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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Solstice and a parallel universe

This day finds me doing the oddest things.
Like sticking bamboo cane in the garden and painting lines with indelible markers on corners of the house. I've always done it in places I've lived in; often I've constructed mini stonehenges to greet the first glimpse of sun on a solstice morning, and doing a sort of Celtic ritual in my mind.
Fact is, this day is more exciting to me than any other for me, one which has me marvelling at the fact that we (i.e. our planet) are hurtling through space at one and a half million miles a day around our star and spinning around like a top at a thousand miles an hour. 
I mean, doesn't this just rock your socks?
Then when the summer solstice arrives, I make sure the sun's shadow aligns with my markers. So far it always has and this makes me feel secure, safe in the knowledge that we are not wobbling away towards a black hole or even worse being consumed by an encroaching parallel universe.
 It could happen.
Also I am excited by the growing light, as I know are my trees and shrubs and animals and I've made plans to visit Monte Vettore next week to pay homage to this ancient land of fairies and necromancers. Legend has it that at the summer solstice, young men climb up to the sister mountain top of Mount Sibilla to be seduced by beautiful young girls. Only to find later that these fair maidens have goat's legs. And that they (probably within a week) give birth to yet another host of goat legged maidens. Might have got that a bit wrong, but it's true that to be up there on a mid summer's night is an eerie experience, compounded by the fact that you might just be annihilated by a meteorite, yes a meteorite, as these Sibillini mountain tops are littered with little ones if you search keenly enough.
(I've just nipped out to photograph one of my solstice line ups (see pic) Note line of shadow along pencil mark (10 am) and fake meteorite)

Monte Vettore is where we hold our workshops during Spring and Autumn at an agriturism centre by the name of Cittadella. (not on the subject of necromancy I hasten to add). But rather where we absorb ourselves into the realm of creativity; painting, poetry, photography and even ceramics.

Here,it is quite easy to enter the beauty of this parallel universe of our imaginations, up in the mountains of La Sibilla, where the so called normal world just slides away, as does all the stress and worry it throws at us.

Spring workshops at Cittadella include painting, photography, poetry and ceramics.
Click here for programme dates

Happy Solstice,

Friday, December 1, 2017

Wild Photography

Cittadella is the centre where Natasha Lythgoe  and I are holding our Wild Photography workshop next May to explore this land up in the clouds.

It is a rather magical place and attracts folk who wish to absorb themselves in a world whose nature, history and culture remind them of things seemingly lost in our hurried existence.

Up in the Sibillini mountains there is an incredible feeling of freedom. Within the national park, rangers are carrying out a programme of re-wilding, re-introducing species such as the wolf, bear etc and attempting to rebalance what humans have disturbed over the centuries

Photography is our medium this weekend but the workshop could equally be labelled re-wilding the self, because we too are out of balance as a species and need to respect Nature; to re-wild ourselves

When I taught photography at the (now) Arts University Bournemouth, it was a time when analogue was dying on its feet and when digital photography was not yet proven. It was at this cusp in time that it became obvious to me that the only useful subject to address, was creativity itself; to be curious and aware of life in all its many facets and that a camera was just a machine, a commodity which was just a vehicle through which the creative imagination might find a home.

In the years between then and now, the evolution of the camera, the ease by which images can be shared with anyone on the planet at any time of day, seeing young infants taking photographs, (and even cancelling out images they don't like for goodness sake), All this makes me realise that I was right at that time; that the essence of a fulfilled life is indeed to re-awaken creativity in our lives, whatever the medium with which we choose to express ourselves. 

Our weekend at the end of May next year is about these very matters. 

Our home is a beautiful centre in an astoundingly magnificent part of Italy. (Read Guardian article about Cittadella)

It's an opportunity to work and share with others our passion for image making. (you may bring any kind of photographic image making machine)

And to join a community of like minded people who stay in contact and share images on an on going basis.

To eat, laugh, play, work together in this little paradise in the mountains of La Sibilla.

