The stories continue to come in about the unforgettable experiences the group of painters had in Cuba during the Paint Cuba! Publisher’s Invitational event—their accounts are making other plein air painters scramble to assemble plans to visit the island country. We check in with Brenda Boylan, Shelby Keefe, and Scott W. Prior, below.
“Anything anyone has ever told me about Cuba couldn’t prepare me for the extreme nature of my encounter with Havana,” says Keefe. “The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of this extremely captivating and crumbling place was much more everything than I could imagine. Talk about old cars —there were thousands of them. Talk about patina —there were miles and miles of gritty streets lined with old, decrepit buildings. Talk about friendly people —they were everywhere — curious, courteous, resilient, full of character and always engaging (even though I couldn’t understand a word they said). I found myself overwhelmed with images of textural beauty that only an artist could appreciate, and encouraged by people’s resourcefulness in the face of extreme poverty and crumbling infrastructure.”

Prior’s painting of one of the classic cars of Cuba

Brenda Boylan painting. Photo by Turner Vinson

You might think you’d know what Cuba would be like if you were a veteran traveler in the Caribbean. You would be wrong.

“Cuban Street,” by Brenda Boylan, 2016, oil, 12 x 9 in.

“Pointed in the Right Direction,” by Shelby Keefe, 2016, oil on linen, 8 x 10 in.

“Going to Cuba was insane,” asserted Prior. “It really is a very special place, and now I can see why Hemingway loved it so much. I’ve done some traveling throughout Mexico and Central America and I guess I was expecting something similar, but it wasn’t — at all. It was like the very best of my experiences in Mexico and Central America, but with a European twist. All of us had sensory overload. The people, the sights, the sounds —then throw in the history, and it was a lot to take in. Painting and exploring Old Havana was an experience I will never forget, and I can’t wait to go back.”

“Alley Action,” by Shelby Keefe, 2016, oil on linen, 11 x 14 in.

Prior checks out one of the classic American automobiles prevalent on Havana streets.

Boylan kept returning to one theme as she talked about Paint Cuba! Publisher’s Invitational: Gratitude.

Prior with the owner of a car Prior was painting

“Yellow ’51 Pontiac,” by Brenda Boylan, 2016, oil 9 x 12 in.

“The trip was amazing in so many ways that it’s hard to articulate it,” says Boylan. “The Cuban people are very kind and curious, and their hardship was evident. Havana is colorful, with a lot of worn, torn sidewalks, and buildings, and an apparent lack of infrastructure, which provided painting subjects at every turn. Classic cars, used as taxis, were a common sight. It was all so crazy. Our tour guide was fabulous, and I will cherish the friendships made. This was the trip of a lifetime, and perhaps the window of opportunity will close again, so I am grateful that time and money allowed me and my husband to attend. Thanks Paint Cuba! Publisher’s Invitational!”

Scott Prior and Larry Moore painting

Brenda Boylan and Shelby Keefe painting

Eric Rhoads, publisher of PleinAir magazine, wrote about the trip in last week’s PleinAir Today, and you can read it here. Turner Vinson created a video that communicates the feel of the trip; it can be found here. Next week, Larry Moore checks in with his unique take on Paint Cuba! Publishers Invitational.


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