St. John the Forerunner. Oil on canvas, March 2014.
My Father Christos, sister Eleutheria and Mother Anastasia, Athens 1947.
The earliest influences came from two diverse areas of the arts. The first, inescapable art form, was seen looking down at me from the walls of churches; austere, wise faces, or sometimes beautiful and kind ones looked upon me amongst the undulating voices of the psaltes (cantors, church singers) as they harmonised with the deeper voice of the Orthodox priest. The smell of incense and the fear of being told off, created an additional dimension to the experience. The faces varied from beautifully painted to simple, from smoke aged to brand new shiny golden images, fresh from the iconographer's studio.
The other, less substantial but important influence, which encouraged me to paint as a child, decorating the walls of my room with these weird and wonderful characters, came from far away. The images seemed friendly and familiar, and certainly less austere and frightening than the icons. The influence was cartoons. Walt Disney characters to be precise. They seemed to my young eyes the epitome of great drawing and they were to form the background to my childhood art appreciation. Despite the political inclinations and the artistic integrity of the images which as an adult I can explore and question, it is interesting to note the quality of the movement that Walt Disney studios created.
Of course the most important thing was encouragement. The encouragement of my parents. I distinctly recall their comments when I showed them my attempt at drawing the Parthenon in pen. Their delighted faces and their patient acceptance of the daubs on the bedroom walls were the most significant factor in pursuing any kind of art. During the years of adolescent rebellion and art college, I never somehow lost the need to show them how good I could be. In art and in life in general, despite not having acknowledged it previously, my parents were my greatest admirers, my most fervent supporters (and sometimes critics) and the reason I ever painted seriously.