Flights of Pencil

NEW IN THE SHOP: Diego Fernandez de Huete: Spanish Dances Vol 1 (easy) - for harp or keyboard instruments (sheet music)
Also available: Greeting cards * Music CDs * Sheet music * New Zealand photography

In this newsletter:
*** Winter in the Wairarapa
*** News & Current Projects
*** Cool Things Friends Do: DragonladyCH
*** WIFT Post-Production Seminars at Park Road Post
sketch: fire logs sketch: river rocks sketch: home baked rolls

Sketch-a-day May, week one: wood fire, river rocks, home baked rolls

Winter in the Wairarapa

After the glorious late summer weather that lasted us until about the middle of the month, winter has now well and truly settled in. For the last two weeks, the rain has hardly let up, which makes it very tempting to just snuggle up in front of the wood fire most of the time.

The trick is to find things one can do snuggled up in front of a wood fire, rather than sitting at my desk in my chilly office. On the first day of the month, I quite spontaneously decided that I was going to do a pencil sketch a day for the whole of the month, to finally fill up that big fat sketchbook I bought a couple of years ago, but which is really a bit heavy for carrying around on outdoors sketching expeditions. This, as it turns out, is an excellent thing to do in front of a wood fire! As you can see - the first thing I sketched, on that first day, was - my wood fire :) - (even though fire is a near impossible thing to capture with a pencil).

A sketch a day for a month are quite a lot of sketches, and eventually I ran out of adequate subjects for genteel still lives - such as my teapot, various fruit bowls, and the eternal river stones - so I made recourse to the images in my mind. That's where things got - interesting. From sketching up drafts for my next handful of "Earthsea" images, and developing some ideas for another painting I am working on, by week three and a half I was into free fall jamming. I am by no means going to publicly post all of the sketches I did last week - my own demons are my own business, I judge! But therapeutic, it was, oh yes indeed. Plus, it is quite a substantial addition to my illustration portfolio.

For future sketches to come, please check out my profile on 'skineart.

sketch: wood stack sketch: live drawing session, nude 1 sketch: live drawing session, nude 2 sketch: Fool, concept sketch: Fool's friend (concept)

Sketch-a-day May, week one & two: wood stack, nudes, the Fool and his Friend

Another thing one can do very well in front of a wood fire is to work through a book or two on software or computer programming, with or without computer on one's lap. I got a couple of computer books out of the library early in the month, and have spent some time brushing up my skills in Illustrator, since this is where the future of illustration seems to lie - and besides, I do enjoy working with the program.

The main task this month was to take a nose dive into Flash - not my favourite programme when I was in Multimedia school, and I haven't much improved my opinion, but it comes with it's own programming language which is capable of quite a few very useful things. I've been working through setting up a music player for my website - much as I would like to show it off in time for the newsletter, it's not quite done yet, but do keep an eye on my music pages, as I will continue to work on them next month. Meanwhile, here is a little programming exercise - click anywhere on the white screen that will appear. Guaranteed to make you smile! (requires Flash player)

Since the music player will be required for most of the pages to update, there hasn't been much progress this month with actually putting things online, but I have updated my biography, discography and list of publications, and compiled a brand new list of my own compositions and arrangements, which turned out lengthier than I thought.

Not much happening in the garden this month - and anyhow, it's been too wet and gloomy all week to take photos. After looking not very promising at all, and being mostly eaten by caterpillars, the broccoli is now coming into its own and has been yielding the occasional supply of stir-fried veggies with my meals. The zucchini and tomatoes have wilted under too much rain, and the trees have all been harvested, but the cauliflowers are growing nicely, and I've planted a whole new generation of broccoli, brussels sprouts and cale, to hopefully harvest next spring. I'm also digging up a new bed next to the house for more kitchen herbs and flowers, and today I bought some bags of daffodil, tulip and iris bulbs to put in, so that I'll know when it is spring. :)

sketch: ephemera sketch: I am the one sketch: fire dance sketch: monster love

Sketch-a-day May, mostly week three: moonlit landscapes, fire dance, monster love

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sketch: summoning of Elfarran (concept) sketch: inside the Terrenon (concept) Atuan, in the mountains (concept)

Sketch-a-day May: Earthsea concept sketches - Wizard of Earthsea x 2, Tombs of Atuan

News & Current Projects

The BIG project that got completed this month is, for once, music related: my edition of the first volume of baroque Spanish dance music by Diego Fernandez de Huete. A project that has been sitting in the pipeline for way too long!

Huete's "Compendio numeroso de cifra para harpa" is probably the most voluminous source we have for harp repertory and harp technique before 1800. I have already edited the Pasacalles from the end of the second volume - sophisticated high baroque music that can hold its own next to some of this Toledan cathedral harpist's much better known contemporaries.

