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: http://amigofred.wixsite.com/tours
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: www.elicedrone.com
To register contact Joan Hill at 774-487-0650 or visit Artful Journey’s: 


  1. Thank you for sharing this Eli.. I loved your descriptions - I was there - you have a way with words as well as the brush!!

    1. Thanks so much Maureen! Enjoy the Guild show and hope to see you soon.