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

Friday, October 28, 2016

Surviving the Bermuda Triangle & painting in paradise...

Day one at the Botanical Garden
"I dream my paintings and I paint my dreams." It would seem Van Gogh had Bermuda in mind when he uttered these words. I just returned from teaching a workshop on this magical island and each day was an inspiration. The weather was perfect for outdoor painting except for the occasional passing clouds. Given the large group, I chose locations both for scenic beauty and their central location on the island with room to spread out. 

The workshop began at the Botanical Gardens with a lecture and demo on painting the nude and the outdoor figure. I explained the benefits of using a limited palette to create realistic flesh tones. A more chromatic palette was discussed when painting the live model in the afternoon sun. 
The following day we painted the landscape at the famous, Horseshoe Bay Cove. The location offered stunning views of aquamarine sea, pink sandy beaches, rock formations and plenty of cover from the sun. We had a great lunch at Whaler Inn where everyone enjoyed a Rum Swizzle - Bermuda's national drink - which I'm sure improved our paintings immensely!

Lunch at the Cabana
The group shows off their awesome paintings!

On our last day, we were invited to paint on the grounds of the Salt Kettle House. This little inn has been in operation since 1970. Salt Kettle is so named after the salt trade that existed between Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The salt was delivered by ship and unloaded in the bay at the back of the Guest House - the bay is in the shape of a kettle, thus the name.  Parts of the Guest House are nearly 300 years old. The owner John was very hospitable, serving a lovely, afternoon tea and cookies to the group.

Winslow Homer painted this view from Salt Kettle

Winslow Homer was familiar with this scene. He painted Prudens Bay in 1899. The location offers views of boats and old houses on one side and a lovely inlet on the other. 

Tea is served!
Eli recommends Fairmont napkins for painting!
This year we were joined by a lot of Bermudian artists. They were so welcoming, offering rides to visiting artists and extending an invitation for an impromptu, farewell cocktail party. It was great making new friends and reconnecting with old. I'm already planning the next workshop for 2017, I hope you'll join us in Bermuda!

Farewell cocktails overlooking Salt Kettle. Thanks Jennifer!
Some comments by participants…
It was a fabulous time enjoyed all of it ...loved meeting the local Bermudians. You are a very energetic teacher and I can't wait to finish the paintings I started in Bermuda - thank you -thank you! Mary M.

Thank you for the great course, I really enjoyed it and very much appreciated your patience and inspiration in getting a novice through that post "Amazing' state! I am now encouraged to put in more time to painting - hopefully I will be much improved when you next visit  - may you come again in the not too distant future! Christine D.

Rum Swizzle Recipe
This is from Bermuda's famed Swizzle Inn.  Ingredients: 4 oz. dark rum, 4 oz. Barbados rum or amber rum, 2 oz. triple sec, juice from 2 lemons, 5 oz. pineapple juice, 5 oz. orange juice, 2 oz. simple syrup, 4 dashes Angostura bitters, crushed ice. Add all the ingredients and shake vigorously in a container until a frothing head appears. Strain into cocktail glasses and let the fun begin. Avoid riding moped!

In search of the Muse... and a good bottle of wine.

I’ve had the good fortune to visit Italy twice in less than 3 months. Teaching was the common denominator… a group workshop in early June in Tuscany and an offer that I couldn’t refuse, to teach privately in the Apulia region this September.

Maria Santissima della Madia, Monopoli by Eli Cedrone
Courtyard of the Masseria

Apulia is beautiful, mysterious, and extremely paintable. It’s located in the 'heel' of the Italian 'boot'. We stayed at Masseria Petrarolo, a beautifully restored, fortified farmhouse dating back to 1689. It offers breathtaking views of the coast and the nearby town of Monopoli. Furnished in the Salento style, each interior was an eclectic mix that managed to be aristocratic yet contemporary.

View from the Masseria
Alessandro by Eli Cedrone
The coast is dotted with scenic towns of great historical significance. Tourists are scarce, food is delicious and wine is plentiful. Alessandro, our chef invited us to his parents home in Corovigno for lunch, where his mother prepared a feast of orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta), polpetti, fruit tarts and homemade liquor. His mom and dad were delighted with the small oil sketch I'd done of Alessandro earlier that day.
Burratta, the hip version of mozzarella, seems to pop up on trendy menus everywhere these days. A visit to a cheese factory told me everything I needed to know about how it's made.

