The Way Forward

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In this newsletter:
*** The Way Forward
*** News and Current Projects
*** Cool Things Friends Do: a School, a Lighthouse, and some Unicorns
*** Living on the Planet: Many Meetings

The Way Forward

Over the past few years, I have been in the very fortunate position of being able to do my thing with not too much regard to how financially rewarding my activities were. I have now come to a point where I need to very urgently address the matter of MONEY.

I am currently putting the finishing touches on my latest website – I was expecting to complete the site by last month, or early this month, but my client had to deal with a family emergency early in the year, which delayed the project by several weeks. After that, I have pretty much run out of paid work.

My websites are geared at visual artists, musicians, writers, and other creative and professional people, especially those who may already have a blog, an online gallery, or a template based website, and are looking to take the next step. Any leads would be appreciated, and who better to ask than you, my dear cherished readers! Please feel free to forward this newsletter to anyone you know who might be interested.

The feedback I have been getting so far has been overwhelmingly positive: One of my clients, singer Julie Comparini, reported that she landed a leading part in an opera project a few months after her site went live – and specifically because the people hiring her were impressed with her website. Moreover, it appears that working with this well-known ensemble has now turned into something of a regular gig for her. Talk about return on investment!

One of my favourite sites so far is Margarethiley.com – a professional portfolio website for an English-German translator and proofreader based in the UK. Recently, I also set up Margaret's blog, which I maintain for her for a small monthly fee. I even got to do one of the illustrations, for her January blog! Margaret's feedback has been glowing:

"When I set up my translation and proofreading business, I knew that having a professional-looking website was a must. However, I also wanted it to stand out from the crowd and have a quirky, creative feel to it that would attract my clients, many of whom work in the creative industries themselves.

Astrid has created exactly the kind of website I was hoping for. In fact, she obviously realized exactly what I wanted right from our initial consultation, as the first draft she provided me was so fantastic we decided to go ahead with it! Astrid also provided me with valuable feedback on what to include on the site, and kept me up to date on her work throughout the entire design process, so I felt fully included in the creation of the site.

The website was finished to deadline, and Astrid even gave it a first publicity push through her own blog and website. If you want a professional, individualized and creative web design service (and who wouldn't!), I wholeheartedly recommend Asni Multimedia!"

I can only return the compliment: Working with Margaret has been an absolute pleasure precisely because she is good at what she does: She had a very clear idea of how she wanted the site to look and what she wanted to say on it, and was extremely organized about providing content and feedback, so I was able to complete this project within a matter of weeks.

As a piece of handiwork, the site I am most proud of is this one, even though the client has shown very little appreciation for the work I have done for her. Let's just say, she's been the exact opposite of Margaret. Still, so far this has been the only really taxing client relationship I have had, so I tend to think the problem might not have been on my side of the deal.

I would really love to hear from any visual artists or photographers who are in need of an individually designed, functional gallery website with full content management features!

The price range for a gallery site like this – custom designed to suit your specific needs, with full content management features, and including initial setup – is round about 2000 € / 2500 US $, depending on set of features. I doubt you'll find it much cheaper, unless you go for an "out of the box" solution, with all the limitations this entails! Professional portfolio sites like Julie's or Margaret's are even less pricey, you'd be looking at round about € 1000/ US$ 1300. Site administration, and setup of blogs and social media profiles, are also available.

And yes – I am more than happy to work with clients overseas, in Europe, America, or any other part of the world! You can write to me in English or German. Communication by email or Skype is very efficient, in fact I've often found it to be smoother than face to face contact with a client. Get in touch if you are interested, or would like to know more!

Bushwalk, Rewanui: Rewarewa Bushwalk, Rewanui: Rewarewa Bushwalk, Rewanui: Rewarewa Bushwalk, Rewanui: Rewarewa Bushwalk, Rewanui: Rewarewa Bushwalk, Rewanui: Rewarewa

Bushwalk, Rewanui: Rewarewa

After completing my London Art College certificate, I am now also ready to look for professional illustration work. The little drawing I did for Margaret Hiley's blog officially constitutes my first commissioned illustration! Small sketches like this are not very time consuming, and you wouldn't have to break the bank for it. They are fun to do though, and it's all in the way of building a track record of published illustrations! So bring them on. :)

I am actively looking for commissions to illustrate for blogs, podcasts, websites, covers for books, e-books, or print-on-demand books, CD covers, and so on – preferably with a fantasy/science fiction slant, but I am perfectly happy to consider other genres, as well as factual illustrations. Just get in touch, and we can talk about it!

