‘Red, White & Blue’? Yup, that’ll do…..

The post titles are usually the starting point for these little missives. I’ve no idea where they come from. Out of the blue, they just pop into my head –  and the blog is as good as written! Not this time however (hence the long gap since my last one!). I’ve been struggling with this one. Not because I haven’t had anything to say (what’s that? ‘Makes a change’ do I hear?) No, on the contrary, I’ve had far too much to say this time and simply haven’t known where to begin….and the longer I left it, the more happened and the more elusive became the focus for my writing! Nothing for it now but to just to make a start and try to fill you in on the last few weeks. So, yes, this title will do nicely – well, this being July (think Bastille and Independence Day) it should cover most of it anyway…


Without wishing to re-hash any of my last 2 posts (they were penned when I definitely saw red!) suffice it to say, thankfully, that the unfortunate bikers incident is now a distant memory – tempers (if not temperatures!) have cooled, and life on Skiathos is back to normal again.

Classes got underway with new visitors: Katy from London who as a novice painter can feel rightly proud of her fabulous achievements; a vibrant still life after only a couple of days:

and, by the end of her week:

A beautiful painting! :

Katy was joined by Sarah Penrose:

an established artist from Bristol who came on retreat, having recently re-read Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, in search of new inspiration and direction in her work.

As chance would have it, she found her muse in the classically featured Katy herself (who is of Greek Cypriot origin). She happily sat for the first sketches of Sarah’s ‘Penelope’:

I look forward to seeing the end results!

I can think of nowhere other than the Greek islands (with the exception of the Caribbean perhaps) where the exquisite quality of light produces such a pure, stark, brilliant white. All the more intense and pristine, against the backdrop of blue and turquoise of the Aegean sea, the whitewashed village houses, hilltop churches, gleaming yachts in the harbour, and gulls soaring high overhead all seem to glow with an almost unearthly iridescence:

As an artist, such intensity is something I feel constantly challenged to try to capture with, so far, little success; bouncing off the white, all other colours have an unparalleled depth and I’ve yet to discover a tube of paint that can equal the vibrancy of Bougainvillea bracts in sunlight or the contrast of the Scots pines against the red oxide earth.  Many British artists are drawn to work at St Ives, in Cornwall, claiming the light there to be exceptional, so a popular English TV series ‘Coast’ conducted an experiment, repeated all over the UK, to establish if there was any scientific basis for their claims. The final results concluded that the light at St Ives was indeed exceptional and ‘comparable to only one other place in the world – Greece’.


Along with white, blue is synonymous with Greece. Every shade imaginable, from the deepest indigo to the palest teal – and every hue in between –  surrounds us here, not only in the water but on doors, shutters, fishing boats, taverna chairs, and of course on the Greek flag. It’s even the colour of the glass charms said to ward off the ‘evil eye’.

(Blue or green-eyed people were suspected to be more likely to wish ill on another – hence the expression of jealousy; ‘the green-eyed monster’). It’s a cooling colour, said to ward off flies, and if painted on interior walls, gives an illusion of infinite space (great for pokey rooms!). I know from painting that adding a blue glaze over a portion of landscape will make it  immediately retreat into the far distance as the eye cannot discern colour far away. The simple rule is: the closer the object the more colourful and more defined it should be.


are the colours of the Union Jack which flew high in Skiathos in June. Chosen as a host town, prior to the ‘Special Olympics’ in Athens, Skiathos was honoured to host Team GB and I found that being one of the 38 volunteers was an incredibly humbling and enriching experience. From the moment we welcomed all 250 of the team at the port:

and we wined, dined and entertained them with a full week’s programme:

the island was awash with red white and blue:


The white was also provided by the pristine uniforms of both the port authority:

and Skiathos’ own Philharmonic Orchestra:

I felt particularly proud that prints of my predominately red blue and white ‘Skiathos Harbour’ painting were offered to our guests as a memento of their stay with us:

Waving them farewell and wishing them luck,

as they departed for the Athens Games, there was hardly a dry eye to be seen…..

All in all it was a wonderful, memorable week!Blue, like all colours, is also associated with an emotion. In this case, with sadness and feeling glum, feelings that I certainly experienced as I headed home for a second opinion after the doctor here offered a bleak prognosis on my neck injury (following a couple of falls back in March). I was limited to using the computer to no more than 4 minutes at a time (another reason for my delay in writing this) and going white with fear was my initial reaction as nerves have been damaged. But all is not as hopeless as I was first lead to believe, thankfully. I still have to return to London for more tests in a week or so but I’m determined to remain positive and to face whatever the future holds, head on!

Before I left I had to complete some paintings for an exhibition, held at the Bourtzi Cultural Centre in honour of the 100th year anniversary of the death of Greece’s foremost prose writer, Alexandros Papadiamantis. I found inspiration in three of his short stories: ‘Demons of the cove’, ‘The Seal’s Dirge’ and ‘Fortune from America’ all of which featured children but 2 of whom, sadly, met a rather tragic fate!

