Like rainbows and bubbles, this is an idea which is almost impossible to explain in writing: we could dither around with phrases such as ‘half-landscape’, ‘snapshot’, and ‘overlay’ for hours without anyone being any the clearer. Fortunately, you can see the images themselves: the richly glorious end product from sketchingcy…
The Instagram handle (and Facebook page) of Eleana Chrysanthou Petoussi, sketchingcy has been running for just nine months now, but is already one of Cyprus’ in-the-making social media success stories. The simplicity of the concept, coupled with the universal appeal of the subject matter, makes for a wonderful viewing experience; many of the A5 watercolours are instantly recognisable as the landscapes and architecture of Cyprus: Aphrodite’s Rock, the Archbishop’s Palace, the backstreets of old Nicosia. And though others are, perhaps, less familiar, those cerulean seas, flowered fields, and silvered olive trees nevertheless epitomise the island.
“The concept of sketchingcy is based on a combination of both painting and photography of the urban and natural landscapes of Cyprus,” explains Elena. “The general idea is to paint and sketch in different places, and then take photos of the artworks in location. I think it’s a sort of creative approach to familiar places which makes this project both unique and likeable,” she adds.
Describing her art as “creative, original, and consistent with quality,” Elena has been painting Cyprus all her life. Even her thesis and Master’s compositions – completed at the Moscow State Academic Art Institute – adhered to the theme: three summer landscapes of the island’s golden fields, and a final nine-metre work on the theme of the Four Seasons of Cyprus.
Today, a busy mother and art teacher at private school in Nicosia, and a frequent solo exhibitor at various local galleries, Elena continues her love affair with the island through sketchingcy, even though it’s often difficult to find the time!
“Once you get older, your personal time seems to vanish!” Elena laughs. “We find the time for everything else, for our jobs and kids, but we forget about doing those simple things we once loved. That’s where sketchingcy comes in: it’s allowed me to do something of and for myself, practise my ideas all in one project. And, by using watercolours and smaller canvases, each piece can be completed pretty quickly.”
In just half an hour or so, Elena can finish a piece, which is then ready to be photographed against the backdrop by which it was inspired. “The first sketch I did on this concept was last June when my husband and I both took a day off from our work routine and hit the road… We ended up at Fig Tree Bay and, while my husband finally found time to start reading a book, I began to sketch the view because I wanted to remember that special day. When I finished, I took a photo of it and spontaneously matched the real horizon with the one on paper. Later that day, I posted this photo on my personal Instagram account and, unexpectedly, it found great support!” Sketchingcy had begun and, by the end of July, the idea of a project promoting Cyprus through art was a reality!
Today, with more than 8,000 followers on Instagram, Eleana’s “memories” are a hit with audiences both local and international. “I call them memories because that’s what they are,” she smiles, explaining that each is an instant of time. “I work mostly on location, out in the open, capturing the details of the natural and urban scenery of Cyprus: the light, the colours, the textures, the flowers and trees, the different blues of the sky and how they reflect onto the sea, the greens of the fields, the changes of each season. I love the old houses of Cyprus, the varying regional architecture, and I have a passion for old doors and windows, hand-painted tiles, and the little alleyways of old stone villages.”
Painting mostly at the weekend while on family road trips, Eleana enjoys the open-air, public-eye experience. “I’ve lived away from Cyprus for seven autumns, seven winters and seven springs, and being abroad made me appreciate what I left behind! Cyprus is so unique, so different from every other country in the world. For artists, of course, the island has long been an inspiration, providing multiple visual journeys – you can begin in the morning with a sketch of an old city building, drive to the coast to have lunch and paint by the sea, spend the afternoon sketching a mountain church, and end the day with an oil of the sunset! And, of course, working out in the open you get to interact with other people. Children in particular,” she notes, “will come and see what you’re up to. They stare at me painting, and always try to find differences between my sketch and reality, pointing out that I’ve forgotten this cloud or that car!”
Not every sketch, however, makes it to the public eye. While Eleana does tend to post and sell the majority of her work (all original illustrations and paintings are for sale, and signed prints, postcards and calendars are available on request) there are still a few that never see the light of online. “I do have some sketches which have been left incomplete!” she laughs. “Sudden changes of scenery or weather, if it’s too cold or too hot. But many of these unfinished sketches are my favourites because they remind me so specifically of an experience, a moment in time.”
Capturing moments, creating memories, and posting online has made Eleana a bit of a local Instagram star. And what started as a bit of creative personal time has burgeoned into a great source of pleasure for artist and viewers alike. “I guess my goal with sketchingcy is to bring art into everyday life, to promote Cyprus, and share ideas. Art,” Eleana concludes, “has always been about people, about the public; it’s for everyone. Through the medium of the internet, I’m able to share my love of the island. And as long as I enjoy what I do I will keep painting, sketching, and sharing!”
For more information of Eleana’s artwork, follow @sketchingcy on Instagram or visit the Facebook page Sketchingcy