Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stirred but not too shaken

I had a great weekend down in Christchurch for a friends 60th birthday. I caught up with friends and family, thrillingly experienced a small aftershock (a Wellingtonian is saying this...nuts!) and went to see the Ron Mueck Exhibition.This is a pic of me looking at the giant newborn which gives you a sense of scale. If you haven’t been to see these extraordinary works, then book a cheap airfare and go. Do not miss it... and don’t be put off by that quake business.

Yes, there are houses with cracks and held together with ropes but there are houses totally unaffected. There are empty spaces where buildings have gone and then standing surprises like Shands Emporium (built 1866) where my favourite vintage clothing shop, Tête à Tête was mercifully undisturbed and doing a brisk, friendly and super helpful trade. But apart from some busy cafes and the selling of vintage corsets, things were pretty quiet retail-wise in the city centre. The locals seem pretty fed up with the state of things; the limbo that remains after a civil disaster in the midst of a recession. And it doesn’t help Christchurch if you stay away.

Whilst there, I went to a mall to buy a birthday card and it was packed to the gunnels with tinkly Christmas music and the overpowering smell of muggy people and stale food halls. I couldn’t wait to get out of it. This isn’t the Christchurch that I knew and loved in the 80’s and 90’s when we lived there. If you shut your eyes and opened them again you could be in St Lukes, Westfield or any of the cloned soul-less malls that dominate retail. Thank God Wellington is so geographically compromised that we adhere happily to a few well trod mainstreets in the heart of the city, leaving the malls to far flung satellite cities. It’s what keeps a city alive and kicking.

So, go to Christchurch but go to the heart of it. Go the art galleries, the markets, the art centre and the old eclectic parts that still remain and defied the earthquake. Go and spend your Christmas budget there on presents, eat in the cafes, enjoy the coffee, go and see the deliciously decadent Cabaret at the Court Theatre. That’s the way you can help, far more so than ticking a ‘like’ box on facebook. And go to the launch of a new book by Gavin Bishop and Diana Noonan (two of my oldest and favourite colleagues with my most supportive publisher) of Quaky Cat- authors doing their bit to help in the very best way possible.

 Thats all for this week, cheers Fifi :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Into the future with a book about the past

I'm getting quite desperate to start on illustrating a book in the new year for Scholastic. This requires that I will need to cease my job on The Hobbit, because there isn't a way that one can spend 10 hours a day at one illustration job and squeeze another 10 hours a day into another. little time, so much to do! Such opportunitites of varying financial you take the gold now and stop building a personally developed nest for the future? Or starve whilst creating your magnum opus that may or may not reap dividends. The work I'm doing on the film  will never have my name on it and at the end of the day I am a hired hand (literally, my hand is paid to render). I guess you have to go where your heart and soul is and as I said, I am quite desperate to start on that book and I intend for it to be a work of exquisit art. The pastel study I've attached here is a preliminary sketch- it won't appear in the book but will give you a feel for where I am heading with it. I hope it will touch the hearts of its audience because the story has certainly touched mine.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Secrets Revealed!

Want to know the tricks and tips of seasoned speakers? In particular, how to manage an audience of under 13 year olds, their teachers and the kid with ADHD... come to the WCBA clubnight at The Library Bar on Courtenay Place next Tuesday at 7pm. I'll be there- in fact, I'll be speaking! Dessert are 2 for the price of one, so bring a friend :)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


 the original, airbrushed, non digital illustration

Well The Hobbit is here to stay and we are all happy here at work as we power ahead. Unfortunately I can’t tell you anything about that because well, you know the drill; confidentiality and all that... But I can tell you that my Photoshop skills have improved out of sight. Nothing like doing something for 10 hours a day to make you really good at it (now if only I could apply that to my novel writing...)
I sit at my monitor layering colours and textures and pause to marvel at how far I have come technology wise. Having been trained as an illustrator back in the computer free days and witnessing the arrival of such marvels like fax machines (my first one cost me $1,800 and that was with a dodgy deal- tell me can you even give them away now?) I thought old dogs would find new tricks hard work. And they are and it requires courage to learn and then to execute them. How far does a painterly poodle have to jump?

I’m now onto my 3rd laptop and 4th  latest version of Photoshop and with my new Android phone I can email, blog, tweet, sync, upload, download, file share and store my histories somewhere in cyberspace. My grown children tell me to get off facebook...but it wasn’t an easy personal upgrade.

Back in, oh, 1994 or so, I saw a sign up at our local copy shop ‘Learn Photoshop, night classes here!’
I knew the writing (or illustration) was on the wall for me as younger graduates emerged from Design school with this knowledge under their belts and ready to rock. It was time for me to take the plunge and up-skill. When freelancing this is always done in your own time at your own expense; no company training sessions with morning tea thrown in. 

I asked at the counter if it was suitable for beginners ‘like real beginners who have never even turned on a computer?’ Obviously they thought I was prone to hyperbole and assured me it was. Little did they know, I wasn’t exaggerating in the least. I didn’t own a computer, never had and was reluctant to forked out thousands of dollars for a Mac (back than you had to mortgage your house to buy one). So off I went one Tuesday night and sat down in front of a screen. We were asked to open a file and I looked around for a manila folder. You can see where this is heading can’t you?

I’ll spare you blow by blow agony of my evening except to say that the last straw came when following the cursor on screen, my hand slipped off the edge of the desk.
                ‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘my mouse pad isn’t big enough.’
People snorted as the tutor came and showed me how to move the mouse with small flicks of the wrist. I sat red faced, crying on the inside and then, looking at my watch, declared my babysitter was waiting and I had to go. Mustering up the shreds of my dignity, I packed up, walked out, got in the car and burst into tears. I cried all the way home, all over my husband and all over my drawing board, convinced that I must be the only illustrator in the business who was a dinosaur. I wrote this poem for Next Magazine the very next day.


'Drag me into the nineties' I said,
Before the decade is out,
Teach me about computers and stuff,
So my cred is left in no doubt.

Before you could say 'digitize it',
They signed me up for a course,
If a P.C was water to drink from,
It follows that I was the horse.

'Lead me to it', I cried with glee,
Not knowing my RAM from my ROM,
Then I was asked to open a file,
But where had the cabinet gone?

As mouses clicked (I thought they squeaked),
The others were having a ball,
I realised, then, like School Cert Math's,
I shouldn't have been there at all.

Shamed as I am by my ignorance,
I know that two things remain true;
Photoshop's where I buy my film,
And Windows just let the light through.

Digital illustration, now, I can do. Program the DVD player? Nah, but then, that’s what your kids are for...