The holidays are nearly upon us. I confess I’m running late with gift ideas, and very busy finishing some commissions. I make a lot of my own presents, but I also buy from online friends.
I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but what could be a nicer gift than original art? It doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg, either.
Just as a heads up, I’ve updated my Etsy shop, AthensLettersArt, with some small collages. If you’re stuck with ideas for a present for that new baby in the family, or a visiting auntie, take a look. There’s still time for them to arrive before the holidays! I can do gift wrapping, and even framing, if wanted.
AS WINTER SETS IN, and November’s chilly air is broken by the golden rays of the Greek sun (battled by dark thunderstorms), it’s time to hit the streets again (when weather permits), for another art trek. And there’s so much to see around Athens, yet again. Here are ‘10 (+2)’ of the highlights (see also ‘Autumn’s Athenian Art Trek’ for some more options still running):
Art and poetry
The Theocharakis Foundation pays homage to Greek poet and Nobel laureate George Seferis via an outstanding exhibition entitled ‘When the light dances, I speak farely. George Seferis and his poetry via painting and photography’ (November 8-January 21). Curated by Takis Mavrotas, Director of the Art Programme at the Theochorakis Foundation, in collaboration with Panayiotis Roilos – Professor of Modern Greek Studies, and professor of comparative literature in the Departments of the Classics and of Comparative Literature, at Harvard University, who…
In 1900, Greek sponge divers came upon a shipwreck off the island of Antikythera. From a depth of 45 meters they retrieved numerous large artefacts, including bronze and marble statues, pottery, unique glassware, jewellery, coins and various other objects. Among them was a lump of corroded bronze and wood which went unnoticed for two years, while museum staff worked on piecing together the larger statues.
One such was the Antikythera Ephebe, dated 4th century B.C., who now stands in the archaeological museum of Athens.
After some time the above-mentioned ‘lump’ was examined, but investigation led nowhere until 1971, when British science historian and Yale University professor Derek J. de Solla Price and Greek nuclear physicist Charalampos Karakalos thought to use X-ray and gamma-ray images.
They thus discovered the now famous Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek analogue computer and orrery used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendar and astrological purposes. It could also track the four-year cycle of athletic games which was similar (though not identical) to an Olympiad, the cycle of the ancient Olympic Games.
It is a complex clockwork mechanism composed of at least 30 meshing bronze gears.
Since then, underwater excavations have resumed on the wreck, a large 50-meter ship sailing from Asia Minor to Rome in 1BC. This year on 4 October, an international team excavating the site announced that during a 16-day dive season the previous month, they had found several major statue pieces, including two marble feet attached to a plinth, part of a bronze robe or toga, and a bronze male arm, with two fingers missing but otherwise beautifully preserved. A slim build and “turning hand” gesture suggest that the arm may have belonged to a philosopher, according to archaeologists.
Below is a fascinating film of the expedition, giving a glimpse into what it’s like to be a part of such discoveries. Teamwork, bolstered by technology and plain old elbow grease.
I’m happy to report that the kids’ music book for which I drew the illustrations two years ago (I wrote about it here), is finally out. There were a few problems along the way, involving a change of publisher, but I think the final result was worth the wait.
Sia Antonaka and Rubini Metzelopoulou have written a happy and rousing tale of musical shenanigans and there is a CD included, with music and songs.
It was fun seeing how my simple drawings were transformed. Unfortunately, I had no part in the process, which disappointed me since I would have enjoyed it, but there it is.
I would really like to do this again in the future, should the occasion arise (hint, hint – any children’s writers out there).
The book is in Greek, so I cannot recommend it to non-speakers, but for Greeks, it is sold via e-books.gr, as well as in bookstores, such as Tsakalos Stratis and Cambia Books. It will also be distributed to schools.
And should anyone want to contact the authors, their emails are:
As a follow up to my post Old Athens, I thought I’d write a few words about EdwardDodwell (1767 – 1832), an Irish painter, traveller and archaeologist, who travelled widely in Greece, making exquisite paintings in the process.
