Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Calm Before the Storm - new painting by Dean Bradley

This is Dean's second mountain-scape, which is also on show at Parker Gallery in Nelson.
Calm Before the Storm - by Dean Bradley

Calm Before the Storm - detail 1
Calm Before the Storm - detail 2

First Snow - new painting by Dean Bradley

Our trip into Arthur's Pass in mid-June gave Dean the inspiration to create a series of mountain-scapes  Here is the first painting of this new series, which is currently on show at Parker Gallery in Nelson.

First Snow
It's the first time we've added a frame to the painting, and we were unsure how the three dimensional nature of this work would sit within a frame. It creates a really interesting optical illusion, with the sky within the frame and the lower sections standing out from it. We are really happy with the results - thanks very much to the Framing Rooms!

First Snow - detail 1

First Snow - detail 2

Parker Gallery opened its doors on 17 December, and is a great addition to the range of art galleries in Nelson. It is located in Wakatu Square (near Anzac Park) and is an extension of Neville Parker's Icon Gallery in Upper Moutere - http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/73960898/icon-gallery-expands-into-nelson

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Estuary Illumination - updated version

This painting has undergone a transformation since I last posted it! Here's the final version, which has a lighter band above the gold centre.

Estuary Illumination - updated

Estuary Illumination (updated) - detail 1
Estuary Illumination (updated) - detail 1

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Estuary Illumination - new painting by Dean Bradley

Estuary Illumination, by Dean Bradley
This painting has distant sunlit islands at the top, a golden mangrove-pod motif in the centre, and the bottom section of the painting has bullrush reeds and tidal ripples in indigo blue.
Estuary Illumination - Detail 1

Metallic enamel in centre, tidal flowing arcs in the indigo band, and an abstract frieze of marine life in the ivory and beige toward to the top.

Estuary Illumination - Detail 2

The indigo rushes and mudflat ripples are created with a patchwork of differing fabrics, and sand and grains.

Estuary Illumination - Detail 3

Close up of one of the mangrove-pod spirals, the golden heart of the painting.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Blue Tahuna - new painting by Dean Bradley

Blue Tahuna

Blue Tahuna - detail 1

Blue Tahuna - detail 2

Blue Tahuna - detail 3

Friday, 23 October 2015

Learning to drive - the slow way!

I’m the kind of person who hesitates outside a kindergarten gate. I look at the kiddy lock and jiggle at a couple of the metal bits and hope it opens. It doesn’t tend to and so I jangle more until something eventually comes loose.
I get this from my mother. We giggle hysterically about these interactions with real life 3D puzzles – no one understands quite like she does how perplexing they are. The rest of my family sure don’t. Dad’s a farmer. He just knows how things work.
The hosing down of the yard and milking shed was a conundrum I never mastered. A certain amount of water was available – when the large concrete trough ran out, that was it. I never got the whole thing clean with the water available, there was always some cowpat area going dry after I was done.
So when it came to getting my driver’s licence I could have guessed it might not be simple. Dad’s approach, from how I remember it, was to just sit in the passenger seat, point to a couple of things like the gear stick and the clutch, and wait for it all to come together.
In retrospect it probably wasn’t a great idea for me to ride the motorbike with my piano playing friend on the back. We toppled over and she broke her wrist. Haymaking was also a jolty situation when I was driving the tractor.
So, back to the driving lessons. Mum took on the job next. I think that was better, but I still failed my first and second driving tests. I vividly recall trying to do a hill start with my thigh jumping around so much with nerves – and no way I could stop it – that a pass was never going to happen. Turning left when asked to go right didn’t help.
I was about ready to give up by then. But Mum and Dad engaged a driving instructor as a last resort, and every Monday night there’d be lights in the driveway and I’d have to go out and drive around Waihi's windy back roads and very first roundabout in the dark.
When I passed, the tester said he’d never known anyone to be so scrupulous at looking behind, not just in the rear vision mirror. And to this day, I am a slow, careful, methodical driver. Somehow the lessons went in, so that I know them now. Must have been all that practice!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Sepia Tides - new painting by Dean Bradley

We've just sent a painting to the North Island for the Taranaki National Art Awards. As part of the application process Dean prepared an artist's statement which is shown here.

