Fault Lines

ARTWORK OF THE MONTH: Selected drawings available on Ebay. A different selection every month!

NOW AVAILABLE: New Zealand Film Locations map: A3 poster * Snowflake Christmas/seasonal card * Queen Galadriel holiday card * Middle Earth New Zealand 2013 photo calendar

TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME MUSIC: Harp sheet music store * Travels in Middle Earth CD
Asni the Harper digital downloads: CD Baby ** Amazon MP3 * iTunes

Also available: Music CDs * Sheet music * Greeting cards * New Zealand photography

In this newsletter:
*** Fault Lines
*** News and Current Projects: Metropolis show at Matchbox Studios
*** Cool Things Friends Do: Monika Baum
*** On the DVD Player: Harry Potter Revisited

Fault Lines

Another earthquake! This time I felt it – I was in the studio, busily painting away for the exhibition at Matchbox next week, and there was a rumble and the house started swaying. Fortunately, nothing broke. My house is basically a self-contained wooden box, and as long as it doesn't shift off its foundations – or the chimney caves in – I am not too worried, really. Or rather, I got plenty of other things to worry about. There's nothing one can do about it when an earthquake hits. So what is the point of worry.

It was rather a large quake: the earth went on rumbling for another couple of days before it all settled down again. But this is actually a good thing: they say it is much better to have a series of not-quite-so-large quakes relieving the tensions that have built up in the planet's crust, than one really big shake. Wellington again got off with minor damage to buildings, and no serious injuries or lives lost. Let us hope it stays that way!

The worst thing that happened was the traffic chaos which ensued: this time the quake hit during business hours, and the commuter trains out of Wellington had to be cancelled to check for rail damage, so lots of people were marooned in Wellington that night. Those who tried to get out by car ended up in a huge traffic jam.

In other ways, too, this has been rather a rumbly month. Everything seemed to go wrong all at the same time. My big computer crashed, and I had to bring it in to repair, which took two weeks, and made quite a dent in my budget: it was a faulty graphics card, which is not a cheap part to replace.

But then a week later I had an email from the engineer to let me know that Apple had found a fault with these cards, and was now offering to replace them free of charge. I had a chat with a friendly Apple employee in Singapore, with the result that I will now get my money back. So apart from having my computer held hostage at the repair service for a full two weeks, it wasn't so bad after all.

WOld car, new car, car of many travels WOld car, new car, car of many travels WOld car, new car, car of many travels WOld car, new car, car of many travels

Old car, new car, car of many travels

Then two days later, my trusty old Nissan broke down. Some catastrophic noisy and smelly event happened on the way back from Castle Point, I think it was the four wheel drive that went. Strictly speaking, it is still driving (though opinions have been divided on whether one *should* still be driving it) – but who knows what will break next.

So I decided it was time to look for something newer, cleaner and cheaper to run, and a little less at risk of sudden breakdown. A week later, I had my new car: a Holden Barina, 2004, about half the size, and less than half the age of the old Nissan. That was fast work, I thought! My price limit was basically the amount of money I would be able to scrape together by completely depleting all my savings, but then my dad offered to pay for it, which admittedly, was a big relief! So thank you, dad.

I found the car on Trademe, it was being sold by an older couple here in Featherston. When I went to look at it, I asked – as one does – why they were selling the car. The lady said it belonged to her son, but didn't go into details. Thinking this a bit strange, I asked her about it again, and then she told me that it was her son's who had passed away. Heavens, I thought, I wish I hadn't asked her that! She asked me if it bothered me. Not in a superstitious way, no, but oh I felt so sorry for those people. How awful to have deal with these mundane tasks of selling off his stuff, on top of everything! But I also figured that under the circumstances, it was probably the kindest thing I could do for them to take the car off their hands with the least possible fuss.

I did get myself a really well looked after car into the bargain, for a rather good price, and I've made a promise to look after it well. So far, I haven't done too good a job: two days after I bought it, I carelessly drove the front wheel against the border of my driveway, and got out just in time to watch the air hiss out of my front tyre. I have to remember that this car is a little more fragile than my old truck!

Then two days later, I managed to scratch it! Fortunately it is only a superficial scratch. For the first time in my life, I actually visited a car accessories store and bought myself a tube of Paint Doctor, for 17 dollar fifty, to fix the scratch. Promise is promise.

