Time Out

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

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

In this newsletter:
*** Time Out
*** News and Current Projects
*** Cool Things Friends Do: Kid's Stuff
*** Photo Diary: A Much Deserved Holiday

Time Out

In the end, I decided to more or less take this whole month of October off. After all the hard work I've done for the show at Matchbox Studios last month, I felt I deserved a proper holiday. Plus, I wanted to give my new car a spin! So I drove up to the central North Island, and spent a few days wandering among rolling green hills and volcanic lava fields. Of course I took stacks of photos. More of that below.

For holiday reading, I got out Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (or "Men Who Hate Women", as the Swedish title translates literally) from the library. I'd had a feeling that several friends have been looking at me askance for a little while now, wondering when I'd finally pick it up: A novel featuring a reclusive, socially impaired female hacker, which is something of a feminist manifesto turned international bestseller, and is moreover set in Stockholm, Sweden? Whatever took me so long to catch on?

In some ways, this choice of holiday reading was a vast mistake. The book, and its two sequels, amount to quite a larger number of pages – and they are absolute page turners, the kind of book that makes you lose a lot of healthy night's sleep, because you NEED TO KNOW how it all pans out. Of course, I didn't manage all three books in my meagre five days four nights of holiday proper. Which meant that coming back home, I didn't exactly jump straight back into all-out work. And then there are the film versions ...

A proper review will follow in due course: for now, I will only say READ THEM if you haven't already – though this comes with a fair warning that these are not books for the fainthearted. The trilogy delves into some very dark territory, and features some crass acts of violence which, however, are not overly graphic – that's not the point of the book.

I'm still processing it all, but I already know that this is some of the best stuff I have read in quite a while. Complex and multi-layered, full of dark humour, it is one of those books that does not offer the reader answers on a silver plate: one needs to think along and read between the lines. For all its darkness – and despite the fact that it describes violence which actually happens to actual people, based on police records and such – the story also offers some complimentary glimpses of light.

I'm not quite sure what I expected – some sort of noir-ish mystery/action thriller packaging a social message, I suppose, and it certainly is that: Stieg Larsson, much like his literary alter ago Mikael "Kalle" Blomqvist, was a prominent journalist, and the novel takes us behind the scenes of business and government organizations where the average person does not have access, which makes it a worthwhile read for anyone with a modicum of interest in how our modern world works. It has also been really nice to armchair travel back to Stockholm: officially one of my favourite cities in the world, and where I was lucky enough to spend a few working stints back when I used to be a musician.

What I certainly did not expect was a thoroughly moving and passionate love story, which is far more than just the obligatory romance thrown in with what is otherwise a genre thriller. As far as I'm concerned, it is way up there with some of the great 19th century novels, but updated to the early 21th century: with all the hangups and insecurities that come with our liberated sexuality, the changes in gender roles, and modern assumptions about what constitutes "a relationship" – or, for that matter, "love". Which, as it happens, ties in deeply with the overarching theme of violence and injustice against women, ranging from workplace bullying and casual harassment, all the way to full-blown psychopathic rape and murder. Ok, I guess I'll need to elaborate that statement a little further, so stay tuned for my next newsletter!

Spring in the King Country Spring in the King Country Spring in the King Country Spring in the King Country Spring in the King Country Spring in the King Country Spring in the King Country

Spring in the King Country

After the balmy days we've had for the last couple of months, October has caught up on us with some pretty nasty weather. We always get high winds at this time of year, but the storm which came through toward the middle of the month was so fierce that it knocked out the power for the best part of two days. Fortunately, there has been no other damage to the house! These are winds which are capable of flipping over a lorry on a highway: it has happened, and I've seen pictures! And people think we worry about *earthquakes*...

It's been pretty blustery for most of the last couple of weeks, and when it wasn't storming there would be heavy downpour. Fortunately, there have been a handful of quiet sunny days in between, which I took full advantage of by sitting under my plum tree reading above-mentioned books! Well, summer is at the door now, and the high winds usually calm down after Christmas.

