Ed Nadeau studied human anatomy and painting with the American Expressionist Jerome Witkin. In his classes, Witkin underscored the importance of capturing the human form through compelling drawings developed by anatomical accuracy, a solid knowledge of color, and a heightened use of light. Along with this, he emphasized the importance of gesture and materiality in painting, which he personally adapted and elaborated upon from the Action Painters of the 1940s and '50s.
Nadeau's paintings represent narrative stories that he has nurtured for the past twenty-four years. His attempt to interpret the human condition through narrative painting began during his studies at Syracuse University in the late 1970s.
Witkin's positive influence as a mentor was immense. A change manifested in Nadeau's work during the mid-1980s, shortly after graduate school with the creation of such paintings as Misery Ridge and The Orchard.
At this time, Nadeau read Carolyn Chute's book The Beans of Egypt, Maine, which changed his work almost overnight from conceptual based mixed media pieces to straight ahead narrative paintings. Chute's book about the "white-trash" working class of Maine was the catalyst that finally allowed Nadeau to convey his ideas on canvas.
Reared in a large French-Canadian, Catholic, blue-collar family, Nadeau was influenced by the tall tales exchanged almost daily by people like his grandfather, parents, aunts, uncles, and neighbors. The absurdity of the plight of Chute's characters was a common occurrence in a rural state like Maine, and it was akin to the tall tales of his youth, which he has been able to dramatize through his mind's eye.
Nadeau's process is similar to fiction writing in that his narratives are not necessarily authentic depictions of actual people or places, but interpretations of an idea or event that developed over a period of time. To that end, Nadeau's paintings are an amalgam of childhood memories, artistic influences, current events, which are perceived together on the canvas as a genre that the viewer will relate to as narrative.