Moving Matters

In this newsletter:
*** Moving House
*** News & Current Projects
*** AnimFX Wellington 09
*** Happy 80th Birthday Ursula K. Le Guin !

Now available in the shop: *** Christmas and Greeting cards *** Middle Earth New Zealand photo wall calendar

Moving House

Asni: Multimedia Art & Design (including Asni the Harper, Frodo-lives, a couple of other aliases I’m not ready to divulge in public, and my own unremarkable civilian self) have a new home! Please check the contact page for my new address and phone number.

I’ve upgraded from my one bedroom downstairs flat in Wellington to a three bedroom grand home with a large garden (including several fruit trees) in rural Featherston, Wairarapa. For those of you who aren’t local – that’s just across the Rimutaka Hills from Wellington, a one hour train or car ride into town – so it’s not like I’m cutting my ties with the Windy City completely! When I was living in London I had twice the commute, and not anywhere near the peace and quiet, or space …

When I wrote my last newsletter I had no idea this was going to happen. But, in my rather spontaneous fashion, one day early last month I decided that I was REALLY fed up with having my upstairs neighbour going for one hour noisy hikes on top of my bed every morning about at least an hour before I’d even like to think about waking up, and being too immature to even think about trying to find a solution that would keep both of us happy.

So I sent an email to that friendly real estate agent whom I’d met recently at one of the numerous business seminars I’ve been attending, and he put me on to Chrissie who does the real estate in Featherston. I told her what I was looking for (somewhere quiet and not too expensive), made an appointment, drove over the hills one sunny afternoon, looked at three houses, settled on the fanciest one, put in my application, and the next day I got confirmation that I could have the place. For some reason I'd always thought that if I wanted to move out of the city, I’d have to buy a house. Not so - and my rent has hardly gone up, for renting a MUCH roomier and nicer place! Had I known that fulfilling a lifelong dream could be that fast an painless, I could have saved myself much agonizing.

The last couple of weeks were spent with putting all my belongings into boxes (mostly banana, though apple boxes are also excellent) – and then unpacking them again. Hard to believe that less than seven years ago, I came here with two suitcases and a harp ... It is quite stunning the amount of stuff a person can accumulate in such a short time. Of course, distributed over my new lounge, dining room, bedroom, painting studio, office & music room, kitchen, bathroom, entry hall in the front of the house, entry hall at the back of the house, and garden shed, it suddenly seems pretty scanty... but I will try to resist the temptation to clutter this place up with too much furniture.

Fridge and a washing machine organized, a stack of firewood bought to keep me warm, some digging in the garden undertaken for my new vegetable patch ... now the only things that remain to do are to unpack the rest of my boxes, find a lawnmover, and buy a bike to take advantage of the blissfully flat rural surroundings. Across the street crossing is Underhill Road, which leads right up to Lorien. And I only figured that one out last night when I went for a stroll and found my attention arrested by a property's name which I recognized from my Lord of the Rings locations guide, and some vaguely familiar shapes of landcape and hill. So it seems I have landed in the right spot. Now I only need to convince my brain that this isn't some sumptuous country holiday but that I actually LIVE here, and therefore need to get back into a sensible work rythm. I do apologize for this newsletter, once again, being a couple of weeks overdue - but I beg your forgiveness, given the momentous occasion.

News & Current Projects

Work has pretty much come to a grinding halt while I've been busy with my move for the last few weeks. Not the best of timings for a move, perhaps — but then again, seeing that I am now in much more congenial surroundings, and can actually SLEEP at night, I trust I will be catching up with things in no time (once I got my brain out of holiday mode, that is). :-)

My talk last month in Petone about "Online Promotion for Artists" was well attended, and got some very positive feedback. I have written it up in my web design blog, please have a look there. You are also most welcome to follow the blog or subscribe to it as email or RSS feed — the bulk of information about my web design work will be posted there. I will be continuing this newsletter with more of a focus on my artistic activities, and to announce new items in the shop.

