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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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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Celebrating a New Beginning!

Birthdays are man’s way of marking yet another trip around the sun. Some warrant more fanfare than others, some we would truly wish to be forgotten.  And yet there remain those that, on occasion, are to be celebrated in grand style. Such was a recent celebration we attended while visiting the island of St. Martin.

January 13 marked the 70th Birthday of one of the islands most recognized and most widely acclaimed artists, Ruby Bute. Ruby herself intended to mark the occasion with a new look, and a new gallery exhibit entitled “New Beginnings”. To know Ruby is to understand that in her opinion, life does not end at 70, but this will simply be the beginning of a new phase of her life. And she had no plans for entering into it sheepishly!

L-R; Ruby Bute; Bonnie from My Island Art
L-R; Ruby Bute; Bonnie from My Island Art

Ruby prepared for the event by creating a new persona, just as many young ladies do, with a new dress, and new hair design. Gone were Ruby’s telltale dreadlocks, now in favor of a shorter more fashion forward look. A new dress for the evening long celebration was selected, and Ruby was ready for the island to show their affections. And that they did.

Clara Raius
Clara Raius

Ruby’s daughter Jacklyn served as the MC for the evening.  The Festivities started with an opening prayer and challenge by Pastor Hodge, and a recitation by the attendees. Island dancer and choreographer Clara Reyes recited a poem of inspiration and remembrance. Later writer Danielle Jeffrey, a well-known St. Maarten historian, read a bit about the impact Ruby has had on the island, and the role she had played in its history.

We had the privilege of being the invited guests of

The Textile Art line is unveiled!
The Textile Art line is unveiled!

the artist herself, and My Island Art was well represented with a party of six (6) in attendance. I was asked to address the audience and to speak a few words on behalf of the artist. We took the occasion to introduce a new product line featuring the work of the artist Ruby Bute. For this special occasion we introduced a new line of ladies dress scarves, using one of Ruby’s images as the print. You can now find the scarves in our on line gallery here. MyIslandArt

One of Ruby’s former art students, Lucinda Audain, spoke addressing her time as a student learning under the tutelage of Ruby. Lucinda has taken her art in a progressive direction and now specializes in Body Art.

The program concluded with a champagne toast, and the christening of the new exhibit “New Beginnings”, and Ruby ceremoniously opened the gallery doors. The large crowd filled the gallery and took in the seven (7) new works prepared just for the event.

Touring the New Beginings Exhibit
Touring the New Beginnings Exhibit


L-R: JVbytheSea; Jacklyn
L-R: JVbytheSea; Jacklyn





Ruby Hug









Massive Tree at Silk Cotton Grove Gallery  Photo courtesy JGraydon on Instagram
Massive Tree at Silk Cotton Grove Gallery
Photo courtesy JGraydon on Instagram


Government politicos arrived as well to honor the artist, and as the day gave way to a full moon, a band played for the dancing crowd. Ruby herself confessed to dancing until 2:00 AM. I must confess, she lasted long after I did! In Ruby’s mind 70 doesn’t mark the end of an era. Indeed it marks only the beginning of a new phase. And judging by this event, the island is waiting with open arms to celebrate with her.




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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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Weekend Special – New Item, New Price!

We’re pretty excited about a new item that has just landed on our docks!  A few weeks ago we shared that we’d sent a shipment of new Keepsake Boxes to St. Martin, to be featured with one of our retailers.  Now, we’re presenting these same boxes for our retail customers.  And for this weekend only, we’re giving you a great introductory deal!

These boxes feature the work of St. Martin artist Ruby Bute, and are carefully crafted of beautiful rosewood and a stunning ceramic tile inlay.  Each box measures 5.25″ x 5.25″ x 2.25″ tall, and the top is inlaid with a 4.25″ x 4.25″ tile.

Features this colorful image of Caribbean Heritage

Through midnight Monday, get these great boxes for only $20.00/Each, or get two for only $35.00.  These make outstanding gifts that are as unique as the Caribbean.  Use the links provided below, but hurry, this deal ends Monday!

Click to Buy $20.00/Each

Click to Buy 2 for $35.00

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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 Caribbean Bucket List!

To some we have had the good fortune of sampling a good variety of Caribbean Islands.  Still others will say we have but touched the tip of the iceberg.  But after over 30 island landings, we are finding that the more we travel to new and exciting island destinations, the more we feel the strong siren call of the diverse island vibes.

We have previously ticked the boxes of St. Maarten/St. Martin, Saba, St. Kitts

Climbing Saba’s surreal Mt. Scenery

Anguilla, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Bart’s, St. Thomas, St. John, and a host of small relatively unnamed cayes and islets.  We love that each has it’s own personality and distinct character.  From mountainous Saba which has no beach at all:



Shoal Bay Anguilla


To the utterly flat Anguilla and its stunning picturesque shores:



From St. Barth’s, playground of the elite:

St. Barth’s infamous Eden Rock
via Access St. Barth

To the simple and wholesome surroundings of St. Kitts:

Historic Brimstone Hill, St. Kitts











But even all this has left us with a pretty extensive Bucket List of islands we absolutely “have” to get to.  Barbados remains very high on our list, as is Grenada, and the islands of the Turks and Caicos.  With so many islands, and so little time, we figure we’d better get busy.  Help us fill out our Bucket List for the seasons ahead.  Which islands hold your favorite memories?  This time we invite you, to… Tell Us Where To Go!

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Not Your Ordinary Day on The Beach!

Several years ago I sat on the beach, minding my own business.  Something I readily admit I rarely do.  Book in my hand, surf at my side, and a perfect front row chair to watch the world pass by in perfect bliss on Orient Beach.

I had drifted off to sleep, letting the surf and sand gravity have its way with me.  I was nudged softly out of my slumber by the timid giggling voices of several young ladies moving about in close proximity to my chair.  I woke from my daydream to see a photographer and his handmaid setting up lights, reflectors, and slave lighting literally 5′ from my chair.

Normally, photographers setting up around me is enough

Miss Caraibes Hibiscus

to make me break out in beads of a cold self-incriminating sweat.  But no, to my satisfaction, I discovered that they were not setting up to photograph moi.  And, to my complete and utter delight, I discovered that I now had the envious spot of front row seat for the annual Miss Caraibes Hibiscus photo shoot!  Guys were starting to line up to take turns at my chaise.

As 20 – 25 bathing suit clad beauties pranced around our umbrella, I glanced aside, through the periphery of my sunglasses, to find my adorable bride, still soundly asleep.  Not wanting to interrupt her of her quiet time, and more importantly not wanting to be caught in the act, I quietly sorted through our belongings looking for my camera.  Danggit!  Back at the room, of all the stupid amateur moves.

Lining up for a turn in the spotlight

So I raced, with all fervor, post haste back to the room, and returning, I found the shoot still well in stride.  I also discovered that nearly every male within the entirety of Orient Baie also had their cameras at the ready and were now squarely blocking the view from my chair:(  I swear, some people really need to take some beach etiquette lessons.  But alas I did get enough of an opportunity, that I could ultimately produce adequate evidence to go with my story of a fantastic Day At The Beach.

The Big Finale

Founded in 1990, this international beauty contest for all Caribbean countries is held annually on St. Martin.  For a list of all the past Title Holders see Complete List.  You can also follow the organization on Facebook at Miss Caraibes Hibiscus.

So take our word of advice, never allow yourself to fall into a deep sleep while dozing in the sands, you just might miss something.  And most importantly, never head to the beach without your camera.  Again, you might miss something!

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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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