A painter and a writer met, fell in love, and then built a dream to create the Sigri Arts Retreat, each teaching the art that expresses them most and that has brought their life meaning. Here we discover their journey and what they are discovering along the way.
In search of the Muse
By Tomas Watson
It started in 1994, in Astypalaia. I had been awarded an 8-month scholarship to paint in Greece after graduating from the Slade in London. I needed sun and simplicity and chose to live there through that Winter. It was beautiful, stark, remote, and very macho in those days but somehow never became my muse.
A second scholarship took me to Nisyros, powerful, volcanic, lush, and dramatic. I stayed here for 6 years. The painting that won the BP award in 1998, was based on an old, brightly- painted, Dodecanesian kitchen. Nisyros was always inspiring and always frustrating…
Next stop was Andros. Here I stayed for 16 years. Andros was an easy island to live in, it was bigger and greener, with freshwater springs everywhere, but it never quite became my muse.
In 2017 I moved to the capital. I love the energy of downtown Athens, the beauty of the ruins and old buildings, and am fortunate to be living in Plaka, a stone’s throw from my studio in Thisseio.
The search for the muse ended in 2020 when I first set eyes on Sigri in Lesvos. I knew immediately that this was the place I had been waiting for. It is at once vast and imposing and yet intimate and tiny. It is sensuous and alluring, with feminine curves formed out of masculine volcanic rock. The nearby islands create bays which reflect the changing colours of the setting sun. Here I discovered a true desire to paint the landscape
Follow Tomas Watson on Instagram @tomas.watson
Sigri, A Gem for Creativity
By Efrosini (Cindy) Camatsos
I wear different hats. Academic scholar. Writer of fiction. Professor of literature. Manager of a boutique hotel. Most recently: beekeeper!
I think this partly has to do with the varied settings of my childhood. My parents are both Greek, from Lesvos, but I was born and grew up in Mississippi (the subject of my second novel). Summers were spent in Lesvos. I didn’t blink as I transitioned from neatly packaged milk from the Piggly Wiggly in America, to jugs of fresh goat’s milk delivered to my grandmother’s house every morning by the local shepherd.
Creating has always been central for me. Creating books, articles, a classroom environment, a summer program, Hyphenology, which was an academic / community service / cultural immersion two-week program for teenagers.
It was during the program’s first year that I saw the universal appeal of Sigri. I had organised it so that we would be in the main town of Mytilene, with a long weekend in Sigri. I thought teenagers would get bored in Sigri. What was there to do but swim and star-gaze? No bars, one kafeneio (old-style), three seaside tavernas. I was shocked when they wanted to stay longer in Sigri. The following year, I did one-week/one-week, and again, the feedback I got was that they would have preferred the whole thing to be in Sigri! The third year, I moved the entire program to Sigri, with a long weekend elsewhere. Why Sigri appealed to me as a writer was clear; but, what did teenagers find in Sigri?
I began to think about what it was that Sigri offered. People, regardless of age, nationality, or interests, are inundated (and exhausted) by cities. They crave the simple life, pared down to its bare necessities. Life without the distractions that a city conjures to keep its citizens numb. Life that is in tune with nature, where one’s energy sets with the sun and rises with the birds. Life that takes the exhaustion of the city and replaces it with self-nurture and harmony. Where one’s soul has space to breathe.
Having brought about this balance, creativity can flourish. This is the reason I am so excited about developing the Arts Retreats here with Tomas. I have seen the effects Sigri has on my own creativity, and more recently, his. I want to share this with others who want to tap into theirs.
Follow Sigri Arts Retreat on Instagram @sigriartsretreat