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What I did on my holidays in Symi

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After this week of record temperatures during which I’ve mostly been standing around on hot asphalt – where it was 52°C – wearing a plastic hat, man made trousers, reflective jacket and gloves, I found myself thinking back to May this year when I was on holiday with my wife on the beautiful Greek island of Symi.

Symi is about two hours by boat from Rhodes. You arrive at Gialos harbour which is surrounded on all sides by pastel-coloured neoclassical Italian-style houses. The island used to be known for sponge diving and building wooden ships but now the main source of income is tourism.  You can find out more about Symi on the Visit Greece website

I guess we’ve been to Symi about six times. Symi has beautiful beaches only accessible by boatWe love it there because it is so peaceful, the food is delicious and the people are very friendly. It can get a bit busy in the day with island hopping tourists dropping in, so we usually take Captain Yanis’s taxi boat to one of the more isolated beaches and tavernas. In the evenings, it’s really nice just to chill with a drink or two, down by the harbour and watch the people coming and going as the sun goes down.

Evenings spent drawing, drinking and watching the world go byAnd of course there is plenty of time to sit on the beach and draw.

We went to Symi in May this year and after all the excitement of the Liberty London fabric design competition, I was moving away a bit from drawing ‘Small Towns’ and trying a few new designs featuring flowers, fruit and veg.

Symi has has plenty of the above – wild oregano, thyme and dill, olive groves, figs, juniper, citrus trees, pomegranates and a host of plants such as jasmine and hibiscus, that are a lot more difficult to find in the Gravesend Riverarea.  And once I’d run out of new ideas in the flora department, well I drew the beach!


I drew the beach at SymiI drew the beach at Symi

I only took pen and paper with me: no colours. So, lately, when I’ve got a while, I’ve been finishing them off. Not all of them have been coloured in yet and not all of them are in my Gallery yet, but I’ll be adding them as soon as they are finished and when Roger has photographed them for me. I have had some of them photographed in black and white for a possible colouring book project I’ve got im mind. Otherwise, the photos in this blog are mainly just from my phone.

There are small olive groves dotted about the landscape on Symi. The olives ripen in late October or early November. Because Symi is so dry, few people have water to irrigate their olives. Symi used to import all its water by boat from neighbouring Rhodes – it still imports some in busy periods. But now a new desalination plant means that the island is more self-sufficient in water and there is a new by-product – Symi sea salt!

Drawing olives on the beach in Symi

Olives Symi

Pomegranates are grow on the island. Pomegranate trees like olive, fig and citrus trees are usually grown by families in small gardens for their own use. They then pool olives to produce olive oil. Here is a photograph of a baby pomegranate and a picture I drew. I’ve sold the original drawing but prints are available here

Baby pomegranate SymiPomegranates

















(These citrus pictures are in the Gallery


Figs SymiFigs Symi


Hibiscus Symi

Hibiscus Symi

And gin in its natural (and more usual) habitat……

Gin in its natural habitat Juniper SymiEvening ginand tonic Symi

All the food on Symi is influenced by what is available locally seafood, goat, lamb, lemons, tyme, coriander, juniper and so on.  We love the Symi shrimp – one of the specialites of the island …oh and lemon potatoes…. stuffed vegetables…!

I’m toying with the idea of running a one week art workshop on Symi if there is enough interest. There is a really good venue Villa Poseidon in Yialos on Symi (pictures below). It has a large downstairs workshop/gallery space and two double bedrooms upstairs. The owner also has other accomodation available nearby. If you are interested in taking part in a workshop, drop me a line via the contacts tab on this site. 

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Heart of Darkness revisited: Some lino prints

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While I was adding some more pictures to my gallery a couple of weeks ago, I came across a series of lino prints that I did for a local art project in 2017, based around Joseph Conrad’s book Heart of Darkness.

Heart of Darkness begins aboard the British ship, Nellie, which is anchored in the Thames, near Gravesend. As the crew wait for the weather to clear, one of the sailors, Marlow, tells the story of the time that he travelled in a steamboat up the River Congo. He describes his shock at the European traders’ treatment of the natives and how the experience of trading in Africa changes people. He relates what he has learnt about the darkness of the human heart, and the things of which that darkness is capable.

In Chapter One, Conrad describes the scene from the ship, Nellie, looking up the river towards London.

