'Getting on with Life......'

Gosh, sorry folks! I’ve just noticed the date of my last post and had no idea so much time had passed! That’s what comes from getting ‘out there’ to find things to write about. Striking the right balance between how much time one should spend on the computer and how much time one should devote to actually producing art, is a challenge that many artists on the net face nowadays – and its not always an easy one to get right.

So, where to start? Well, it’s been a roller coaster couple of months, since my return to London from Greece. Settling back into city life is always a big adjustment but one I relish, determined as I am to enjoy all it has to offer to the fullest and visiting as many art galleries, exhibitions, theatres, events etc, as I can possibly manage.

No sooner had I returned, than I met up with fellow Skiathos artist Gail Stathakis and together we visited an exhibition by the Royal Society of Marine artists at the Mall Galleries. There were some truly beautiful works on display which reinforced my belief that ‘beautiful’ works, skillfully painted are still very much what the great majority of the public wants to see – all very inspirational!

(painting 'Boats and Ropes' by Sonia Robinson RSMA)

A few days later, my dear friend, Irish artist Mary Dillon, arrived from across the Irish Sea. Darling that she is, she brought with her a very special (and hugely generous!) gift for me: one of her beautiful oil paintings that I have long admired. I first saw it hanging in her gallery in Roscrea and as well as being attracted to the fabulous colours, I was moved by it because it reminded me of my own children when they were little:

(Thank you again so much, Mary!)

I still can’t quite believe all that we managed to pack into a single weekend:
Saturday began with a visit to the Wallace Collection: a first for Mary and a chance for me to re-visit favourite Old Masters such as Fragonard’s ‘The Swing’, Franz Hal’s ‘Laughing Cavalier’ among the Canalettos and Gainsboroughs. It was a chance to re-visit the Damien Hirst exhibition too and I found even more fascinating the second time round.

From there, a flying visit to a couple local art galleries (I still have my eye on one of Bill Bates beautiful paintings – just waiting for that lottery win!) and a quick lunch, followed some serious retail therapy (well, a girl has to shop sometimes!) before braving the crowds and catching up with some of Mary’s relatives, in O’Neills, the Irish pub in Covent Garden, and see their home team playing a major football match on wide screen. (The sorrows of losing was soon drowned over a few bottles of red and some fabulous food in China town! Boy! The Irish certainly know how to have a good time!)

Sunday morning found us walking past the ice skaters at the Natural History museum

on our way to the brand new steel and glass extension: the Darwin Centre which opened in September in time to celebrate the bicentenary of Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Two hours working our way down through five floors of interactive screens at the numerous information stations, state of the art ‘pod’, was an overwhelming, surreal experience. One couldn’t help but be in awe of the sheer amount of research that goes on there and the vast scale of collections (of over 250 million plant animal and insect species – the largest in the world!) that are stored there.

At the end of our tour we found ourselves in the brand new Attenborough amphitheatre/ lecture hall listening to the exploits (accompanied by fabulous slide-shows and film footage) of the wildlife photographers and film crews, who work, sometimes for months on end, in the remotest regions of the globe into order to capture and record phenomena of the natural world, for David Attenborough’s ‘Life’ series for BBC1. Awe-inspiring stuff again! (Would love to know how one lands a ‘job’ like that!)

After snatching a quick bite, we dashed across London to the ‘Turner and the Masters Exhibition’* at Tate Britain:

It was totally captivating and did much to shed new light on aspects of Turner’s character I was previously unfamiliar with, such as jealousy, rivalry and obsession. These each drove him to ‘copy’ and compete with the likes of Rembrandt, Rubens and Claude and their works are on show alongside Turner’s, inviting debate on whose are the more successful paintings. Learning of Turner’s ruthless ambition and flair for self-promotion, I felt compelled to buy his latest biography, by Peter Ackroyd, one of my favourite authors. It’s a terrific insight to the man – and another literary triumph!

