Exhibition Countdown

NEW IN THE SHOP: Middle Earth New Zealand calendar 2011 *** Greeting card: Wild Chicory
Also available: Music CDs * Sheet music * Greeting cards * New Zealand photography

In this newsletter:
*** "Fantastic Journeys" Exhibition Countdown
*** New in the Shop: Middle Earth New Zealand calendar 2011
*** Cool Things Friends Do
*** Still Life

"Fantastic Journeys" Exhibition Countdown

Less than three weeks out from the Big Day, things are as they are when it's less than three weeks out from a Big Day. I am currently working on five paintings simultaneously, but am pleased with the progress, and confident that at least three of them will indeed be finished in time for the show. The other two, que será, será.

I am also, as always, doubling, tripling and quadrupling as my own media and publicity expert, photographer, graphic and web designer, bill poster, and cook. This will therefore be a "short & sweet" edition of the newsletter, and I'll try to stick to the bare basics.

Fantastic Journeys - Paintings inspired by Ursula Le Guin will open at Thistle Hall in Wellington (upper end of Cuba St) on Tuesday 17 August. The Grand Opening will happen on Tuesday evening from 6 pm - 9 pm. It will feature, amongst Asni's famously delicious home cooked finger food, the ahem, world premiere of a new harp piece of mine, "Only in Silence", which as it happens is also inspired by Ursula Le Guin's texts. I mean you know, bring it on, as they say.

The gallery will be open on Tuesday from 11 am, and then every day from 11 am to 8 pm, Sunday until 6 pm. There will be harp music performances daily at 12.30 pm and 6 pm (Sunday 5.30 pm) - I'll be playing my new pieces, some improvisations, and repertory from my Travels in Middle-earth CD. Prints of the artwork, CDs, cards, and the freshly finished Middle Earth New Zealand calendar 2011 will be for sale at the exhibition. Entry is free, but a koha is always appreciated - a hat will be passed round for the harp music.

The echo so far has been tolerably good - I got some posters and flyers printed with a big yellow dragon on them, and quite a few people have been remarking upon their beauty. Some even picked up a flyer of their own accord, without me having to shove it under their nose! I have been busy sending out my media releases to all and sundry, and will be interviewed on VBC on Monday 16 August (they did a lovely interview with me two years ago for the Travels in Middle-earth CD launch promotion). Another interview on RadioActive's "Caffeine and Aspirin" show is pending confirmation - so if you live in the Wellington region, stay tuned! :) My Facebook Event page tells me that six people will definitely attend. It might look like a modest number, but given that most of my Facebook friends live on other continents, not really too disheartening. Quite a few of my overseas friends have announced that they will maybe come, if they can get the teleporter to function by then.

Last week, I put an ad on The Big Idea for an "enthusiastic person to help with Event Management", and a couple of days later I received not one but two every earnest emails - one with a full cv attached - asking if the position was still available. From Events Management students, no less. One of the two has meanwhile discovered that she lives in Auckland, but the other I was going to meet today - except that she called up to say she's sick, and I couldn't get over the hill in this storm today, which was a kind of serendipity I suppose. Hopefully she'll still be keen to meet in a couple of days! I was mainly hoping to find someone to play receptionist at my opening, and perhaps be available to pass the hat round and collect koha for the music performances during the week. But hey, a real proper budding Events Management professional - I could even delegate the wretched question of beverages to them.

The event now also has its own shiny dedicated page on my site - complete with customized dragon CSS layout and a *Flash banner* - any updates about the show will happen there, and I suppose it may expand into a little section with photos - and if I get lucky, some reviews, or even a piece of video - after the show.



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New in the Shop: Middle Earth New Zealand calendar 2011

Somehow, in amongst all that, I have managed to squeeze in the design and production of this year's edition of the Middle Earth New Zealand photo wall calendar. Given the way they sold like hot baked muffins last year, I've decided to go for a somewhat larger print run - currently there are 75 copies, and like last year, the Tolkien Shop in the Netherlands will be selling a contingent of 25. If sales go really well, I reserve the right to produce some more, but will limit this year's edition to a 100 pieces - signed, of course - for you calendar collectors out there. :)

Giclee prints of the Ursula Le Guin inspired artwork will be available at my show, but due to the vexed copyright situation, I am not sure if I will be able to sell them online later on. These will be small limited editions of high quality art prints. I expect I will simply see how I go during the show, and then decide what to do with any leftovers later. I'll keep you posted! If you already know that you'd like to acquire one of those prints, please send me an email to reserve one.

Last month, Google kindly sent me a $50 voucher for their Adwords programme, so if you've googled "harp sheet music" lately, you may well have seen my site pop up amongst the "sponsored ads". It feels a bit like a betrayal of principles, but then again, I am trying to sell the stuff ... not that, so far, the adwords programme has made much(or any) difference to my sales numbers. Pimping my online shop on Facebook did that. And Facebook is free. So, my dear Watkins, should we continue this adwords experiment once our fifty dollars are expired? Well, give it a few more days, I'd say.

Or perhaps my newsletter will make a difference? The new edition of Huete's "Baroque Dances" can be ordered here, and the full range of sheet music editions for harp and other instruments - including the ever popular "Luz y Norte" by Ruiz de Ribayaz - is here. And don't forget about my pretty greeting cards! There's always someone who'd appreciate a card from you I'm sure. :).

