Asni: harps and imagination - newsletter #3 - December 2006
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Hello, kia ora and welcome to the third Asni: harps & imagination newsletter!


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In this newsletter:
Travels in Middle Earth on CD * Meet the Illustrator * Pencils & Co
The Great Hobbit Outrage * shop news: Past-minute Christmas Special


The one thing that has come out of all this talk of me going to Switzerland is that it finally provided a good strong reason to get my next cd project Travels in Middle Earth out of the pipeline and into the recording studio. So far, the intricacies of finding a sound engineer, recording space and cd production company here in New Zealand have seemed too daunting, and even more daunting is the prospect of raising the necessary cash. But obviously, the festival at St Ursanne will provide the perfect platform to launch a Middle-earth themed album, so it is time to shake my doubts and hesitations and do something about it… after all, I have been touring the programme for the last two years, and am very happy with it, so it is certainly ripe and aged enough to go into the studio.

Besides, it would make a certain illustrator happy, who appears to have my 700 Years of Pop cd on more or less constant rotation. But I'm afraid even John must get bored of playing the same cd over and over again for nearly a year …even if, as he assures me, it has proven singularly effective with getting him over those dreaded deadlines. Want music that gets you over deadlines? Buy Asni's cd's! Recommended by leading illustrators.

rock hunting on Wellington's coastline - November 2006


For those of you living in Wellington, you might want to make a note in your diaries for my music evening classes at Wellington High School Adult Community Education Centre next year. Classes in Music history and music appreciation will run 15 February – 22 March and again 9 August – 13 September, Thursday nights (Music History in Six Easy Steps) and 2 May – 23 May, as well as 10 October – 31 October, Wednesday nights (Music Appreciation), and there will also be a music theory course, Learn to Read and Write Music, running from 14 February – 21 March and again 8 August – 12 September, Wednesday nights. All courses run from 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm and take place at Wellington High School. Bookings can be made through Wellington High School's Community Education Centre, ph 04 385 89 19 or email I will be posting more details on those courses in my next newsletter. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.

check here for: news updates * upcoming concerts * workshops and courses

performing at a wedding in Carterton, October 2006. photo: one2onephotography


I assume most of you will know this, but just in case you didn't, John Howe (along with Alan Lee, affectionately known as "the other guy") is largely responsible for the look of Middle-earth as we know it. Both John and Alan were already well-established as illustrators of Tolkien's work - and a wide variety of other fantasy literature - when they were asked to contribute as conceptual designers to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Since then they've both become intensely famous - and very frequently get confused with each other. Although neither their work nor their persons look all that similar. John, as opposed to Alan, tends to paint with bright strong colours. He brings to his job a specialist knowledge or medieval armour and weapons, and has been responsible for some of the darker stuff in the movies: the Fell Beast, the Dark Tower, and many an orc design, as well as the armour and weapons of both Rohan and Gondor armies - but he also created the look of Gandalf's hat, Bilbo's front hall, and many features of the Shire and other more habitable parts of Middle-earth.

Of course John's work is by no means restricted to illustrating Tolkien and Lord of the Rings. He has illustrated the works of major fantasy writers from Robin Hobb and Charles de Lint to Chretien de Troyes and the anonymous author of Beowulf and Grendel, not to mention occasional excursions into related genres such as Science Fiction or children's books. Very occasionally, he even paints or sketches for his own pleasure.

I would really encourage you to take some time (a few hours will do for now…) to browse through his stunning (and enormous) portfolio. Here is a very small selection of some of my own favourite images - a larger selection can be found here. Also, make sure to check out my brand new film review John Howe: There and Back Again which recently screened in Wellington.

Treebeard * The Company approaches Caradhras * Horseman in the Night * The End of all Things
The Killing of the Trees * The Fleet of Ar-Pharazon this used to be my view from the house in Buckley Road
Memory and Dream * The Edge of the World * Virgo * Me by me

uncurling fern tree leaves - December 2006


I stumbled upon John's marvellous website one sunny February morning nearly three years ago and spent several hours hooked, browsing through his stunning – and very extensive - portfolio. Ever since, I've made his internet forum my virtual home, and I've come to know John a bit over the last three years – as far as one can "know" a person through persistent communication on the internet.

