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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Breaking News: Our new Website!

This is just a taster/tester, because there are still a few bolts to tighten and buttons and fuel level to check before take off.
And here is the link
Yes, the Tango of Creativity.
The launch of a series of workshops about what creativity is all about, how to find it and to honour it within ourselves, in painting, poetry, photography, sculpture, dance, indeed anything which manifests this precious gift.
And we venture into
Presence and the Creative Realm
Health and Well being
Energy and Strength
Fearlessness and courage

We do hope you like our new site
Do please let us know

News Update!
Still one place available on our Assisi Workshop May 11 weekend
email Michael
tel/whatsapp +393283535358


Monday, March 20, 2017

The Big Painting Horror Show

A formula is all you need.
BBC know this.
Because it's about ratings you see.
And once you got winning formula, for God's sake stick with it
Wonder what I'm writing about?
It's this 'The Big Painting Competition' currently on BBC
This is the trick, the formula.
You pick a subject; in this case painting
You recruit ten people
A couple of presenters
Mentors (do they know what this term means?)
Judges who decide who they should eliminate each week
Then they throw these poor souls to the wolves (the public) to vote on best artists of the week (whoever wins this is secured a place in next episode (what?)) Can you understand this part?

Read no further until you have seen an episode

Hi, You're back..
Well, let's go through this.
A Head Mistress and a Vicar
Two mentors, (read influencers) And that red jump suit?
Three judges, judging what? A two hour soul-less Blitzkrieg. And an ejection of one poor contender
A public vote for winner of the week. By whom and by how many?

How was it for you?
You enjoyed it?
Thought it was great?
Oh dear.
Well of course everybody is entitled to an opinion.
And here's mine.

  1. Fundamentally, it draws upon dumbed down, populist ideas about what art is about
  2. And it draws upon almost everybody's negative art experience at school
  3. The thrill of being the best, the fear of being judged, being last, and rejected
  4. And it puts us in our place (back into the classroom), dividing the cognoscenti from we who need to learn: They file in, they file out

If anything, surely, art is about the breath of our creative imagination and about reflecting existence in all its flaws and imperfections. Art is something which just goes on; an irrepressible desire to add to our world to better understand it and ourselves. And meaningful art? Yes, it is true that there is a percentage that moves us powerfully and which transcends time and which belongs to us all, irrespective of its origin or maker. It is so many things on so many levels, and we know this for sure;
if it did not exist only for one day on our planet, we would all be diminished in every aspect of our humanity.

So you can understand my loathing of programs such as this.
Creativity and art cannot exist in an atmosphere of judgement and authority, let alone competition.
So it will come as a relief to know that, in our workshops, we don't judge or compare. That we work together and collaborate and share experiences. That for us art and creativity are celebrations of our innate capacity as human beings to create beyond ourselves

For further details about our next retreat in May 11 to 15, 2017, go to

Alternatively contact us directly:

Michael Eldridge: email:  tel/whatsapp +39 3283535358 (Italy)

Or Michelle Rummey: email:  
tel/whatsapp +44 7801 758771 (UK)

p.s. There is a discount offer available until 31st March

Monday, March 6, 2017

'The Tango of Creativity' in Assisi

A weekend for lovers of colour, light and space who love equally sharing and friendship

'That title: The Tango of Creativity  is rather brilliant in my humble estimation.
It is as if the creator and the created, dance and prance with each other'
                                                                                            Jack Fulton

Quite a lovely way of putting it I thought, because I struggle sometimes to give voice to what we are about.
Last week I had a message from a friend in Jamaica telling me I must watch a series 'Big Painting' on BBC TV. I didn't pick up the word 'competition' in the title, which is not unusual as I suffer from selective dyslexia. And I really thought it was about painting BIG, the sort of thing we run workshops on sometimes. Very therapeutic.
Well as I live in Italy, it meant I had to sign and pay for a service which I'd recently withdrawn from because it was, well, so English. You know what I mean. I watched the first ten minutes and switched off. It was terrible. It was like one of those ghastly Chef knock out programs and...oh, I just can't go on. Just so bad in every way. Enough to say it is the very opposite of everything I believe in about art and creativity.
Having got that off my chest, I will now write about the 'Tango of Creativity'
The title came about from last summer's retreat at the Casa Faustina in Assisi. On the second evening, after a wondrous Italian meal (with organic wine) cooked by Chef Sara, one of the group, Mauro Magrini, put on some rhythmic Tango music.We were in the studio, the sun was setting and although fading, the light was warm and streaming through the large windows. Mauro then began to teach us all the basic steps of Tango and suddenly there we all were dancing Tango, can you believe. And from then on, it was how we finished our days and it became an intrinsic part of our creativity. I think the perfect alignment of heart and mind.
 Fact is, in some magical way, the poetry, the painting and the Tango fused into one.

  the whispering pines of Casa Faustina

It was then that we decided to name our future workshops 'The Tango of Creativity'.
And you'll see the new website up very soon.
This year we are including photography to the mix. This has come about after the very successful Venice workshop last month.

