Wrapping Up

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

In this newsletter:
*** "Fantastic Journeys" Wrap-Up
*** New in the Shop: Limited Edition Art Prints
*** Cool Things Friends Do: Nani Mahal
*** Au Contraire!
Fantastic Journeys: A conversation Fantastic Journeys: The Summoning Fantastic Journeys: Escape Fantastic Journeys: Consecration

In time for the exhibition: four new Earthsea paintings

"Fantastic Journeys" Wrap-Up

So how does it feel, being an exhibited artist? - So far, it feels pretty good. I managed to complete four out of the five paintings I had set myself as a (rather ambitious) goal, bringing the total number of images in the series up to twelve Perhaps that was a luckier number than the intended thirteen? In any case, there is no reason why I should not complete the last painting eventually, and as it happens, I already started on a number fourteen. One could always have another show - perhaps one closer to home, in one of the many galleries here in the Wairarapa.

The opening was well attended - the gallery felt full of people, though I wouldn't call it packed. It was a nice intimate atmosphere and most of the people who came were long time friends or fellow artists. A few strangers strayed in, and I felt it an honour that Maggie Gresson, who heads the New Zealand Artist's Alliance, and Stephen Gibbs from SOUNZ could be there. Stephen kindly offered to document my musical premiere for posterity, and took the rather nice photos of me performing which adorn this newsletter - he actually caught me looking happy, for once!

Through the "opportunities" board on The Big Idea, I had been able to find a couple of volunteers to help me with the preparations for the show, setting up, and making sure that the opening went smoothly. Thomas Pepperell was an invaluable help with unpacking, setting up the furniture, and hammering nails into walls, and he gave generously of his time to be there and give me a bit of a break during the rest of the week. Crystal Sciacia did a thoroughly professional job as receptionist at the opening, welcoming my guests and making sure the food didn't run out. Crystal also helped me with my first foray into private sponsoring: she made a number of phone calls to wineries in the Wairarapa - with success!

Tiwaiwaka wines in Martinborough generously provided some bottles of their excellent Wairarapa red wine for the opening. I had been buying some of their wines at the local supermarket - admittedly, at first because they were on offer, but I have stuck with them since. I usually limit myself to the more moderately priced end of their range (and those are quite yummy enough), but when I opened the box they gave me, it was six bottles of their top-of-the-range Lucinda! With such lovely people to support it, how could the opening not have been a success.

Asni the Harper performs at the Fantastic Journeys opening Asni the Harper performs at the Fantastic Journeys opening Asni the Harper performs at the Fantastic Journeys opening Asni the Harper performs at the Fantastic Journeys opening

Harping at my opening (images © Stephen Gibbs)

Seeing that I only had seven weeks to put the whole show together, I've had to be pretty organized to pull it off. After clearing a couple of non-put-offable things out of the way, at the beginning of July I sat down with an Excel sheet and made a detailed list of all the tasks I needed to accomplish in time for the show. This included finishing the actual images, taking photos and producing giclee prints to be sold; making sure I bought everything I needed, from picture hooks and string to additional wine glasses for the opening; organizing food and drink (I cooked all the finger food for the opening myself over the course of about five weeks and collected it in my freezer); producing next year's Middle Earth New Zealand calendar in time to be sold at the show; making sure I stayed on schedule with my newsletter and my bills and a few other tasks, and last but not least, the publicity and promotion.

Be it because people thought that a harpist turned fantasy artist was a pretty good story ("different", I suppose), or for some other reason, my media release really did the trick this time. I scored two radio interviews, on RadioActive and VBC (the Victoria University student radio - these guys do the best interviews ever!), and pretty much hit the jackpot when the Dominion Post printed one of my paintings with the events listiing in their weekly Arts Supplement.

I was particularly pleased that the staff at Wellington City Library took the opportunity to write a blog post for their kid's blog, recommeding the Earthsea series as a read, and my exhibition as a must-do, complete with a big picture of the bright yellow dragon which also graced my posters and flyers. And then there was the local support: The Featherston Phoenix, a monthly newsletter for our small rural community, printed a whole page article with photo about the local artist who was having her first show in Wellington. I've been enjoying preferential treatment at the local supermarket and post office ever since! :)

Fantastic Journeys exhibition: visitors Fantastic Journeys exhibition: visitors Come see dragons! Fantastic Journeys exhibition: visitors

Come see dragons! Visitors at my show.

Over the six days, I had a total of 246 visitors come through my show. To compare: the National Science Fiction & Fantasy convention which I just attended last weekend had a total of 253 registered attendants! Guess I wasn't doing too badly then - particularly considering that this was my first show. The big yellow dragon, who was quite visible from some way off for anyone walking up Cuba Street might also have had a little to do with it. I think I stopped worrying about not getting any visitors for the show when we set up on Monday, and people walking by the gallery kept turning their heads, or even stopped in their tracks to goggle. :D

Sales weren't quite so hot: I did sell one of my limited edition art prints, which was a big event in my life since it officially constitutes my first Art Sale (not counting the oil painting I sold to a friend some 20 years ago). Otherwise, people bought a few CDs and greeting cards, and I collected some koha. The intake covered somewhat less than half the direct costs for the event (hall hire, posters & flyers, food & drink for the opening, transport). It could have been worse - having learned the hard way to be realistic and keep my goals achievable, I would have been quite content to even just make the hall hire back.

