I'm starting to get itchy feet and hear those voices whispering again, the ones that tell me my little white Greek island house is calling me back. Spring must be in the air:

Photo courtesy of Mary Dillon © 2010

After the frantic city life I've lived these past few months, I'm longing to change gear now and begin slowing down again. I can't wait to breathe in some healthy, fresh salt sea air, instead of London's choking traffic fumes.  I'm more than ready to exchange the incessant pushing and  shoving of the thronging babbling crowds of this metropolis (exciting as it is despite its unrelenting 'noise'!) for some peace - and the opportunity to seek out my muse again and just paint in quiet solitude.

Ooh. Just the thought of it makes me anxious to return, to take long walks up in the hills and to be there to witness the first signs of spring; the anemones and asphodels that are surely ready by now to burst forth in their annual glory. Skiathos is so beautiful in the Springtime, carpeted in wildfowers, throughout  meadows and olive groves, fresh and intensely green - it really has to be seen to be believed:

 'Olive Grove in Springtime' © Yvonne Ayoub 2010

Just eight more days and I'll be on my way....

Time passes so quickly here in the city, perhaps because there's always so much to do and to keep up with ('pressure', yes, that's the word, unrelenting pressure!) whereas on the island, where life is so much simpler, the days appear to be much longer. In London I feel as though life is a futile race, one I'm obliged to enter despite the constant reminders that it's one I'll never win - and with so much that I still want to do,  that's a very real source of frustration. I spend most of my time here running around in circles but getting nowhere very fast and actually achieving very little. To make matters worse, I all too often catch sight of that frazzled, unfamiliar middle-aged woman with a deeply furrowed brow, in a shop window before the realisation dawns that it's actually me! Yes, me, dashing here and there, running on overdrive yet achieving very little in the process.

Well that's not strictly true.  The winter months are the ones I devote to catching up with family and friends which is always lovely and never long enough.....and it's also when I begin setting up for the year ahead: marketing, editing, maintaining my websites, advertising, printing, making new contacts and, time consuming as all that is (and a necessity these days for all artists), I do try to fit in some painting too!

Regular readers will know I had a commission lined up - a large wall mural of Tuscan poppy fields, for a London restaurant. Well, I'm sorry to say the job fell through at the eleventh hour (the owner decided to use wall paper instead)  I had spent considerable time on preparing a mock-up and was really looking forward to scaling it up (to 9 x 6 metres!):

 'Tuscan Poppy Fields' © Yvonne Ayoub 2010

So I can't say I wasn't very disappointed but hey ho... win some, lose some, C'est la vie......I guess.

But 'It's an ill wind......' as they say in Scotland and sure enough, a few days later I received an invitation to submit some work for consideration for an International Art Exhibition in Beirut, Lebanon. Organised by the Faculty of Architecture, Art & Design and the Notre Dame University (NDU). The 'Lebanese Diaspora' was to be the subject and being a topic close to my heart (with my husband being Lebanese) I threw myself into producing a painting that reflected my passion for his country and its people. This was the result:

'L'Esprit du Liban' © Yvonne Ayoub 2010
acrylics on canvas, 102cm x 76cm

and in case you're wondering what it is, this was the accompanying statement:

"This is a large painting of a small but very special piece of traditional Lebanese craftwork I purchased on my first visit to Lebanon in the spring of 1974, just before the outbreak of civil war. It has accompanied us on our travels, across many continents, for more than thirty-five years.

For my Lebanese husband it represents home, his people, the young boy he left behind. It’s a bit rough and ready but nevertheless thoughtfully, if haphazardly, stitched together, the colourful fabric: generations of lives inter-twined, bound by threads and woven inextricably to complete the whole: the family. Not worth much in monetary terms, yet rich with memories and love beyond measure.

