Deadlines and Fish

CHRISTMAS CARDS! New selection now available on Etsy
Looking for that perfect gift? Original Watercolour garden paintings now on Etsy

DIGITAL PRINTS available on Ebay * Etsy * Trademe

SHEET MUSIC: Huete Dances vol. 3 now available

SHOP LOCAL: New Zealand Film Locations map: A3 poster * Christmas/seasonal cards * Queen Galadriel holiday card

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

In this newsletter:
 
*** Deadlines
*** News and Current Projects (and Fish)
*** Monet, Marliac and Me

Deadlines

As the year is now fast approaching its end, it's that time of the year when one tries to somehow get all the stuff done that one didn't do the first ten months. So there has been a lot of sitting behind the computer, and a bit less time to enjoy the great outdoors. I've given up on taming the grass in my garden – here will be plenty of time for a big cleanup once it has stopped growing at its current late spring rate.

I did manage to fit in a few trips to the beach: making the time each weekend (or at least, most weekends) to drive out to Riversdale, Te Awaiti, Cape Palliser, or one of the other local beaches, and spend just a few hours walking, or lying in the sand, listening to the waves and reading a book (now that the weather is warm enough again), relaxes and refreshes me like a week long holiday. So I make sure that I give myself that, unless there is a really pressing deadline which absolutely needs to be met.

I'm now on the last stretch for my horticulture certificate: two more assignments to finish and hand in, with an official deadline on 20 December. This month, I completed the "Raising Plants from Seeds" assignment. I'd been doing the actual growing of the plants since June, but I still needed to write things up and provide all the documentation, which was a fair bit of work.

Now I am on to "Raising Plants from Cuttings", which I have also been busy with for the last several months, but which also needs to be properly written up. Then there is one more assignment on the topic of "Pests and Diseases", with a compulsory workshop in the first week of December, but it looks to be a bit less voluminous, so I am confident that it won't be a problem to hand the things in by the deadline – provided I apply myself. I've enjoyed doing this course quite a bit, but it will also be nice to have it out of the way.

Then it will be time for other things: the next item on the list is to get my website up to scratch, and to find out what I can do with my new horticulture qualification! Which is why I have just signed myself up for yet another course ... Small Business Management, which is offered locally and free of charge, through Te Wananga o Aotearoa. This will start in March, and hopefully provide some structure around things I need to do anyway. Plus, I get another student card and can buy things cheaper! :D

I have been doing Te Wananga o Aotearoa's Certificate in Money Management these last few months – seeing that the vexed question of Money is something I really urgently need to address in my life. It's been really helpful in kicking me into sorting out my finances, set up a budget and a system to put money by to pay the quarterly and annual bills, and generally use my money smarter.

There is a vast package of anxiety around this which I need to address, and which this course has already helped to diminish: I found out that I already have a much better grip on my finances than a lot of people, and have mostly been using my money pretty wisely when left to my own judgement. The main problem I have had in my life is that I never had enough money at my own disposal to make those decisions for myself, and in a consistent manner. I can now also see clearly that some of the decisions others have made on my behalf, have been without rhyme or reason – with consequences that continue to haunt me to this day. So now that I have learned about spending, maybe I can also learn about earning? That would solve a lot of my problems!

Stormy sea and rainbows – Cape Palliser, Wairarapa Stormy sea and rainbows – Cape Palliser, Wairarapa Stormy sea and rainbows – Cape Palliser, Wairarapa Stormy sea and rainbows – Cape Palliser, Wairarapa Stormy sea and rainbows – Cape Palliser, Wairarapa Stormy sea and rainbows – Cape Palliser, Wairarapa Stormy sea and rainbows – Cape Palliser, Wairarapa Stormy sea and rainbows – Cape Palliser, Wairarapa

Stormy day at Cape Palliser, Wairarapa

The other thing of note which happened this month, was another AnimFX – the second one this year, since it has been shifted from its February slot to November. I've come to regard my participation in this conference as my annual masochistic ritual, but this time round, it was decidedly the least painful yet. There weren't any outright fascists on the panels, and a couple of the presentations even explicitly addressed the industry's gender issues. I even had a couple of conversations with a couple of the male attendants!

