Asni: Multimedia Art & Design
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: Middle Earth New Zealand photo calendar 2012
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- In this newsletter:
- *** Happy New Year!
- *** News and Current Projects
- *** Cool Things Friends Do: The Holiday Feature
- *** Travel Tales: Schwarzach, Bavaria
Happy New Year!
Merry holidays, my dear readers! Be it Christmas you have celebrated, or the solstice, another religious or seasonal holiday, or just the opportunity to take some days off work. And all my best wishes for the new year 2012!
There I was thinking I'd send the newsletter out for Christmas, but in the end I decided to have some time off instead and enjoy the absolutely gorgeous, balmy summer days we've had. I was rather hoping to see out the year on some beach, but the last couple of days it has been raining steadily. A good time to wrap a few things up! Besides, I tell myself it's good for the garden.
And look, it's a jubilee issue! Fifty newsletters! The ups, the downs, the rants, the raves, the trials, the tribulations, and the opinionated opinions of Asni the Harper slash Painter slash Multimedia Artist slash Backyard Gardener. Thanks ye all for listening, and please continue to tune in! I love to get those emails, and the odd newsletter commnent once in a while, to know that what I am writing here has reached someone and struck a nerve somehow. Keep them coming!
There isn't all that much new to tell, this time round. The holiday season has arrived with several things still being up in the air: new projects, and more importantly, the house buying process. A local builder friend of mine offered to do a building inspection in return for a crate of beer, and he pointed out that the foundations of the house don't look too good – so now I am waiting for an assessment and a quote from the local repiling contractor who came around a few days ago, and promised to send it in a week or so. That would be quite a big (as in, expensive, and messy) job to do to a newly bought house, so I'm not too thrilled about the prospect. Meanwhile I keep hoping for someone to solve the Euro crisis, so that my money will actually be worth something when I transfer it to New Zealand! Challenges.
At least, after enduring a spate of exceptional rudeness and threats from a certain client who appeared to find fault with the fact that I generally expect to get paid for my work (and on time, too!), I did eventually manage to extract the money I was owed for my latest website. I am glad this client appears to have some friends who have brought home to her the fathomless stupidity of trying to wriggle out of a last payment instalment owed to the person who is in charge of loading the perfectly completed and functional site up to her server (or not) – on no other grounds than that she has changed her mind yet again, and thinks her money has bought her an unlimited amount of my time, in perpetuity.
Then again, what does one expect from a person who comes to my house, stands in my kitchen and asks me, in all seriousness, where "home" is for me. I am sure she's been congratulating herself all along on her openmindedness for contracting an untrustworthy foreigner like myself in the first place, and was utterly shocked to find that I actually expected to be treated like a human being – let alone a competent professional. In the course of the project, this client has emphasized several times that the site should project "diversity". She doesn't object to getting hired by Indians or Asians, you see. Whehey!
I should have walked away – as I very nearly did – when after two and a half months of twiddling my thumbs (roughly the amount of time I had pencilled into my schedule for completing most of the work on the site), she still hadn't sent me her files or given me feedback on the site drafts: I had to understand, she had a full time job and needed to kick up her feet in the evenings and weekends, not work on the freelance business she is planning to set up. Or perhaps I should have turned the job down right away when she asked me, in our very first conversation, how come I could come here from overseas and get money from WINZ.
From our latest interactions just before the holidays, it's become blatantly clear that she's been more concerned about making my life as difficult as possible, than about making sure that the site is up and running. Even her web designer friend, who is hosting the site for her (he probably knew better than to offer to build it!), conceded that I've been more than patient – he's been saying nice things about the site all along, despite the client's efforts to find fault with absolutely everything. But hey, she's promised to sue me if I don't work for her on Christmas Day! Best of luck with that. Fortunately, there's the "Out of Office" reply.
Needless to say, after what I have seen of this client's attitudes – in terms of professionalism (that is, utter and complete lack thereof) and otherwise, this is not a business I am going to endorse and promote on my blogs and social networks, as I have done with my other clients (who were all perfectly deserving of the favour). Some clients, it really is better to be without.
But it hasn't been all unpleasantness and aggravation. As I'm writing this, I've just got back from a day of teaching life drawing to a small and committed group of schoolchildren on a brand new school holiday programme, which is being organized by a lady who is about to open a new art gallery in Carterton, and has expressed a keen interest in putting some of my life drawings on her wall, with a healthy price tag. I can't say that I've ever taught a drawing class before, let alone to teenagers ... but apparently I acquitted myself well, for they were, for the most part, really focused on the exercises, and seem to have enjoyed themselves. And yes, I am gettiing paid! Not an awful lot, but adequate. And today in the mail, there was a cheque for the little painting I sold a month or so ago. More of that, please, universe! Thanks.
