My earliest memory is making pictures on my parents new bedroom wallpaper with bright red nail polish. I was about three, and my art was not at all appreciated, but I was soon supplied with paints and paper! At eight, I declared to my parents that I would be an artist when I grew up. Private art lessons began when I was ready to learn more, at 12. I was choosing a major for my University studies in art when my father said: “honey, you’ll never survive as just an artist. Why don’t you teach?” I chose painting as my major, and after my father died in an auto accident, I married (too soon) and completed my teaching requirements. I loved teaching art, but I had to give my notice after only 6 months. My husband’s job took precedence over mine. A few years later I was hired as an interior decorator and taught at arts centre when possible. My father had tried to guide me to make sensible choices, yet he couldn’t read my future. Nor could I imagine then that art would someday become my most profound resource.
I stopped working at 30 to have a baby. My paintings became abstracted at that time – I call it my “egg period”. I won a major prize in a painting competition, and through that event I met the renowned artist, Jaquelin Jenkins, who became my mentor. She gave art workshops, and I was thrilled about the one to Provence, so I said “count me in”! Later she changed the destination to Skiathos, Greece. I had studied Greek art, but I had no vision of Greece and thought, “what can I paint in Greece”? But I did go in September 1982.
Life had not prepared me for the ancient monuments to Greek ingenuity nor the sublime landscapes I saw everywhere I looked! I stayed in Athens for a concert at the Herod Atticus Theatre in honour of Maria Callas where my experience of “filotimo” began, and has not ceased. On Skiathos, after a morning of painting and exploring an olive grove, I received the epiphany I needed to recharge and change my life.
I was split into two parts – a wife desperate to have a child, and an artist who never quite had enough time to paint. Seven years passed like that before my beloved mentor lost her life to cancer at the age of 52. The last time I visited her, she asked me to “carry the art torch” for her. It was clear to me that I had to grieve her loss, heal my own wounds about my infertility, and begin to “walk my talk”. I organised a painting trip back to Skiathos with good friends. My husband and I divorced, and my next workshop was in Paros and Santorini. After my art friends left, I boarded the ferry to Hydra, home of Tetsis, the Greek artist I admired. I spontaneously hopped off on Poros to paint for the villa Galini, planning to take the next ferry to Hydra.
That was October 2, 1989. Due to rough seas, the ferry was delayed for 3 more days, and I had to stay on Poros. I saw children playing outside – everyone I met was wonderful, Poros had so many magical views – I wanted to paint everything I saw. My trip on the 4th day to Hydra proved disappointing – I’d already fallen in love with Poros! Back on Poros I saw a villa for rent on the mountain overlooking Askeli, perfect for my painting studio. I had gallery representation in the US and exhibitions planned, so there was a method to my perceived madness. I changed my plans to return to UNCG for a design degree, and instead moved to Poros. Soon, friends were bringing their art workshops to Poros, and I met people who wanted art classes. Fate had intervened. My past was gone. I was able to start living my dream finally, at 40. I still have to pinch myself sometimes to believe my luck!
After 16 years in the “Jasmin Villa” at Askeli, my friend Mia told me an apartment with a studio and a garden was available to rent near the harbour. I moved there – just across the bay from the Villa Galini I first painted. Each morning I awoke to the clip- clop sounds of the donkey trash pick-up – so very old-world charming! I recently learned that Lucian Freud, the grandson of Sigmund, and the English artist John Claxton were painting in my new studio in 1948, the year I was born. Synchronicity? Poros has a magical quality that enhances creativity in many of the arts. Although I enjoy traveling to other islands and the Greek mainland too, Poros is home sweet home.