WSpring on the Central Plateau WSpring on the Central Plateau WSpring on the Central Plateau WSpring on the Central Plateau WSpring on the Central Plateau WSpring on the Central Plateau WSpring on the Central Plateau WSpring on the Central Plateau WSpring on the Central Plateau WSpring on the Central Plateau WSpring on the Central Plateau WSpring on the Central Plateau

Spring on the Central Plateau



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Apple blossoms Pear blossoms

Spring in the garden: Apple Blossoms * Pear blossoms

News & Current Projects

At this time of year, I should probably be out in the garden doing a plein air painting a day. I made a good start of it at the beginning of the month, painting my apple and my pear tree – and was about to proceed to the tulips, but then the weather put paid to it. The orchard blossoms and the spring bulbs are all but gone by now, but there are plenty of other paintable things, and I certainly hope to do more of it next month. And yes, these orchard paintings are for sale: contact me if you'd like to know more.

Matchbox Studios is putting on a curated group show on the topic of "Myths and Legends" a the end of November, and I've been asked to participate! I've just started work on a |a small series of three paintings for this exhibition. The exhibition will run from 26 November to 8 December, the gallery opening will be on Tuesday, 26 November from 5.30 - 8 pm. Matchbox Studios is located at 166 Cuba Street in Wellington. More details in next month's newsletter!

With some regret, I have given up on producing a photo calendar this year. The demand just isn't there, and besides, I am beginning to run out of photos: my last trip to the South Island was in 2009. I would really like to concentrate on my illustration work from now on, so it is entirely possible that there will be a Middle-earth themed calendar again in the future: but this time, with my artwork. Thank you all for your support, everyone who has bought a calendar in the past! I am sure there will be plenty of alternatives: the next Hobbit movie is due out for Christmas after all, and there is bound to be plenty of official merchandize.

Would you like to give someone a harp for Christmas? My Martin Haycock Gothic harp is still up for sale. 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: 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!

Standing female nude by Astrid Nielsch Reclining female nude by Astrid Nielsch Relaxed, lying female nudeby Astrid Nielsch

Artwork of the Month: three nude poses, now available on Ebay

ARTWORK OF THE MONTH: another selection of life drawing poses from my vast stock of such. These three drawings are A3 sized and date from 2009. They will be auctioned on Ebay throughout the month of November. Click on the individual thumbnail images to find the Ebay auctions, or view my Ebay listings here.

On Amazing Stories, I've stayed with the topic of witches for a bit. Witch: The Young Woman is the second part of last month's post, when I was looking at old witches. Given what's been on my reading list this month, I have been looking at pictorial interpretations of Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo: among other things, this character is a modern, urban version of a Young Witch. Not for no reason does the author put her birthday on Walpurgis night – 30 April – when the witches come out to dance in the Nordic countries. It's the spring equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon Halloween, which is bound to be the topic of my upcoming blog next week! After that, there will be an interview with a artist friend fresh from her first stint at IlluXcom: so stay tuned. Visit my author page, with a list of all my blog posts on Amazing Stories.

Fruit and vegetables in Asni's garden Fruit and vegetables in Asni's garden Fruit and vegetables in Asni's garden Fruit and vegetables in Asni's garden Fruit and vegetables in Asni's garden Fruit and vegetables in Asni's garden Fruit and vegetables in Asni's garden Fruit and vegetables in Asni's garden Fruit and vegetables in Asni's garden Fruit and vegetables in Asni's garden

Lemons, prune, pears, peaches, sour cherry, red currants, plum, and the veggie beds.

My fruit trees have been busy setting fruit since last month: the young trees are still too small and fragile to support a bumper crop, but it looks like there will be a couple of German prune plums this year for me to get a taste, and a few sour cherries and almonds. The pear tree, in particular, is doing well! I will probably have to take most of the pears off before they ripen, so that they don't break the young branches, but I figure I can let a few of them grow.

Even more encouragingly, the old established plum tree on my property seems to be producing a proper crop this year – rather than just a meagre handful of plums as in previous years. I hope they won't all get knocked off by the strong winds we are having at the moment!

I haven't been able to save my old peach tree from leaf curl infection this year though: I used copper spray on it, but it looks like the tree is so badly infected that it will probably take a few years, and some more pruning, to sort that out. I am full of hope though. I've spotted a few peaches even so. The apple tree also looks as if it is doing well, even though in the past it's been on a two-year cycle and last year was a good year. It might be all thanks to the very mild weather we've been having in late winter and early spring!

