Saturday, December 23, 2006


David Blackwood's image of three mummers is wonderful. It evokes images of rural Newfoundland in past and present.

Listen to a clip from Simini's Any Mummers 'Lowed In?' There is a love/hate relationship with this song in Newfoundland but it still lives on and is associated with Christmas and will be for years to come.

From the Mummering in Newfoundland page:

Sometime during the twelve days of Christmas, usually on the night of the "Old Twelfth", People would disguise themselves with old articles of clothing and visit the homes of their friends and neighbours. They would even cover their faces with a hood, scarf, mask or pillowcase to keep their identity hidden. Men would sometimes dress as women and women as men. They would go from house to house. They usually carried their own musical instruments to play, sing and dance in every house they visited. The host and hostess of these 'mummers parties' would serve a small lunch of Christmas cake with a glass of syrup or blueberry or dogberry wine. All mummers usually drink a Christmas "grog" before they leave each house. (A grog is a drink of an alcoholic beverage such as rum or whiskey.)

When mummers visit everyone in the house starts playing a guessing game. They try to guess the identity of each mummer. As each one is identified they uncover their faces, but if their true identity is not guessed they do not have to unmask.

For a time the old tradition of "Mummering", or "Jannying" as it is sometimes called, seemed to fade, especially in the larger centers of Newfoundland. But in recent years, thanks to the popular musical duo, Simini, who wrote and recorded "The Mummer's Song" in 1982, mummering has been revived. It is just as prevalent and popular as it was years ago and young and old look forward to dressing up this Christmas, knocking on a friend's door and calling out "ANY MUMMERS ALLOWED IN?"

The roots of mummering go back to England and the earliest recorded performance of it in Newfoundland was 1819. Its not as popular as it once was, with people more hesitant to open their doors to people, especially those who are in disguise. But it does continue in small pockets and lives in David Blackwood's prints.

Friday, December 22, 2006


I've finally completed all the drawings that were required for Christmas deadlines and feel as if I can relax a little and draw what I like once again.

Commissions are always a little heart-in-mouth because no matter how well you draw or paint something, you always think you could do better. The moment of presenting a piece of art to a client is horrible. Every fear that you imagine comes into your mind. I have not had work returned for tweaking yet and almost hold my breath when the unveiling occurs, half expecting the client to say it doesn't look like the animal, person, etc. They don't and even then I still doubt, thinking 'they're being polite'. Only when I have the payment in hand and don't hear anything in a week or two, do I believe that they are content with the piece.

Why do we doubt our ability so much? The subjectivity of art is one reason as well as how we feel that we personally come under attack, not the result of our knowledge and technique. Either way, most artists cringe at the moment of release of their work to the world.

A sketch of a bear in my favourite chair may be the start of a painting. I still have not had a chance to play with the oils I bought a few months ago. With a week off work for the holidays, I hope I'll have a chance to experiment with it and with a new easel that I bought as well.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

High flyers

Last Friday the turkeys went to the processor. We have had them for about 16 weeks at that point and they grow fast and eat a lot. And they learn to fly early. For large birds they are anything but graceful and crash around. Like most birds they want the highest vantage point - in this case, the top of the partition of their enclosure in the barn.

At 16 weeks old the average weight of a bird is about 17 lbs with the toms being heavier. This year the largest bird was 21 pounds. Most people these days don't want huge turkeys or have huge families to feed so 16 or 17 pounds is the average weight with some smaller ones at 12 or 13 pounds occasionally.

The average bird eats about 60 pounds of feed to 16 weeks and costs of buying the poult,heat, light, sawdust, water and processing all add up before they are ever sold. The profit isn't huge - about $10 per bird, more if it is a larger bird. But the fresh free range turkey is far superior than the usually processed frozen ones. Even after freezing, the bird will not have changed texture or flavour or be dry and tasteless. Simply because nothing is done to them to change, preserve or alter them further.

Yes, I always feel a little guilty when they go to the processor. But it is their purpose in life, or I've come to terms with it and can know that they have had the best life that can be provided. They have space, food, water, clean bedding and security - even music and entertainment - note their red ball in the photo...yes turkeys like to play with a ball.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Feeling festive yet?

Tripod, my three legged cat is pretty laid back for an intact tom cat. In fact, he's almost too laid back, liking to be held several times a day, lying on his back in my arms. At that point, he is oblivious to the rest of the world and you can do pretty much what you like to him and he accepts it.

The Santa hat was too close by and here is the result of the encounter. There is a certain mix of apprehension, resignation and disgust on his face. What a cat won't do for a tin of whitefish and tuna...

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Tough love

I had a conversation today that troubled me somewhat. It troubled me because I couldn't do anything about it and I couldn't make anything change for the individual. Although it seems the opposite at times, I am a fixer of things. I prefer the quiet life and don't enjoy confrontation or argument. BUT, there is a place for it in life sometimes when all other forms of communication fail.