"In recent years Dean Bradley’s work has explored the nexus between landscape and abstraction. The paintings, often in a circular format, use multiple horizons -  and are able to convey a range of vistas and moods within one vision.

These works show a growing interest in surface and texture. Geographical forms and excavated layers reveal memories within the land. ‘Sepia Tides’ is an example of this – with the sepia tones of an aged photo, it evokes traces on the land and the tidal flow of history."

The exhibition runs from 31 October to 7 November 2015. For more details about this event please go to www.taranakiartawards.co.nz

Sepia Tides

Details of the work:

Thursday, 1 October 2015

My Bee Garden

After ignoring the call of the garden in the first month of Spring, I am now fully in planting mode. Here's the garden I dug over and filled with white, blue and yellow flowers to attract bees, including: poppies, allyssum, foxgloves, cosmos, cornflowers, viscaria and verbena. I also scattered a packet of wildflower pollinator seeds in for good luck.

After planting it, I realised a funny linkage. The Hebrew name Debra (or Deborah) means Bee. So I am planting this garden for myself as well!

That fits really well with the changes I am making to this Blog site. It's now a creative space for me to say what I like. It doesn't need to yield any commercial work - or grow any veges!

Friday, 25 September 2015

How to update a Blogger site

Twenty years ago it was common for people (especially women) to drive into a petrol station and sit in the car or stand awkwardly beside it, hoping that the petrol attendant would see them and come by to sort out the pump.

I did that for many years until a friend's sister showed me how to adjust the metallic thingy that keeps the petrol pumping. Not long later, someone showed my mother, and for years she has just bowled up and sorted it out for herself.

It's a great feeling not to have to sit passively, hoping to be helped out. For a while now I've been helping someone add text and photos to their blog, but last week they asked me to explain how to do it. 

I found that the best way to do this was to act as if I was going to update the blog myself, watching what I was doing, and writing down every single step. Clear, technical writing is about starting from the beginning and including every step - not leaving gaps in the hope that the reader will make a leap to the next significant step. I'm happy to say the steps worked for her (with a bit of trial and error, to clarify some of the steps), and she is now on her way to updating her blog whenever she feels like it.

So for anyone who has a blog on Google's Blogger platform, but has got stuck on uploading photos, adding a page or moving text from one place to another, these steps are for you - How to update a Blogger site. All power to your blog!

An introduction to e-book publishing

I recently attended a talk hosted by the New Zealand Society of Authors and picked up some information that may be of interest to anyone who is also tentatively dipping a toe into the waters of e-book publishing.

A key decision is whether to self-publish or to seek a publisher. There are e-book publishers, but not many in New Zealand. One way to identify a suitable e-book publisher is to look at books on Amazon which are similar to yours, and check who published it. When approaching an e-publisher, read the submission guidelines carefully and follow them to the letter. It's their test to see if you will follow future instructions from their editors.

If you decide to self-publish, two key options are to send your manuscript to Amazon or Smashwords.

Manuscripts need to be in pdf format. Amazon give you templates and tell you how to do the layout. Then you upload it, with a cover image. Payment through Amazon only occurs after you've accrued $100 of royalties, unless you have a US, Canadian or UK bank account number. You will need a US tax number.

Manuscripts are submitted as Word documents and put through a 'grinder' which formats and distributes them to Barnes & Noble, Kobo and others. Payment of royalties is made quarterly, through a Paypal account. More detail about this option is provided at the end of this blog.

Other websites to check out
Draft Digital is similar to Smashwords. It you self-publish specifically to them, you will receive royalties of 70%. If you self-publish to a range of platforms, you will receive royalties of 30%. The website is www.draft2digital.com 

Wheelers is New Zealand's largest online new book supplier to schools & public libraries and now has an e-book platform. Visit: http://www.wheelers.co.nz/

There is a website that will convert documents to pdf, epub etc, called 'Calibre', which you can check out at http://calibre-ebook.com/

Gimp is a free version of photoshop, and was recommended by a number of people at the meeting - http://www.gimp.org/

The information outlined above was provided by Sue Perkins, who is Chair of the Top of the South branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors, and has published a large number of e-books, both through a publisher and through self-publishing. She shared some of her experience of e-book publishing at a NZSA meeting in Nelson last week. Members of the audience provided some of the information in the 'other websites to check out' section of this blog.