The other thing I really need to do is "send out that portfolio". A job I have been procrastinating upon for the last 30 years! The ideal scenario, of course, would be to find an agency to represent me, but I realize it might be a little early in my career: most agents will look for someone with a track record of publications, and several years experience under their belt. Still, I have plenty of experience working as a *freelancer*, if not as an illustrator per se, and I am fully conversant with the importance of deadlines, and being able to follow a brief. If you know of any agents or publishers who might be interested in my work, please do not hesitate a moment to point me to them – or them to me! :)

The next most urgent project will be to make the illustration galleries on my website more presentable! Meanwhile, you can look at a selection of my recent work here.

Bushwalk, Rewanui Bushwalk, Rewanui Bushwalk, Rewanui Bushwalk, Rewanui Bushwalk, Rewanui Bushwalk, Rewanui Bushwalk, Rewanui Bushwalk, Rewanui Bushwalk, Rewanui

Bushwalk, Rewanui



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News & Current Projects

This month, I have been able to get out the old sketchbook again and do a few open air sketches – helped by the fine summer weather we have had! I've made a promise to myself to get some fresh air and exercise every day as long as the hot summer weather lasts, and I've been keeping it up pretty well: I made several trips to Castlepoint, where I've been getting back in touch with my inner mermaid by doing long swims in the lagoon. I also paid a couple of visits to White Rock, another favourite spot on the Wairarapa coast. There is a beautiful beach there, and I've always wanted to try it out for a swim, so now I did! It's not quite as safe and sheltered as Castlepoint, and since I have no wish to be dragged out to sea by some nasty current, I'd limit myself to staying very close to the shore, which makes it less ideal for a proper workout, but the beauty of the place easily makes up for any loss in exercising convenience.

Going to either of those beaches (or anywhere on the coast) entails a bit of a drive, so on other days I have been more economical, and jumped on my bike to go down to the river or the lake, or I got on my feet and explored one of the hiking tracks in our area. I finally walked all the way to the end of the 1 1/2 bushwalk at the top of my road: there is quite a nice waterhole at the end of it, so I had a splash in the river. The summer has been hot, and so the water has been considerably warmer than the chilly river swimming experience I remember from previous summers!

One day, instead of driving out all the way to Castlepoint, I stopped at Rewanui and did the hike there. It's on private farmland, and apart from a goodly stand of native forest, there are some remnants of old Maori settlements there – the New Zealand equivalent of castle ruins. Standing up on the old lookout, one has a marvellous view across the coastal mountain range. This part of the Wairarapa is mostly private farmland, so there aren't too many opportunities to go for walks in this area. Good on the owners of this farm, to open it up to the public! And unlike some other private walks, it's free of charge, too.

I have already boasted about the little sketch I did for Margaret Hiley's blog, which officially constitutes my first commissioned illustration. May there be many more to come! I have also finally gotten around to submitting an entry for Illustration Friday: the challenge is to come up with an illustration for a different word each week, and as the name implies, it finishes on Fridays. Some of my friends participate, more or less regularly, and I've bookmarked the site a good little while ago, but somehow Friday always seemed to roll around before I'd had a chance to get my head around an illustration! It's a good exercise in meeting deadlines, and keeping it simple, and I fully plan to submit more in the future. It's also a great community for all things illustration.

Harvest time is now rolling around in my garden. I've been living off homegrown green beans and peppers, tomatoes and zucchini, and gathering the odd bowl of blueberries, as well as the first ever raspberry from the little shrub I planted last year. The other day, I harvested a gorgeous specimen of kamokamo, a type of pumpkin native to New Zealand, which made a truly delicious addition to my Sunday roast. Carrots and leeks are available at my convenience, and it's about time to harvest the red kale before the caterpillars eat it whole.

This year, I have succeeded in pickling some of the green walnuts which came down from my tree earlier in summer, and although I am not sure why it would be considered such a prized delicacy except for the fact that it is a bit involved to make, it is quite a nice addition to my breakfast sandwiches. Maybe I'll notice that I've become addicted when there are no more left! I've also put on a solid bucketful of gherkins for pickling, and it is nearly time to start harvesting the apples: they're not quite sweet enough for eating raw yet, but I've made a start on the apple cake!