Years ago I, like most parents of teenagers, complained to a colleague about my teen daughter's antics. Staying out late, wrong kinds of friends, arguing with me - all the usual antics of that age group. My colleague sat for a moment then, in a quiet voice, she started to tell me about her daughter. She was 15 years old and was involved with a wild crowd. She did hard drugs, smoked, drank and they had to make her leave their house because they were almost scared to be near her. Help finally came from the police. The girl stole her parents new car, took it on a joyride down the highway between Winnipeg and Brandon and crashed it. When the police called them and asked if they wanted to lay charges, without hesitation they said yes, arrest her. It was the only way that the girl would get the help she needed and the only way that the girl would realize the seriousness of her actions. It did work. It was a rocky road back to any form of communication or life for both sides but sometimes action needs to be taken that doesn't make you popular as a parent. No one said it was an easy ride. I'm a parent, not one of my children's best buddies. There is a real distinction there.

I read a book, about dealing with the problems and expectations of grown children and how to deal with them. It showed how to get my life back and not feel guilty about my adult children's lives.

So your adored son is nearing 30--or past it already--and still living at home, unable to hold onto a McJob for longer than six months running, relying on you to feed him and make his car payments. Your beautiful, brainy daughter is anorexic, or addicted to drugs, or unwilling to leave the man who hits her. Increasing numbers of baby boomers are finding that their grown children have fallen far short of their expectations. These parents are confused, angry, guilt-ridden, and ashamed. Jane Adams’s When Our Grown Kids Disappoint Us is for them. She reveals the kinds of disappointments that other parents are facing: kids who are unable or unwilling to support themselves, kids who are addicts or convicts, kids who’ve joined cults or seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. She stresses that these are real problems--but that they aren’t the parents’ problems. Adams reassures parents that they’ve done their jobs and that they don’t have to spend the rest of their lives picking up the pieces for their grown children, emotionally, financially, or otherwise. Continuing to prop up kids who’ve repeatedly fallen on their own teaches them nothing; it’s just a temporary fix. Beyond offering sympathy, reassurance, and wisdom, the book doesn’t lay out a plan for solving anyone’s problems, but reading it may help disappointed parents shuck some of their guilt and shame, gather the courage to take back their own lives, and let their grown children fend for themselves. --Jennifer Lindsay

These situations aren't all extremes, not all of these adult children are drug dealers or addicts, but sometimes are simply children who just don't grow up or aren't allowed to grow up because parents won't let them. We all like to be needed but it should not be to the extent that we cripple our children to satisfy our own needs.

I started colourizing an image of myself when I was 19 months old taken at Christmas. I am using a piece of Mylar for it and to photograph the drawing I put the image behind it so it would show up more clearly. Its a unique medium that doesn't take a lot of layers and is slightly grainy so rather unique. Its my experiment and if it works I'll mailorder some decent drafting film and try my hand with more coloured pencil on this support.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas music

Spare a thought this yuletide for the deprived.
If the table was turned would you survive
Band Aid Trust 2004 lines, not in the original song.

Why is it that Christmas music can only be tolerated for a short window of time in December each year? At any other time of year it sounds so out of place and schmaltzy you drop it like it was hot or look embarassed and say you were 'testing the sound system and this just happened to be in there'.

I wandered through collections of Christmas music to let you know what I am listening to in this season. But it isn't a constant, this Christmas mixer CD can only be played at the following events:

1. Baking mince pies or decorating Christmas cakes or trees
2. Anytime on Christmas Eve
3. Dinner on Christmas Day
4. When drunk at Christmas parties and feeling nostalgic

Walking in the Air
by Aled Jones

Aled was the boy wonder of the 80s in England who started life with the Bangor Choir.
In 1985, Aled's "Walking In The Air", which was originally sung by Peter Auty in the Raymond Briggs cartoon "The Snowman", was a massive hit.

Santa Baby by C. Basinet

Don't we all have a wish list like this?

*Last Christmas by Wham!

You knew there would be Wham! Go ahead and laugh. Next year, I'll give this to someone special.

Christmas in Prison by John Prine

"It was Christmas in prison, and the food was real good. We had turkey and pistols carved out of wood." Hands down, the most touching song about Christmas in prison, ever.

All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey

99% of the time Mariah Carey makes me want to throw up, but this song always has me singing along. I defy you to listen to this song and not start bouncing in your seat.

Let it Snow by Lena Horne.
That smoky voice would make the snow melt.

Jingle Bells by Diana Krall

Just because I love jazz and Diana Krall's style, even if I haven't forgiven her for marrying Elvis Costello. (What WERE you thinking girl??)

'Zat You Santy Claus by Louis Armstrong

I always want to give him cough drops...but I adore his voice at the same time.

Silver Bells by Johnny Mathis
Because his voice is hynotic and the song is classic.

So This is Christmas
by John Lennon.

Can it be Christmas without this song?

Do They Know its Christmas by Band Aid

Because its my era and I remember the original Band Aid in London in the 1984 and Bob Geldof's who was then in the Boomtown Rats.

Jingle Bell Rock by Brenda Lee

My eldest daughter probably still has nightmares about it from that Christmas parade when she was a cheerleader and heard it forty thousand times in row.