Had we known the respect she held over the entire island population, we may have been dissuaded from ever even approaching her regarding our venture.  But our naiveté of her position dictated that we forge ahead.

I initially contacted a select group of artists by email to see if there was interest in participating in a calendar project we were producing for Island Art.  It was intended to feature the works of some of St. Martin’s talented art community.  Having spent a little time on internet searches, and reading the volumes of information available about her, I admit to a certain degree of surprise that she was interested.  Having Ruby Bute in our calendar would definitely lend an air of credibility and help insure further commitments from the fence riders.

We made preliminary arrangements via email, and exchanged phone numbers for our pending arrival on the island.  A couple of brief phone conversations from the states left us excited to meet her face to face, but with an image already beginning to form, we knew that this was indeed a special woman, and that we were going to be in for a unique and rewarding experience.

…Upon our arrival we pulled up to the large painted steel gate and honked per the posted sign.  After a few minutes the gate slowly slid open to allow our passing.  Driving on to the yard we see her sitting on the front porch of her home as the gate slides shut behind us.  We were on the “inside” now.  We felt elite, part of a select few, allowed briefly to see behind the curtain.  We approach with nervousness and trepidation wondering how we will be received.

The Boardroom
The Boardroom

We were given a grand tour of the entire home and previewed a wide array of her completed works.  Numerous attempts on my part to direct us towards the purpose of our visit were rebuffed as if a pesky gnat or fruit fly.  We were treated as special quests and her hospitality was humbling.

…At the conclusion of our two-hour “visit”, she announced that she had needed to find out who this man from the states was before she committed to the project.  “Now we can talk business” she declares, “but not today.”  She had another appointment that she had to keep and would have to leave.  We were invited to come back the following day to talk business.

So we learned that this entire meeting had only been held so that she could see if there would be a need at all for a 2nd meeting.  As we drove off the lawn and back to our resort, we were jilted a bit by the lack of progress, but celebrating the fact we had passed muster.  I have not known before or since, an island resident so clearly in command of everything that goes on around her.  Nothing happens without her knowledge and subsequent approval.  To have survived this first test of character was exhilarating and left us in a celebratory mood.  We now knew that with her in the stable, the rest of the calendar would fill quite easily..

Majestic Silk Cotton tree on the grounds of the Gallery.
Majestic Silk Cotton tree on the grounds of the Gallery.

I started the business discussions by pointing to the agreement, and started to briefly discuss the merits of each article in it.  Mind you, this is a very brief legal document; only two pages in length, but nearly one half of its contents are dedicated to the discussion of royalties, the calculation, and the auditing of it.  As I reached Article 3, Royalties, she stopped me in my tracks.  “Why do we need all this?”  “Well” I explained, “I wanted each of the artists to feel I was being transparent and forthright in my dealings.”

“I understand, but I don’t want to have to worry about what this Mr. Vanderpool is doing back in the states” she said.  I was beginning to see the picture she was now painting without benefit of brush or knife.  “Would you rather have a certain quantity of calendars to sell in your own studio” I asked?

“Exactly!”  Now quite clearly pleased that this stranger from the states has finally caught up with her unspoken directive.  Now all that would remain would be to determine a proper quantity for her contribution.  So after a few uneasy moments of pregnant pause, I finally played right in to her hand, “Did you have a number in mind?”

“Well, whatever you think is fair” she coyly responded.  I now quickly make some royalty calculations in my head based upon the projected sales and first run printing.  “How does 100 or 150 units sound?”

“150 is a good number… but I was thinking of a different number.”  I laughed out loud and she too chuckled, both of us realizing we were now entering into the Art of the Dance…

To read the this story in it’s entirety, and to hear other tales of transitions to a slower-paced island life, check out the book “A Beach Less Traveled” by John Berglund.  It’s a great read for a beautiful day on the beach!

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Artist Spotlight – Sylvie Charlot

Artists throughout the Caribbean, we have come to learn, come with personalities and characteristics as diverse as the works they produce.  Very early in the foundation of My Island Art, we had the good fortune to meet an artist on St. Martin that absolutely personifies the serene images of island life she paints.  We were soon taken in by her warm and welcoming personality, and quickly a friendship developed.  We are thrilled today to introduce you to St. Martin based artist, Sylvie Charlot.
Sylvie Charlot copy
Born and raised in Pau, France, grew up the daughter of a father who too was an artist.  Her father was an artist, as well as a street performer, dressing as a clown and playing his guitar for the approving crowds.  His influence on her life was profound, and soon she became sensitive to painting too.  At a young age the pleasure of painting eventually became a passion in her as well. 