It is probably also worth noting in this context, though, that the shrinking process I already noted last time, seems to have accelerated. The conference is now down to just one day, and participation was at an all time low: rather than filling the conference centre at Te Papa, we now all easily fitted into the foyer of the Paramount theatre. Which, as far as I am concerned, was a more congenial setting.

Even in this smaller space, the basic conundrum of this event yet remains to be solved: how to get a bunch of people who are in this industry because they are introverts who prefer to spend their time with computers rather than human beings, to take advantage of the "networking opportunities" the event explicitly and somewhat forcibly offers, when this type of face-to-face business networking is something that makes most of us run away screaming? I've regularly spotted some of my fellow attendees slink out with me, when I left the drinks and nibbles early because I have come to the conclusion that making smalltalk with some representative from Microsoft is not really going to help advance my career, even if it makes the Grow Wellington people feel good about themselves. Let those types have a party if they want, and talk about the day when the beneficial effect of the creative industries on their city's economy is going to be felt, already!

The industry bigwigs made themselves scarce this time round, which had the blessed effect that the speakers who remained, were mostly younger people actually involved in the creative process of making games and animation, or working in related fields. There was rather more emphasis on the creative process, and less on how to make stacks of money quick (without a college degree, from your bedroom, for the greater good of New Zealand's international status as supplier of cheap brains to benefit the profit margin of one or other large US company).

One of the more notable talks was by Fabian Erlinghauser, who introduced Song of the Sea, an animated feature based on Irish legends about selkies – women who can turn into seals. The artwork looks gorgeous in a very stylized European way, a relief after some of the more plastic style artwork that was presented in some of the other talks. Unfortunately I had been unable to attend the screening on the previous evening, due to it being too much hassle to drive into town from Featherston, but I hope to catch the film at some other time – chances are it will hit the cinemas here eventually, or at least be part of the next film festival.

On a side note: why a German who runs an animation studio in Ireland would be listed on the AnimFX website as a participant from the UK, beats me, but hey --- I guess this thing about Europe being made up of multiple nationalities which are not British, and whose members routinely embark on collaborative artistic projects with little regard to "where (insert team member) is from", is a bit hard to understand for some people round here. Or maybe it hasn't quite sunk in yet with the organizers that there are, in fact, other countries besides New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, USA, Canada, UK, and maybe, just maybe, India. Well – we're glad they are finally addressing this thing about gender, and I suppose one can't have it all, or at least not all at once.

Another speaker from Australia whom I also suspected to be an undercover German, but who indeed spoke with a convincingly enough Australian accent to make me question that theory, was Stephan Schütze, founder of the Sound Librarian website. He talked, passionately, about music in games – a topic which I, obviously, found intensely interesting. So much so that I went home and downloaded the software he had introduced, and as soon as I find a free moment, I fully intend to have a play with it. Not that I know a thing about games, but I do know a thing or two about music, and conceptually, the opportunities games offer absolutely fascinate me. Poor John Cage – he just didn't have the technology. :D

Easily the most fascinating speaker was Dr. Michelle Dickinson, who is, among other things, a Senior Lecturer in Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Auckland, where she also runs a nanotechnology testing lab – the only one in the Southern hemisphere, if I remember that correctly.

She talked about her quest to acquire superpowers, and about her research into the optical properties of various materials and surfaces, which is another topic that interests me very much. It is very relevant to 3D modeling and animation, where much of the art goes into making surfaces look realistic: this very much comes down to knowing how exactly they reflect the light. Well – Dr. Dickinson has a whole labful of data, she says. Which we are welcome to have, though they might take several weeks to download, given the current limitations of computer technology!

Among all the research and public speaking which she does, she somehow still finds time to also write a blog, which – unsurprisingly – frequently addresses issues relevant to women working in the tech sector. Fortunately for all of us, she is single-handedly proving every single stupid stereotype wrong.