News & Current Projects
I've been updating the photography section on this website! All with fresh wall paint – I was beginning to think that green look is getting a little tired. And the Lord of the Rings filming location photo galleries are back! Not quite in time for the Christmas holidays – but I'm hoping most of you will still be on a bit of a break, and there is always New Year's day, for you to have a leisurely browse, if you are so inclined. There are also still some calendars left! Get them before they are all gone. :)
Also a little too late for Christmas, but with the best of intentions, is my newest arrangement of a German Christmas carol: Maria durch ein' Dornwald ging. This is turning into a bit of a tradition! Last year was rather a rush job, so this year, I thought I'd take my time, and go a bit easier on the reverb. In fact, the arrangement I came up with does entirely without computer generated sounds – it's all acoustic, recorded at home, and apart from some noise cleanup and a bit of artificial space, there is no computer manipulation. Multitracking, of course, but no artificial effects. Those weird overtones you hear there are my most recently discovered freak talent: I'm a natural at Tuvinian throat singing! So can I join the freak show already? – So this is a rather weird version ("schräg", we would say in German), of a very old and very beautiful carol. I hope you enjoy!
The garden has been coming along nicely this year: last spring, regardless of whether I was going to be able to buy the place eventually, or not, I decided to plant the little lime and lemon trees which have been living with me in their pots for, oh, at least five years? They look very, very happy in their new piece of earth. That little lemon tree was clinically dead once! You should see it now!
This year's Christmas tree is another hazel, a pollinator for the one I planted last year. It will go out into the nicely soggy ground just after New Year, to be part of my "grow an oldfashioned hedge" project. There is plenty of space in the garden to get a little orchard going, and if things go well, I have the Christmas trees for the next five years already planned out: a cherry, a prune, an almond, a pear, and an apricot – or perhaps a fig? They can join the two little avocado trees I found growing in my compost this spring.
To get my hands on some plants I would like to grow in the garden without overstretching the budget, I've been keeping my eyes open for opportunities to take some cuttings of desirable plants. I'm still working on increasing my success rate, but so far, I've managed to grow a couple of elders and one tiny little lilac - transplanted to the backyard from the abundant lilac hedge out front. Currently I'm working on getting some birch and linden twigs to sprout (as wind shelter and cure for any bouts of homesickness), and some plumbago from a certain exuberant bush I used to admire when I was living in Wellington. And for my medicinal herbs collection, last year I located some St John's Worth on the road from Napier to Taihape, but this year I found a source much closer to home, on an unused car lot in Carterton! Now I'm keeping my eyes peeled for a rowan tree.
With rather a bit of rain, and not quite so many storms as previous years, the vegetables are doing quite fine, too. Besides, I have now learned about the importance of wind shelters! A few days ago I harvested the first of what looks like it's going to be a bountiful supply of green peas. The green beans are almost ready to harvest, and will likely feed me for the best part of the next two months, judging from last year's experience! I have finally managed to grow more than one happy looking zucchini plant – there are four, this year. The tomatoes, broadbeans, gherkins, carrots, and sweetcorn are all growing away happily. The apple and walnut crops look like they will be a bit slimmer this year, but I'm sure there will still be more than enough for my own needs – perhaps just a little less to do swaps with! And the plum tree seems to be responding well to my efforts at pruning. There are a few plums shining through the branches, toi toi toi that they'll stay on the tree until they are ripe. Not a whole lot, but definitely more than last year: last year, I only had one.
Speaking of veggie swaps: For those of you who live in New Zealand, I'd like to draw your attention to the new food bill which is currently being passed through congress. There is a lot of concern that this bill might restrict small scale and hobby growers, impede community vegetable and seed swaps, and even, apparently, serving your own home grown food to your guests! Sounds like a typical example of a bill that promotes the interests of Corporate Greed. Apparently, these days, growing your own food in your garden, rather than being a good consumer and buying it in the supermarket, is a subversive act. There is a petition to sign, hoping to get some of the wording in the new food bill changed.
If you are interested in this topic, and the wider implications of this food bill, I can highly recommend the book I am currently reading, Food Not Lawns by H. C. Flores. There is also a website and online community (US based): www.foodnotlawns.net
And just to prove that feminist politics can warm your heart, here's a welcome to the Fourth Wave. Some people wake up early! Couldn't have said it better myself. :)
Last year I did a big feature of all sorts of struggling artist friends who are selling weird and wonderful things on the internet, and deserve some support. This year, seeing that this is The Fiftiest Newsletter and a Big Deal (sort of), I thought that rather than introducing lots of new people, why not do a retrospective of some of the featurees of the last 49 issues? Well ok, the feature has only been running more or less regularly for just over a year or so, but still. Where are they now?
