Sweet success

Artists of all stripes shine at Arts and Letters Awards

Published on June 1, 2008
Jonathan O'Dea stands next to his winning entry in the Arts and Letters competition. A display of winners sits in one of the galleries at the Rooms. Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Dr. Jonathan O'Dea owes his 2008 Arts and Letters Award to a caramel apple in a store in St. Petersburg, Fla.
That, and a lot of talent.
O'Dea, a St. John's dentist, was one of the winners in the Senior Visual Art category at this year's Arts and Letters Awards held last night at The Rooms. His winning chalk pastel, "Sweet Tooth," is based on a photograph he took of the apple while on vacation.
O'Dea's grandmother would make caramel apples during Halloween.
"When I saw it I thought 'geez I've been looking for a display of that for so long.' I asked the guy in the store for a photograph and his first question was, "you're not from the health department are you?'," O'Dea said.
O'Dea, 35, does landscapes and other art, but has been working on a series of other "sweets," ranging the broad spectrum between caramel and chocolate.
"It's just a play on the fact that I'm a dentist," he said.
O'Dea has been an amateur artist since 2004. He took some art courses with the Anna Templeton Centre and MUN's continuing education program.
This is O'Dea's first win at the Arts and Letters.
"I was pretty happy," he said. "It's the third time I've entered something."
O'Dea is hoping to eventually
"Because this is not really my career I'm limited by time as to when I can, but I'm hoping to put enough together to potentially have a show some time, maybe in the fall."
Musician Andrew Pike was another winner in the Senior Visual Art category. The St. John's singer-songwriter entered an acrylic painting titled "Wharf on my Pond" that depicts a wharf that was once near Witless Bay Line.
Pike also won an award at last year's competition in the Senior Musical Competition category.
He's been painting for five years, but wasn't confident that he'd win.
"I kind of wasn't expecting to win with the art because it's kind of a new thing for me," Pike said.
Pike said he alternates his focus between music and art. He's hoping to have a new album out by the end of the summer.
Pike wasn't the only musician dabbling in visual art. Thea Palmer, 16, and Cassy Palmer, 18, best known as members of the group The Palmer Girls, both won in the Junior Division Visual Art category
Thea won for her picture "Eye of the Newfoundland Pony," which she took of her brown 12-year-old pony's eye.
Thea, who doesn't consider herself a photographer, was surprised to hear she'd won.
"I wasn't even thinking about the Arts and Letters competition when I took the picture," she said. "I decided to submit it after."
Cassy won for her pencil drawing called "I Picked it for You." It depicts a flower given to The Palmer Girls by a young girl at one of their shows.
"She picked it from her garden and gave it to us," Thea said.
Musicians also won for work in their own field.
Grand Falls-Windsor guitarist Chris Feener won in the Senior Musical Composition category for his progressive rock instrumental "Altercations."
Feener says it's an eclectic rock piece with many transitions and sections.
"It's kind of all over the place," Feener said. "Playing-wise I kind of go all out with it."
Feener, 20, has been writing songs for about six years, but has been playing guitar for much longer.
Feener is no stranger to being recognized for his talent. He's headed to England next month to compete in the 2008 Guitar Idol competition.
"Winning was absolutely crazy," Feener said.
One prominent Newfoundland musician who didn't win had a relative who did. Isabel Blackmore, mother of Kevin Blackmore of Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers , won in the Senior Poetry category for her poem "Another Rubber."
The poem describes elegant elderly ladies who play bridge and take silverware and china very seriously. Blackmore said the poem is inspired by her experience learning to play bridge.
"I learned bridge a few years ago from three of these dear little old ladies. I think it portrayed a gentile way of life that's fast dying."
Blackmore said she's been writing poetry for most of her adult life, but didn't start taking it seriously until she and some friends formed a writing group five years ago.
"It's exciting," she said. "I was very, very happy to receive (the award)."
Blackmore said her first love is painting. She's painted for more than 50 years. She said poetry usually takes her longer to fine-tune.
"Sometimes it takes me a couple of years to complete one," Blackmore said. "I don't treat it very lightly."