The dance tunes from the beginning of the book, which I have transcribed from their original harp tablature for this new edition, are very much "beginner" pieces, and typical for the Spanish dance repertory of the period - simple, short, rhythmic tunes, often with just a drone as accompaniment. A number of them show African influence - pieces with names like "Guineo", "Canarios", or "Paracumbe", which show considerable similarity to the repertory of the West African kora which is still being performed today. It is lovely, tuneful, rhythmically driven music, and well worth your attention even if you're a technically more advanced harper than what those pieces are aimed for.

Huete, of whom next to nothing is known other than that he served as cathedral harpist in Toledo, structured his book, which appeared in two volumes in 1702 and 1704 respectively, as a primer for the harp - a short introduction gives some hints about harp technique, tunings, and the performance of ornaments. Most intriguingly, all the pieces are lavishly supplied with fingerings! The pieces are suitable not only for the baroque single or double row harp for which they were written, but also for modern folk, lever or pedal harps, as well as any keyboard instruments. They can be ordered now in the shop and will be available for shipping early next week.

On the web design front, things have been rather quiet, but I am continuing to work on my own site, and plan to finish the music section - complete with Flash music player - by the end of next month. I have also been putting some thought into how to develop my online promotion courses and workshops, and am currently investigating other places where I might offer them - if you are interested, or know anyone who might be, please do let me know!

The "Online Promotion for Everyone" course here in Featherston definitely seems to meet a need. From next month on, classes will be happening on the 4th Thursday of the month, instead of Wednesday. The next session will be on Thursday 24 June, from 7.30 - 8.30 pm at the Featherston Community Centre, 14 Wakefield St. The topic of next session will be "How to be Found - Search Engines and what they are looking for". Cost is $ 12 per session per person. The classes are open to non-Featherstonians too, of course - if you are interested in attending, please send me an email so I can notify you in case there are any changes of date or time.

The Tombs of Atuan: The Painted Room Alan Garner: Thursbitch book cover design

The Tombs of Atuan:The Painted Room :: another Thursbitchcover

This month, I don't have to make excuses about not finishing any Earthsea paintings - the one I have been working on those past two months is DONE - an illustration for The Tombs of Atuan: Tenar, aka Arha, the High Priestess of the Tombs, has captured the wizard Ged when he penetrated the sacred underground labyrinth which is the realm of the Dark Powers whom Arha serves. As High Priestess, it is her duty to punish him for this sacrilege with a particularly slow and painful death, but she decides that it is much more interesting to chain him up in the Painted Room inside the labyrinth, and observe him - or even go and talk to him, and find out about the world outside her constrained and very boring existence as a priestess. In doing so, she risks her own life, should the older, cruel priestess Kossil, who was one of Arha's teachers, find out.

The painting tries to capture the claustrophobic atmosphere of the underground chamber with its strange wall paintings, lit only by Arha's little lamp, and the uneasioly developing relationship between the two main characters - Arha always taunting, very nervous, and Ged, who somehow seems in charge of the situation even though his life clearly depends on Arha's whim.

As a footnote to the Thursbitch book covers I posted last month, I would like to report that after finishing and sending off the last newsletter, I spent the rest of the evening sketching up yet another cover - a much simpler idea which, as is often the case, turned out to be much more effective. So effective, in fact, that it made the month's selection on even though I just barely made the submission deadline! Now I only wish I could put that in my cv. :grin:

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Cool Things Friends Do: DragonladyCH

I am always keen to feature some of my friend's and fellow artist's work when they have some sort of occasion or success to report - or even for no particular reason! DragonladyCH is another fellow illustrator whom I originally met through John Howe's website, and who has become a good friend since - last year I even met her in person when she organized a little get-together for our online club of friends, or those who live close enough to Bern in Switzerland to make the trip. We went to see the new Paul Klee museum together - an artist whom we both very much admire - and we sure had a lot to talk about. After all, we are nearly of an age, and have both come to the conclusion nearly at the same time that we wanted to be able to stop flipping the figurative burger and live the life of a more or less full time illustrator one day. She is a few steps ahead of me on that journey - she's already had illustrations for a couple of children's books published.

As her online alias implies, one of the things DragonladyCH most likes to paint are - dragons. She has created some truly impressive specimen, such as the one you can admire above - more can be admired in her DeviantArt gallery. Another source of inspiration for her work is heavy rock music - she used to play in a band herself, and is a very devout fan of Alice Cooper, who has inspired a number of her paintings, both with his face and with his music.

