Italian artist finds inspiration in Ocean City

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Italian artist Giovanni Casadei, who now teaches in Philadelphia, spends his summer painting in Ocean City. Italian artist Giovanni Casadei, who now teaches in Philadelphia, spends his summer painting in Ocean City.

OCEAN CITY — Giovanni Casadei was born and raised in Rome and now lives in Philadelphia, but the professional artist’s favorite place to paint is Ocean City.

“What I really like is the opportunity to express big distance,” he said. “You have the horizon, and it goes on forever. Growing up in Rome, and living in Philadelphia there are certainly opportunities as an artist, but nothing can compare to the vastness, the peacefulness of the sky and the ocean, at the beach.”

Casadei spends part of his summer with friends by the sea in Ocean City, peddling around the island on his beach cruiser in search of something intriguing to paint. Armed with all the equipment he needs to set up shop, he is never disappointed.

“I cover the island, to see what captures my eyes,” he said.

“I have been coming to the seashore for 20 years, to paint,” he said.

He was spotted last week painting en plein air – outdoors, free of walls – on the beach near East Atlantic Boulevard by the jetty south of the surfing beach.

“I love to paint with Atlantic City in the background,” he said. “It’s so beautiful and intriguing to me.”

“It’s a tradition, each year I paint a beach landscape,” he said. “The beach is very interesting to me; the quality of life is amazing, the shading of the sand dunes and the sky. You have some clouds, you have the waves and they are always interesting.”

It’s a vacation, of sorts, from the sweltering city, but it is, he said, work.

“I get up by 5 a.m. and I’m on the beach somewhere by 6:30,” he said. “I go to the shore to think, and to paint, to develop myself as an artist. I paint for hours every day, until I run out of sunlight. I love what I do.

“Ocean City is so wonderful, it’s one of the oldest seashore resorts in the United States,” he said. “The boardwalk is amazing, you just don’t find anything like it anywhere else. You have amusement parks and shops; you have that amazing Music Pier. It’s so beautiful and the Music Pier looks so different at different times of the day.  You have real history here; it’s a wonderful place for an artist.

Casadei said he also loves to paint the fishing pier in the south end.

“Everywhere in Ocean City I find something alluring,” he said.

Casadei credits his Uncle Roberto, who religiously picked him up every Sunday beginning at the age of four, to take him to a museum to contemplate art.

“At the age of 14, I bought my first oil painting set with my savings and painted on my own for the next eight years,” he said.

Casadei studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome under the instruction of Alfonso Avanessian, an Armenian artist.

“I experimented with drawing oil pastels, dry pastels, tempera, watercolor, acrylic and oil paintings,” he said. “It was a very productive, creative and formative period for me as an artist.”

Looking for “opportunity in America,” he arrived in Philadelphia in 1983 at the age of 27.

“I started the biggest adventure of my life, to be an artist,” he said.

He worked as a house painter by day and an artist by night.

In 1988, he enrolled in a four-year certificate program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

“I began to take classes with Seymour Remenick, who became my mentor and friend for the last 10 years of his life,” he said. “Seymour gave me the support to make my own mistakes and learn from them. His love for art, painting, and human beings was contagious. This love is an integral part of my vision as an artist. He reinforced my belief to follow my heart and what I love in life.”

Since 1997, Casadei has taught painting at various art venues in the Philadelphia area. He is now teaching at the Wayne Art Center, the Certosa Studio Program and the Fleischer Art Memorial.

“I enjoy teaching and sharing my knowledge and experiences from my studio and as an en plein air painter with my students. I have found teaching to be inspiring, challenging and creative.

“My approach to painting is to communicate to the viewer my love for life and human beings, through the expression of my feelings, emotions and passions that are inspired by the visual world around me,” he said, adding that he is inspired by light, colors and everything about nature.  

“That’s why I love Ocean City so much,” Casadei said.

He has traveled across the United States and his work has been offered in numerous galleries across the nation, but his heart is in Ocean City.

The landmarks, colorful umbrellas along the sand, children playing and waves crashing inspire him. Nothing beats “America’s Greatest Family Resort,” he said.

“I wish I could be here all the time to paint,” he said. “I am fortunate to have friends that host me in the summer. I am a fulltime artist, I teach in Philadelphia, but I like to say I paint in Ocean City.” 

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