Greece, with its breathtaking landscape, culture, mythology, and history, has been the main inspiration for the stunning paintings created by acclaimed American artist Pamela Jane Rogers since she first arrived on the Aegean in 1982.
"I still am captured by, and attempt to capture with my paints, the beauty of nature, the life, and the light here on Poros island and other areas in Greece, as well as painting during my travels abroad," says Pamela who is also the author of GREEKSCAPES Illustrated Journeys with an Artist, a wonderful memoir of an emotional life journey that led her to eventually calling Greece home.
Pamela's work has been featured in corporate and private collections in the US, the Far East, and Europe, including the British Royal Collection, and her paintings have been exhibited worldwide, winning Pamela numerous awards and accolades throughout the years.
Born in North Carolina, Pamela studied art, become a teacher and also worked in interior design before packing her bags and deciding to follow her dreams, close to 30 years ago.
The gifted artist recently spoke to GCTabout her island life, painting, writing, and passion for Greece
Tell us about your upbringing in the US and your studies?
Before Greece, I lived in North Carolina, USA, from the western mountains to the eastern coast. Along with painting, I worked as an art teacher, art history lecturer, interior decorator, art consultant, and art tour director. My Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, followed by life drawing courses at the New York Art Students League and two residencies at the Vermont Studio Colony.
When did your passion for art begin?
From the time I became aware, I made images like most children do – on the walls if I didn’t have paper! I attribute my very early art education to my great aunt, who intuited correctly that I enjoyed art more than anything else. My work through the years has varied from representational to abstract.
How would you describe your pieces?
Although I’ve never tried to adopt a ‘style’, I adore the work of Greek artist, Panayotis Tetsis. My search to get to the soul of whatever I’m painting at the time influences the medium I use, whether mixed media, oil or acrylic. My best-known genre is ‘en plein air’ with watercolour, although I also work in my studio on larger canvas pieces. I’ve had gallery representation in North Carolina for the past 35 years and exhibitions on Poros through the years. My private studio is open for visitors with an arranged appointment.
Did you have Greek friends in the US and what were your expectations (if any) before visiting the Aegean?
Yes, I did have Greek friends. The beloved Mayor of Morehead City when my family lived there was Greek. His daughter Niki has visited me on Poros on the way to her ancestral island of Symi. My first summer job as a teen was at a Greek family’s beachwear shop at Atlantic Beach. As their entire family would move from town to their shop for the summer, they were always offering me Feta, olives, cheese and spinach pies, Moussaka, or whatever they had made for the day. The Davarises were generous people, full of laughter in the midst of also working hard. Mr. Gus taught me how to add prices ‘in my head’ too, so in retrospect, they may well have prepared me for life in Greece.
When did you first travel to Greece and what led to your decision to call Poros home?
In September 1984 I came to Greece with Jaquelin Jenkins’ art group to paint on Skiathos for two weeks. Begrudgingly I returned to my life in NC, yet my heart stayed in Greece. I returned to paint on other islands over the next seven years. October 1, 1989: my art group returned to the States and I was on the ferry to check out Hydra for the next year’s art group. While reading Seferis’ poems, I decided to hop off on Poros to paint at the Villa Galini for a few hours. However, the sea became wild, the next ferry was cancelled, and I stayed on Poros. After three days the sea was calm for the trip to Hydra. I’d met wonderful people on Poros, visited the Museum, Poseidon’s Sanctuary, the Monastery, charming Galatas and Ancient Troizen – even happened upon the villa I wanted to rent for the next year. Of course, Hydra is a lovely island and I do enjoy painting there still, yet I’d already found ‘my serenity’ on Poros.
How would you describe your island life?
The island life has been ideal for me for nearly 30 years! Poros is filled with landscapes so varied that I’ll always have subjects begging to be painted. I love our island community here, the visitors who return year after year, the plethora of talented musicians and dancers, the local food... yes, it’s a small island, yet there is always something going on, and the Peloponnese is a 4-minute water-taxi or ferry away.
How are you with speaking the Greek language?
Although I do speak, write, and understand Greek much of the time, I’m very disappointed that my proficiency is not better. After nearly 30 years, I’m still struggling with the grammar, accents, and colloquialisms! I know I miss a lot in conversations, and I’m thankful to have English speaking Greek, Dutch, German and other friends who are kind enough to translate for me when necessity calls.
Tell us more about your memoirs?
In 2007 when the financial crisis hit Greece hard, and the defamatory label ‘those lazy Greeks’ hit my ears, I was fuming. Why my first poem came to me as a whisper from the Aegean sea and I owe the second glorious half of my life to Greece! What could I do to dispel that absurd myth? I could write my story about finding Greece by way of art, the gracious hard working people I live with, and the delightful results of following my heart. Telling my individual truth was my small way to honor this country, my mentor and others who have helped me onward in my creative journey, and to encourage young people to follow their hearts’ best desires.
What can people expect from your books?
There are actually two books: one illustrated with 40 of my paintings, and the other is just the story. It hasn’t been available in Greece bookstores yet, but it’s available online through Barnes and Noble and Amazon. The illustrated book is also in Kindle format, which offers 100 paintings (without the hefty price of the book). From the reviews, artists and writers can identify with the search for self-expression and finding their place, and people who are stuck in a life that doesn’t suit their needs may gain the confidence to choose another path, as I did.
What do you find most inspiring about Greece?
I’m an idealist, which may be obvious to you by now! From the ancient Parthenon to the modern Acropolis Museum – sheep in a pasture - goats on rocky paths – wildflowers – caiques - simple villas – so many sights in and around Greece can inspire me to paint. I’m inspired by the authenticity and the human scale of Greece. I have also experienced ‘philotimo’ here many times, even as the people struggle on bravely to make ends meet: love of honor inspires me, and the Greek people I know are abundantly rich in their hearts and souls with philotimo.
What is your favourite time of year on the island?
For me, every season of the year in Greece has its unique charms : winter months allow more reflective pursuits, reading and studio painting, and the delightful olive harvesting; spring is alive with growth of Hope and color returning to the landscape; summer for the lightness, re-opening of tavernas, visitors from everywhere, swimming in the sea, community activities like music and art festivals. In August, when it’s too hot to paint outdoors and the island becomes quite crowded, my husband and I enjoy less-crowded Athens. But you asked my favourite of all? With warmed seas and fresh breezes giving new energy after the heat of the summer, autumn is the optimum time for my en plein air painting. I first fell in love with Greece and had my ‘epiphany’ during an enchanting late September. Yes, the autumn is my favourite.
What are you are currently working on?
Presently I’m finishing paintings from my May trip to Giverny before I return to my Poros paintings. This past winter I started designing fashions with my paintings for shopVIDA, a global impact company, and that’s an ongoing daily treat. My fashion designs are also called GREEKSCAPES, like my memoir: I made up the word ‘greekscapes’ years ago to describe my work for a solo exhibition in the US. My next book genre will be a historical novel about Poros after the Independence years. The manuscript is still in the early stages, as I continue researching the hidden (or forgotten) historical data.