Let me explain that too. Everybody brought their laptops and by using Dropbox, we were able to share our images immediately back at base. It was a sharing experience where we all learned one from each; and in no way was it competitive; this btw is common to all our workshops, where each person is considered to uniquely creative and their creations equally valid.

So, what else happens at these workshops?
A typical day would be
After breakfast we gather around the pool and prepare for the day ahead with a Tai Chi or Chi Kung session and various other mind and body exercises.
Then we get to work.
We experiment with paint, words, and photographic images
We share
We fall flat
We dip into the pool
We stand back
We dump it all and go for a swim 
Then we return and try to make sense of what we are doing
Then we have a delicious vegetarian lunch on the restaurant terrace after which we siesta for an hour.
Ditto the afternoon but work wise something is beginning to emerge.

And so on, day by day with trips to Assisi thrown in
So you can gather that we start off not having a clue about what we are doing but being absorbed in it nonetheless
We are sharing, mixing, messing, at a fantastic pace, what I call creating beyond ourselves.
No judgement, no criticism, only amazement at what is emerging.

Along with lots of fun and laughter

All at the beautiful Casa Faustina.

For further details about our next retreat in May 11 to 15, 2017, go to

Alternatively contact us directly:

Michael Eldridge: email:  tel/whatsapp +39 3283535358 (Italy)

Or Michelle Rummey: email:  
tel/whatsapp +44 7801 758771 (UK)

p.s. There is a discount offer until 20th March

Monday, February 20, 2017

Rain in Venice

 Four days of incessant rain

Rain in Venice; photo Hal Rumney Hunt

It was two weekends back, in fact the weekend of the changing of the light, although you would have never have guessed it. For weeks beforehand I had imagined sunny skies, and Italian weather forecasts promised just that, but rained......and rained
 When I was a kid I had a sort of conceptual dyslexia. I must confess that I have never ever heard of such a condition but I had it, have it still sometimes. Examples.You can't have your cake and eat it' my mother would say. And I would look at a piece of cake and eat it at the same time and just didn't get it. and 'Save your pennies and the pounds will look after themselves' lost completely there. Riddles were beyond me so I guess I sunk myself instead into the mystery of imagery instead as a way of confirming my frail existence
Oh, and worst of all 'It never rains but it pours' that threw me too.
Still does.
So, two weekends back I ran a workshop in Venice entitled Photography and the Creative Mind' Yes, it was about exploring simultaneously the labyrinths of this wondrous City and the labyrinths of the human creative mind. Heady stuff you might say and I'd get the joke.
I watched the weather forecast daily during the week beforehand and what was promised as a 'sunny weekend' went from 'occasional shower's to 'heavy intermittent showers', to 'overcast with rain and occasional sunshine' And neither of these eventuated. Ok, it's true, if you know anything about Italian weather forecasts, you'd know they are Ceaușescusque. And the whole weekend turned out to be what Californians call a weather bomb. 96 hours of not stop rain. In other words it rained and it poured (with rain).
A disaster you might think, but not so. The fact was that the City was practically washed clean of tourists, and it glistened. The light was a pure photographer's light and our night time photography ventures produced some remarkable images. So, I might dare to say that  'Every cloud has a silver lining' (and I think that means that there is always something good to find even in the midst of a seeming disaster).
Does it?
So I was happy with the weekend and encouraged by the way the participants worked on their imagery (they all brought their laptops) and whenever we returned to base, they shared their work and encouraged each other. And this is why am including photography in our next workshop in May in Assisi, combining it with painting and poetry to see what happens. And want happens, you know, is always unpredictable and thank heavens for that.
This workshop, by the way is entitled 'The Tango of Creativity'
An unusual title for a somewhat unusual workshop.
We ran our first one last summer is Assisi, Italy, where Michelle Rumney and I organised an explorative weekend in image making, one which included all sorts of side shows and tactical diversions, such as Ci Kung, Haiku, playful mind games and sorties into the beautiful surrounding landscape and into Assisi itself to open our eyes and minds to the work of Giotto.
Our simple objective was to empty the chattering minds of our participants and guide them gently into the Realm of Creativity, to see, hear, feel the reality of the moment of now, where of course our creativity awaits us.
And we produced a massive amount of paintings, wrote Haikus by the dozen, and this year, as I have mentioned above, we are going to put photography into the mix too.
There! That's what I mean by unusual.
And the Tango?
This just happened serendipitously.
One of the participants, Mauro Magrini (he's Florentine, a photographer), after our sumptuous dinner one evening put on some Argentinian Tango music and started to teach us the steps. I can't explain why, but we got hooked and soon were sailing around our beautiful studio to these haunting sounds.
I think it has something to do with the fact that learning the steps are the key to the door of a temple of dance; that maybe all forms of creativity are like this, that the accumulation of skills runs simultaneously alongside creative expression, that they are not in any way separated.