While we were there we also saw this year’s ‘Turner Prize’** entries. Out of the 4 short-listed artists with thought-provoking contemporary installations, competing for this coveted and prestigious award, in this it’s 25th year, my favourite by a mile was ‘untitled’ which consisted of the entire floor of a 50’ room filled with the ash of a jet plane engine – a very moving piece by Roger Hiorns, who is known for instigating mechanical or chemical processes that result in arresting scultptures and installations:

* Turner & the Masters' runs at Tate Britain till 31st Jan. 2010
** 'Turner Prize' runs till 3rd Jan. 2010

The little energy we had left, after all of this sensory overload, saw us home for a quick change and enough of a second wind to dash back across the river to the `South Bank Center’, the venue for the London Jazz Festival, to see one of our favourite artists, singer/songwriter Melody Gardot, in concert. Her music had filled my studio in Greece throughout the summer – so it was quite something to actually see and hear her performing ‘live’.

The next few days, by comparison, were fairly subdued: pottering in the studio, working on the mock-up of the restaurant mural I’ve a commission to paint (after another delay it’s due to start Jan. 4th) and writing, well into the wee hours.

My ‘PAINTING SKIATHOS’ book: A personal vision of Skiathos, as seen through an artist’s eye’, is at long last finished and published! You can seeand shortemed review of it here:

A Vision of Skiathos
By Yvonne Ayoub

I also finished copy-reading another beautiful book ‘Artistic Inspirations 2’, for friend & editor Beth Edwards, founder of 1st Angel Arts Magazine. She’s compiled the latest works of 13 very different artist (including yours truly) and photographers into a large book that would grace any coffee table. You can see a short review of it here: 'Artistic Impressions 2'


Unable to look a computer screen any longer (I'd actually begun to develop tension headaches!) I headed to the airport for a complete change of scenery (a long weekend break, in Moscow). It couldn’t have come at a better time.

Since my early ballet training days, Russia’s held a fascination for me – it was somewhere I always dreamed of visiting but never believed I ever would, growing up as I did during the ‘Cold War’, or could! With a father in the Civil Service, behind the 'Iron Curtain’ was somewhere we were never permitted to visit.

The Maryinksy Theatre (home of Kirov Ballet) in St Petersburg, Diaghilev, the great 20th century impresario and my idols, great artists such as Anna Pavlova, Tatiana Riaboushinska, Tamara Karsavina and Tamara Toumanova (my daughter’s namesakes), The Bolshoi Ballet (which is currently undergoing refurbishment):

Chekov’s plays (all those leisurely, endless summers spent at the daschas, the country houses, tea, tears and triviality permanently on tap, pouring from bottomless Samovars!) and the fine literature of the Russian masters; Gogol's 'Dead Souls', Dostoyevsky's 'Crime & Punishment, Turgenyev, Pushkin, and with the greatest of them all, Tolstoy's 'War & Peace' and the tragic 'Anna Karenina' they had all fired my imagination as an impressionable teenager, filling my head with an idealistic romantic vision, that has never left me, reinforced as it was by films such as 'Dr. Zhivago', 'Nicholas & Alexandra' and 'Anastasia' not forgetting the glamorous figure of Yuri Gagarin; the Russian hero and source of Soviet pride - the first man in space!

Yet there was the other side of course, the dark side, the secret police, the KGB the spy stories, the disappearances; who could not be moved wading through the tomes of Alexandr Solzhinetzyn's great indictment of Soviet Marxism, The Gulag Archipelago. So much was unknown and inaccessible about this beautiful, vast and diversely peopled country for so long. I couldn't quite believe I was actually going to experience it myself!

First impressions during the 2 hour drive from Moscow’s airport into the city, the endless, snow-frosted forests of silver birch trees(exactly as portrayed here by the Russian artist, Valeev:

and the wonderful mix of architecture, the pointed wooden roof tops of the rural villages:

to the grand palaces:

and towering apartment blocks:

They all lived up to my every expectation. Moscow is a magical city. Beautiful, colourful, grand, impressive, vibrant, , surprising and at the same time mysterious, daunting, ominous, cold, austere, forbidding - all words that describe an amazing city full of contradiction and extremes at every turn: the desperately poor barely existing alongside the flamboyance of the fabulously wealthy; the bitter cold of winter and the stifling heat of summer. It is one of the most expensive, if not THE most expensive city in the world. It is steeped in a history that is as triumphant as it is tragic; that is as rich in its cultural heritage and traditions as it is poor in its social responsibility and deprivation; that is as politically aware and ambitious as it is dark, dangerous and deceptive.
In the course of the weekend as well as the usual tourist sights:

Red Square:

St. Basil's cathedral:

Lenin’s tomb:

and the golden onion-shaped domes and iconography of the Orthodox Cathedrals in the Kremlin:

We visited craft markets:

selling everything from antiques (including samovars!):

to Siberian sable & fox furs, art and hand-painted crafts:

and we met friendly smiling faces wherever we went!