In my absence, Australian artist Jackie Sherwood, arrived for a second year, on retreat and in between house-sitting (Thank you Jackie!) my ever-growing menagerie (have I mentioned the tiny kittens that were dumped over my wall and have become a permanent fixture?)

she managed to complete an impressive body of exciting new work.

I noticed how her colour palette has changed from her usual soft ‘Provençal’ colours of ochre, sienna, lavender and sage to – ‘red white and blue’ and bought this one for my collection:

Speaking of Provence, while I was away I also had a family wedding to attend near St.Tropez. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to get away with my family in the height of summer, for a change. I soaked up the sights all along the Riviera, from the sophistication Monte Carlo:

with its elegant casinoimpressive palace (still bedecked in flowers a week after the royal wedding) and a marina packed with some of the most expensive yachts in the world!

Following the coastal road through tunnels:

to Villefranche:

and Nice:

We passed several famous landmarks and spotted some fabulous art on the way:

We continued heading south, all the way down to the rustic charm and simplicity of historic hilltop villages like Ramatuelle in the Var region:

with its narrow cobbled streets and picture postcard charm.

and it’s surrounding vineyards in open sweeping countryside:

The wedding itself was held in the simple all-white Port Grimaud church, situated on an island amid a network of small canals – a small Venice – surrounded by brightly painted houses with a boat moored outside every door.

A visit to St. Tropez, was a chance to ‘celebrity’ and ‘yacht’ watch from one of the many crowded cafes:

And all along colourful port, bunting of yet again red, white and blue!

and some intriguing sculptures:

Plenty of Designer shops too:

(but I never got past the gate!) and elegant homes too:

For me the highlight was stumbling upon the market in the backstreets. No-one does markets like the French! The choice of wares and produce is a veritable feast for all the senses!

Relaxing afterwards in total tranquility at our fabulous spa hotel a few miles away, nestled among the cypress trees,  breathing salt sea air mingled with the heady scent of lavender, just staring out to sea, bathed as we were in a sea of ‘white’, provided the perfect contrast
after all the vibrant colours:

 Until the dawn that is, when the red sky would bathe our view with a warm rosy light:

and as the day began, the sea would gradually turn into the fabulous blue that gave the Cote D’Azure it’s name.

Back in Skiathos now, the heat has certainly turned up a few notches and with new guests arriving and much of the summer still to go, there will be undoutedly be more tales to tell.
But for now, yes, the ‘red white and blue’ of the Tricolour, the Union Jack and the Greek flag, all in the space of two weeks and from all perspectives, appears to have been a very fitting title after all….

11 thoughts on “‘Red, White & Blue’? Yup, that’ll do…..

  1. Hi Yvonne, stunning photographs as ever along with another captivating read I thoroughly enjoyed it and on FASO too. Well Summer UK is a flop some government fool declared a drought just after we got back and it has rained daily since. Its socks shoes trousers shirt & jumpers still!!! Well if you check out my website the painting of a Skopelos building is still in progress. Luv. Phil & Barbara.


  2. Love seeing what you are up to. Glad things are back to normal after the Motorbike invasion. Saw a pic here recently of Niki visiting from Austen – she’s a painting friend, and nice to see Jackie there with heaps of work. Hoping to meet her on her next Aus visit. Best of luck with the neck issue. XXE


    • Many Thanks, Erin! Yes what a small world – you knowing Nikki! Delightful! So glad you’ve made contact with Jackie too – a great lady! Hope all’s well with you – would love to pop down there myself one of these days….Best Wishes x


  3. Really enjoyed reading this, Yvonne! Love the photos of the French market and a cool mooch round the Cote d’Azur. I could use the gates of Chateau St Tropez as inspiration for the opening scene of a short story any day. I can feel the heat and smell the cypresses now … Looks like your house guests/students found inspiration too – what’s the location of the photo of Katy and Sarah standing by an arch with a steep drop to the sea behind? Wow! And I’m delighted to hear that your neck problem may have solutions. Cheers, Sara x


    • Thanks Sara! I really appreciate your comments, it means a lot coming from such a talented writer as yourself! (REALLY loved your last piece with Nico and will write about just how much it moved me very soon) Meanwhile, the pic you mentioned was taken at Aghios Alexandros, the new church in Cycladic style on the north coast (you’ll see a picture of it if you scroll further down). Its architecture created some controversy but I for one absolutely love it! A bit off the beaten track, It’s idyllic location is not easy to find but with absolutely breath-taking views of Kastro, it’s well worth a visit. I’ll take you next time you’re here if you like. xx


      • Cheers, Yvonne! I wondered if the next pic was the church – I’d love to go up there in your Landy, that would be great. My camera is rattling in its case at the thought of it! Any thoughts from you on the artworks would be excellent, we’d really appreciate it. It’s been fascinating to see which pieces affect different people most – and they often tell us why. They’re provoking intriguing reactions, which pleases us both very much. Been hearing from Jackie S a lot – she’d obviously had a very productive time in your studio. Creativity, we’ve been bitten by the bug! xx


  4. Beautiful Yvonne! Nicely put together and what a pleasure to get another peek into your life – there on my favorite other ‘place’ as well as into your other lovely and exciting adventures. thank you. xxxx


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