Following the photos and social media posts by artists attending PleinAir magazine’s historic visit to Cuba with 100 artists in March of 2016, it became clear that demand was high for a second painting trip. With improvements such as a smaller group, less time on busses and more time behind the easel, Publisher Eric Rhoads led a group of artists back to Cuba.
The event began at the Miami Airport Hotel with a cocktail party for everyone to get acquainted the night before their flights. Upon arrival in Havana the group was treated to a tour of the city and a visit to colorful Fisterland. The following day everyone began painting.
Each day began with a giant buffet breakfast followed by painting in Old Havana, a beautiful city with mixed architecture of Neo-Classical and Spanish influenced design, with thousands of colorful buildings in deep disrepair, making for wonderful patina and great paintings. Hundreds of colorful antique cars line the streets in hopes of selling cab rides or tours. Artist Charlie Hunter took advantage of the potential painting subjects and arranged for a group of the cars to stay parked, lined up in a row, so the artists could paint the scene for a few hours.
Though most of the group opted to paint each day, which was as simple as walking out the door and choosing a scene within a brief radius of the hotel, some chose optional tours to see some of the highlights of Havana in depth. The tours included a visit to the Havana cemetery, which is loaded with massive statues, much like those in Paris, plus visits to the cigar factory and other sites.
“Seeing and painting Cuba was amazing,” said artist Mitch Neto from Danville, California, “but the magic of these trips Eric puts on are the friendships, which develop after days of painting and spending time together. We all made some friendships, which will last a lifetime.”
The attendees ranged in age from about 35 to 80; the only requirement is that people have the ability to get around on their own. Several people came who had never before painted en plein air, but were studio painters; some did not paint at all and used the time to tour and take photographs; and of course some were spouses or friends who came along for the Cuba experience. The group of painters included beginners, hobbyists, and experienced pros.
“My goal was to give people a great experience, yet I also hoped to knock out at least two paintings per day,” said Rhoads. “I hit my goal and I even had a chance to give some instruction to someone in the group who had never before painted, and to offer tips to some early stage painters.”
History played a role in their visit, with a chance to see a substantial collection of Sorolla paintings, which have never toured America, and a visit to Hemingway’s home, both which were not open during the first PleinAir magazine trip to Cuba. Following the Hemingway visit the group painted in historic Cojimar, an old fishing village on the ocean.
When asked about the differences in Cuba since the first visit, Rhoads said he is starting to see some subtle changes: “More buildings have been cleaned and painted, the people now all seem to have smart phones, email, and controlled web access, and there is more retail, including some modern buildings with high-end luxury brands and a couple of new skyscrapers being built. Though most of Havana remains untouched, my fear is that this trend will affect the current charm and patina.”
Following five days of painting, touring, walking the streets of Havana, and developing deep friendships, the group boarded a flight home, saying tearful goodbyes to new friends. They already started asking about new opportunities, where they might gather in the future.
Although there are no plans to return to Cuba, Rhoads said that interested parties should email him in case there is a future trip. He added that his other events and trips provide opportunities to paint together, develop friendships, and see beautiful places, including the publisher’s invitational trips to the Adirondacks in June, Fall Color Week in the fall, his African art safari in September, and of course future trips yet to be created. According to Rhoads, “It’s important that people treat themselves to something they can look forward to each year. Plus a week of painting has a positive impact on your skills, and these events are a great way to meet new friends and have new experiences.”
Upcoming international (and national) art events
with Streamline Art Events include:
The 7th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo
Publisher’s Invitational: Paint Adirondacks
Fall Color Week: Canadian Rockies
Publisher’s Invitational: African Painting Safari
Fine Art Connoisseur Italian Art Trip
Figurative Art Convention & Expo