There’s talk that, come October, we’re going to be enjoying the sunshine and clear blue skies once again but for the moment, looking out onto the rain-soaked terrace, that’s hard to believe. It would appear Summer has definitely come to an end. All week we’ve had rain, wind and dark forbidding skies and, disappointing as that is for the last of the season’s holiday makers, for artist Mary Dillon and myself, it was a chance to retreat into the studio, light the fire and settle down to many hours of uninterrupted painting. Bliss!
Mary, (who who has now returned to Ireland), had a body of work to finish for her forthcoming exhibitions and as for me, well after a very busy few months, it was a chance to slow down and tap into some creativity once again. Working quietly in our respective corners with only the sound of the rain lashing on the roof and windows outside, each other and a cd player for company, the hours flew by and undisturbed as we were, it was easy to lose all sense of time. A couple of times, having started early in the morning (and with only an occasional coffee break and hastily put together sandwich mid-afternoon) we continued working through the day into the night, only downing our brushes when we realised it was way past midnight!
Mary produced several wonderful paintings. Totally inspired as she is the flowers and fruits found on Skiathos, she painted not only stunning vibrant studies of her trade mark subjects such as hibiscus, jasmine and fuchias but also of figs, olives and pomegranates.
Guided by Mary and inspired by her technique and unique application of watercolours; freely applying layer upon layer of subtle colour till a painting of incredible depth and vivacity appears, I thought I’d have a go myself (oils and acrylics being my usual preferred media) and this was the result – a real departure for me – a watercolour painting of pomegranates, picked fresh from the garden:
All work and no play makes for a dull child so Mary’s last day here found us dashing about the island for there was so much I still wanted her to see. We spent a morning exploring the tiny cobbled alley ways of Skiathos town for last minute purchases which included some fine examples of Greek jewelery, local white lace and embroidered cafe curtains, antique bronze and copper pots, and silver ceramic shells for table top displays. After a (light!) lunch on the old port, of tzaziki, fried courgettes, ‘gavros’ (local small fish) and ‘yigantis’ (butter bean stew – my favourite!) and a carafe (or 2!) of local Greek rose wine, the late afternoon found us heading up into the hills on the island’s remote north side in search of Aghia Iannis, Krifos ( the hidden church) and to take photos of the spectacular sunset that filled the sky with amazing hues of deep pink and orange against the backdrop of Mount Pelion, with Mount Olympus far off in the hazy distance. Finally, we visited Kounistra Monastery, bathed as it was in the rose-pink glow on the fading light. We took a few moments to stand in silent awe before the ancient un-restored icons, just barely visible in the flickering candlelight before warming ourselves in front of a roaring log fire, newly lit in the refectory and heading for home.