Our venue is La Casa Faustina, a remarkable place. It is only 7k from Assisi, in the hills to the West of the city. It has the most beautiful huge studio and bright clean apartments, a large swimming pool and a brilliant chef who sustains us with her Italian vegetarian cuisine
And we welcome you to our next workshop weekend in May 11 to 15
You can read more about Assisi here 


Monday, December 19, 2016


lost in Venice
Getting lost in Venice.
Is not difficult.
It's happened to me in Florence too.
And Reggio del' Emilia
It's a sort of amnesia.
And I'm getting used to it.
And it's not easy to let go and say to yourself 'OK, I'm lost and I give up'
In Reggio Emilia I had to be at a Tai Chi class absolutely on time. Absolutely.
I was staying with friends and insisted I didn't need their help to find the class.
But could I?
No, I couldn't.
Just drove around for half an hour, spiraling around the inner city ring road where every road looked the same. And then I thought 'I've blown this' turned down a side road, turned off the engine, made an huge deep sigh, looked out of the car window and guess what?
There it was, the Tai Chi centre down a little road and just in view of where I'd parked.
Same this time in Venice.
Fearing the amnesia coming on when I arrived, (late because my train from Civitanova was 30 minutes behind time and I missed the Bologna connection) I turned on my super smart phone satnav;
and what a foolish thing to do. It told me 6 mins from the railway station and when it said zero minutes, I remember thinking 'How can there be such a thing as zero minutes?', when ZACK!,
my telephone battery ran out of juice. Couldn't call friend, couldn't locate house. Began to ask folks passing by and nobody had heard of either her or her house.
Amnesia sets in and I find myself twenty minutes later in the beautiful piazza Campo Santa Margherita. Quite an amazing place, and it's dark and moody and full of people spilling out of bars and shops; Christmas lighting the way only Italians know how to do.
And I thought this is good. And I let go.
I was coming to my senses now (if I dare say that) and saw clearly the road I had entered the Piazza through, retraced my steps, and found myself in familiar territory. As I turned a corner there was a lady and her daughter about to enter a house and I asked if she had heard of la Ca della Corte and she said 'Yes it's right there' and pointed to this iron gate, one which I had passed a dozen times.

If you are still awake, you might have got the gist of the story, so I won't bother to tell you about how I got lost again the day after and nearly missed my train back to Marche. And I won't even mention the near death experience in a Gondola.

Got back home quite late and had a shower and dived into bed, clutching for my nightly dose of Krishnamurti (The Book of Life). where he writes for the day of December 18.....

'The seeking out of something beyond the inventions and tricks of the mind, which means having a feeling for that something,living in it, being it,--that is true religion. But you can do that only when you leave the pool you have dug for yourself and go out into the river of life. Then life has an astonishing way of taking care of you, because then there is no taking care on your part. Life carries you where it will because you are part of itself; then there is no problem of security, of what people say or don't say, and that is the beauty of life'

So, that more or less sums up what my photographic workshops are about, being absorbed in the rhythms of life, instead of trying to control it (in this case Venice).

p.s. still a few places left on my 'Black and White in Venice' workshop February 2017