Inkibus – aka Alana Schmitt – has always been an astute internet networker: it was quite possibly her persistent enthusiasm for promoting other people's sites and causes and online shops, that gave me the idea for starting this feature in the first place. This year, she has written up a Christmas feature on her DeviantArt journal (and included my site, yay!) She seems busily creative as ever – I haven't been much in touch lately, too busy both of us I guess. From what I gather, she's been getting quite a few commissions for props and costuming work lately, on top of the rabbit farm and the family furniture crafting business – no wonder she has no time for Facebook! And she continues to churn out those weird and wonderful photos of "Hoods in the Woods".
Sunila Sen Gupta is currently working on putting together, producing, and fundraising for her first art book! I've just featured her in my last newsletter, but the extra link sure can't hurt. :D She's joined the club of Christmas feature writers this year with a feature on her blog, which also includes my website (double yay!) - Go and support the fundraising effort for her art book, if you haven't already! :) The latest picture she has posted online is a stunning tribute to Keith Richards, in her "Archetypes" series.
I am sure I have featured C A Hiley at some stage, though I can't seem to find the newsletter issue. Or maybe I featured her on my DeviantJournal? She's been lying low on DeviantArt, but sends me the occasional email, and she now has her own website, which is a very cool site, and I'm saying that even though it wasn't me who designed it. :P She seems to be doing quite fine in the Edinburgh printmaking scene, and has a variety of prints, cards and artist books available for sale on her site.
Another online friend in that same group of people is Laura G Young, whom I haven't featured here, but who will surely be a featuree in the future! I met her in the same illustration enthusiast's online community where I met Alana, Sunila, C A Hiley, and a few others mentioned here, and she is now working on illustrating a book, something to do with birds. I think it is her first proper professional illustration project. So many of the people I met on that site have gone and done some of the things they used to only dream of, back when I met them – be that going professional as an artist, or just generally bettering their lives. It's great to see how far all these friends have come since then!
Sabrina Pohle has finished her law degree, published at least one picture book (soon to be available on Amazon.de), and is busy working away on a comic. I think she wins the prize for "high achiever" this year! :D
Not everyone likes to share with the wider internet what is going on in their lives, and not everyone featured here is on my Facebook friends list. Of Anupama I know little except the beautiful poetic photos she keeps churning out. Melih Sangöl doesn't write a journal (and if he did, it might be in Turkish), but he also uploads new images at quite a stunning rate.
Pat Knorpp has embarked on what seems to be a systematic study of glas and other transparent or shiny materials – to my delight, one of her most recent paintings is an old samovar! I got one of those too, you know. Not a shiny brass one, though!
Maria Aragon has gone back to her favourite mythological topics, after sticking to simpler nature studies for a while, while she had to undergo treatment for cancer last year. She's also written up a series of really interesting articles about mythological subjects on her DeviantArt Journal. Some of her work is available in her Etsy store.
Of the local Wellington artists, Gary Peters has been working away on his master's degree in fine arts this year, and he's come up with some pretty cool spatial stuff involving painting mystic colourful things on big white walls. He keeps me up to date through his weekly newsletter, which it is interesting for me to follow, because what he does is so different from the more illustration- and representational-art-oriented things most of my other artist friends do.
Fellow Featherstonian Tania Williams is back from an extended trip to South America last winter, and has continued with her series of dreamy allegorical "-Ships". I haven't seen or heard from Nani Mahal in a little while, but she has been uploading new work to her Deviantart gallery, on and off. Last time I saw Brendan Grant was when he bought one of my Fantastic Journeys (aka Earthsea) prints off me, last Christmas (good on him!), but he seems to be doing quite well with selling his work, and with web design work. As we all do, more or less!
As to the writers and musicians: Philippa Ballantine, whose first novel "Geist" I reviewed last year, now has two more novels published (one translated into German) – and several sequels in the pipeline. The move to the States seems to have worked out well for her! I see the sequel to "Geist", "Spectyr", is now available - I'll go check that out! Wonder if I could coax them into sending me another review copy ...