SC-02 Pinel
                          Islet Pinel


Tragedy unfortunately struck this young girl,  and at the tender age of 15, Sylvie found herself alone as both parents succumbed to prolonged illness.  Her heart was crushed, and as we can all imagine, she felt a need for a change in her scenery.  In 1992 she wished to discover new horizons and decided to set down her suitcases and paint brushes in Saint Martin, F.W.I.  Sylvie shares that she was instantly taken by the beauty of the landscapes, the colors that were before her eyes, the infinite blues of the Caribbean Sea, and the soft, peaceful life of the islands.

Like all of us, life’s events have a way of leaving their marks on our character.  Such is the case with Sylvie as well.  Many of her customers have discovered and appreciate the tender views she has of the beauty of the islands.  Her depictions of its fauna and flora, as well as of the West Indian lifestyle and traditions are soothing reflections of the tropical spirit.  From her paintings swells a love for the island, that was becoming a little more her’s with each subsequent brush stroke.

Vegetable Stand


Sylvie is a self-taught painter whose gentle touch and pleasant smile evoke a softness found in each of her works.  She prefers to work in watercolors, finding that the transparent colors sublimate the charm of the Caribbean landscape, and likes working in acrylic oils as well.  She sets up her booth and daily exhibits her work, at the simple market along the waterfront in Marigot, St. Martin.  Always ready with a smile, and a gentle greeting, Sylvie Charlot is a shear delight to visit with.


We invite you to explore the works and the world of Sylvie Charlot in our Charlot Catalog.  And if you find yourself in the Market in Marigot, stop in and meet the gentle spirt that is, Sylvie Charlot.


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Saba – The Unspoiled Queen

Our decision to use St. Maarten as our vacation hub has always been largely based upon its close proximity to neighboring islands.  This geographical arrangement makes for a handy retreat to slightly more remote beaches when on St. Maarten the cruise ships come calling.  But head to an island without beaches?  What could possibly be the allure?  We would soon learn a wonderful lesson in eating crow!

Credit –

The Dutch island of Saba, weighing in at a scant 5 sq. mi. of land area, lies just 28 miles SE of St. Maarten.  There are two distinctly different means whereby one can reach this quaint retreat.  Winair offers a short 20 minute flight five times daily, and there are two boating excursions offering 1 hour 20 minute rides aboard competing Vomit Comets.  For obvious reasons, we chose the former rather then the latter.

The flight was quick, and exhilarating.  The approach takes a heading directly towards a rocky face, before suddenly dropping to a smooth landing along an ancient lava flow.  A  breeze through the terminal’s Immigration booth and we were off to explore the highest point within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.[rule]

Mount Scenery, 2,855 ft., and 1,064 steps.  But who’s counting!
saba 2
The climb up Mt. Scenery is a hike well worth its promotion.  A rainforest so dense and arid it brings to mind the tales of Bilbo Baggins in his heroic quest.

saba 3

We began the morning with a quick breakfast at Scout’s Place, and even found it a welcome reward following our epic climb.
[rule] saba 1


The island is dotted with scenes that feel a world apart from the beaches and shopping of most Caribbean tourist destinations.

[rule] saba 5  
saba 4


                                                                  Windwardside from Mt. Scenery

Windwardside is a picturesque town that plays well the part of post card and picture puzzle subject.

Be sure to check out the islands celebrated art and gift reputation.  The handcrafts of the ladies of the island is well known, as they still create their own hand made lace.  These pieces each create a beautiful and delicate finish to any table.  One of our favorite stops was the studio of glass artist Jo Bean.  Jo makes stunning hot glass creations unlike anything we had seen before.  The colors were so brilliant and her effusing personality was a perfect punctuation to our day on Saba.

An island without a beach, what could possibly be the attraction?  We found the answer to be its people, its quaint villages, its stunning scenery, its bars and restaurants, its thriving art community…

We encourage you, take the diversion off the beaten path and visit Saba, The Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean.  But we also encourage you, take the plane, not the Vomit Comet!