Incidentally, on the afternoon of that same sunny February day I chanced to bump into Alan Lee in the artistically blessed streets of Wellington – for the third time in a row, he must have thought I was stalking him. I on the other hand took it as a serendipitous hint from the universe to start painting and drawing more. Which I did.

Since coming back from my trip to Europe earlier this year, a lot of things have changed – I've moved into my own place, away from the coast and gorgeous Island Bay, but more sheltered and closer to town, up on the hill in Northland. I have settled (or nearly so) into a four-days-a week office job routine. I have done a lot of soul searching and started to throw out some unnecessary clutter – choosing to focus on fewer things and really do them. I have realized that I need to stop chasing the next quick fix and work out what it is I really want to be doing with the other half of my life. After all, wasn't that what this whole business about emigrating to New Zealand was all about?

Seeing that it turned out I need to hold down some regular income-providing job anyway, which has nothing to do with what I set out to do with my life once upon a time, I decided that it does not really matter what it is that I am not making a living with. Therefore I might as well do as I please, and focus more on my artwork and photography, and less on my harp playing. After half a lifetime doing artwork crouching on floors, last month I went and bought myself a trestle table for my studio space. For the first time in my life I now have a workspace which is solely dedicated to artwork. It remains to be seen where this can take me professionally – but there are encouraging signs.

For one, I recently found out how to properly hold a pencil when drawing. I do not know why I had to grow to the ripe age of 39 for someone to tell me that, but thanks to John, now I know. The impact of that discovery on my drawing skills has been a surprise even to myself. So now I have embarked on a project which is the equivalent of practising scales, with a pencil. There is an old saying that goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

As if the universe still didn't trust that I had got the message, three of my photos have been selected for the Wet West Photo Festival in Hokitika, on the New Zealand West Coast. They will be displayed in public in the Carnegie Gallery, Hokitika from 29 December 2006 until 12 January 2007. So if you're passing through, make sure to check them out!

And if you happen to live in Finland, watch out for some of my photos in an article on "Hobbit Living" which is to appear in Helsingin Sanomat shortly before Christmas.

sea dragon drawing expedition to Castle Point, Wairarapa - November 2006


A couple of weeks ago the Tolkien fan community was tumbled into turmoil by a letter from Peter Jackson, published on The One The gist of the letter is that New Line Studios, who have been rumoured to be preparing for shooting a movie based on Tolkien's The Hobbit, will not be asking Peter Jackson to direct this movie – although he seems the obvious choice, and so far it has been assumed that he was going to direct this movie if it was to be made.

Not only are large parts of the fan community up in arms against this decision, in New Zealand the attempt to dump the Lord of the Rings director and national hero from what is widely regarded as his just deserts, has been seen by many as something of a national outrage.

To me personally – as well as to quite a number of people I know – Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy was far from being just another fantasy-action blockbuster movie. To me and to many others, it has proved, literally, a life-changing experience. This is why I decided to do my bit in what is currently an extensive campaign on the internet to support Peter Jackson and impress on those movie executives that The Hobbit is not just about making lots of bucks. Call it gratitude, or call it loyalty…

Please go here for more information, and to find out how to get involved.

You can also sign this Petition to involve Peter Jackson in the making of The Hobbit, or check out the Fan reactions page on, or the equivalent page on Let the Hobbit happen!

sunset over Cook Strait - November 2006


I guess my chance to offer a last-minute Christmas discount now comes a little past-minute – my apologies, I had planned to send this newsletter out a week ago but was prevented by a rather severe bout of the flu – just when I thought the winter months are past and the danger is over!

However, if you are still undecided about buying a harp cd for yourself or someone dear as a belated Christmas present, perhaps my special offer for subscribers of this newsletter will make your decision easier. If you order your cd until January 7, pay US$ 15/Euro 12/NZ $ 25 (instead of $17.90/Euro15/NZ$30) for cd's 700 Years of Pop or Pourquoy doux Rossignol. If your order is received before December 23, I will be able to mail them before the holidays – otherwise please note that I will be out of town from Christmas Eve until January 7, so there will be delays in shipment.

To benefit from the subscriber's discount, order your cd's by return of email and make sure to include a reference to this newsletter, as well as which cd and how many you wish to order. Overseas customers - I will send you a Paypal invoice for credit card payment. Orders from New Zealand or Germany – you may prefer to pay directly into my bank account, I will email you the details upon ordering.

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last updated: 15 December, 2006