I have successfully spent the entire sum of money I was awarded for my Enterprise Allowance Grant — a surprisingly difficult task! Thanks to the generosity of the Ministry for Social Development, I am now the proud owner of a Sony Alpha 380 digital SLR photo camera, which is a very nice new toy indeed. Not that I have had much time, so far, to play with it and find out all the things it can do that the old camera couldn't — but here are some practise shots taken around my old flat with my brand new zoom lens!

If you haven't ordered your 2010 Middle Earth New Zealand calendar yet, make sure to do it soon so that they won't have run out, and will arrive in good time for Christmas! You can still get a combo package with my Travels in Middle Earth CD, too — this offer is limited to orders received before 31 December 2009.

Special offer:

Buy a 2012 Middle Earth New Zealand calendar and Travels in Middle-earth CD together, and pay only € 27 / US $ 35 + € 7 / US$ 10 shipping! (full price: €33 / US $ 40 + € 8 / US $ 11.50 shipping)

Pay in Euro:

Pay in US $:

The new range of greeting cards has arrived a few weeks ago and is now for sale in my shop, just in time for the annual Christmas greeting card sending craze.

This coming week — starting Friday 13 November — DeviantArt will be offering all greeting cards at a 30% discount. Please have a look at my range of cards on DeviantArt here.

For this promotion, I will be enabling the same motives I am selling in my own online shop, plus a number of additional ones that you can't buy here yet — including some of my photos. I ordered some cards from the DeviantArt prints shop last year — you may have gotten one in your Christmas mail. They are very good quality, and with the discount, a really good deal. The one drawback is that they only ship in quantities of 10 or 25, and no mixed packs. But I"m sure you all know plenty of people who need to be sent a Christmas card with a beautiful motive from one of your favourite artists of your own personal acquaintance (otherwise you wouldn't be subscribed to this newsletter, right?) ;-)

AnimFX Wellington 09

One benefit of living in (or close to) a city that has a firmly established reputation for a world class digital animation and effects industry (read: Weta Digital) is that we don't have to go places, people come to us.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the AnimFX conference in Wellington, and hearing the latest about the cutting edge effects technologies directly from the horse's mouth, as it were — as well as the usual inspirational talks about how great this industry is, how great it is to work in this industry, how you just need to believe in yourself and success will come along as a natural consequence of your positive attitude ... as long as you're white, young, and preferably male. They didn't say that in so many words, of course, but it was sort of implied in the constitution of the panel of speakers and the audience. Come to think of it, there weren't even any Asian people, which is unusual. The delegation from Hong Kong (headed by a person of clearly British descent) excused themselves in bulk after their spokesperson's speech was over. The darkest skin I saw for the rest of that weekend was that of a friendly young fellow from Costa Rica.

This wasn't actually what I was intending to write about the event. It just sort of spilled out. In actual matter of fact I had a jolly good time, which was entirely not what I had been expecting to have, after studying the website and the exclusively white exclusively male panel of speakers — wait no, there was a token woman on the panel, but she didn't actually do a presentation, at least none that I heard. I had rather been expecting to spend the weekend being mistaken for the cleaning lady, like last year when I strolled into that bizzare Massive Black event, organized by the folks from conceptart.org

The audience, however, contained a to me rather surprizingly large number of women — many of them well over 30. This included a handful of ex teachers and ex fellow students from Natcoll, and we had a great sociable time catching up with each other. So, even though most of the guys didn't seem to think most of us were talkable to, we had a perfectly good time talking to each other. Networking, after all — which really is the main purpose for attending events such like these — can work on several different levels and need not be confused with smoozing up to the big wigs (a lesson I personally have learned rather thoroughly by now).

Then again, a few of the lectures and most of the workshops where actually really stimulating. I learned some fascinating and useful facts about the representation of human skin, understood the principle of how to make High Dynamic Range photographic images (I always assumed that this required a special camera — not so, it appears), and got to discuss some of the intricacies of writing music for games.

I also learned a whole lot about Strawberry Shortcake — more, in fact, than I ever wanted to know. However, as is often the case, the interesting morsels are often to be found where you least expect them, and the Strawberry Shortcake guy may actually have delivered the speech most relevant to my own professional endeavours (think greeting cards. DO NOT think little pink dolls, please).