More about Smashwords

The Top of the South branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors hosted Jim Azevedo (from Smashwords) in Nelson in August 2014, who provided this information.

Smashwords is helping authors around the world to publish and distribute their e-books. Here's a summary of how it works.

  • You send your formatted document to the Smashwords website, at www.smashwords.com. Formatting guidelines are provided, as well as a list of recommended suppliers of formatting, editing and cover designs.
  • Smashwords then converts your Microsoft Word or Epub document into the range of different formats used by e-readers. Microsoft Word documents (rather than Epub ones) are preferred by Smashwords because they are easier to convert to the range of different e-reader formats.
  • You decide on a price for your book. Fiction books costing $2.99, $3.99 and $4.99 tend to sell well. Non-fiction in specialty technical areas can sell for $25 and more - it is less price sensitive. It's easy to change the price of your book, and you can do that as often as you like.
  • Your e-book needs to have a different ISBN number to the printed version of your book, but Smashwords provides this ISBN number for free.
  • Once this is all set up, you review a list of book retailers and tick where you want your book to be distributed.  Smashwords sends it to them. Note the exception - Amazon prefers to receive e-books directly from the author.
  • You can then view a Smashwords dashboard to see where your book is selling. Royalties for the sales from all of the retail outlets are managed by Smashwords, which pays its authors on a quarterly basis, through PayPal. Smashwords takes 10% of the list price of the book, the retailer takes 30%, leaving the author with 60%.
  • The monthly subscription services (Oyster and Scribd) have been great for Smashword authors. They allow subscribers to read as many books as they like for $8.99 a month.

The Art and Fun of Memoir Writing

Lindsey Dawson's enthusiasm for memoir is contagious. I came away from her public talk with a whole new list of books to read, and the urge to pick up a pen and just write.

Within minutes she smashed through myths that memoir writing has to be about writing down where you were born, grew up, and what year you did this and that. She says it is more fun to write about the moments and philosophies that really matter to you. I am sure this will be more fun to read too!

She suggests writing quickly, in seven minute spurts, using a 'juicy spur' to get your writing hand going and the juice rising. She reminded people to be relaxed about the writing process, and understand that everybody's first draft is awful.

If you'd like to give it a go, but are not sure how to start or make time for this, one option would be to join her online memoir course starting in October. See http://truestorycentral.com/

I also recommend taking a look at Lindsey's website if you've got a website you'd like to improve. I found her website very appealing and engaging.

Memoirs recommended by Lindsey:
Don't Just Do Something, Sit There, by Wallace Chapman

Wallace writes about the importance of slow living. Lindsay says he has a lovely mind, writes well,and this book is an antidote to speed and pace of media.

The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion
This book is about one year in her life, showing that you don't have to write about your whole life - just something that mattered to you.

Dewey, the Small Town Cat that Changed the World, by Vikki Myron

Cleo, How an Uppity Cat Helped Heal a Family, by Helen Brown

H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald
This memoir portrays a psychological tussle between a human and a bird.

Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindberg

Anne describes six months on her own, living in a house by the sea.

How To Write Memoir books recommended by Lindsey
The Right to Write, by Julia Cameron
Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
The Practice of Writing Memoir, by Natalie Goldberg
Crack Your Life - how to tell your unique story, by Lindsey Dawson

Monday, 14 September 2015

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Understand where you fit on the freedom and security scale

A number of friends have recently announced they're chucking in their work to travel, or to write a novel. I stand on the sidelines applauding their bravery and their upcoming adventures - but I'm not the one who will be wondering how this is all going to work, financially.

Understanding where we fit on a scale where security is at one end, and freedom at the other, is valuable when making life decisions. I think I'm slap dab in the middle, in terms of trade offs I will make for security and for freedom. I love having some confirmed income for the week, but will trade off the remaining hours for headroom for learning, writing and time to just be, at this time in my life.