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The Caribbean -A Palette of Inspiration

As we have traveled throughout the Caribbean, and met with countless numbers of artists, we often ask where they draw their inspiration from.  Almost unanimously they tell us that they selected this life in the tropics, not only for its enviable climate, but because the calming colors are an inspiration to their artist’s spirit.  We have to say we can certainly see the attraction.

In this issue of our Lost in a Lifestyle Blog, we wanted to give you a glimpse of the color that to be experienced in the Caribbean, virtually at every turn  From scenic overlooks, to pristine beaches, to flora and fauna, take our quick tour of the Colors of the Caribbean!

Blog 5

 One of our favorite overlooks is this aptly named scene in St. Martin called Paradise View.
It has served as inspiration for several of our featured artists, and can be found on a number of the products in our catalog.

Blog 1Beautiful Trunk Bay in St. John is blooming with natures colors.

Blog 2This sunset palette reveals the greatest artist of them all.

Blog 3Even a trip to market is a vision for the senses.

Blog 4This final view of Shoal Bay East even served as the inspiration for the colors found on our logo when we updated early this year.

You see beauty is in the grand and in the everyday, but there is no denying that the Caribbean is indeed a palette of inspiration.  Share your comments below and tell us, What colors of the Caribbean inspire you?

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Island Encounters – I Can, St Maarten

As the old saying goes, once you get the ball rolling downhill, it can sometimes be hard to stop.  With that in mind, I wanted to share another brief story from staffer T-Lynn about their recent trip to St. Maarten.

“My husband and I had been on the beautiful island of St Maarten for three days and I
could hardly wait until Saturday! That was the day we had made an appointment to
visit I CAN Children’s Home, a foster home that offers living accommodations to
children between the ages of 0 to 13 years, who have been victims of neglect, abuse or
other social issues.

ICAN Foundation Home

We had made arrangements to come and do artwork with the children, with the intentions of using one or more of the drawings to create a fundraising product that would be sold in local gift shops. My Island Art already contributes annual proceeds to I CAN, but is looking for ways to do more to raise awareness, and much-needed funding, for this amazing foundation.

At first, most of the kids were shy and withdrawn, especially one girl I’ll call “Nancy”.
Nancy didn’t seem to be too interested in drawing, she was one of the older girls, and
probably thought this activity was a little childish. When she did begin to color, it was
obvious she was just doing her “due diligence”. Nancy wouldn’t smile, listen, or even
look at me, and I was tempted to just leave her completely alone.  Then the turning point happened.

Nancy’s picture was developing into a colorful beach scene. “I love the colors you chose”, I commented to her. “Keep going. You are a very good artist!” Did I just see a smile? Then I began to see her cutting her eyes over my way to see if I was watching the masterpiece being created. I was, and yes, I did see her smile!

Genuine Island Art

When it was time to go, Nancy threw her arms around me and asked when we were
coming back. Whether she had ever heard it before, she knew that day, that someone
thought she was good at something – and she wanted more! Don’t we all?”


Thanks T-Lynn for another great slice of Caribbean life.  And yes, we do all want to be appreciated.  To learn more about this great organization, please check out their website at I Can Children’s Home.  And be sure to watch for more more updates about a coming My Island Art product line featuring artwork provided by the children of this beautiful home.  With this new product unveiling, 100% of the profits will be directed to support the home.

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Artist Spotlight -Micka

One of the highlights of our island travels, is the opportunities we get to meet exciting new artists throughout the Caribbean.  Recently we had the chance to meet Italian born Micka, now painting on the French island of St. Martin.  We asked Micka to share a bit about her past, and of her work.

While living in Rome working as a copywriter in an advertising agency, I was able to show my creativity, but only in an intellectual manner, (how much whiter that new soap was washing, or how much safer that new car was).  Moving to the small Caribbean island of Saint Martin, I felt the need to continue expressing myself, but in a completely different way.

The island’s life charmed me immediately with its small colorful houses; smiling, round people wearing the most courageous matching clothes, tropical stormy skies where black and turquoise are present in the same time, and the light, as pure as a mystic vision.  I soon realized that St. Martin was filling my eyes and nurturing my soul. And ultimately it drew me to painting.

