Asni: Multimedia Art & Design
DIGITAL PRINTS now available on Ebay • Greeting card selection now available on Etsy • ASNI'S GARDEN: Original Watercolour paintings available on Etsy
SHEET MUSIC: Diego Fernandez de Huete: Compendio numeroso – original music for harp from baroque Spain
TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME MUSIC: Harp sheet music store * Travels in Middle Earth CD • 700 Years of Pop CD
Asni the Harper digital downloads: CD Baby ** Amazon MP3 * iTunes
NOW AVAILABLE: New Zealand Film Locations map: A3 poster * Snowflake Christmas/seasonal card * Queen Galadriel holiday card * Easter greeting cards
Some afternoons when it is suitably sunny, I bundle my sheep into the car and drive him out to the beach. We've been to the Palliser Coast and to White Rock – where he learned to wriggle under a wire fence – but the favourite spot is out past Tora. A rocky bit of beach where he can graze and I can sit by the sea and read a book.
He'll mostly be busy with food, but occasionally he comes looking for me, and will stand on the rocks and take it all in: the smells, the sounds, the taste of bits of seaweed. He likes exploring, and I'd swear he sometimes just stands and looks at the landscape. Then we go for a walk and he can say hello to the local sheep. It's been a little while since I've seen him pronk and bounce about. I think it means he is enjoying it.
It is a matter of great personal offence to the kiwi blokes in my neighbourhood on their way back from the pub, that I (being not a bloke and a fucking German) presume to look after a sheep. And that I would decline their drunken offers to "help" with the sheep – who does not in fact need any help, being a rather independent minded sheep. And who is also very skittish with humans other than me. The only times I've ever seen him panic were always when other people came too close.
They lean on me that I should pasture him out to the company of other sheep – even the local vet has made noises in that direction. If they don't outright lean on me to eat him, as would be in the natural order of things. I don't want to pasture out my sheep. I'd do it if I thought it was in his best interest, but I really don't think I'd be doing the sheep a favour. He seems to be very attached to me. Whenever I try to leave him alone in unfamiliar surroundings, he'll start baaing his head off. He's attached to the rabbits and the geese and the chickens, too, and it does not seem to me that he's unhappy where he is.
Meanwhile, the local sheep want nothing to do with this weird sheep who hangs out with humans and looks at the sea and the sunset as if he ENJOYS them. They stand together and look at him strangely, and when he tries to approach them and make friends, they run away. I'm not sure if the sheep is heartbroken about this, or enjoying his new found power to make others run away.
Me and the sheep, we make a good team.
News & Current Projects
My latest digital piece, Piwakawaka (NZ fantail) is now on exhibit at Pukaha Mt Bruce, a nature and bird sanctuary up State Highway 2 between Masterton and Eketahuna. It shares a nice bright spot near the main window with paintings by Ali Foster and Shona Brogden, and a beautiful piece of textile art.
The other artists have said nice things about it, and at the opening last month, the organizer came up to me all excited, wanting to introduce me to someone who had been "staring at the piece repeatedly" and she was sure it was already all but sold.
The fellow I was introduced to was Adam von Penfold, who turned out to be one of the artists currently in residence at New Pacific Studio. He makes, among other things, experimental sound videos, really shitty coffee, and terrible soup. The idea that someone might look at a piece of art not out of a desire to buy it, but simply because they find it interesting, may not have occurred to the good person who made the introduction. But between someone who gives me money for a print, and someone who shares my penchant for all-out negativity in the face of overwhelming societal pressure to be permanently positive, I would always choose the latter.
On AMAZING STORIES, I have delved into recent Star Wars fan art – an absolute treasure trove as it turns out – and started a Star Wars Popularity Contest: Rey wins, hands down. Followed closely by Kylo Ren, the "angry space emo" and would-be Darth Vader. Finn and Poe, best buddies in space, come in on third place. Visit my author page, with a list of all my blog posts on Amazing Stories.
One of my baroque harpist colleagues must have been teaching a course or masterclass lately – there is only a small handful of them who can be responsible – for in the last couple of weeks, I suddenly had a couple of hundred dollars' worth of sheet music orders coming in all at the same time. I have expressed my appreciation personally. Whichever one of my approximately five colleagues it was, they have saved my butt through another tense money month! :D
I have now run out of stock (or nearly so) on a few of my books, so will be doing a big re-print next week. If you want to get in line and help finance the making of the new batch of books, have a look at my sheet music shop.
For sheet music orders placed during the month of May, I'll be including a small piece of original artwork – a pencil sketch or a watercolour – as a thank you. It is, after all, New Zealand Music Month, so why not do something a bit special!
Of course you can, as always, download my music tracks on iTunes, CD Baby or Amazon MP3. Some tracks are also available for streaming on Spotify, Deezer, and other streaming services – search for "Asni the Harper".
When it comes to poultry breeding, I really haven't got a clue. My approach to choosing breeding stock is, let's say, painterly: if I mix a bird of this colour with a bird of that colour, I ought to get a bird of that other colour, right? Well it doesn't work quite so straightforwardly, but as a basic approach, it turns out to be perfectly viable: The birds I hatched out over the summer have turned out quite stunning.