I did find out who it was that the car belonged to: the friendly people at the local gas station, who had offered to check it out for me before buying, at no charge, told me, the next time I bought some fuel, that it had been Glen Jones's car. When his mother told me that her son had passed away, she didn't mention that he had been beaten up by a bunch of violent thugs and died in hospital a few hours later, in what has been the town's most conspicuous criminal case in a good while.

That did bother me, for a moment there. But then in some way, it feels becoming part of this community just a little more. They needn't have let me know whose car that was. I hope he's ok with me driving it. And I do promise to at least try to do a better job looking after it, than I have with my previous car!

Speaking of communities: Featherston has just lost Ulli, our cheerful, well liked pub owner. And my fellow German in this town. He went back to Germany on a holiday with his partner Dean, and the next thing we knew was that he had died all of a sudden. Was he ill? Was it an accident? No one seems to know, and anyhow, it doesn't change the basic fact that he is gone.

That is a blow: I didn't know him terribly well, but he has always been quietly supportive. He's been offering to hang my artwork in his pub, he once asked me if I was interested in playing harp there on a regular basis (sadly, this never came to anything, and now it is too late!) – and he helped me out with passing on some contact details when I didn't get paid for a gig the other day – a function where he had been doing the catering.

I felt he was someone I could turn to if ever I needed help. He'd understand where I was coming from, literally and figuratively. Besides, it felt good to live in a town where the pub was run by Ulli and Dean. It might be a place, where I, too, might be able to live and do my thing, and be left alone by the lawn mowing crowd. I'm really sorry I never got to know him any better. Now, it is too late.

The lighting of the gas lamp The lighting of the gas lamp The lighting of the gas lamp The lighting of the gas lamp The lighting of the gas lamp

Wairarapa evening impressions



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Metropolis group show at Matchbox Studios Wellington, 3-15 September 2013

Metropolis group show at Matchbox Studios Wellington opens 3 September!

News & Current Projects

For all the hassle and annoyance I have had this month, none of these things were really catastrophic. Well, apart from losing Ulli, of course. The important thing is that the house is still standing, after the earthquakes we've had. The important thing is that I've spent this month pretty much full-time painting, and am really happy with the work I have created for the Matchbox show.

I've seen some of the other artist's work, and I am very happy to be part of that group, and really looking forward to meeting them all next week. We'll set up on Monday, and the official opening will be on Tuesday 3 September from 5.30 to 8 pm. Make sure to come along if you're a local!

Matchbox Studios is located at 166 Cuba Street in Wellington, about halfway between Garret St and the State Highway. The exhibition will run from 3-15 September, the gallery opening times are Monday to Thursday 10.30 am – 6 pm, Friday 10.30 am - 8 pm, Saturday 10.30 am - 6 pm, Sunday 11 am - 5 pm. Artwork will be for sale – of course!

The artists in the show are Brendan Grant, Dave Boyle, Maiken Calkoen, Michael Edge-Perkins, Melissa McDougall, Christie Wright, and of course myself! Have a look at our respective websites, blogs and Facebook pages.

Here is what it says in our press release:

"Vibrant new art by up-and-coming Wellington artists!

A group exhibition by seven up and coming Wellington artists, sharing their unique perspectives on the City, among other facets of modern life.

This exhibition brings together an eclectic mix of expressive representational artists exploring unique approaches to painting and one photographer, with different styles, philosophies and subject matter.  

The fresh, vibrantly colourful artwork betrays influences of the great European artists of the turn of the last century, along with American pop art, comic strips, and computer-generated images.

The themes, however, are distinctly New Zealand: from Wellington street scenes to portraiture, to mythical-surreal, and more conceptual imagery.

Most of the artwork in this show stays with the traditional format of oil or acrylic on canvas, but there is no backward looking stuffiness about these artist's work!"

On Amazing Stories, it's been Dragons this month: a selection of Dragons by famous and not so famous artists, followed by an interview with my friend Sunila Sen Gupta, aka Dragonlady. I practise unapologetic nepotism on this blog. But really – her work is going from strength to strength and from, well, Dragon to Dragon.

ARTWORK OF THE MONTH: In honour of the upcoming gallery show, this month I have selected four fantasy-themed pencil sketches. Some of them have been worked up into finished images: you might recognize the Monster Fight, one of my London Art College Assignments. One image ended up on the cover of one of my sheet music books, another was the inspiration for a painting I will have in the upcoming exhibition. The last one, I have yet to do something with – it seems to have a rather Pre-Raphaelite flair.

Click on the individual thumbnail images to find the Ebay auctions, or view my Ebay listings here.