The Online Promotion for Everyone classes at the Featherston Community Centre have been dribbling away a bit, and this month I have to admit it was very convenient to cancel the class. The monthly schedule seems a bit awkward, and makes it hard for me to put sufficiane effort into promoting the course, so I am now looking to offer the classes as a block course of six or eight weeks, probably strating in September. Opinions, suggestions, interest? Please send me an email so I can keep you up to date.

The other day, I had a phone call out of the blue from the Wairarapa Times-Age by a young reporter who was very curious about those classes, and asked me a lot of intelligent questions. I think I acquitted myself well in this spontaneous phone interview - and those classes are definitely a thing to pursue further. The reporter, anyhow, fully agreed that it can only benefit the many small business people and independent professionals in this region.



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Adventureland: Peak by Gary Peters Adventureland: Poles Apart by Gary Peters Adventureland: Untitled by Gary Peters Adventureland: Promises by Gary Peters

Gary Peters: Adventureland (images are © Gary Peters)

Cool Things Friends Do

The other day, I got a message on Etsy from a young lady who wrote that she really loved the painting I have for sale, and would I be interested in joining her mom's Facebook page, where she invites other Etsy store owners to share their new listings? Simply Smitten sells an eclectic but very appealing mix hand made dolls and felt animals, quilted bags, greeting card, eco-friendly cleaning products and cooking recipes, and she fully deserves to be featured here on account of having this very cool idea to set up a Facebook page helping others to promote their products, and on account of her daughter, who is obviously a budding online marketing genius : ) Check them out!

Following up on last month's mini feature about fellow Wellington artist Gary Peters, I have now figured out how to download images from his website, and am including them here by way of late delivery. Gary organized a studio exhibition of his Adventureland series this month - a good opportunity to check out his work in person. Next month, his work will be part of a group show opening at Toi Poneke the same night that I have my gallery opening at Thistle Hall. Their opening is from 5 - 7 pm, and Toi Poneke is literally just round the corner from Thistle Hall, so if you're coming to mine, why not get two for the price of one and check their's out as well. :)



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Still Lives

Back in June - before I booked myself into Thistle Hall and things went crazy - I have been amusing myself with my watercolours, for a change. The main reason being that my little dedicated watercolour work desk lives in the lounge, right next to the woodburner, and that seemed a very desirable thing in June (not that July is much different in that respect! Nor will August be, I fear).

Sometime in late May, a care parcel from my mother arrived, containing a generous quantity of new tubes of oil paint ("this artist is sponsored by mom") - as well as a few books and CDs, and some household items I'd left behind in Germany. My favourite blue tablecloth from Sweden, and my favourite glass bowls, also from Sweden, and as a very special extra, a beautiful replica-antique wine glass from the Czech Republic. There is a wonderful glass craft store in one of the little towns just across the border from where I used to live in Bavaria.

Seeing that my mon's birthday was coming up at the end of June, I decided to attempt a still life with some of the items she'd sent me, for a birthday present. It would have been nice to use some of the new oil colours, but the practicalities of shipping a canvas - and of getting it ready on time - were a bit daunting. Though I have a lot less practice with watercolours, still they seem like an "easier" medium for painting from life. Not that I've ever attempted to do that yet with oils - there's a task for the future!

I went about it very systematically for once - starting with a pencil sketch, or two in fact, since I was not happy with the first. I then transferred the sketch onto watercolour paper - and I am proud to report that I have finally mastered the art of stretching a sheet of paper without it tearing loose while drying, thanks to the staple gun that was also included in the parcel.

I then applied copious quantities of masking fluid, and set about to paint. It turned out to be a time consuming process mostly because I had to break it down into numerous very short sessions, to allow the paper to dry in between, and to gradually take off layers of the masked-off areas. I found that it goes very well with getting some housekeeping done inbetween painting sessions!

The setup turned out a bit tricky, in that the right light conditions - dark enough for the candle to cast light, but still light enough to have some daylight - were only available for a limited period each day. I was very happy with how the colours, the textures and the light turned out in the first painting, but oh! I made a mess of the perspective. A year or two ago I would have been completely stoked with the first result, but now I looked at it, squinted, and told myself sternly "that won't do".

So I set out to do a second version, this time with a properly geometrically constructed perspective sketch, instead of trying to rely on my unreliable eye measure. I don't think I got all those tricky elipses quite right, but at least the lines on the tablecloth are now converging. I also contrived to buy myself some proper watercolour paper for the second attempt, so that gave the colours more brilliance.

All in all, when I look at the two versions next to each other, I can't really say which one I like better. The second one is more "correct" for sure, and definitely more technically competent - and it is the one I ended up sending to my mother, several weeks late alas. But I guess the first one is, well, fresher. Quite literally: by the end of the second session the candle had all but burned down and the wine had gone cloudy and needed to be replaced, even the lemons were starting to wrinkle. And perhaps I had been looking at the same setup a few too many times by then. For all it's technical faults, I think in some ways the first painting is the more successful composition. Next time I try my hand at a still life, it would be neat if I could achieve the best of both worlds!

Arohanui, from Asni



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