Stormy day at Cape Palliser, Wairarapa Stormy day at Cape Palliser, Wairarapa Stormy day at Cape Palliser, Wairarapa Stormy day at Cape Palliser, Wairarapa Stormy day at Cape Palliser, Wairarapa Stormy day at Cape Palliser, Wairarapa

Stormy sea and rainbows – Cape Palliser, Wairarapa



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Tree of Light xmas card design, by Astrid Nielsch

Harestory: What's that Noise? – Those sheep are looking for a publisher!

News & Current Projects

I have an admission to make: I am still not quite finished with those hares. This month, I have been working on the four double pages which form the central portion of the book-to-be. Which is, in principle, the most interesting part, but also the most scariest: as I have by now been setting my own standard pretty high, the rest of the work I do on this book just has to measure up to it!

Not that I really doubt that I can do it just fine, but – I've been finding it strangely difficult to stay focused on the work this month, and I think the reason is, quite simply, fear. Fear that I won't quite hit the mark. Fear that I *will* hit the mark and this thing actually be a success, and then I won't be able to live this comfortable life of complete failure any more, but will have to get my butt up and live up to it. Fear of being finished with a project I am very attached to, and then falling into the big black hole that awaits at the end of every project, and especially at the end of projects you love. Yeah well, you know, artists. Complex beings.

What came to my rescue, was an email from the Children's Book Fair in Bologna – something like the Cannes Film Festival in the world of children's illustration. I had written to them a month or so ago, to ask if it was true what I had heard, that members of the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, that is) could still submit their work to be considered for next year's show of illustrators, until the end of November – seeing that I had narrowly missed the official deadline on 3 October, by virtue of not paying attention.

Thankfully, I have a bunch of friends on Facebook who also submit their work there ... and who jogged my memory, albeit a bit belatedly. The tip about the extended deadline for SCBWI members came from one of them. Thanks – you know who you are. :)

In any case, the gist of the email I finally received in reply to my enquiry if that really was so, was that yes, that really was so. So I hastily joined the SCBWI – which is probably a good thing anyway – and settled down for a long weekend to crank out that last double page that was still not done, and which I felt should really be part of my five submissions, seeing that it represents the climax and main turning point of the story.

A long weekend and one all-nighter later, I drove to Wellington to seek the assistance of the ever supportive Kay at Datastream, to print the pieces out and get them in the mail. Then I collapsed and felt crook for the rest of the week – a combination of sleep deprivation, allergy season, and possibly catching an actual bug, poor me. Yesterday I got confirmation that they have received my submission, and I hope this means it will still be considered for the Illustrator's Show next year. Getting into this particular show is pretty much the Grand Slam in the world of children's illustration. But given that those hares have already been on Belgian TV, I figured that if ever I had a chance, it might well be this. So wish me luck!

Harestory: Grandma Roundeye's Speech by Astrid Nielsch

Harestory: Grandma Roundeye's Speech. Scary stuff.

Meanwhile, I have not neglected my garden paintings: I got them out of the way early this month – I had to, if I didn't want to miss out on the sage blossom, and my flowering manuka. The Sage was a fairly quick and happy painting which I squeezed in one Sunday morning before heading to the beach.

The Manuka was a little more time intensive and required a somewhat different approach: the plant is all made up of tiny little almost needle like leaves, and tiny little bright magenta flowers, and what is fascinating about it is the way they light flitters in and around it. So what I ended up painting is basically lots of tiny little dots, trying to represent the shape of the tree. I think I achieved more or less what I was after – but it might be something I could try on other subjects, and practise a bit more! Maybe it is time to move from single plants, to trying to create an impression of a whole garden bed full of flowers.

These paintings are, as always, for sale: Both paintings are 38 x 76 cm / 15 x 30 inches. The Sage sells for NZ$ 180 / Euro 120 / US $ 150, plus shipping, and the Manuka is available for NZ$ 250 / Euro 160 / US $ 200. Please contact me if you wish to purchase either of those paintings.

