only come when creativity
is tempered by taste, when the design is conscious, and when the form 
is uniquely suited to the ideas presented.” 

Shakespeare said that art is a mirror held up to nature. Yet if the making of art was limited to just copying, then nature would surely eclipse any effort of the artist. The artist's interpretive vision would be lost in the cold reflection and recording of external facts. Reality is obtained not by copying but by interpreting. Even in painting the portrait, the artist must fix in his mind the quality, the character, the very soul of the person before him.

The transcending of art above nature is an age old discussion. Aristotle with his idealistic view, was likely the first to claim that true art is an improvement upon nature and that man must be depicted not as he is but as he ought to be. Realists believed that only common depictions of life offered an enlightened view of reality. But even this belief doesn't destroy the presence of artistic quality in their work. An internal vision along with the external, skill of execution is required for all true Art.

"Seek first for absolute truth of value and color, 
and paint this truth in the simplest and most direct way.”

The mechanics of picture-making, require a mastery of the basic principles. There are no great secrets, simply a commitment to careful observation and mindful, sincere rendering. Painting is a fusion of the external; skill of execution and the internal; vision or intuition. It requires an understanding of who we are and who we are becoming. An unfolding of the mind with each new experience.

Mysticism teaches that everything in the physical world has a parallel in the spiritual. Baltus said; "A spiritual stroke, correctly placed is beyond calculation.” This belief resonates with me; it suggests that something outside of our unique experience and knowledge is at work. That the hand of the artist is guided by the mind as well as the spirit. 

As with snowflakes; we all have our unique experiences. But maybe the accumulation of human experience is like a blizzard, resulting in what Jung called the collective unconscious. When a painting transcends or inspires, perhaps it has struck that universal chord.

Quotes: Carolus Duran
References: Orestes A. Brownson