Shawna Reppert hasn't been quite so lucky: she is still looking for a publisher for her two novels, Stolen Luck, and Ravensblood. "A few nibbles, but no bites" is what she says she's had. She is just about to have a new short story published in the January issue of 10Flash Quarterly. In "Wolf Eyes", a woman who runs a wolf sanctuary discovers that one of her charges isn't exactly what she thinks. Go check it out – it isn't up yet at the time of this writing, but should be online soon.
Of last years' Christmas featurees, Grace, aka Goldeen Ogawa is now publishing her own fantasy/science fiction themed podcasts and an ebook – she's done a LOT of work since last year, it seems! The artwork and content summary for her Professor Odd story, available as ebook on Amazon, look very promising indeed – sort of like a female Doctor Who. Well, there has been some talk of me making an ebook, as a potential upcoming project, so I could combine the practical with the useful, buy it for myself, and call it research! I think I will.
Monika Baum seems to have had a bit of spare time for sketching this year, judging from her output. Her work is taking on hints of Albrecht Dürer, if you ask me. She's made a new Christmas card this year, you can find it on her DeviantArt print account.
Juri Novikov still makes great HDR photos of Tallinn street scenes and such. He manages to even make the drab socialist flat blocks, and glitzy neo capitalist shopping streets of Tallinn look interesting – but worry not, most of his work focuses on the old city. :) Ok, so call me a reactionary! He has a number of prints available on his DeviantArt print account.
Ekaterina Shemyak has had an exhibition of some of her monotypes in Helsinki this year, but she's been lying low on DeviantArt, and only posted new work very occasionally. Apart from her beautiful whimsical monotypes, she also does illustration work – just for her own pleasure, I think, though the Lord of the Rings book cover I have posted above would look good on any commercial publication, in my humble opinion.
And just in – I have to share this, because it is seriously cool – the latest group animation project done by the latest class of animation students at Natcoll, my old school. I didn't do the animation course, which would have been building on the more general multimedia design diploma I completed, but I was thinking about it at the time. If only it hadn't involved another year at school – the one year I did was about all I could take! Currently, yet another formerly online, now real life friend is doing the course. Neerachar Sophol is originally from Thailand, has been dreaming about coming to New Zealand to study for years, and finally made it a couple of years ago – it's kind of strange for me to see her post course work from Natcoll, but good on her! Her vision of Wellington after an earthquake (or some other cosmic catastrophe) might not be the most Christmaslike image to finish this feature with, but it does look very professional, in a film industry sort of way. Well, they say the world will end in 2012 ... again ...
Asni does not live here any more: Bavaria – photo diary, part V
When I was 16, a short time after we came back from our three years in Brazil, my parents bought a small holiday flat – actually, a done-up attic – in a tiny little village in northern Bavaria, literally a couple of hundred meters from the Czech border – which at that time, in the mid-eighties, was impenetrable: the Iron Curtain. Half the village, including the village church, had been on the Czech side, and had been razed, we learned later – there were no obvious, visible traces left of it.
Being such borderland backwater, the landscape retained much of its oldfashioned rural character. Unlike most other parts of Germany, hedgerows and field walls had not been razed to give way to the machinery of industrial agriculture, and the no-man's-land between the actual border, and the area where the Czech border defences were, had been for some forty years, the most efficient nature protection zone in Europe. Perhaps for this reason, the landscape immediately clicked with my images of Middle-earth, where I spent much of my imaginary life at that time.
We spent a few summers there when I was in my late teens, and after a hiatus of perhaps ten years, I rediscovered the place in my late twenties: first as a refuge from the stresses of flatsharing life, then as a weekend hideout while I was working as an intern at Bayerischer Rundfunk in Munich, and eventually as a permanent home for the eight or so months after I abruptly called my relationship with Berlin quits, and before I came out to New Zealand. Now the Iron Curtain was no more, bike trips to nearby Czech towns, and the occasional day trip to Prague, added much to the attraction.
It was here that I found the privacy and inspiration to paint a number of my earlier oil paintings, it was here that for the first time a neighbour would sit on the stairs outside the flat to listen to me practising the harp (rather than come and complain about the noise!), and it was here that I picked up photography. I have returned on each of my three trips to Europe, since I moved to Wellington, each time glad that the place hadn't been sold yet: my parents put it on the market after my shift, but with half a heart, and the first time round, no buyer was found.
A short time before my trip this year, my parents rang up to tell me they had found a buyer – there was just time for another visit of a few days, and now the place is sold.
Walking in Bavaria: Meadow greens, green fields, wild flowers, forest greens, skies, clouds, insects, little brooks, cherries, storks, chapels, catholicism, wood stacks, farm houses, pubs, beer, a midsummer celebration, and forsaken homes.
Arohanui, from Asni