Asni's Garden: Sage, by Astrid Nielsch Asni's Garden: Manuka, by Astrid Nielsch Asni's Garden: Sage, by Astrid Nielsch Asni's Garden: Manuka, by Astrid Nielsch

New garden paintings: Sage * Manuka

For those of you still looking for a Christmas present or several: Why not use the occasion to treat yourself to one of my CDs? They are available through my website, and also on CD Baby – or you can download each of the two solo albums, or just a selection of individual tracks, on iTunes, Amazon Mp3, and CD Baby. The tracks can also be streamed on Spotify, and a range of other similar sites. And if you'd rather play those tunes yourself, have a look at my selection of harp sheet music!

My Etsy store is now well stocked with seasonal themed greeting cards, posters, art prints, and a small selection of one-off, original artwork. Some of the prints are also available on Ebay, and on Trademe if you live in New Zealand.

New Zealand Post guarantees to deliver letters and parcels in time for Christmas if they have been shipped by 5 December – so if you want to treat yourself or a loved one for the holiday, make sure to get your order in by next week. I generally mail out orders the next day, or the same day if the order has been received early in the day, and I can manage it. For those of you in the US – remember that we are nearly a whole day ahead of you here! So what is 5 December for us, is 4 December for you. :)

Did you know that you can also order prints of a range of my artwork on DeviantArt? They ship from the US, so if you live there, and missed the cutoff date, and want some Asni goodness under your Christmas tree – have a look in the print store.

On Amazing Stories, I have continued my mini series about The Painting of Earthsea. Part 3 contains some observations about my reading of the books, particularly Tehanu, the first book in the second set of Earthsea books, written 20 years after the publication of the first trilogy. It also showcases stills from the Studio Ghibli animation Gedo Senki, which is (somewhat loosely) based on the Earthsea book, as well as cover illustrations for the book editions of Tehanu. In the fourth installment, I introduce my own series of paintings inspired by Le Guin's Earthsea books, and some challenges I encountered while painting them. Visit my author page, with a list of all my blog posts on Amazing Stories.

Asni's garden in November: pond plants, fish and roses Asni's garden in November: pond plants, fish and roses Asni's garden in November: pond plants, fish and roses Asni's garden in November: pond plants, fish and roses Asni's garden in November: pond plants, fish and roses Asni's garden in November: pond plants, fish and roses Asni's garden in November: pond plants, fish and roses Asni's garden in November: pond plants, fish and roses Asni's garden in November: pond plants, fish and roses Asni's garden in November: pond plants, fish and roses

Asni's garden in November: pond plants, fish and roses

… and Fish

Since I now have a garden pond, with water in it, of course I wanted some waterlilies to go with it. And some fish.

What does one do in such a situation? One browses Trademe. Plenty of fish for sale on Trademe: I was originally thinking to get a couple of goldfish, but the choice of kinds, sizes, shapes and colours that presented itself to me was too bewildering. Clearly I need to investigate this further, but in the meanwhile, I settled on some White Cloud Mountain minnows. There are only a handful of different varieties of them, and they were advertised as a "beginner's fish": "very forgiving", it said, when it comes to water quality and general human incompetence. That sounded about right.

I opted for a handful of Sunset White Cloud Mountain minnows, a name which stands in no proportion to the size of the fish: they only grow to about 4 cm in length, if it is much. They are widely sold in the aquarium trade, but are practically extinct in their native habitat: White Cloud Mountain, or Bayun Shan, in Guangdong province, Southern China – which you may know as Canton.

The mountain, so Wikipedia tells me, is one of the historically famous "sights" of Guangdong, and has long been a popular tourism resort. Meanwhile, the area has been pretty much swallowed up by the populous city of Guangzhou. No wonder that all this didn't agree with the fish! Some wild populations seem to have survived on Hainan island, though. And they seem to thrive well enough in the garden ponds of the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Six of them arrived in the mail a few weeks ago: of course they were traumatized by being in a scary dark shaking box, so when I released them out of their bag they dived into the currently quite murky waters of my pond and disappeared. But after a couple of days, they seemed to have gotten used to the new situation: they'd found themselves a hiding place under one of the folds of the pond liner, and were darting in and out and exploring their new home. They may be small, but they are bright orange, and they put a smile on my face as I was watching them.