However, I had some interesting conversations and made a few good contacts, and some follow-up opportunities offered: I was recruited at short notice to participate in the aforementioned National Science Fiction and Fantasy convention Au Contraire which took place last weekend, to have a table at their "floating market" and play harp at their coctail party. I sold nearly as much stuff in a couple of hours at the convention, as I did the whole week in Thistle Hall! There is also talk about a new website commision - fingers crossed! A nice solid website commision would be *just* the ticket at this stage.

Thistle Hall Thistle Hall Thistle Hall

Thistle Hall exhibition space

From: Diane. Submitted 3 September 2010 at 4:53:34 AM NZST

Astrid, I'm so happy for you that it went well! And that you made some money, if not a profit. Did Philippa Ballantine come to the exhibition or Philippa or Grant Stone say hello at the convention? They are the 2 other people in NZ that I know. I wish I could've gone to support you. And you look great!



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New in the Shop: "Fantastic Journeys" limited edition art prints

Fairly early in the process, I had come to the conclusion that trying to sell my original paintings at the exhibition was probably not going to work - the price I would have had to charge, taking into consideration work hours, material costs, gallery percentage and GST, was well beyond the going rate for paintings at Thistle Hall as observed by me in the weeks leading up to the exhibition. Instead, I got some high quality art prints done - and they are still for sale!

The prints are a little larger than A4 size (excepting the dragon, which is a different format and comes in a large and a small version). They are giclee prints on archival quality German etching paper, and are limited to 50 pieces per motive (50 each for the large and small dragon). They are now available in my online shop, or if you prefer, you can order them through my Etsy shop.

The 2011 Middle Earth New Zealand calendars arrived in good time for the exhibition and are now shipping. I have already sold a small stack of them, so make sure you don't miss out! At the time of this writing, there are only 42 copies still available - and I haven't even gotten round to listing them on Ebay and Etsy yet.

If you are the thinking-ahead type and are already planning out this year's Christmas presents, why not take advantage of the amazing Middle Earth calendar and CD combo ? Order the two together and save $$! - CD sales have been up quite a bit these last couple of months (blame it on better promotion), but I am still some 50 sales short of breaking even on my production costs for the Travels in Middle-earth CD. That would be the nicest Christmas present I could imagine for myself! And if you've already got and loved your Travels in Middle-earth CD, there is 700 Years of Pop, and Pourquoy, Doux Rossignol.



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Lunar Dance by Nani Mahal tiger soft toy by Nani Mahal China House by Nani Mahal Clock Angel by Nani Mahal

Artwork and soft toy by Nani Mahal (images and items are © Nani Mahal)

Cool Things Friends Do: Nani Mahal

Occasionally one runs into one of those people where it is pretty clear at first sight that they are one of your own tribe. I only met Nani this last weekend at Au Contraire, the New Zealand National Science Fiction & Fantasy Convention (more of which further below), but she struck me right away as belonging in that category. And I'm not just saying that because, after listening to the first couple of tracks, she spontaneously decided to buy my CD, and came back the next day to tell me she'd been listening to it all afternoon and thought it was great. No. I now also own one of her handmade soft toy tigers.

Nani is a self-taught comic artist and maker of futuristic soft toys - thanks to her, the years of my soft toy deprivation (ever since I moved to New Zealand and had to leave my beloved stuffed zoo behind) have now come to an end. Most of all, she is a truly talented artist and drawsperson - do have a look at her DeviantArt gallery, though that's not even the beginning of it! I had the privilege to browse through her current sketchbook. Watch out for this girl to go places!



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Wairarapa clouds Wairarapa clouds Wairarapa clouds Wairarapa clouds

Wairarapa clouds: thoughts of alien skies

Au Contraire!

I have been mentioning Au Contraire - "the 2010 NZ SF&F NatCon" (long form: the 2010 New Zealand Science Fiction and Fantasy National Convention) a few times already throughout this newsletter - so what is it all about? Well, just that: a convention for fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy, right here in Wellington, the weekend after my show. And I hadn't heard about it until Kelly, head of the organizing committee, strolled into my exhibition and spontaneously recruited me to attend, and play the harp at their coctail party on Sunday prior to the "Sir Julius Vogel Awards" ceremony for achievements in Science Fiction and Fantasy literature, film making, art and fandom.

Since I have sworn an oath that I wasn't going to play harp any more for other people unless paid for it, I was a little hesitant at first, although it seemed a good opportunity to dip my toes into the unknown waters of fan conventions - of which, I think, there will and should be more in my future. After having a look at their website, I thought it was definitely a good opportunity to dip my toes into the unknown wates of fan conventions - and promised to be a good deal of fun. The kind of event where people dress up as characters from their favourite tv shows, discuss obscure b movies with a good deal of passion, have political opinions about the plot turns that are to be expected in the sequel to the latest fantasy bestseller, give awards for the cheesiest amateur movie, and attend ritual screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

My only previous exposure to that kind of thing had been the far more commercial Armageddon "pulp culture expos" - but if I had expected to spend the weekend being the old fogey among a crowd of teens and twenty-somethngs, I could not have been more wrong. This was the real thing. A lot of the attendants were well into their fifties at least, fans of the old days, staunch supporters of the genre since its heyday (or one of its heydays) in the 70's. This is not to say that the younger generations weren't well represented too - a few of the youngest fans were greeted with shouts of delight along the lines of "o my god the last time I saw you you were a baby" by some of the other participants. Which probably proves that this particular subculture is alive and very healthy, and here to stay - as if we'd ever doubted it!

Arohanui, from Asni



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first blossoms peach tree forget-me-not camelia

Spring - the proof!