Moonlit forest with unicorn by Astrid Nielsch Snake Dance by Astrid Nielsch Monster Fight by Astrid Nielsch Dying Knight by Astrid Nielsch

Artwork of the Month: four fantasy themed pencil drawings, now available on Ebay

I am still looking for a buyer for my Martin Haycock Gothic harp. The harp is suitable for medieval and renaissance repertory, or anything else anyone may want to play on it, which requires a range of 3 1/2 octaves, G - c'''. Asking price: € 1990 / US$ 2550 / NZ$ 3000, or best offer. Please Email me for more information.

As always, various classy items are available in my online shop: I have started work on the third volume of the Huete dances, and hope to finish it before Christmas. Harp music CDs can be bought here, or downloaded from CD Baby, iTunes, or Amazon. Make sure to check out my art prints and greeting cards in my Etsy store!

Revegetation project in Upper Hutt Revegetation project in Upper Hutt Revegetation project in Upper Hutt Revegetation project in Upper Hutt Revegetation project in Upper Hutt Revegetation project in Upper Hutt Revegetation project in Upper Hutt Revegetation project in Upper Hutt Revegetation project in Upper Hutt Revegetation project in Upper Hutt Revegetation project in Upper Hutt Revegetation project in Upper Hutt

Revegetation project in Upper Hutt: Stand of native forest

Spring has come early this year, and my fruit trees are already in full bloom. I have been assiduously digging more vegetable beds, planted spinach, broad beans, peas, various kinds of cabbage and cauliflower, red beets, silverbeet, and sown some spring lettuces.

Thanks to my horticulture studies, I know have some idea how to prune a tree, and have done a bit of work on the old established plum and peach trees in my garden, which so far have been a bit sparing with their fruit. I wonder how they will fare this year! I have also begun to tame my gorgeous native tree hedge – before it grows into a tree belt! It is quite a job, but I am pleased with the result so far. Even though at the moment, the garden looks more like a construction site!

In the course of abovementioned studies, I have taken part in a revegetation project in the Hutt Valley – a compulsory workshop for a later unit in my course. We met one Saturday morning to plant half a native forest, in the rain. It will be an extension of an already existing native forest area. As part of my assignment, I had a wander around the old established forest area (on another day, with better weather), and documented the various plant species with my photo camera – as well as the occasional bird. But as I couldn't help myself, some of the photos turned out rather impressionistic.

I have also continued to revegetate my own garden: the latest additions are a hop plant,which can help to solidify (and noise proof) the garden fence – and a bergamot tree, which is now the proud center piece of my front lawn. Bergamot oil is famously used to flavour Earl Grey tee, and it is also a component in perfumes, most notably the original Eau de Cologne.

As I found out, it also works as a rather powerful mood lifter: the day I planted the little tree, I was all cranky from my various misfortunes with computers and cars, but then I rubbed a couple of the Bergamot leaves between my hands and smelled then, and suddenly the world seemed all rose tinted again! BIngo! It may yet save a person from having their head bit off one day.

Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds

Spring come early: blossoming trees, daffodils, new plants and new veggie beds



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Cool Things Friends Do: Monika Baum

Monika Baum is a young artist from Germany, whose work I have included in a couple of my Christmas features here previousl. I have asked her to tell us a few things about the Urban Sketching she has recently become involved in, and the events she has attended – particularly the Urban Sketching Symposium in Barcelona earlier this year. Rather than a proper question & answer, this time I have largely left it up to her what she wanted to tell us about. Here is what she wrote back:

Dear readers of Asni's newsletter,

I am honoured to have been asked to contribute to this month's issue. I recently participated in the 4th International Urban Sketching Symposium about a month ago and Astrid asked me to share a bit about myself and Urban Sketching.

I am German, a linguist by education and have been working as an accountant in Switzerland for a couple of years now. Considering that I finished high school with the intention of furthering my drawing skills at an art school, my life's journey has not been that straightforward. It will all make sense someday though, I am sure of it. I imagine I will be an author-illustrator-freelancer-traveller someday, and very good with my budget!

To balance work, life and my hobbies, I try to create stuff whenever I can. Usually I use pencils, watercolours and sketchbooks to do so. I can carry them around with me at all times, and do quick sketches of things that catch my eye on the commute or in my town. When the day has been particularly long though, it is already much too dark outside and my brain capacity is low, I knit gloves, scarves, hats and blankets.

Basel: 39th Worldwide Sketch Crawl by Monika Baum by Monika Baum

Artwork ©Monika Baum

So how did I come about Urban Sketching?