Having never taken a pencil or a brush in my life, I began to draw, reducing all objects to their geometrical, basic shapes.  From there I moved to the representation of reality, as close as possible, but still poetical and imaginary.  My use of colors is natural and brave, having no wishy-washy shades, just full, decisive, and healing.

‘Beached’ by Micka

I began with acrylics, the bravest colors I could find, and for the island’s light, I found sparkle was the only way to get slightly close to it.

‘No Lines’ by Micka

I feel an impression to be guided, like an inner guide telling me what colours to choose, which supports were the best, which technique was the fastest and the most appropriate.  After many years of practice, the aim of my art is now clear: to give people a bit of joy, and some light, to bring back home.  Just few rays of happiness to enlighten their everyday lives.


Take a moment to check out Micka’s works on our Caribbean prints page here.  Caribbean Art by Micka   And thanks Micka, we certainly feel brightened!

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A New Perspective on a St. Maarten Legend

Recently we published a story on artist and dear friend Ruby Bute.  This legend of the islands is so full of character, that it truly cannot be told in a single writing.  As a writer, poet, artist, and storyteller, to write the complete and authoritative biography of Ruby would be a daunting task.

Our story sought to introduce the general public to the

Artist Ruby Bute at work

artist and her vast talent in painting and sketching.  We chose to learn about her introduction into the world of creative arts.  Recently however we were contacted by a writer from Gadling who was writing from a different perspective.  Gadling is a compilation blog from writers at The Huffington Post.

The writer, Elizabeth Seward, was working on a blog post on St. Maarten’s Ruby Bute, and wanted use of some of our pictorial records of Ruby.  We were happy to oblige, and even more interested to see this writer’s perspective on our friend.  Check out the Gadling story Ruby Bute: A Caribbean Legend, and get another perspective on Ruby Bute.

Elizabeth Seward's Gadling blog posting

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Get to Know -Ruby Bute

One of the things we enjoy most about our work at Island Art and Treasures is in getting to know the many artists that we come in contact with.  Some are up-and-coming young artists, some are aspiring bi-vocational artists, and still others are well-known, more established practitioners.  Today we introduce you to one of the latter in St. Martin resident, Ruby Bute.

I initially contacted Ruby Bute regarding participation in a calendar project we were

Ruby Bute from St. Martin, F.W.I.

producing for Island Art & Treasures.  Having spent time on internet research, and after reading the volumes of information available about her, I admit to a certain degree of trepidation, but I was instantly relieved to find that it was all for naught.  Upon our arrival we pulled up to the large painted steel gate and honked per the posted sign. After a few minutes the gate slowly slid open to allow our passing. Driving on to the yard we see her sitting on the front porch of her home as the gate slides shut behind us. We spent the day getting to know this gem of St. Martin.

Much has been written about Ruby Bute, though certainly none can do justice to her creativeness and beauty.  In addition to her paintings, Ruby exhibits her creative spirit as a writer, a poet, a teacher, and a storyteller.  For over thirty years Ruby has produced paintings that document many of the historical aspects of St. Martin’s life and culture.  Her strong colorful images capture the joyousness of such scenes of island life as Carnival, and Emancipation Day, and all serve testimony to her love and passion for the heart of St. Martin.

Emancipation Day by Ruby Bute

Born in Aruba of St. Martin parents, Ruby has been painting since the age of 6. In the early 70’s, Ruby moved to St. Maarten, her parents’ homeland, and in 1983 she held her first solo exhibition.  In 2005, Bute was decorated by her Majesty, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and is since an honorable Member of the House of Orange-Nassau. Visit her studio and you will see the proclamation and medal proudly displayed.

Exhibitions of Ruby Bute’s paintings are regularly held in St. Martin, in Amsterdam and other cities in Holland, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and Saba.  Her works  are owned  by  collectors in St. Maarten, the Caribbean and the United States.

You will find examples of Ruby’s work available on our site at our Island Art Image Library.  In this short video clip, Ruby tells us about her early childhood memories, and of her love of art.

Ruby Bute, renowned as St. Maarten’s national treasure, also serves as a mentor tutor to many emerging artists.  Ruby still paints daily in her gallery or on the porch of her adjacent home.   When in St. Martin be sure to make the time to visit Ruby at her studio.  She will undoubtedly make sure you feel quite at home, while enjoying the beauty of her art, and sipping her home-made liqueurs.

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