Memories of his large extended family, deafening voices demanding to be heard as they gathered around a table laden with dishes of sumptuous delights, all lovingly prepared by his mother, sister and aunts working away in unison at the kitchen table; kneading dough, chopping parsley, squeezing lemons, crushing garlic and chattering, ladling and laughing, peeling and pounding – delicious sounds, delicious smells, permeating through pores, through doors, out into the street.

Memories of rainy days, filling buckets to the brim with tiny, shiny, slippery snails hand-picked from under the lemon trees, soaked to the skin, drenched but all discomfort dispelled by thoughts of the feast that would follow…. and sunny days, ice-cream days, sand in the toes and salty sea days. Sipping ‘Jallab’ through the pine nuts days.

Memories of fetching ‘Menakeesh’, piping hot from the bakery, nostrils filled with the comforting aromas of warm bread and sweet thyme (and hoping no-one would notice the one with the corner missing when he got home!)
Ah, happy days……
And the not so happy days: the thick smoke–clogged days, filled with black skies and white fear, days of running for cover, of cowering in basements, fumbling around blindly in the blackouts, days of aching hunger and hurt, thirsty days, days of waiting, of worrying, of weeping…….of wailing…..endless days of praying………..for the bombing to stop….for it all to end.

For far too many, it did.

For me, an ‘Ajnabeeyeh’, it represents all that I’ve come to learn about the Lebanese people: their vibrancy, their unequalled generosity and hospitality, their jaw-jutting defiance, their indefatigable humour, and how, just like their beloved county, they are full of contradiction. Their immense capacity for love and anger, for pleasure and pain, proud as peacocks yet humble as pie, flashy and gaudy yet supremely elegant. Even during the bleakest of times, somewhere the chic-est parties were in full swing. When days were darkest, their luminescence, their strength and endurance, shone brightest, and when all seemed lost? Well, they’d just pick themselves up and start all over again!

My painting is to show that even in the darkest of blacks, the vibrancy, the very soul of this unquashable nation will continue to shine in all its glorious, colourful splendour! It will survive! This is ‘L’Esprit du Liban!’

© Yvonne Ayoub 2010"

I was delighted when I heard it had been accepted and I'm immensely proud to think that between March 15th and April 4th, it will be hanging in Beirut City Centre! (Beirut Exhibition Center - Biel Entrance)
I've also had some smaller commissions, which I've really enjoyed doing,  paintings for wedding invitations such as this one of a church in Cyprus, where the ceremony will be held later in the year:

Aghios Georgos, Paphos © Yvonne Ayoub 2010
My dear artist friend, Mary Dillon, crossed the Irish sea and visited me on a couple of occasions and once again, together we did the rounds of the latest gallery offerings. We both particularly enjoyed the 'The Real Van Gogh, the Artist and his Letters' at the Royal Academy.

 It is such a beautifully curated and well-researched exhibition and his intimate letters, displayed alongside many of his less familiar works, was totally enlightening. It provides a completely new insight into the troubled artist we had both studied in the past, proving just how mistaken we were, in thinking we already knew all there was to know about him. How wrong were we! If you happen to be in London, I urge you to see this one, if you get the chance.

Vincent Van Gogh
Self Portrait as an artist, January 1888
Oil on canvas, 65.2 x 50.2 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
(Vincent Van Gogh Foundation)

After treating ourselves to a lunch at the Wolseley, a favourite of restaurant of mine, just across the road on Picadilly:

Where I was reminded of a portait I had painted of my Mother following our last visit together there,

  'Mother at the Wolseley' © Yvonne Ayoub
 oil on canvas, 80cm x 60cm

We wound our way back through 'Shepherd Market' - one of my favourite 'hidden' corners of London that holds many happy memories for me. It is maze of narrow streets, tucked away directly behind where my old Ballet school, The Arts Educational Trust, stood at 144 Picadilly (until it hit the headlines for being over-run by squatters before being demolished to make way for the new Intercontinental Hotel which still stands today on Hyde Park Corner) and it is where, as a young student, in the 'swinging sixties', I had a part-time job in a very trendy boutique, called 'Garbo's'.
I spent many a long Sunday afternoon in there chatting to local residents who dropped in to pass the time while waiting for their big breaks into show business. Names such as Barry Humphries (Dame Edna), Simon Dee (remember him?) and the girls who made up Prince Charles' favourite goup, the 'Three Degrees'. Ah....... Happy Days!
The building is still there but my little shop is long gone. In its place today, is a pizza restaurant.