For programme of 2018 Spring workshops at Cittadella, click here


Friday, November 3, 2017

About Bluer

Bluer is my friend. He is a painter like myself and once or twice a year we work together for 4 or 5 days or so and, I dunno, just feed off each other I guess I would say. Currently he is working with plexiglass and this is an exhibition of his sculpture in the medium on a show in Trieste at the Lux Gallery, where he devoted a room to our collaborative work

Do you know what happens when you create together with another?
I would say this..
It's the difference between being alone in a dinghy in a river full of crocodiles or with a mate to whack them on the nose when they get too near.
I jest of course, but what I am endeavouring to say is that it is a profoundly different experience than working solo.
Also that you learn a lot, risk more than you would normally and find yourself in Sync with the other, or others if you are working in a group.
Here are a couple of our paintings in the show

And one in realita

At Art College we were never encouraged to work together (as if it were an affront to our sacred individuality) To that I now say Huh!
I wish I'd known way back then of the power and depths we can reach if we have the courage and
humility to share our creativity. And how that in doing so we in fact strengthen ourselves.
A paradox don't you think?
By the way we entitle our work 'Four hands, 'Two brains, One soul'
Neat don't you think?

Here is a link to the exhibition which is up until October 20, should you be visiting the wonderful City of Trieste

Starstone Creativity retreats in Italy

Monday, October 9, 2017

I've just been talking to an Archangel

This may sounds little odd, but oft times I paint blind, or maybe I mean dumb, or maybe I don't mean either. This painting, which I finished last week before going to Cornwall, bowled me sideways when I looked at it this afternoon, back home in my studio. Like most of my stuff, it had just arrived on some creative wind from who knows where. But I'd painted it before I had even arrived there.
The story. 
I was at St Michael's Mount, visiting a friend who runs the place, although truer to say it runs him, and was buffeted about by the wind, dazzled by the intense glare of sunlight on water and utterly at the mercy of the elements.
And those elements. Friend tells me those who are obliged to live and work on the island, last usually for no more than two years, then crack. Those who make it to three, simply suddenly adjust and are sort of absorbed into the elements and stay. You see, life there is completely subject to the tide and wind, and what we normlings call daily life, is just not possible there.
I sort of like that, because in a magical way, creativity itself is like this. It comes from somewhere which is bigger than us, greater than us, and we catch it on the wind, sometimes in a crashing roar.

It is humbling and it makes nonsense of both rationality and time itself. As I imagine would an Archangel.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A garret in Paris?

You see, you are not educated to be alone. Do you ever go out for a walk by yourself? It is very important to go out alone, to sit under a tree—not with a book, not with a companion, but by yourself—and observe the falling of a leaf, hear the lapping of the water, the fishermen’s song, watch the flight of a bird, and of your own thoughts as they chase each other across the space of your mind. If you are able to be alone and watch these things, then you will discover extraordinary riches which no government can tax, no human agency can corrupt, and which can never be destroyed.

I really like the above quote from Krishnamurti. It fits in with my the notion of re-wilding the self which Naga Dipa opened my eyes/mind to on our workshop in Sussex last July; this being that just how many good people are at last waking up to the truth that Nature can no longer be violated, but instead saved from our ravaging, so we must equally take a journey inwards in an attempt to heal and address and acknowledge the inner ravaging of our minds.
And that nature can help to heal us as we begin to heal her. A double deal.
And art, creativity in whatever form, is a vehicle which reminds us of our humanity and thus helps in this healing process.
And it is this inter flow that play with in our workshops.

And the above painting by Jamna Owen speaks to me of that life force which bubbles in all our hearts when we see even the smallest of nature's wonders when walking along with or senses alive to the world outside of us (instead of being glued to a smart phone)
Jamna is trained, and works in, the field of marketing. Rational and quick thinking, she has, however, over the last few years re-awakened her right brain simply by the act of painting.
And indeed, what we attempt to achieve in our workshops is a balance between both hemispheres of the brain, so they learn to work as one, in a sort of agreed symbiosis, a trade off if you will . And this we call our mind.

No reason to starve in a garret in Paris any more

Friday, September 1, 2017

Re-wilding the Self

I love this photo. It's of a group of folks walking across the mouth of the extinct volcano of Monte Vettore in the Sibillini National Park

And within the bowl of the mouth itself there are two small lakes, known as Pilates lake, which join together when there is sufficient rain or snow and where live little red shrimps; there since primordial times, thrown up by an ancient sea and who decided to stay. Nice idea.

