Mary Ann Laing

From The Studio

(posted on 26 Dec 2020)


Christmas 2020 arrived in it's usual way.  Considering the prison-like walls of Covid-19 we live in at the moment, I know how lucky we are in our family bubble to be able to celebrate as we always have each year.  In actuality, I'd say Christmas has evolved into a much easier time of year for me.  I surprise myself when I say that considering the difficulties we deal with as a family with Dad's relentless force of progressive Parkinson's, but it's true, the holidays are much easier in so many ways.  After 67 years of Christmases, I have lots of stories on what Christmas means.  It can be a very difficult time depending on what stage of life we are in.  Past Christmases echo memories of childhood excitement, to painful sadness of loved ones sick, or gone, all the stages we go through leave a vivid imprint that joins the boxes of ornaments dragged out of the attic each year.  Can't help but reflect, even when reflections bring pain and sadness, they too are as brilliant as the reflection in the silver bobbles.  In the beauty rings a silent reminder of the pain, you can hear it in some Christmas songs.  Beauty and pain make for some exquisite artistic creations.

I did once again over decorate.  It evolved over a few weeks, like a painting, it took it's own course and direction.  I put everything out.  Every craft that has survived that our children made gets it's place of honour.  The window display still features the cute (in my opinion) snowmen I made 35 years ago that my mom and sister laughed at.  It all gets it's special attention, welcomed back each year.


 I suppose I am a department store kind of decorator. In this photo you will see a decorative Christmas tree that came from a department store.  The pink roses are plastic, the greenery is felt covered plastic for leaves, a coating that is disintegrating into a fine green powder if you touch them.  The small silver bobbles have lost their luster, so much so they are more a pewter bobble.  Most would say it's ugly and needs to go to the dump.  I nearly did that, but in my exhaustion it got thrown into the car to go to our home when we were clearing out Mom's house after her death.  I remember when my late sister brought it home in 1967ish, mid to late 60s.  She worked in the Eaton's advertising department and the left over decorations were being thrown out, or taken by employees if they wanted them.  Of course at that time, the tree was new and quite vivid in colour, not washed out as it is today.  I look at it and hear my mom shriek with JOY at Teresa bringing it home, she loved it.  I remember Mom putting it on the fireplace hearth each Christmas after that, it always made us think of Teresa who sadly died in 1970.  Now I look at it and I think of Mom.  I'm glad I kept it, but it really is falling apart and may not last for many more Christmases.  I don't mind that I might appear to be a department store kind of decorator.  My happiest childhood memories at this time of year are of the excitement of going into the big city, Victoria, dressed up and wearing patent shoes, always dressed up to go downtown.  All those childhood experiences surface when I take to decorating.

I have read, and agree, all artists bring their childhood experiences into their making of art.  It's the basis of what inspires us to do it at all.  I always have a memory of new Hexigon Crayons  when I go through my paints, searching for colours.  Or Laurentian pencil crayons.  I loved Peacock Blue.  I loved all the blues.  I loved all the reds.  It was that thrill of looking at those colours that made me want to create something.  That doesn't ever really go away, the child is still very much with me at my easel.

Now we brace ourselves for what is to come.  Amidst the bleak news of so many suffering, I know to be thankful for what we do have as a family.  I think back to my complaining over so many things in the past that were so unimportant.  The strength of love in this family is something that keeps me strong, and not complaining, every day given is a blessing to not take for granted.  

On that note, time for more child's play.  My 36x36 painting I started last month waits, and it's going to be a good one.  Not bragging, just giving myself that cheer-on thing I do at this stage of the piece, haven't reached the " oh god, this sucks " stage yet, the stage before.. " aaaa HA.. THAT'S IT! " stage.  Childhood excitement, never goes away, and I just love that.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All!!

Mary Ann