DragonladyCH also makes jewellery, which she sells in her Etsy shop - along with prints of her artwork, and the odd original. Recently, she has come up with a very unique Steampunk inspired line of jewellery - though I was most tempted to buy the beautiful pendant made from a pebble from Iona, the other day. Given the lack of paid work I've experienced those last couple of months, I felt I really and truly could not justify such a frivolous expense, but hey, if anyone's looking for a present for me... hint, hint. :D

Antikimena Steampunk jewellery by DragonladyCH Barn owl brooch by DragonladyCH Magic bean pendant by DragonladyCH

Jewellery by DragonladyCH: available in her Etsy shop

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WIFT Post-Production seminars at Park Road Post

These last few months, the newly incorporated WIFT (Women in Film and Television) New Zealand - of which I am a member - has been running a series of seminars about all matters post-production at Peter Jackson's own state of the art facility, Park Road Post. It would have been worth going simply for the privilege of getting a peek or two inside this very fancy building (although I have been in there on a couple of previous occasions) - but the talks themselves were well worth investing the time (the entry fee, five dollars per session for WIFT members, even I would call negligible).

It is quite something to be able to go and listen and talk to people who have worked on the caliber of movies that comes through Park Road Post - the Narnia series, The World's Fastest Indian, and Avatar are only a few recent examples. And the point of view that the person who does the colour grading, or the sound mix, has on those productions, is a bit different from what one usually hears in interviews or on DVD comment tracks, where it is generally the director and actors who get to do the talking.

The two topics that were the most interesting to me were the seminar on sound - we got to sit in the sound mix room at Park Road Post and I had a moment of serious Toy Envy, but I think I already mentioned that in a previous newsletter - and this month's seminar about Special Effects, which was presented by Weta (who else).

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Richard Taylor had made the time to be there himself, and he had brought two of his people along. After a brief and sweeping overview of where he thought the industry was going (and the rest of the world along with it - virtual realities is the new new buzzword!) - the talk then turned to concept design, a topic which naturally had me sit on the edge of my seat.

The presentation was held in an "open discussion" format and the audience invited to join in, but as the seminar proceeded, this began to seem more and more like an empty gesture. In reality it was Richard Taylor who did the lion share of the talking - and if I thought I had heard some, or indeed many of those lines before, I was probably not mistaken. You know all that stuff about giving "young Kiwis" a chance to realize their artistic talents, and how passion and persistence and things are more important than talent.

Read between the lines: a willingness to put up with 12 hour working days and overtime whenever required - incidentally, a perfect mechanism to filter out too much female participation, since there are precious few women who have a tender husband at home to do the laundry and the cooking and the cleaning, and take the kids to school. Guys, on average, tend to be more privileged in that respect, and free to go off and play with their toys, while someone else looks after the day to day grit of their life, and makes sure they are clothed, fed and bedded when they come home.

The two young fellows who had come along to do the presentation actually had some interesting points to contribute when they got the chance - and they sounded a whole lot more genuine than the pre-rehearsed publicity soundbites uttered by their boss. Though at the point where they both expressed how extremely privileged they were to work at such seriously cool place like Weta, and Mr Taylor actually broke out into delighted little chuckles, the event somehow lost whatever remained of professional dignity.

One of those two - both in their early thirties at most - was the manager of the Concept Art department, if I got that right, the other involved in creating a movie out of the Dr Grordbort's line of steampunk merchandise, one of the odder things that Weta keeps itself busy with and the rubels rolling in. I had a bit of a chat with each of them afterwards, and they both seemed perfectly affable sort of people - and contrary to what I have experienced more than once in this particular industry, not above having a professional conversation with a forty year old woman.

Their boss, however, was a different matter. Someone like myself, who is obviously neither young nor Kiwi, quite evidently is not worth bestowing his attention upon in a professional context. The very brief exchange I had with him when I tried to strike up a conversation finished with the interesting statement that without art, there would be no patriotism! At this point I might have been heard to mumble that if that were so, I would consider it a perfectly good reason to give up art. Now I tend to mumble very softly, but still: if I ever had the remotest chance to be hired at Weta - being neither young nor Kiwi - I guess I just blew it there and then.

Now, when the talk had come to what it takes to be a concept artist, and Richard Taylor proceeded to enumerate the skills and personal attributes that such a person needs to have - I mean, apart from being young and Kiwi - I might have jumped up and waved and shouted "This is me! You should hire me!". But this was by no means the first time that I got the vibe that being young and Kiwi (and preferably male) is indeed the single most deciding factor as to wether one will be considered for a job as a Concept Artist at Weta, and after hanging out for a year at school with guys who were young and mostly Kiwi, I felt that even if for some odd reason I could convince them to hire me (with an Equal Employment Opportunities lawsuit perhaps? Yeah right...) - it would, as a best-case scenario, be a very lonely experience.

So my reluctance to get my butt up and put together and send in a portfolio has to do at least as much with having come to seriously reconsider the actual desirability of working there, as it has with any self doubts I most certainly have.

I do think that at the end of the day, putting my money on the internet (and continuing to exercise those pencils) was probably the better choice anyway. After all, even Richard Taylor thinks that there's where the future of the industry is going. Here's to hoping that I haven't starved by then.

Arohanui, from Asni

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sketch: apple pie sketch: bowl of limes sketch: lunch without dormouse

Sketch-a-day May: apple pie, lime bowl, lunch (without dormouse)