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