On the veggie front, things are also picking up: this month, rucola, kale, spinach and broad beans have been on the menu, along with some of last year's carrots, and of course, plenty of fresh spring herbs. Next month, I hope to harvest plenty of peas, and then it will be time to go into the second round with warmer-weather vegetables: tomatoes, green beans, peppers, chillies, okra, and – if I manage to grow them – some eggplant. I'm also experimenting with red beet and turnips, which I will then have to figure out how to turn them into tasty food! Just as long as the white butterflies stay away long enough, so their caterpillars won't eat up my entire brassica crops again.

Blossomy stuff in the garden Blossomy stuff in the garden Blossomy stuff in the garden Blossomy stuff in the garden Blossomy stuff in the garden Blossomy stuff in the garden Blossomy stuff in the garden Blossomy stuff in the garden Blossomy stuff in the garden Blossomy stuff in the garden

Blossomy stuff in the garden



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Cool Things Friends Do: Kid's Stuff

Seeing that Christmas is not all that far away, I thought I'd introduce a couple of things with gift potential for the kids, and the big kids among you:

My fellow illustrator Annie Henderson, from Australia, has made a gorgeous new book of nursery rhymes, which she is offering on blurb.com – both hardcover and softcover versions are available. You can preview the entire book by following those links! I really want one. Just in case someone is looking for a Christmas present for *me*, cough. :)

Annie is currently trying to study illustration (which is not available as such at her school) by navigating the interstices between an art and a graphic design degree – which must be frustrating at times. She has been doing a good job of it though: her work is really fab, have a look at her DeviantArt gallery too!

John Howe may be at a slightly more advanced stage in his career, but he does by no means restrict himself to creating dragons for major international blockbuster movies: his latest project is a dragon colouring book, part of the Pictura series of colouring books. I think it is a really lovely project. Can't get them started on dragons too early! This one might also appeal to some of the bigger kids.

Weta Cave is offering a limited contingent of signed copies of the colouring book, and they are also available on Amazon. If you need inspiration, here's a time-lapse video of the colouring-in process. If you are in or near Wellington, you could catch the book launch at the Weta Cave on 2 November, and get your copy signed by the man himself.



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Photo Diary: A Much Deserved Holiday

Taking a few days off at the end of last month, proved quite a bit more complicated than I expected: The original plan had been to go up to Auckland and visit some friends, via the hot springs at Matamata. Then it turned out that for some unaccountable reason (possibly to do with a greed bug infection), they no longer accept bookings for a single person to go into their private pool on their own – apparently someone had a heart attack in Te Aroha, and I was told there has been a "law change". Strangely enough, another hot pool I called to check on this, had never heard of such a thing.

I've been to Matamata a fair few times, and while I'd been really looking forward to a good soak in the hot spring, part of me also felt that perhaps it was time to try something new. So this was really the last straw! I cancelled my booking, shifted my dates around a bit, and ended up with a much more satisfactory holiday. Except that I didn't get to catch up with my friends in Auckland. But I'm sure there will be other opportunities to go there.

Bushwalking near Piopio Bushwalking near Piopio Bushwalking near Piopio Bushwalking near Piopio Bushwalking near Piopio Bushwalking near Piopio Bushwalking near Piopio Bushwalking near Piopio Bushwalking near Piopio Bushwalking near Piopio Bushwalking near Piopio Bushwalking near Piopio

Bushwalking near Piopio

Seeing that with a shorter trip, I was going to spend less on fuel, I decided to pamper myself and booked a proper bed and breakfast at Piopio for one night. I'd been through the area some years ago, and had always meant to go back and explore some more. The area is full of the most peculiar limestone formations, dotting the pastures along the little byroads.