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Creativity and evolution

                                                                          Painting Michael Eldridge 'Adriatic' series

 Leonard Cohen was asked in an interview in the seventies where creativity comes from, and he replied 'If I knew, I'd go there more often' A good question and an even better answer. But I wonder if it really matters what we call this seemingly inexhaustible source; some refer to the Universe or the Cosmic Creative Pool but you could just as easily call it The Cosmic Fridge (I do suppose) for all it matters. We just know that it's there, somewhere between us and outside of us, some space that is continually energised and which usually arrives when it chooses; ready or not. I like to think though, that it also leaves a glimmer of itself inside us, if we were but to know it, some sort of residual memory of its splendour, in passing. Like a glowing ember waiting for us to breath and blow it back to flame and keep it alive should it fade.That it is, if you will, a symbiotic relationship, that we cannot live without each other. Our lives without creativity, whatever form this might take, would become shallow and arid. And creativity without us?
When the first earthquake struck us a few weeks back (here in Italy) there was a roaring which travelled at the speed of a Eurostar beneath our house, and I often think that Creativity is just like this, that it comes roaring past us, maybe always, maybe just when it feels like it, I don't know. But the sure thing is that we have to keep ourselves in a receptive state to be able to catch it like a leaf in a gale and hold it close and accept it as a gift.
You might not be surprised to know that our workshops in Italy are about this fascinating phenomenon; this merger between something which resides within us and something outside of us
which we could call another realm.
Sure, we paint, we take photographs, make music, poetry; but what we produce is incidental.
Yes, incidental.
Read this.....

Who says my poems are poems?
My poems are not poems
After you know my poems are not poems
                                  Then we can begin to discuss poetry
                                                                   Zen Poet Ryokan

That sort of thing.......
So this seeming act of indifference to our work, in fact gives it tremendous freedom and this is when
quite marvellous things begin to happen. It is this that I call creating beyond ourselves; entering this
realm of timelessness, where what we might refer to as our normal selves simply dissolve and
something greater appears.
This is the arena we play in at Starstone.
And we choose places in Italy of great power and beauty, Venice and Assisi, which fuel our adventures with colour and energy, away from la vita abituata, the daily grind.

Workshops in Italy...

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Creating beyond oneself

                 'Photography and The Creative Mind', Venice February 3 to 6

painting by Michael Eldridge

I just love these words below from Mary Oliver. where she considers the central commitment of the creative life — that of making uncertainty and the unknown the raw material of art: and which she explores in a wonderful piece titled “Of Power and Time“; that.........
'Intellectual work sometimes, spiritual work certainly, artistic work always — these are forces that fall within its grasp, forces that must travel beyond the realm of the hour and the restraint of the habit. Nor can the actual work be well separated from the entire life. Like the knights of the Middle Ages, there is little the creatively inclined person can do but to prepare himself, body and spirit, for the labor to come — for his adventures are all unknown. In truth, the work itself is the adventure. And no artist could go about this work, or would want to, with less than extraordinary energy and concentration. The extraordinary is what art is about.'

And that...“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time”

I love these sentiments because they are the very philosophy which I have been drawn to all my creative life, and on which our workshops at Starstone have been based. And Oliver articulates it so well; that realm which exists in parallel with the ordinary world we half exist in, where creativity resides and awaits us when we have the courage to lose ourselves in its electric embrace. The extraordinary is what she calls it.
And this is Van Gogh writing to his brother Theo on October 2, 1884......
'If one wants to be active, one mustn’t be afraid to do something wrong sometimes, not afraid to lapse into some mistakes. To be good — many people think that they’ll achieve it by doing no harm — and that’s a lie… That leads to stagnation, to mediocrity. Just slap something on it when you see a blank canvas staring at you with a sort of imbecility.
You don’t know how paralysing it is, that stare from a blank canvas that says to the painter you can’t do anything. The canvas has an idiotic stare, and mesmerizes some painters so that they turn into idiots themselves'
One hundred and forty years ago, for goodness sake; a man born way before his time. And maybe that's what artists are, time travelers, never truly content with the age they are living in, but, as Oliver says, driven by forces that must travel beyond the realm of the hour and seeking refuge in the timelessness of creativity.
Oliver goes on to say that certainly there is within each of us a self that is neither a child, nor a servant of the hours. It is a third self, occasional in some of us, tyrant in others. This self is out of love with the ordinary; it is out of love with time. It has a hunger for eternity.
And this reminds me of Krishnarmurti's concept of the young mind (he differentiates between this and the old mind, which is thoroughly conditioned by culture, upbringing and education); .........the young mind which is free, immensely creative and beyond time.
And it is what I call creating beyond oneself, where in the very act of creating, whether it is in painting, photography, ceramics, cooking, gardening et alia, that we transcend the ordinary and inhabit the extraordinary, that magical realm of creativity. And it is here that we understand what it is to be free.
 Next Starstone workshop 'Photography and The Creative Mind', Venice February 3 to 6