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

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Brush With Tuscany

Florence is timeless. The Italians have the perfect word to describe it... "insieme". Translated it means: ensemble, whole, all together. It's no wonder that Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance. Dante Alighieri, the father of the modern, Italian language was born here.

Etched into the cathedrals and ancient alleys are the voices of the past and present. Florence offers a movable feast for the eyes and the tongue, with a gelateria on nearly every corner. The city is a mecca for students with hundreds of international universities. 

I made a pilgrimage of my own to the Florence Academy, which is located along the Arno River. Founded by artist Daniel Graves, the Academy teaches drawing, painting and sculpture modeled on 19th century, classical traditions. Yes, Florence is an "all together" kind of place and the reason why I chose to teach a painting workshop in nearby Fiesole this June. 


If Florence is the cultural heart of Tuscany, Fiesole is the soul. I chose this location as our base for its beauty and serenity. The first recorded mention of the town dates to 283 BC, when known as Faesulae, it was conquered by the Romans. Why it was built here, is a really great story. Legend has it that the Greek god, Atlas founded Fiesole as the most beautiful, earthly location. It's name means "stands alone". It was Atlas’ son Italus who gave his name to Italy.

Pensione Bencista is a 14th century villa, perched on the hillside of Fiesole, offering sweeping views of Florence. There is an austere, old fashioned charm to the place with its simple breakfast, spartan rooms and resident dogs. 

The Swiss, Symbolist painter Arnold Bocklin once lived here and guests are greeted by a large bust of the artist in the foyer. The Villa is the perfect place to enjoy "dolce far niente"... the sweetness of doing nothing. Sheer indulgent relaxation and blissful laziness would be lovely except there are paintings to be painted!

The day before the workshop began, a few of us ventured off to find the Villa Palmerino, located just below the Bencista. As it turned out our timing was perfect. We were graciously treated to a tour by it’s current owner, Federico Parretti. The Villa has been in this family of artists for five generations.
It is here that John Singer Sargent painted the portrait of English poet, Violet Paget (Vernon Lee). Lee purchased the villa in 1889 where she regularly hosted such literati as Edith Wharton and Henry James, among others. When Paget died in 1935, artist Federigo Angeli, and his wife, painter and writer Carola Costa purchased the property. Their grandchildren, host and promote artistic events in the artistic community and at the Villa.

Our first afternoon began with a wonderful tour of the Etruscan ruins which date from the ancient roots of the region. Our tour guide was so amusing and informative. We joked that if not for the use of her hands she would've been rendered speechless! The view from the monastery of San Francesco on the crest of the hill is worth the trek. Although history surrounds you, Fiesole is not a preserved artifact of the past. It’s a modern Italian town with beautiful villas, delightful cafes and interesting shops.

Our workshop began on the terrace of the villa. We focused on making small, greyscale studies in an effort to understand the underlying composition. I stressed the need to avoid detail and line, instead massing in flat, abstract shapes of correct value. 

I showed how to mix clean color by painting a series of small studies. This practice helps to unify your paintings. Relating the major masses in terms of color and value  creates a forceful statement of color harmony, and helps to organize major planes of light. 

The ever changing light on the sweeping views below our villa, allowed for a variety of scenes. Here are things to keep in mind when painting atmospheric scenes:

1. Keep the value range limited to no more than 4 steps.

2. Since values are closer together, tonal value is less important than color. Consider the temperature of your light source, and push the opposite temperature in the shadows.
3. Make edges soft. Heavy, moisture-laden air, or veils of atmosphere, blurs the edges making everything appear soft, even in the focal point.

The next day we took the #7 bus down the hill into Florence for a morning of sketching at the Bargello Museum. This may not be the most famous museum, but it is one of my favorites. Less crowded than the Uffizi, the Bargello is one of the oldest buildings in Florence, dating back to 1255. Today, it houses hundreds of sculptures. Donatello's bronze David is physically delicate and remarkably effeminate. Visually, it is a stark contrast to Michelangelo’s heroic, marble of David.

There were two more days of painting on the Piazza Mino in Fiesole. We enjoyed long lunches at the great cafes. There is something to be said for those leisurely breaks that Europeans take at midday. I found that given the lateness of our evenings - it was imperative to nap after lunch. 

Joan, our tour organizer found some of the most enchanting places for dinner. I loved Le Cave di Maiano with it’s rustic menu, or Tullio a Montebeni with it’s tuscan steak and colorful proprietor. Both were tucked away in the surrounding forest, just minutes from our villa.

It’s midnight and a few of us have snuck outside to share a bottle of proseco on the terrace of the villa. Florence twinkles below like a blanket of earthly stars. Suddenly the chirping of a cell phone (who’s owner shall remain anonymous) breaks the quietude followed by a harsh admonishment from the proprietor Beatrice! In hushed tones we go back to our conversation, savoring every moment of our last night in paradise. 

A painting workshop is about finding enlightenment, learning new skills and making new friends. And although every adventure must come to an end, there’s always the next one to look forward to! 

Here’s what some participants had to say about "A Brush with Tuscany" Workshop:

Now that I'm back home, I just wanted to tell you I had the most wonderful time at your workshop. Not only are you full of knowledge with the unique ability to put it into words, full of talent and great ideas, but you are also a delight to be with! What a great trip! Sheila W.

Eli, a quick thank you for a great workshop week. Lots of fun and I learned a ton. Met some interesting people as well. Thanks for your patience and encouragement. Bob S.

I want to thank you all for joining us in Fiesole. You were a great group of people who got along so well, which doesn’t always happen!  Eli is the best teacher I’ve ever done a painting class with; I was stunned at her knowledge, clarity and teaching skills, all in that very casual, Eli-manner.  Joan Hill, Artful Journeys