So far, it seems to have been a best kept secret – the area is quite remote, and not exactly on the tourist circuit! Though this is bound to change: some of the filming for The Hobbit was done there, which means that presumably, the area will now be part of the film locations tour. High time I went back, before the greed bug that seems to follow in the wake of any filming activities, will take hold there! Plus, I could take some fresh film locations pictures at the same time. ;)

Rainy morning: limestone rocks round Piopio Rainy morning: limestone rocks round Piopio Rainy morning: limestone rocks round Piopio Rainy morning: limestone rocks round Piopio Rainy morning: limestone rocks round Piopio Rainy morning: limestone rocks round Piopio Rainy morning: limestone rocks round Piopio Rainy morning: limestone rocks round Piopio Rainy morning: limestone rocks round Piopio Rainy morning: limestone rocks round Piopio

Rainy morning: limestone rocks round Piopio

After taking a circuit of the local sights in the rain during the morning, the day brightened up, and I spent a gorgeous warm and sunny spring afternoon hiking through some West Coast rain forest (tree ferns and all),then had a picnic in a valley with a river between towering high cliffs bedecked with kahikatea trees, which is quite possibly the most beautiful place on this earth. At least, I'm sure it wins in the category "secluded valley with river among towering cliffs with kahikatea trees". It doesn't get much more New Zealand than this.

Sunny afternoon: a slice of paradise near Piopio Sunny afternoon: a slice of paradise near Piopio Sunny afternoon: a slice of paradise near Piopio Sunny afternoon: a slice of paradise near Piopio Sunny afternoon: a slice of paradise near Piopio Sunny afternoon: a slice of paradise near Piopio Sunny afternoon: a slice of paradise near Piopio Sunny afternoon: a slice of paradise near Piopio Sunny afternoon: a slice of paradise near Piopio Sunny afternoon: a slice of paradise near Piopio Sunny afternoon: a slice of paradise near Piopio Sunny afternoon: a slice of paradise near Piopio

Sunny afternoon: a slice of paradise near Piopio

In the evening, I proceeded to Tongariro National Park, where I'd found quite affordable accommodation at Skotel, in Whakapapa Village right behind the famous Chateau. Their backpacker rooms are basic, but quite alright for what they cost, and one can book a whole room, rather than just a dormitory bed. There is a well equipped self catering kitchen and a nice large common room with a view of the central plateau panorama. If one is so inclined, one can also use the hotel bar, and they have a free sauna and spa pool for guests. The place is clean, and the staff gets five stars for really going out of their way to be friendly and helpful. And strangely enough, there was no problem at all booking a private pool all on my own at the nearby hot springs in Tokaanu.

Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park

Walk on the wild side: Hiking in Tongariro National Park

The thing to do at Whakapapa Village (unless one is a skier), is to go for hikes. The weather on the mountain can be rough at this time of year: the first day, I went for a four hour hike in the rain and wind. Luckily I had picked a track that runs through forest most of the time! It amazes me, every time I visit Ruapehu, that us tiny humans are even allowed to step in those places: easily worth getting a little wet and cold!

By evening, a howling storm had come up, so I cuddled up at the hotel with my book. The next day was considerably warmer and quite sunny, but I was still knocked out from the hike the day before, so opted for a slow day and then drove over to Turangi and the hot springs, then went for a short hike down to the shores of Rotopounamu, the "Greenstone Lake", just before dark.

I'd booked three nights, and was rewarded on my last day for some good deeds in a past life (I assume), with a bright sunny day, which I spent walking across the lava fields out to the Emerald Lakes. I took stacks of photos and did a couple of sketches, then got in the car and drove back home in the evening – via another soak at Tokaanu.

Toward Turangi: Rotopounamou * Tokaano thermal resort Toward Turangi: Rotopounamou * Tokaano thermal resort Toward Turangi: Rotopounamou * Tokaano thermal resort Toward Turangi: Rotopounamou * Tokaano thermal resort Toward Turangi: Rotopounamou * Tokaano thermal resort Toward Turangi: Rotopounamou * Tokaano thermal resort Toward Turangi: Rotopounamou * Tokaano thermal resort Toward Turangi: Rotopounamou * Tokaano thermal resort

Toward Turangi: Rotopounamou * Tokaano thermal resort

By the time I got back to Featherston just before midnight, I was barely able to stand on my feet - but I'd spend the handful of days before my trip doing some serious house cleaning, and oh is it nice to came back to a tidy living room! Things had gone a bit haywire before the exhibition – as they tend to do, when there is an important deadline – and it's a relief to finally have a bit of time on my hands to deal with mundane things like cleaning, tidying up, and filing! Not to mention, reading fat books. :)

Arohanui, from Asni



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Spring in New Zealand Spring in New Zealand Spring in New Zealand Spring in New Zealand

Spring in New Zealand