Edward Dodwell was born in Dublin to an ancient and wealthy Irish family, and studied Classics and Archaeology at Trinity College, Cambridge. Being in possession of a large fortune and free from professional commitments, he dedicated himself to the study of Mediterranean cultures.
Dodwell travelled from 1801 to 1806 in Greece, which was then a part of the OttomanEmpire.
In 1801 he sailed to the Ionian Islands and the Troad with Atkins and the well-known traveller William Gell. In 1805 he visited continental Greece in the company of the painter Simone Pomardi, during which time they produced almost one thousand illustrations. These bring to life a vanished world that, since then, have enchanted European travelers and inspired their passionate pursuit of classical antiquity.
“Almost every rock, everypromontory, every river, is haunted by the shadows of themighty dead,” Dodwell wrote, conveying with aesthetic sensitivity the discovery of each place, the journey of exploration of an unknown landscape; and managing to combine monuments, history, and contemporary life.
Dodwell’s paintings contain an immense wealth of information on Greek public and domestic life during the years before the War of Independence. He was often invited to stay in the houses of prominent Greeks.
Apart from archaeological issues, he wrote about the dances, music and games of the Greeks, as well as about local insects and birds.
His observations are varied – he notes, for example, the presence of a number of black slaves in the town of Patras and elsewhere, writes of Ali Pasha’s extortions, and lists the products peculiar to each region.
Dodwell was in Athens in March 1805, while Lord Elgin’s crews were pillaging the sculptures of the Acropolis monuments.
Dodwell published A Classical and Topographical Tour through Greece (1819); Views inGreece, with thirty colored plates (1821); and Views and Descriptions of Cyclopian orPelasgic Remains in Italy and Greece (1834). These books are still of value to archaeologists today.
He subsequently lived in Naples and Rome, and married a woman thirty years his junior. Unfortunately he caught an illness and died in 1832, while exploring the mountains of Italy. His large archaeological collection, of coins, 115 bronzes and 143 vases, kept for a time in his house in Rome, was later sold to the Munich Glyptothek.
I have not managed to post a lot these last few months – I’ve been super busy with various things, one of which has been finishing a large parrot diptych which was a wedding present for my niece (and goddaughter) – who got married a whole year ago! Shame on me…
Also I could not resist joining in the Inktober challenge, which consists in posting one ink drawing per day, for the whole month of October. There is a list of prompts available for anyone who wants to use them, such as ‘swift’, ‘long’, ‘mysterious’, etc. I was so rushed, I couldn’t be bothered, but then I slightly regretted it – it was so fun seeing the wildly different interpretations people put on the same word. A couple of people even wrote a haiku or limerick to accompany their drawing each day. I wish I could share some of them here, but I have no clue whatsoever on how to link to Instagram.
The point about these challenges is that there are few rules, no obligation to keep up every day, and no prizes. People do it for the fun, just like a writing challenge, and the pleasure consists in the making, and in seeing what others have made, and commenting when one is so inclined. The #inktober2017 hashtag on IG allows you to find these drawings, if anyone is so inclined. Many are wonderful – it is amazing what some people can do using nothing but a cheap ballpoint pen.
Below is my own, rather pathetic, attempt.
Some nights I only really managed a scribble.
I had planned to use the challenge to push myself in perfecting my technique with ink, which is not my strongest point. I was going to watch some YouTube courses, and practice with various mediums, such as wash, dip pens and ballpoint. Sadly, my lack of time meant that I usually ended up making a quick doodle before bedtime. However, I still had fun (mostly looking at other people’s stuff!)
One day I followed the prompt, which was ‘poison’.
Another, I was inspired by some pomegranates I had picked.
And one night when I had more time, I went back to my Greek roots.
I added some gold to pep this little fellow up.
Sheep always make you sleep better!
As does whale song.
Today is the last day, so I made a special effort. These bats were surprisingly difficult to draw upside down (I forced myself not to turn the paper around), and I tried to concentrate on tone and negative spaces. Amazing how bats remind you of vampires, as well as mummies, isn’t it? They were inspired by a wonderful photo by the award-winning wildlife photographer Pedro Jarque Krebs.
Ok, ok, I know they’re spooky, but it is Halloween, and I’ve made a pumpkin already!