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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Do What You Love interview: Dimitri Kolioussis

Today's Do What You Love interview isn't really an interview.  It is more of a conversation, with one of the last real professional Icon Painters in Greece.  I dropped in to visit Dimitri Kolioussis in his studio on the beautiful island of Santorini when I was there on holiday recently.  Dimitri learnt all the important things he knows about painting from the elders in his village. 

His work is so revered that he has been commissioned to paint 14 icons for the legendary Panagia Episkopi Church on Santorini, a church which has existed on the island for over 1000 years.

He is the first artist I have ever met who expects his work to last 'for hundreds of years'.  That in itself is a lesson to us all to have confidence in the longevity of what we produce (and use archival quality materials!)

Dimitri's cave studio

Dimitri's studio is inside one of the white caves set in the cliffs of the volcanic island of Santorini.  He spends hours in this vaulted space, swishing his long white hair and his horse-hair brushes, recreating visions from religious stories of old. He has been painting his whole life, and here are some of the pearls of wisdom he offered me as I sat quietly with him in his studio, observing him paint with oil and gold leaf on stunning old doors:
  • "Art school is valuable for the techniques it teaches you, but after that it is up to you.  It is like learning to speak a language - you need to know the words in order to write the poetry.  But too much technique and you end up with a politician's speech that is of no value to anyone, with no truth in it."

  • "Although all artists need their creative freedom, commissions actually help you develop and grow, as they force you to think about something you might not ever have imagined yourself"

  • (Commenting on the fact that the public can wander in to his workshop at any time, which I thought was quite generous)  "For some people art is a gift from nature, and artists who receive such a gift have a responsibility to share it, not keep it to themselves."
This is a very interesting way of looking at talent.  For all those artists among you who are facing fears of rejection, are nervous about being accepted, or don't having the courage to put yourself out there, perhaps it would be different if you thought about it as your responsibility to society to share what you have been given, and do what you love!


For more inspirational Do What You Love interviews see here


  1. Dearest beth, this is another very inspiring interview. I really appreciate the wisdom he offer to us!! I find myself nodding in agreement as i read his wisdom of advice. As i'm working on a large commision right now, i feel that it help me grow and develop in many ways! Thanks so much for sharing this with us! Have a lovely merry happy weekenda and love to you!

  2. thank you for this, i am just a beginner and this is inspiring indeed. love his cave house!

    mondo beyondo! :)

  3. Very powerful, contemplative words. Words you have to read a few times to really hear. Thanks for the interview...loved it.

  4. Beth, I am sure everyone will agree with me when I say you are a seriously precious person.
    Thank you for another insiring piece.
    Enjoy South Africa!

  5. Gosh, isn't Dimitri's studio wonderful and what wise words too, particularly "For some people art is a gift from nature, and artists who receive such a gift have a responsibility to share it, not keep it to themselves." Really eeded to read that today... Thank you soooo much, Beth.
    Hugs xxx

  6. I Personaly met Dimitri Kolioussis in his studio while there for a few days. He his genuine,humble and caused an eternal impact on me. While he did not care for cameras after my wife tried to take a picture of us talking in the setting of his rustic studio where he has been for the past 26 yrs.He was indeed interested in looking at some photos I had to share which at first he thought were landscape pictures were paintings of mine ,then Dimitri looked at me as artist who was curious of his beautiful work not as a tourist he then gave me his blessings told me the artwork had promise to continue on my own journey.I left the next day.I still think about him and how blessed I was to have met him.


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