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Harvest time approaches: Asni's garden in February



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Wairarapa hill country: view from Rewanui Wairarapa hill country: view from Rewanui Wairarapa hill country: view from Rewanui

Wairarapa hill country: view from Rewanui

Cool Things Friends Do: a School, a Lighthouse, and some Unicorns

My friend Shobita Jones is organizing an exhibition and art event, The Journey, which will take place on Saturday 2 March, at Macs Function Centre, Cable Room, corner of Taranaki and Cable Street, in Wellington, from 4 pm until late. Artists will construct sculptures live in front of the visitors, which will then go on auction. There will be live music, and art prints for sale, as well as a film showing. Tickets for the event are NZ$ 20, and all proceed go to Karunai Illam trust, who are raising money to build a new children's home in Nilakottai, Tamil Nadu, India. Shobita has been involved with fundraising projects for Karunai Illam school for quite a little while, I've featured a previous project here before. Go an support her if you live in or around Wellington! It sounds like it's going to be an awesome evening of art.

Ali Foster and Viv Walker, the Wairarapa children's book team, have just published another book: A Beam of Bright Light, the story of the Castlepoint lighthouse. I was planning to go to their book launch event, and spend another nice afternoon at Castlepoint beach afterwards, but it wasn't meant to happen – fortunately, Viv was kind enough to send through a few images! The book does not seem to be available for purchase online at the moment, but if you are interested, I am sure I can wrangle you a copy – just email me!

Book launch: A Beam of Bright Light by Ali Foster and Viv Walker Book launch: A Beam of Bright Light by Ali Foster and Viv Walker Book launch: A Beam of Bright Light by Ali Foster and Viv Walker

Book launch: A Beam of Bright Light by Ali Foster and Viv Walker

My blogging activities on the Amazing Stories website are now in full swing: I even made it to "top blog of the week" one time, but that was because I put my foot into it with what I thought was a rather dry and boring post about genre definitions, and 50 people yelled at me that I Was Not Allowed To Do That, and why would I want to rename the Hugos! Of course I wasn't trying to rename the Hugos.

My latest blog on Amazing Stories is about unicorns, and it features a very special piece of art: A combined Alan Lee/John Howe pencil sketch, which they have contributed to support a charity auction to raise money for medical expenses for a fellow artist. And yes, collectors and art aficionados among you, you can go and bid on it! The auction is still on until March 4.

Wairarapa habitations old and new, Rewanui Wairarapa habitations old and new, Rewanui Wairarapa habitations old and new, Rewanui Wairarapa habitations old and new, Rewanui Wairarapa habitations old and new, Rewanui Wairarapa habitations old and new, Rewanui Wairarapa habitations old and new, Rewanui Wairarapa habitations old and new, Rewanui Wairarapa habitations old and new, Rewanui Wairarapa habitations old and new, Rewanui Wairarapa habitations old and new, Rewanui Wairarapa habitations old and new, Rewanui Wairarapa habitations old and new, Rewanui

Wairarapa habitations old and new, Rewanui



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Living on the Planet: Many Meetings

My social life may leave much to be desired, but occasionally, it has its perks: such as when a couple of people from Colorado, whom I have previously only met via internet, decide to spend two months in New Zealand, and drag me out of my solitary existence for a social evening in downtown Wellington.

It was the second time this year that people from that little tight-as-glue virtual artist's colony I am part of, came through. You would think that after people have drifted off from the discussion boards where one first came to know them, eventually the ties would resolve, but it seems to me that in this case, they have only been getting stronger. Instead of sharing one internet forum, we now meet on Facebook, DeviantArt, and probably Twitter (if I was on Twitter), recommend each other on LinkedIn, support each others Etsy shops and Ebay auctions, point each other to opportunities, feature each other on our blogs.

And when someone tells us – as happened to me recently – that the jobs we can hope to aspire to on account of our skill set and experience, are caregiver, kindergarten teacher, or cleaner, then someone will come by on my Facebook account to tell me that whoever told me that ought not to worry that I shoot myself, they ought to worry that I shoot them. And we will both know that it is a joke – no one will get shot – but a joke which leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

There will be someone who cares when I get upset that certain people seem to have made it their business to twist every word I utter into a message intended to insult them, and who on that basis, seem to think they have the right to insult me and tell other people lies about me, when all the provocation I have given them is the fact that I exist.

And just every once in a while, we meet at that Indian restaurant on Courtney Place. Or in a cafe in Switzerland, a tea shop in Berlin, a pub in Cambridge. At a convention perhaps, or a medieval fair. Or whereever the journey which each of us has started, may eventually lead them. Without those people, I think I would be lost.

Arohanui, from Asni



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Evening by the river Evening by the river Evening by the river

Evening by the river