A few years ago I decided to create a series of drawings that depicted life on Cyprus as my parents and grandparents knew it . The drawings were my tribute and homage to the old customs and traditions that had existed on the island for hundreds of years. I made a plan to work from old photos (pre-1950) and to depict village life, and of course the rural landscape from that time period and era. I always dedicate a lot of time planning, preparing and researching key topics and areas that I hope to depict in my drawings. This includes gathering reference photos, sourcing inspiration, conducting interviews with members of the Cypriot diaspora (such as my relatives) and of course sketching – lots and lots of sketching. When all my research and development is complete, I sharpen my pencils and begin. I use four main pencil grades, 2H, HB, 2B and 6B and draw on hot-press watercolour paper or illustration board. A typical A3 size drawing may take up to 20 hours to complete. Once the drawing is complete I will scan it into Adobe Photoshop and add the digital colour (this too can take up to 12-20hours). Due to my busy work schedule as a teacher and family commitments, I tend to draw and work during the night, often without sleep. For example, the drawings shown here involved around 25 sleepless nights.
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Below are some recent drawings I have created for Tales of Cyprus.
There are three (3) different versions.
A picturesque coastal town near Kyrenia and Morfou, Lapithos had a large population of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots living together in relative harmony and peace until the political troubles of the 1950s. According to the ancient Greek geographer Strabo, Lapithos was founded by the Spartans however in Assyrian inscriptions, Lapithos is mentioned as one of the eleven Cypriot kingdoms. Undoubtedly, its strategic position and natural beauty were not lost on the ancient inhabitants of the region. This drawing captures the scenic charm that is Lapithos.
Built in the 16th century, Moni Stavrovouniou stands on top of the hill in Larnaca called Stavrovouni. The monastery is one of the few places in the world where you can see a fragment of the Holy Cross or True Cross, which was brought to the island by Saint Helena, Emperor Constantine’s mother, in 170AD. Founded in around 327-329 AD by Saint Helena this monastery is one of the oldest in the world. To local Cypriots Moni Stavrovouniou is an evocative landmark, a constant in their ever-changing world.
Set in the village of Panayia this drawing depicts a typical scene from the past. Here men wearing traditional costume (vrakes) sit at their local village Kafenion (coffee shop) sipping coffee and discussing the daily news. They exchange stories and reminisce about their youthful days. The village of Panayia is named after the Virgin Mary and is famed as the birthplace of the first President of the Republic of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III.
4. Pedra tou Romiou
The foaming waters that lap against these famous rock fragments are said to be the birthplace of the Goddess Aphrodite. Petra tou Romiou or Aphrodite’s Rock is located on an often-windswept section of the Paphos coastline. The pebbles underfoot are uncomfortable to say the least but this unlikely sea stack, with its natural beauty and status in mythology is still one of the proudest local landmarks on the island.
5. Queen’s Window
Saint Hilarion Castle was originally a church built in the 10th century and named after the monk who allegedly chose the site for his hermitage. Situated on the Kyrenia mountain range in Northern Cyprus, its location was soon fortified by the Byzantines who converted the church into a castle as its position provided command of the road from Kyrenia to Nicosia. St Hilarion Castle is the best preserved ruin of the three former strongholds in the Kyrenia mountains, the others being Kantara and Buffavento.
The Queens Window, pictured here, has a breathtaking view of the northern coast of Cyprus, overlooking the city of Kyrenia.
The majestic and noble moufflon or agrino (O. o. Ophion) of Cyprus is one of the two ancestors for all modern domestic sheep breeds around the world. Hunted to near extinction during the 20th century, the once plentiful herds exist now only in captivity. A natural inhabitant of the steep mountainous woodlands of the island, this silent, strong and surefooted beast exemplifies the rugged yet determined spirit of the Cypriot people.
The mountainous village of Kakopetria lies on the north facing foothills of the Troodos in Central Cyprus. Famed for its uneven stony walkways and paths, Kakopetria (meaning bad rocks) lives up to its name. Standing at an altitude of 667 meters above sea level it is the highest village in the Solea Valley, but this is no problem for its inhabitants who negotiate its narrow rocky laneways with ease and confidence. Here, an old woman (stede) navigates her way back home through familiar surroundings.
8. The Water Carrier
This drawing is dedicated to a simpler time in Cyprus, before modern conveniences, when young village maidens would fetch water in clay jugs from nearby natural springs or subterranean wells. While the maiden’s dress is slightly tattered revealing a life of labor, her calm face tells a different story of peace and serenity.
9. Chobani Resting
This picture depicts the humble shepherd or chobani. Once a common sight in Cyprus of old, this chobani rests peacefully beneath an ancient olive tree with a few loyal goats for company, while his trustworthy donkey keeps watch. Soon, before the sun sets, he will fill his baskets with olives and head back down the hill to return to his grazing flock. The olives will be pressed on the old stone mill or perhaps preserved in jars of salt to be served one day with warm oven-baked bread.
10. The Potters
Dedicated to the skilled potters of Kornos village in Larnaca this scene depicts an important family tradition. Clay pottery manufacture has been a central component of Cypriot life for thousands of years stretching back to the Neolithic period. The village of Kornos has managed to preserve the tradition of pottery making, for which it is now best known. The shape, size and type of pottery made are according to the use they will have. Besides the giant storage jars or pitharia, there are the medium-sized water pots or kouzes and big, open pots for frying called satzia, amongst others.
11. Baking Bread
There is no greater taste than the food produced in a fourno or wood-fired oven. The use of these large beehive shaped ovens is an ancient tradition in Cyprus and many family homes had an oven built by a master craftsman. The task of firing the oven and loading it necessitated a communal effort, especially around the time of great feast days like Easter where delicious flaounes, tavas and kelftiko would be prepared to share with the whole village. But it is in the preparation and baking of daily bread that the fourno was most important.
Kyrenia is by far, the most picturesque seaside harbour in all of Cyprus with a long and interesting history dating back to the end of the Trojan War. From its early days of settlement, Kyrenia’s commerce and maritime trade benefited enormously from its proximity to Asia Minor. Boats sailing from the Aegean islands traveled along the Asia Minor coast and then crossed over the short distance to the northern shores of Cyprus to reach the two city kingdoms of Lapithos and Kyrenia. In this drawing we see local fishermen at the end of a long day passing on their maritime advice to some young boys at the harbour.
Here are some of my paintings that once again depict life in Cyprus and some popular landmarks.