We had a private tour of the studio of Peppino Campanella, the world-renowned "sculptor of light”. His atelier is in the beautiful, old village of Polignano a Mare which rises on a cliff from the Adriatic Sea. Campanella sculpts glass with a special hammer, creating jewel-like fragments, where "solid water” is transformed into unique works of art. Here's a link to his website:

Peppino Campanella
Wine tasting in Ostuni
The White City of Ostuni
Ostuni, known as "The White City" is perched atop a hill with views of the sea and olive groves. Our brilliant tour guide Michele, took us to one of his favorite cafes there, where we sampled the local wines. 

We also visited Alberobello where the mysterious trullio, cone shaped houses, dot the hillside. But I have to say, my favorite town was Cisternino with it's lovely piazza, shops and the warm Italian smiles. 
I’m currently planning a workshop to Apulia in 2017. 
If you'd like to learn more about this magical region of Italy visit:

Join me for a new workshop in Portugal in 2017!

I'll be offering a workshop in Casais, located along Portugal’s spectacular, southern coastlineThe region offers so many wonderful scenes for outdoor painting. With its balmy climate, it's the perfect year round destination.
This workshop is designed to be a fun, stimulating and stress-free, experience for beginners to advanced students. Everything has been carefully organized with Artful Journey's so all you need to do is paint and enjoy the wonderful experience of visiting Portugal.

Painting location are carefully chosen for scenic beauty and class size is limited for plenty of one on one instruction. Visit my website for more info on this workshop:

• Includes accommodations at the luxurious Albatroz Resort* for 7 nights, all meals, airport transfers, ground transportation in Portugal, excursions and entrance fees. $2,950, double occupancy, single $600. Each daily instructional sessions includes a 2-hour break for lunch.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Trains, cars & ferries… on the road again.

Penn Station
It’s late afternoon and I’m watching the Connecticut scenery slide by my window as I take the Acela to NYC. Some of my artists friends have escaped the Florida heat to paint the iconic sites of the Big Apple. Never one to turn down an opportunity to paint in a new location, bags were packed in no time. I stayed with my friend Mercedes Hall, an accomplished jazz singer who lives on the Upper West Side. The apple does not fall far from the tree; her daughter Mary C. is an R&B phenom and her son is well-know actor, Anthony Michael Hall. 

Chico & Lupe
New York is full of surprises Lupe, the widow of Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill the Cuban composer and master architect of Afro Cuban jazz, lives next door. And she has invited me into her home, a veritable museum of memorabilia. From jazz greats Count Basie and Charlie Parker to Wynton Marsalis and David Bowie every room is filled with photos… and paintings. Lupe is also an artist and shared her diverse work with me. I was inspired and honored to say the least.

The next morning I take a short stroll to Riverside Park where from the mid '60's until his passing in 2001, Chico would often sit and compose his music. I set up for my first painting of the day at the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Everyone stops to talk and I’m struck by how incredibly welcomed I feel. On the way home I pass by the building that Babe Ruth, the "Sultan of Swing" once lived.

Soldiers' & Sailors" 6x8 available
That afternoon, I hop on the subway to Central Park to paint with my friends. We find the perfect spot just as the sky fills with clouds and soon the rain falls. Yes, New York is full of surprises. The rain is a perfect excuse to head back to the Pierre for a glass of prosecco and a much needed rest.

Grace, Manon, Holly & Pam

The colorful Geoffrey Chalmers
I had a day on Cape Cod to catch my breath before driving up to Gloucester for the opening of the new Charles Fine Art Gallery. Ted and Jan Charles (the benefactors for my Cape Ann Residency) have created a wonderful space in which to showcase fine art. The "Friends and Family Show” featured paintings from my residency along with the work of several other local and regional artists.
Ally, Jan & Ted Charles

The next day I took the ferry to Nantucket for a week-long painting trip. I’ve been on island in all seasons but this is my favorite. The clarity of light is extraordinary and crowds begin to thin. There’s a melancholy to the place which suits me as autumn approaches…"the year’s last loveliest smile”.
Children's Beach
The White Elephant is a wallet-bruising, resort in the heart of the town that offers great views of Children’s Beach. This is where I chose to do my first painting. It sold off the easel to a nice couple just as I placed the last brush stroke. 
Children's Beach, 9x12 Available

Cliff Road, 6x8 Available

At 6:45 each morning, I met my friend Laureen (a fellow painter) and we walked to Steps Beach for a swim. The water was surprisingly warm and it was a great way to start the day. We painted from Sconset to Madaket under bright, sunny skies for the most part. Madaket for some reason is always cloudy when I visit. 

I caught the last ferry back to the mainland just before hurricane Hermine came up the coast and once again, I’m reminded that my life is both a job and an adventure. 

Please visit my website at for evnt info and updates on workshops... Bermuda in November and Portugal May 2017!

Next month: 
Italy Revisited
The Revolving Portrait
The Cape Ann Plien Air Festival