Wandering through the narrow streets we came upon a small gallery where three very different artists were showing their work :

South London artist, Stewart Ganley, graduated from the Hammersmith College of Art and, after joining the Merchant Navy and travelling around the world, he  worked for many years as a medical artist at Charing Cross Hospital.  He began teaching art in adult education and also runs classes and painting courses in France. He has work in private collections in Italy, Hungary and the UK. In 2009 he was awarded the Tom Money Prize for painting.
He works in oils and his wonderfully vibrant, loose, paintings are very atmospheric, perfectly depicting London Street scenes in our typically bad, drizzly, rainy weather.
You can see more of his work at : www.stewartganley.co.uk

  © Pravin Bhalla

Pravin Bhalla is a graduate from the Chelsea School of Design with a B. A. in Sculpture. He exhibits his beautiful bronzes in both India and the UK. He uses tribal casting techniques from the central regions of India, pouring molten bronze into terracotta moulds: the lost wax process, powered using natural resources in the Bastar, Indian tribal tradition. In Europe he has worked extensively on Art Nouveau restoration projects. You can contact him at : sculptorb@yahoo.com

Finally, Andrew Aarons FRSA, is an English/Canadian artist, painter and printmaker. He was showing a wonderful collection of works portraying music and musicians at work. One particular painting that caught my eye was his portrait of his son, a clarinetist. His fine work can be found on his official website: www.andrewaaronsart.com/

With the final stage of my building work in Greece to get underway (at last!), I am keen to get back and make ready for a new season of painting courses ahead. I also have another UNESCO Exhibition to prepare for in April and will post the details shortly.
On a final note, I have had many requests for prints and Greetings cards of my Skiathos (and other) paintings to be available in the UK ( thus avoiding the hefty shipping costs from my US sites). so I thought I'd better mention, just in case you missed it, that I'm happy to announce my UK Art Store is now open and although not complete, more work is added everyday.
Please feel free to drop by at: zazzle.co.uk/yvonneayoub*
and do say hello (or leave a comment ) if you do:

Thanks and keep warm!


  1. You did manage to do lots of things, and enjoyable ones, too, AND you wrote about them extensively. I wouldn't beat myself up if I were you. And thank you for so many interesting pointer as to what to do in London when you've got nothing else on. (Yeah, as if!)

    Have a great time on your little island, may the Greek financial fiasco pass you by, and hope to see you the next time you hit the metropolis. :-)

  2. London has always been the place I wanted to see since I followed the Beatles when I was young. I admire the fact that you keep a running itinerary open about such a vibrant and classic city. The fact that Londoners are so close to the Royal Family and the Queen Elizabeth, Piccadilly square, Shakespeare, The Royal Ballet and chips and bangers. The art of London is as staid as portraits of King Henry the Eighth and Queen Bess the first or as wild as the sixties and now as abstract as Gina Bold. To tell you the truth I prefer your art because it is kinder and gentler. The little bit of art I saw on your website really romances the eyes. You have a soft, dreamy and elegant art style . I admire the Grecian art work on the site. The one island that I hope to visit someday is Santorini. I love the photos of whitewashed buildings eclipsed against a blazing curealian blue sky. There’s so much intense beauty on this earth. Thanks for bringing us a little chunk of heaven

  3. To 'Anonymous'.
    Thank you so much for your lovely and generous comments, they're very much-appreciated (just wish you'd left a name.....)


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