I am a bit worried, though, that they may also have appealed to my local blackbirds: I spotted Madam Blackbird splashing in my pond the other day, and am very suspicious as to what business she had there! Besides, I haven't seen much of the fishes lately. I did spot two of them a few days ago, so here is to hoping that they just went into hiding – we've had pretty hideous weather for most of the last 10 days, the stiff winds we get in early summer are now in full swing.

I feel miserable at the thought that they may have ended up in some bird's belly, and so quick. So this is what happens when I try to bond with a pet. :( Maybe I should really stick to plants when it comes to meeting my emotional needs.

Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade

Asni's garden in November: blossoms, food, and elderblossom lemonade



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My choice of waterlilies My choice of waterlilies My choice of waterlilies

My choice of waterlilies: Marliacea carnea, Firecrest, Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot
photos courtesy www.waterlilies.co.nz, www.seerosenforum.de

Monet, Marliac and Me

When I turned my thoughts to waterlilies and began to research the options, the name "Marliac" popped up a lot. I was surprised to learn that many of the waterlily varieties available today date back to the early 20th century and even the late 19th. If they were fruit trees, vegetables or roses, we would definitely call them "heritage". A large number of them can be traced back to just one breeder, the French horticulturist Latour-Marliac.

If he is French, I thought, and grew his waterlilies in the late 19th century, then chances are those were some of the lilies Claude Monet had in his pond. Of course I was keen to get some of the waterlilies Monet had in his pond. That was, in fact, precisely what I wanted for my pond! All of them, if possible.

Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac was born in 1830 as the son of a family which owned extensive properties in Lot-et-Garonne, southeast of Bordeaux. He did what sons of wealthy families do: he went to Paris to study law – but his studies were disrupted by the 1848 revolution, and he returned home to look after the family properties. After his marriage in 1852, he settled in Le-Temple-sur-Lot, a village or small town on the banks of the river Lot, one of the tributaries of the Garonne. This I happen to know because when I was young, we once spent a family holiday in this area, kayaking down the river Dordogne, another tributary of the Garonne.

A keen interest in plants seems to have run in the family. At first, Latour-Marliac turned his attention to bamboo. He introduced a number of varieties to Europe, grew them in his nursery, and sold them. But mainly, his fame rests on the fact that he was the first person who managed to cross the native European hardy waterlily, which only comes in white, with a variety of more colourful waterlily species from the Americas, and other places – which were generally less cold resistant, and won't survive a European winter.

This was evidently a tricky process – the plants belong to different species and so do not necessarily fertilize each other naturally. But by 1875, he was successful enough to set up a nursery dedicated to the propagation and selling of these new waterlily varieties, which combined the cold hardiness of the European waterlily, with the more interesting colour spectrum of their warmer climate cousins from other parts of the world. In 1889, he exhibited his by then quite impressive collection at the World Fair in Paris – the same Fair that saw the unveiling of the Eiffel Tower.

It was at this event that Latour-Marliac's waterlilies caught the eye of Claude Monet. Monet was by then living in Giverny, where he had begun to develop his famous garden. The following year, he was able to buy the house and property, which he had been renting up to this point. In 1993, he acquired additional land, which would become the water garden.

Monet's choice of waterlilies Monet's choice of waterlilies Monet's choice of waterlilies

Monet's choice of waterlilies: James Brydon, Laydekeri Rosea, William Falconer
photos courtesy www.waterlilies.co.nz, www.seerosenforum.de

The archive of the Latour-Marliac estate at Le-Temple-sur-Lot – which continues to operate as a commercial nursery specializing, of course, in waterlilies – contains several orders from the painter: the first one, from 1994, was mainly for a variety of less showy water plants to populate his new pond, but it does contain a few waterlilies, as well as several lotus plants – but apparently those never managed to establish themselves in Monet's pond. Subsequent smaller orders were for more waterlily varieties – including some varieties from the American breeder Drees, which are still very much commercially available today.