I am nuts about watercolour and art supplies (right now I have 4 half-filled & 9 empty sketchbooks of all sizes and a plethora of pens, pencils, tubes, pans, inks and nibs). No one likes to be crazy about one thing all by themselves, and the best way to find like-minded people is on the internet. Thus, I signed up on blogspot to register my blog and I discovered the wonderful thing called Google Reader. It lets you subscribe to other blogs and you can read any new blog posts when they get posted in one single place. Sadly, it does not exist anymore as of July 1st of this year.

Up until that day my subscriptions must have added up to about 200 blogs. My daily dose of art initially consisted of Mattias Adolfon's, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law's and Sara B. Burrier's blogs. They referenced other people's work they liked, so I subscribed to those blogs as well. Then, someone mentioned Danny Gregory, his books "Every Day Matters" and "The Creative License" and I was hooked on sketchbooks. From there, it did not take too long until I had subscribed to the first handful of blogs of people calling themselves Urban Sketchers.

Who are Urban Sketchers?

Let me be a bit lazy at this point and use someone else's definition (on Wikipedia): "Urban Sketchers (USk) is a global community of artists that practice drawing on location in cities, towns and villages they live in or travel to. The Urban Sketchers movement was started on Flickr in 2007 by journalist Gabriel Campanario. In 2009 Campanario established Urban Sketchers as a nonprofit organization (501 (c) (3) tax-exempt). The Urban Sketchers Manifesto has been translated into several languages. The USk motto is “We show the world, one drawing at a time!"

I was enamoured by the concept of combining travel, art and truly seeing the world around you on a day-to-day basis. Anything is worth recording. It does not matter if the onset of rain leaves marks on your half finished watercolour page, it does not matter if you did not get the contour of a building as straight as you intended it to be. Or if a person you draw ends up having three ears because they changed position in the short time you were able to capture them. I love that kind of freedom. I can be an artist after all!

I started the USk kind of approach in my sketchbooks about just over a year ago. Soon afterwards, the Basel USk blog became the Switzerland USk blog and André Sandmann, the initiator of the Basel/Switzerland blog, invited me to be a contributor. I haven't contributed to that blog as much as I would like to yet by far, but I am incredibly thankful to be part of it.

Every once in a while, there is a worldwide sketchcrawl (which is altogether a separate thing from the urban sketching movement but very much related, like a sibling) and sketchers meet at a certain place on a set date at any place in the world and we draw for the whole day. An activity otherwise so solitary becomes something incredibly communal, even more so as sketchbook pages are shared soon afterwards on blogs, flickr and Facebook on a global scale.

The ultimate upgrade of a sketchcrawl is the Urban Sketcher's Symposium. So far there were 4 and while I have only attended the latest one, I have every intention of attending the 5th, wherever it might be. Every year, a symposium is organized at any chosen city in the world (Portland, Lisbon, Santo Domingo and Barcelona so far). For three days, up to 200 sketchers convene, volunteer instructors are flown in and endless sketching is going on during countless workshops of which you can attend only 5!!! Your skills are stretched, you learn new approaches and techniques, your art supply obsessions suddenly seem less weird and there are many Aha-moments. Life-long friendships are formed and there are no goodbyes at the end but only hopeful "See you next time!"s.

I can't wait to meet more sketchers and share a day of sketching with them in new places I have not yet been to and in old places I am more than happy to rediscover over and over again!

Happy sketching, Monika



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On the DVD Player: Harry Potter revisited

Remember how when I was flat on my back after my surgery a few months ago, I got myself a big bag of DVDs from the video store, to pass the time and prevent myself from trying to do too much to soon? In that bag were the last two installments (aka book seven, part one and part two) of the Harry Potter heptalogy. I saw them sitting on the shelf, and suddenly remembered that I had completely failed to see them when they came out in the cinema. Unthinkable!

Here I was thinking I just made up that word heptalogy, but no, it's on Wikipedia. And IMDb. Guess what? To describe the Seven Books (and eight films) of Harry Potter, in analogy with the far more common trilogy (such as Lord of the Rings, and nearly every fantasy action book or movie since). There have, however, been other heptalogies. C. S. Lewis' Narnia series is the most pertinent example, and there is also Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu.

But, I digress.

To make extra sure, I got out number six as well – I have clear memories of seeing number five on the big screen, and being rather impressed by its sheer visual beauty (as well as Ginny's new-found talent for the "Reducto" curse), but if I had indeed seen number six before, I had seen it on DVD. Which evidently failed to make a very deep impression!