My dog Bessie looking at the shrimps at Lago di Pilato

We can see Monte Vettore from the agriturismo at Cittadella where next year we are basing our workshops in photography, painting, sketching and poetry, come rain or shine, under the title of 'Re-wilding the Self''
Please explain..
OK, this title derives comes from a workshop Naga Dipa and I ran last month in Sussex. It was held in an ancient forest near Lewes; photography in essence but I think we all came under some sort of magic spell where the outer world around us, full of ancient oaks, lime and beech trees, sort of absorbed us in their timelessness and it became both and outer and an inner voyage.
Rewilding as a concept I'm sure you are aware of. It is where we humans restock nature with her original creatures, thus to rebalance the damage we have done. You've probably read recently of an example of a parkland in Northumberland where they are reintroducing the Lynx (brought from Eastern Europe) which was hunted to extinction some 500 year ago in Britain. The idea being that as its only prey is deer, that these animals will keep the deer population down and thus the forests will bloom with undergrowth again and small animals and insects will return, thus birds and beavers too they say.
And so it is with the Sibillini National Park, where Rangers have already reintroduced wolves and bears. (Yes, and you can imagine waking up at night on one of these workshops to find a bear staring at you through the window. And a wolf). How exciting
So, re-wilding the self is where we absorb ourselves in nature in this beautiful wild terrain but also venture into our inner nature too, realising what it is to be truly human and in no way separate from Nature. And we do this through the medium nature has given us, our creativity; by painting, photographing, sketching, poetry. An inner and an outer journey.

Micheal at Starstone

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Venice in Disneyland

An American friend has just sent me this article.
I was there last month with Jack Fulton at the Biennale and as I live in Italy and my wife is from the Veneto, I have got to know and love this City over the years and can almost feel its pain as it creaks and gasps for air and longs for a time long past. Imagine the indignity of this, below, happening every day as four or more of these 13 storey monsters consume her beauty. With all their occupants, 4000 of them taking the same photos of the City, of us, with their smartphones and buzzing these images around the planet to wherever they hail from, China, Japan, USA et alia.

(That's Jack in the foreground struggling with his camera settings) In vain

I remember when he and I sailed over to the Isola dei Orti, must have been 11 years ago. It was a peaceful weekend with only laughing cyclists to contend with (to laugh and chat with too). And taking the ferry back in the morning across the lagoon, it took my breath away as we sailed into sight of Venezia. A timeless experience.
But now just nobody gives her time.
Except us
Yes us

Us meaning a bunch of photographers who arrive as gently as butterflies from heaven (a jibe at noisily descending cruise-ship wombats) into this wondrous city in the winter months of December and January each year, (not New Years) to witness Venezia come alive once more, almost free of tourists and bathing in the low light of a sunken sun, casting long shadows through the majesty of its startlingly spectacular canals and architecture. The more authentic restaurants are still open ,the best bars too and there is no queuing to get in to all those precious museums. Venezia gives itself to us in all its glory, come rain, snow or shine (usually in that order)

Want to know more? click here
We'd love to make your acquaintance


Monday, June 5, 2017

The Biennale, Daimans and Light

After our workshop in Assisi, Jack Fulton and I headed up North to the Veneto to see the Biennale in Venice. This year it was without a common theme although it had the title of  'Viva Arte Viva', which sort of translates as 'Long live Living Art'. On reflection, I would say it was about human values, not much brain scything meaningless conceptual stuff, except of course from Damien Hurst. A touch of shamanism and humour too, although the funniest part was the entrance itself with scores of bewildered tourists asking each other how the electronic ticket counters functioned (imagine Waterloo station arrivals board on a very bad day)
I've been going to Biennales for more years than I can remember and I have found that it is very rarely that the international works in the Giardini and the Arsenale have done anything but interest me; nothing breathtaking. The shows by individual artists around the City score more powerfully. Must say though, that I always come away feeling jiggled about a bit, woken up.
Trodden upon by tourists though,
And those Cruise ships!! Packed with thousands of people

The very top deck ( I think the thirteenth) is lined with tourists taking photos of us taking photos of them. Ghastly.
But what can you do?
What I do is run photography workshops there in early December and early February, as a sort of antidote to mindless tourism. There are few people around and this beautiful City reveals itself to those who have the time at last to pause and look and wonder at its dark secrets and hidden mysteries.


The Art of Wilding, (Photography and Awareness) July 15 and 16, Brighton UK
The Tango of Creativity Sept in Assisi


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