I’m not sure whether its because I was brought up in a home that aligned itself to particular religious beliefs; namely those that didn’t celebrate Christmas. Or because my family that viewed it as the "English" celebration and preferred Hogmanay as the legitimate festivity, but it's one thing I’ve never felt comfortable with. Christmas. Everyone laughs at my reaction when you mention the “C” word around me...
As I get older, I feel myself turning into Victor Meldrew on steroids, and as for that wonderful tinsel covered time of year well I guess you could well describe me as a cross between Scrooge and the Grinch.
There are times I remember though that do fill me with a warm, comforting glow. It's those memories that have gone into It's Christmas Time and The Christmas Tree, the two new prints for Christmas.
Not celebrating Christmas as a child meant I always saw the events that went on around Christmas rather than being part of them! One of those events I remember is the sound of old-fashioned Christmas carols, singers at the door and on the streets; Away In A Manger, Silent Night and The First Noel songs always fill me with that warm fuzzy festive feeling, I could listen to them the whole year round.
Here's something you might not know about me, I do love glitter, in the right circumstances! Glitter is one of those things that reminds me of Christmas and Christmas cards; whenever I see those traditional cards covered, and I mean covered, in glitter, I find it a strange comfort.
My Auntie Mary Ann (who for years I thought was named after a cake, with everyone referring to her as Auntie Meringue...) lived not too far from us, and I remember one night frosty December night, I was about five years old, we were walking home after visiting Auntie Mary Ann. I have a distinct memory of seeing the street lights and Christmas lights reflecting on the icy pavements, and thinking how it felt as though we were walking on diamonds - like we were in one of those glitter-covered Christmas cards.
Of course, we didn't decorate our house, but my Primary School, which stood at the top of the village looked like an old house, it had two small rooms, which were our classrooms, and in the corner, we had a large coal fire. Each Christmas, the teacher, would hang a huge image of Santa Claus above the fire, and all us wee ones would sit underneath it, keeping warm during the winter months. We'd sit together and make those linked paper chains from coloured sugar paper, our teachers would drape them around the classroom, and that's when Christmas was 'official'. That's why I included some of those in this artwork.
When it came to thinking about creating two new prints for Christmas, it was all of these things that came to mind. I just wanted to be able to put a flavour of my memories into these prints, in the hope that they might resonate with your memories and recollections.
Whether it's the twinkly glow of glitter in the frozen winter air or walking in diamonds along frosty streets. Maybe it's the lovely family atmosphere that somehow seemed more pronounced back then or the small details, like the coloured paper chains that were used as decorations if you couldn’t afford proper ones, but were still a perfect addition above the blazing coal fire.
As I looked at my finished paintings as the limited edition prints were hand embellished with “diamond dust” to recreate the special atmosphere I so well remember, I actually had a wee tear in my eyes. So if they make someone like me (a confirmed Grinch) go all mushy over Christmas, I’m sure they will do the same to you.
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