I returned home carrying all sorts of mementos; wooden Xmas tree decorations, chocolates, remnants of antique embroidery, old Soviet posters and my most treasured find of all: an original water colour of the beautiful Anna Pavlova:

We ate fabulous food everywhere: Borscht, Blinis with sour cream & caviar, Shashlik and Beef Stroganoff.

We saw a traditional circus complete with clowns, performing seals, leopards and panthers and trapeze artists - a popular event and all round family entertanment that Russian families eagerly and regularly attend together.

By night, we ventured into some of the glossiest hot spots of Exclusive Russian nightlife such as the Soho Rooms:

But for me absolute highlight of the whole trip was a visit to the National Art collection:

where not only could we stand in awe in front of the Kandinski’s:

and Ilya Repins but, joy of joys, there was an exhibition to celebrate the Ballet Russe, comprising of early photographs from the archives, countless displays including the pink satin ballet shoes of Anna Pavolva, set designs and the actual ballet costumes worn by some of the greatest dancers of this century alongside the original paintings of designer Leon Bakst, et al:

We had a absolutely wonderful time and I hope to be able to go back again one day!


Home again and work beckoned. I'd been asked to judge a local art competition at my local pub, 'The Duke of Kendal', on Connaught St. W2 and had been commissioned to paint it myself too. I still had to finish it and set to work Here's the result:


As Christmas looms ever closer, brilliant illuminations are in place once again in Oxford Street & Regent Street are once again teeming with shoppers and day-trippers:

'Winter Wonderland':

complete with ice rink and ferris wheel:
has once again arrived in Hyde Park. Theatre-land is also enjoying record crowds and I battled through some of them yesterday, on my way to the National Theatre in Drury Lane to see a new play that's enjoying much acclaim: 'War Horse':

It is an amazing production and I urge everyone to see it if they ever they get the chance. But be sure take a supply of tissues - it's highly emotional, not least for the incredible life-size horses,fantastically constructed and expertly manipulated by members of the Handspring Puppet Co. They take on a life of their own and are totally believable. It is an immensely moving (story based on the novel, by Michael Morpurgo) about a horse in World War 1. It is a fitting tribute to all the animals who paid the ultimate sacrifice. As the war memorial in London's Park lane, dedicated to them states, 'They Had No Choice:


So that's it, a month in a nutshell!
Oh oh....headache's starting again. I guess it's time to get away from the glare of the screen and get back to the business of making some art.
Keep warm - I'll be back soon!


  1. Wow, how much can you pack in to one month! I am hugely jealous. I really, really wanted to go and see that Turner exhibition, I knew he was quite a character; I studied quite a lot about him whilst in my teens. I must get the book, I am sure I would find it a fascinating read. Sadly, I had one of those winter bugs that took me out for a couple of weeks, coupled with my day job that is soooo busy right now, we have a major project that is keeping me very well occupied. I feel as though I have done nothing in comparison, a book, Russia, loads of exhibitions…!

    It sounds as though you had a lovely time with Mary, I love the painting but I love all of Mary's paintings.
    It seems strange looking at all the Christmas sights of London, such a contrast to the scenes that I see. Glad to hear you are enjoying life…much love to you, your Dad and Mary if she is looking in. Merry Christmas and I wish you a very successful 2010.

    Great photos btw :D

  2. Thanks Chrissy! So sorry to hear you've been under the weather - hope you're OK now. Lovely to hear from you! Yes, it's been a busy and very productive time - now I need a rest! Not much chance of that with Xmas just a week away (and I'm no-where near ready!!!) Anyway, I wish you both a very happy one and a healthy and prosperous New Year.I'll pass your good wishes on to Mary who's arriving tomorrow for a flying visit again. Much love, xxx


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