Evening in Masterton: Queen Elisabeth Park Evening in Masterton: Queen Elisabeth Park Evening in Masterton: Queen Elisabeth Park Evening in Masterton: Queen Elisabeth Park Evening in Masterton: Queen Elisabeth Park Evening in Masterton: Queen Elisabeth Park

Evening in Masterton: Queen Elisabeth Park

The Harry Potter film series has gone through a few changes of director in the course of its making: I never liked what Chris Columbus did with the first two installments, but continue to be impressed by Alfonso Cuarón's take on the third book, which is and remains my favourite book in the series. The fourth film, directed by Mike Newell, felt like a bit of a let-down after it, though it has a certain grandiose festivity, which is quite enjoyable.

With David Yates, who has directed the remaining four movies based on the last three books, the series has finally found a director who has made films, not illustrated versions of the books. I really regret I missed out on seeing those last three movies on the big screen! Well, I'll just have to wait for the next Harry Potter marathon, I suppose. Visually, they are excruciatingly beautiful.

Particularly the sixth movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The director deftly uses lighting, colour, and saturation, to separate out the different strands of the increasingly convoluted plot. Professor Slughorn's world of would-be high-society glamour is bathed in soft light that suggests 19th century style gas lamps. Dumbledore's office is more suggestive of the 16th or 17th century, and filled with sunlight. Draco Malfoy's increasingly desperate attempts to prove himself worthy of the task he has been given by Voldemort, are starkly desaturated to the point of being nearly black and white. Well, black and grey, anyhow. Nearly every shot is a carefully composed artwork in its own right. And finally someone manages to capture the splendour of Hogward's great hall, with all those floating candles!

Evening in Masterton: Queen Elisabeth Park Evening in Masterton: Queen Elisabeth Park Evening in Masterton: Queen Elisabeth Park Evening in Masterton: Queen Elisabeth Park

Evening in Masterton: Queen Elisabeth Park

It helps, of course, that the three main actors have gradually grown up – by the last two films, they have matured into some very fine young actors indeed, fully capable of doing justice to the rather dark and painful themes these movies strike. This is no longer kid's stuff at all.

The seventh movie – the first half of the last book – focuses entirely on the relationship between those three characters, isolated as they are in their tent, on the run from the forces of evil, and knowing they have to find Voldemorts horcruxes without knowing either what they are, or where they might be – let alone how they might be destroyed once they have been found! What a neat analogy, btw, for what it is like to step out into adulthood.

It has been an audacious thing to write: the long expected climax of the series, and for the longest part of it nothing really happens except that people wait around for something they know must happen in the end. That it works so well as a movie – to me, it is easily the best movie of the eight – we have to thank entirely to the three actors.

Emma Watson's Hermione has become one tough young witch. She clearly is in charge of the operation, and of her two men. Watch her cast her protective spells, her hands still bloody from fixing her boyfriend's broken arm: there is a beautiful energy there, a young woman who has enormous inner strength without ever having to resort to catty high-heeled, revolver slinging badgirlness à la River Song. Emma Watson has recently teamed up with Sofia Coppola for The Bling Ring, and I am entirely looking forward to watching the result! About time we saw some girl power in the movies.

Daniel Radcliffe embodies the title character to perfectly, one keeps forgetting that he is an actor, not the Potter boy himself. No one seems to have much doubt that he has a brilliant acting career ahead of him. He now has a tv series, and has been impersonating Allen Ginsberg in a recent movie. He's left his cute boy blue eyes phase well behind – these days, one would rather describe him as a "wiry intellectual", with a dash of Woody Allen, perhaps.

Rupert Grint's Ron Weasley is probably the most thankless part of the three: he just has to be completely and convincingly average, most of the time – and quite often in the background, while Harry and Hermione run the show. Rupert Grint does this brilliantly – not every actor has the humility to serve such a part, rather than trying to draw attention to his acting talents. But if you ever doubted that he has plenty of those, watch the stellar turn he does "under the influence" of a love potion, in the sixth movie. Looks like a great comedian in the making, and a rather hunky one, too. Plus, he's ginger!

I didn't think I'd ever become a huge fan of the movie versions of Harry Potter, but it seems I need to revise my opinion – at least, as far as the second half of the series is concerned.

Arohanui, from Asni



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Evening in Masterton: Street lights and moon Evening in Masterton: Street lights and moon Evening in Masterton: Street lights and moon Evening in Masterton: Street lights and moon Evening in Masterton: Street lights and moon

Evening in Masterton: Street lights and moon