Most importantly, for what must be the first time in my life, I actually won something in a raffle. A game. Featuring some pretty hunky looking male and dark skinned digital baseball players. Now, I guess, I'll need to go and buy a Playstation! Thanks heaven for gay guys. ;-P

The Farthest Shore: Courtyard of the Fountain in Roke inspiration: courtyard in Basel, pencil study inspiration: courtyard in Colmar, photo

Ursula Le Guin: The Farthest Shore The Courtyard of the Fountain finished, and inspirations

Happy 80th Birthday Ursula K. Le Guin!

Of course, I had scheduled this newsletter to go out at the end of last month, at which time it would only have been a week or so late for Ursula Le Guin's significant birthday on 21 October. Now, it seems rather very late for congratulations. Still, I was a little underwhelmed by how little noise there was on the internet (most of it in some or other feminist blog, which does not really do the scope of the author's ideas and themes any justice) and in the media in general, as far as I can tell (to tell the truth, I've given up on most news media except the internet).

And this is not an author who has retired from public attention years ago to silently age away: her latest novel Lavinia was released only last year, with all the attendant publicity, and to considerable critical acclaim. The thought did occur, what if it had been a male writer of her standing and level of achievement? We are talking, after all, about the author of several 20th century classics, in the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Or perhaps I overestimate the acceptance that Science Fiction and Fantasy have as "serious" literary genres, these days. Hanging out at events like AnimFX would give one the impression that by now these genres are recognized as the major cultural force they are in our day and age ... but does that only apply to big budget film? Well, whatever the reasons, luckily I own a website, so I can add half a decibel of noise of my own, to throw into the scales.

All in that spirit, I have already written up a short birthday hommage on DeviantArt, featuring the works of some fellow Deviants (isn't that a great word ...) who have been inspired by her writings. It's a great way to meet some fellow spirits, btw. I got in touch with an illustrator in St Petersburg, Ekaterina Shemyak, who has done a very beautiful series of monotypes inspired by The Left Hand of Darkness — a novel that, in my opinion, belongs on every list of the 20th century's greatest books, for its cristalline perfection of language, understated intensity of emotion, and radical thinking-through of its premises and ideas. Ekaterina and some friends have been organizing a small birthday exhibition in Moscow — good on them! Do check out her DeviantArt gallery as well. She has also done some of the finest Tolkien illustrations I have ever come across, quite a different fare from the hyperrealistic style that is the fashion these days with most fantasy illustrators.

In good time for this newsletter, I myself have finished another of my Earthsea paintings: the Courtyard of the Fountain on Roke Island, a scene from The Farthest Shore, the third of the Earthsea books. As you will know if you have been following this newsletter or my DeviantArt journal, this particular image has been quite a bit of a struggle.

First I had to figure out the looks of Ged, aka Archmage Sparrowhawk, in some considerable detail. Since the author appears to be — for good reasons — quite particular about how this character is being represented, I spent quite a lot of time looking up images of American people, to get his looks right. If I've nailed it, I don't know. Actually he ended up looking remarkably like a Maori fellow of my recent acquaintance. The strange thing is that Ged has been looking that way for months before I ever met this man. The metaphysics involved in the art of painting are sometimes well beyond me.

Then I had to figure out the perspective of the courtyard, and given the lack of suitable courtyards here in New Zealand, spent quite a considerable part of my trip to Europe earlier this year chasing them up. That done, it only remained to think about the vegetation, the shape of the fountain, and of the Archmage's staff (thanks goodness I changed that at the last minute from my original design!). The colour balance was playing all sorts of tricks on me — high key and a pink-green-blue scheme are not what I usually work with, and have a high tendency to look entirely candy-coloured! Then I had to find Lebannen, who was in hiding for a long while, until one day I just found him sitting in a blob of colour under that rowan tree. Finally I spent quite a bit of time balancing the light and dark, as seems appropriate to the author and the story.

The final result, I have to say, I am really rather happy with. It iis a challenge met and mastered, and the result very much what I was aiming for in the first place. Now I think, in all courtesy, it is high time to write a letter and ask for the author's approval of this venture ... am I scared? Yup, I am!

Arohanui, from Asni