Monet originally bought these plants simply for his gardening pleasure, and not with a view to painting them. But – as we know – he became fascinated with these plants. He began painting his lily pond in 1899 – and the rest is art history. The waterlilies kept him busy for the last 26 years of his life.

Monet was mainly fascinated with the changing effect of the light and the reflections, rather than with horticultural detail – but in some of his paintings, at least the earlier ones, one can at least make a guess at the varieties he had in front of him. I am pretty sure I can spot the "James Brydon" lilies which we know he bought, because of their rather distinctive shape and colour.

Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien

My choice of waterlilies: Marliacea carnea (Latour-Marliac 1887)
photos courtesy various enthusiastic people via the internet, thanks!

Seeing that my pond is rather a bit smaller than Monet's big lily pond at Giverny, getting all of Monet's lilies was not really an option. Besides, there was the issue of where to get them from. I had noted last year that my local garden center offers waterlilies for sale, and was eagerly awaiting the arrival of this year's contingent – but when they came, I found the price tag a tad too steep.

The internet to the rescue! Trademe was a bit of a disappointment – there were only a few plants available. But a quick internet search brought me to the site of the Waihi Water Gardens, which as it turned out, is really the only supplier in New Zealand who sells waterlilies online.

This should have made the choice a little easier, but picking just a few plants from that catalogue of gorgeousness they have on their website, still took me a week of agonizing, until I had whittled it down to the three plants which the owners advised me would be a suitable number for my pond.

My platonic idea of what a waterlily should look like, is white with just a hint of pink on the outer leaves. I guess those must be the waterlilies I grew up with! The variety which best fits this description, is Marliacea Carnea – one of the earlier varieties bred by Marliac, a cross between the plain white European waterlily and one of the red varieties, presumably. So after establishing that my pond was indeed large and deep enough to accommodate this rather strong growing variety, this was the first I settled on.

Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien

My choice of waterlilies: Firecrest (Unknown origin, USA c.1930)
photos courtesy various enthusiastic people via the internet, thanks!

I asked my friends on Facebook what colours I should get, and the overwhelming vote was for white, with one person suggesting yellow. My own preference went toward the red varieties. So I completely surprised myself by instead falling in love with a variety called Firecrest, which is bright pink with distinctive dark orange stamens. I found myself staring at images of this variety time and again, so I figured maybe I should have it, then. Though if you had asked me before what colours I preferred, "bright pink" would have been fairly low on the list!

Easily the most showy of the waterlilies available on the site, is Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot – and besides, who could resist such a name? One of my friends had voted for this variety when I posted some pictures on Facebook, while another really liked Gonnère, which is similar, but somewhat smaller, and pure white. So it was between those two.

My first reaction to the idea of getting one of those was, "oh, my pond is to small". But my original rationale for putting it in had been to have a water reservoir available for those hot dry summers, and I hope to eventually rig up a proper irrigation system for my vegetables. So I wanted the pond to hold a reasonable volume of water, which is why I dug it out to about 90 cm depth – easily more than you would need for a purely ornamental pond. When I emailed the people who sell the waterlilies and asked them for advice, they reassured me that my pond is in fact larger than some, and it has a good depth to grow some of the larger waterlily varieties.

When I was a kid, I lived in the belief that when we bought icecream, one of the flavours I chose always had to be vanilla. I wasn't really all that keen on vanilla – I would rather have tried all the other more interesting flavours – but seemingly I wasn't allowed to get straight to the good stuff, unless I also had my fill of boring.

I think there was a similar belief system at work that made me think that the fanciest waterlily in the shop wasn't really for me. It was probably only for people who had bigger ponds, larger gardens, better salaries, or were in other ways superior. But in the end I told myself, why have vanilla flavour if you can have strawberry stracciatella gingernut zest instead, same price? That doesn't make any sense.