Here is Feirefiz the cockerel – he's the offspring from Stout, my black Orpington rooster (now, alas, deceased), and one of my silver Campine hens, I think it was Binnen. Who needs a pheasant, when they have a shiny sparkly young rooster like this?
The chicks from Stout and Bao, the little partridge silkie hen, have turned out even more colourful: here are Oberon, Titania and Lilith. The shiny bottlegreenblack feathers come from their dad – but goodness knows where the bright orange neck feathers have sprung from! Not from their modest earth coloured mom, for sure?
The day after Stout died, I found one of my Campine hens sitting on a huge pile of eggs the hens had been secretly laying in my shed, while I was looking for them elsewhere. A few days later, Big Mary, the black Orpington alpha hen, took over. The pile was a happy mix of eggs from several different hens, but sadly, only three of them hatched: two Orpington x Campine chicks, and one pure Orpington.
Even more tragically, two of the chicks ended up drowning in the water bucket, during the hot February weather we've had. The sole survivor is Herzeloyde, last born of Stout's offspring, from Buten, my other silver Campine hen. There are also Obie and Obilot, full sisters of Feirefiz the cockerel, who have been hatched and raised by Bao, mother of Oberon, Titania and Lilith.
Feirefiz himself, along with my one straight Orpington pullet Marlene, and three brothers/half-brothers, was one of my first batch of incubator chicks. I'm happy to report that I have found new non-eating homes for all three young roosters, and for Balthasar the brown Leghorn cockerel who was one of the next batch – the ones that hatched on Christmas Eve. The others in that batch are Oberon, Titania and Lilith, and Caspar and Melchior the two brown Leghorn pullets. Then there is also Moin, the lone silver Campine chick, whom I have already introduced in my last newsletter.
Family relations in my little flock are a little complicated – and bound to get more so next summer when I'll start crossing the crosses! My inner Dr Frankenstein rejoices.
And then there are the ducks. Turns out that crossing a Welsh Harlequin drake with a Swedish Blue duck results in some seriously nice offspring. I've managed to sell most of the ducks, and ended up with a surplus of drakes: Cookie, Candy, Dumpling, and The Master, along with Cupcake and Doughnut the ducks.
Having too many drakes and too few ducks to go around is bound to result in some serious mating time mayhem – I got a taste of that last spring when The Doctor was serially raping poor Muffin, one reason I let her go to a new home where she will hopefully be much happier. I mean you know, drakes have been observed to engage in some seriously outlandish sexual behaviour.
To prevent anything like that from happening on my patch, and probably upsetting the local animal morality police, I went and bought two new blue Swedish ducks, Scone and Smilla. Which means that I can now safely let go most of this year's offspring: Scone has already attached herself to The Doctor as his second wife, so I can simply start over. I hope Smilla will take a fancy to the Dumpling, who is the last surviving duckling from Noodle's hatch.
Muffin and two of her daughters went to a new home in Pahiatua, and it looks like Cookie and Doughnut may join them there: the lady who bought them just got in touch with me to say how lovely those ducks are, and if I have any more?
Dumpling and Cupcake the black duck will stay. I am also rather tempted to keep Candy the blue drake – but then I'd have to find another duck or two. Maybe a Cayuga, to throw into the mix?
For the last so many years I have tried to apply all this Small Business Management wisdom they keep stuffing down our throats to my creative endeavours, with absolutely very little success. Marketing research, SMART goals, financial projections, projected outcomes – these things have their uses, but on the whole, they have never really worked for me.
So here I am trying something new and unexpected just for the heck of it, and it starts taking off in all sorts of surprising and unexpected directions. Is it a hobby? A surrogate family? A new business venture? Part of a grassroots political movement? A social experiment? A new local tourist attraction?
I think of it as my latest art project.
A friend of mine recently posted this article on Facebook, which puts into words something I have been struggling with all my life, faced with the constant insistence of people to tell them what my plan was, what I was on about, what I was hoping to achieve, what outcome and what result they could expect, and when.
"One can never know for sure what impact a work of art will have.
That isn’t just true for the person faced with the work of art. It’s also true of the person who made it. Art is a venturing into the unknown, for both receiver and creator. This is why, at its heart, art resists being made into a tool of policy.
As one of the researchers quoted in the report says, the “focus on demonstrable outcomes” demanded by policymakers encourages artists to predict in advance what the effects of their work will be, when applying for funding. But the whole point of the arts is that they are unpredictable. The artist launches off on a project, not knowing quite where it will lead, or whether it will lead anywhere at all.
But once you have admitted that, you are also admitting that the arts really are different from other human activities, at a very fundamental level. And if that is so, the instrumental view of the arts, which judges culture by its usefulness, flies out of the window."
The truth is, I don't have a plan. I have a vision and a basic idea, a sense of direction of where to go, but the way there is uncharted territory. I do stuff and see what happens. I take a brush and put a blotch of paint on an empty white canvas. Then it is a process of balancing and fine tuning until the result feels right – and that result can often be quite different from what I originally envisaged. So stop asking already. And give me the money.
No one will ever discover any new places if they always insist on knowing where the road will lead. The only way to do that is by sailing off into the unknown, and risk falling off the edge of the Earth. But then the Earth is round, and has no edge to fall off of.
Arohanui, from Asni