Chapman Light on the Thames features in Chapter 1 of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
Chapman Light – limited edition lino print

The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appear along the shore. The Chapman light-house, a three-legged thing erect on a mud-flat, shone strongly. Lights of ships moved in the fairway—a great stir of lights going up and going down. And farther west on the upper reaches the place of the monstrous town was still marked ominously on the sky, a brooding gloom in sunshine, a lurid glare under the stars.

I’ve done a lino print of the Chapman Lighthouse, separately from the Heart of Darkness project.

The 2017 Heart of Darkness art project, hosted by St Andrews Arts Centre in Gravesend, was organised by Terry Lane, who I used to work with back in the day.  It featured excerpts read from the book, accompanied by projected images and live music composed specially for the event . The bands involved were The Closer We are to Dying (Terry’s band) Whthppnsfpshthtbttn?, The Bleak Industrialists and The Science Department, and the projections were produced by Mike and Romana from The Hot Tin through their company Routestock

The boat anchored on the Thames at the start of Conrad's Heart of Darkness
Boat – limited edition lino print

Several local artists, including me, provided artwork, inspired by scenes from the book. Others involved were Matt Kilda, Jane Prangnell, Mark Wrangham and Nikki Price.

Mental health is a key theme in Heat of Darkness and the show was produced in association with North Kent MIND, with all ticket money donated to them.

If you missed it, these You Tube clips give a flavour of the event.

If you’ve read the book you’ll know that, as well as being an adventure story, Heart of Darkness is bleak. It explores thenes of greed, cruelty and humanity, and raises troubling questions about imperialism. It is said that Conrad made the book deliberately hard to read. He wanted the reader to feel as though they were fighting through the jungle, just like Marlow did in search of the desperate and deranged ivory trader Kurtz.

My pictures, all lino cuts for the project, focused mainly on the weird and the macabre in the book, plus a couple of others on a maritime theme.

Maps and charts use for navigation up the Congo in Conrad's Heart of Darkness
Chart table – limited edition lino print

As a boy, Marlow, the storyteller in Heart of Darkness, was fascinated by maps and longed to be an explorer. After several years sailing in the Pacific he returns to London, and inspired by a map of Africa and the Congo River that he sees in a shop window, he takes a job as a steamboat pilot and sets off into Africa dreaming of adventure.

River Congo described as a snake in Conrad's Heart of Darkness
Snake – limited edition lino print

But Marlow’s comparison of the river to a coiled snake is a portent of the evil he would later encounter.

But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land. And as I looked at the map of it in a shop-window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird – a silly little bird.

Marlow soon realises that his employer, ‘the company’, is in the Congo for gain and to spread European ideals. ‘The company’ say they are ’emissaries of light’, but what Marlow sees are ‘groves of death’.

Images - Conrad's Heart of Darkness
Heads – Limited edition lino print
Death and decay in Conrad's Heart of Darkness
Skeletons – limited edition lino print









Heads on sicks at the climax of Conrad's Heart of Darkness
Heads on sticks – limited edition lino print


The heads on sticks appear at the end of the book and symbolise Kurtz, the ivory trader’s, excessive brutality and madness.

Now I had suddenly a nearer view, and its first result was to make me throw my head back as if before a blow. Then I went carefully from post to post with my glass, and I saw my mistake. These round knobs were not ornamental but symbolic; they were expressive and puzzling, striking and disturbing—food for thought and also for vultures if there had been any looking down from the sky; but at all events for such ants as were industrious enough to ascend the pole. They would have been even more impressive, those heads on the stakes, if their faces had not been turned to the house. Only one, the first I had made out, was facing my way. I was not so shocked as you may think. The start back I had given was really nothing but a movement of surprise. I had expected to see a knob of wood there, you know. I returned deliberately to the first I had seen—and there it was, black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids—a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole, and, with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling, too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber.

I was interested to find out that the film Apocalypse Now  was based on the Heart of Darkness, but set in the jungles of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It explores the ways in which the ‘darkness’ of Vietnam caused an apocalypse in the hearts of those sent there to fight, just as the ‘darkness’ of the Congo revealed the darkness in the hearts of the European traders.

My Heart of Darkness  limited edition lino prints are available to buy in my gallery

Boat –
Chart table –
Heads –
Skeletons –
Heads on sticks –