So I went for the fluffy soft pink extravaganza, even though I was warned that this lily is a bit of a primadonna when it comes to blossoming: apparently, a few blossoms a season is the most I can expect. Still – from what I've been reading on the internet, most of the happy owners of a specimen of Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot seem to think it is entirely worth the wait. And it is the first of the three to have sent a couple of its leaves to the surface! We'll wait and see – patience is a virtue, as a friend of mine uses to say.

Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien

My choice of waterlilies: Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot (Latour-Marliac 1913)
photos courtesy various enthusiastic people via the internet, thanks!

The thing about hybridized plants – that is, crosses between different species – is that they are often sterile, or have descendants which revert to one of their ancestors. For this reason, such plant varieties are usually cloned – propagated by cuttings, that is – to make sure they grow true to type. This goes for a number of highly cultivated plants: be they fruit trees, roses, or waterlilies.

What this means is that the piece of root I got in the mail to grow my waterlily from, is still a part of the very same plant Marliac first discovered growing in his nursery pond. I'm not sure if Monet had any of the three varieties I picked growing in his water garden – but if he did, then his would also be a piece of the self same plant.

When it comes to my garden paintings, obviously Monet – along with artists like Van Gogh, Gauguin, and the German expressionists – have been a great influence. They have all shown us ways to paint that are both accurate in capturing what they depict, and abstract, in the sense that they are more about the play of colour, form and light, than creating an illusion of reality.

Although Monet, at least, was certainly capable of creating that illusion – when looked at in the right way, some of his paintings pop off the canvas and become 3 dimensional, much like those images of random dots that pop into three dimensional objects which you didn't even suspect were there. Those were calculated with modern computer technology. Monet developed the art of seeing to the point where he could create much the same effect in his paintings, without the aid of a highly sophisticated calculating machine.

Art historians who seek for influences and connections between painters, always seem to assume that one painter is influenced by seeing the paintings of another painter, and consciously copying their style. But I think it goes deeper, and is more complex than that. When I take my easel outside and paint my garden, I am using much the same process as Monet did. Painting outdoors puts certain limitations on the painter: first of all, one has to work quick. In the course of the two or three or four hours a paintings takes me, the light will have changed substantially, and sometimes a blossom may continue to open, or wilt. There may be weather conditions to take into account – one wants to get done before that big rain cloud over there drifts over!

What distinguishes this way of working, from painting from a photograph, is that a photograph only captures a very brief moment in time. When one does a painting over the course of several hours, one will end up creating an average of all the light configurations and movements that happened in that timespan. The result is likely to look less photorealistic, but it is better capable of capturing what a photograph cannot capture: a sum of impressions, which is actually closer to how we tend to perceive people, scenes, reality.

Working quick with oils, also implies that one cannot use any of the careful layering techniques that require the paint to dry between applications, making it possible to paint fine lines and careful detail. Working wet on wet is quite a different beast: fine detail generally goes out the window – not because there is no time to pay attention to it, but because it isn't possible to draw fine detail on top of a wet layer of oil paint! One has to apply big dollops of paint, which is what gives these paintings their thick, almost 3 dimensional texture. I can see these things happening in my garden paintings. But at no point am I consciously trying to "paint like Monet", or one of the other painters I have named. I simply try to paint, as accurately as I am capable, what I see in front of me. It is more a case of arriving at somewhat similar results for the self same reasons that these painters did.

When I build my garden and plant my waterlilies, I find myself copying Monet also in other ways. Art historians may worry about details of style, but for the artists themselves, a lot of the time it seems to be simply about surviving – about figuring out a way to lead one's life that enables us to spend enough time painting, and still find some time to eat, sleep, and grow some waterlilies perhaps. And so one thing leads to another, and life and art just can't be separated that easily.

Arohanui, from Asni



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Waterlilies for the future! (maybe) Waterlilies for the future! (maybe) Waterlilies for the future! (maybe) Waterlilies for the future! (maybe)

Waterlilies for the future! (maybe): Yellow Princess, Gonnère, Sioux, Sultan
photos courtesy www.waterlilies.co.nz, www.seerosenforum.de