Once you're clear about where you currently fit on that security-freedom scale, it's easier to have conversations about other people's priorities without wondering if you should be living more like they are.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Self-employment: how to keep calm and carry on when work slows down

One of the biggest challenges of self-employment is not to freak out when there's a lull in the flow of work.

Part way into my second year in self-employment, I've had a number of these lulls ... and wasted a lot of this precious time feeling pretty anxious about it. One of the most powerful things I've learnt to do is to notice the fearful messages I'm telling myself, and turn them around into something more positive.

My true life examples are:
1. "Is this the end of the golden run?"
I changed this around to "the golden run has just begun" ... and weirdly, but wonderfully, new work came along soon afterwards.

2. "I might lose a big chunk of work."
I changed this around to "I wonder what I'm being freed up to do?" This change led to blue sky thinking about what new types of work I would really like to do, and committing to develop new skills in this area. As soon as I did that, a number of people asked me to do that kind of work for them.

It may sound strange, but it's well worth trying if you find yourself worrying about where your next work is coming from.

My big goal is to be extremely calm during the ups and downs in work flow by my third year in self employment!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Winter Wonderland in Canterbury

We travelled from Rangiora to Arthurs Pass on Tuesday, 23 June when overnight temperatures were minus five iin Rangiora and colder in the hill country. Around every corner there was a fresh display of mountainous beauty - it truly was a feeling of moving from room to room in a gallery filled with momentous art works. It was such a privilege to witness nature's artistry.

And finally, a big shout out to the people who clear the snow from the roads, making this such a safe journey - you provide an awesome service!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Southern Tributary - new painting by Dean Bradley

We took 'Southern Tributary' out to Icon Art Park yesterday. The tributary in the title refers to braided rivers and also pays tribute to the South Island.

This is the most sculptural work Dean has created so far, with multiple planes.

Southern Tributary

The lace fabric on the tops of the mountains evokes a frosting of recent snow.
This side view most clearly shows the variable levels within this painting. The river trench in the centre is inset behind the river banks.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Wu-wei and the gentle art of going with the flow

I was bashing at random keys trying to figure out how to build a website using an unfamiliar website builder. Steam was coming out of my ears as Dean said "don't forget about wu-wei".

It was the last thing I wanted to hear. Even the sound of that word aggravated my stress!

However, I did eventually step away from my mangled website. And when I came back later for 'one last go' it came together quite easily.

I only had a vague idea about wu-wei so checked out Jean Cooper's discussion of wu-wei in 'An Illustrated Introduction to Taoism'.

"Problems are solved when tensions are eased and one is able to understand the true nature of a thing, hence 'sleeping on it', or the sudden flash of intuition which comes when the rational mind ceases its activity and a spontaneous recognition of reality occurs."

She also writes: "It is senseless to dissipate energy in action for action's sake, in an endless and unproductive agitation. Action should be confined to suitable circumstances. For travelling by water there is nothing like a boat ... this is because a boat moves readily on water; but were you to try to push it on land you would never succeed in making it go, but would have great trouble and no result except a certain injury to yourself.”

This makes good sense, but there is a tricky balancing act between the benefits of persistence and letting go when things aren't coming together easily. I see Dean struggling with that balance every day as a painter - when perseverance leads to a breakthrough and when it creates a mess that takes ages to fix.

It is also a challenge for anyone working from home, who has the choice to walk away from their desk when things aren't working - how to weigh up whether its plain old procrastination or the more worthy wu-wei?!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

'Winter Thaw' by Dean Bradley

Dean Bradley's new painting, 'Winter Thaw', is one of my favourites of the year. The white ice bands are shaped in wood, raised above the painting surface.

Detail of the left side of the painting, showing the braided textures.

Detail of the top of the painting.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Wix or Weebly?

If you're planning to set up a free or low cost website, it's likely that you've come across the Wix and Weebly options, which are both highly recommended in most of the reviews I've read.

Based on this research, my preference is Weebly – it is more adaptable and has a clearer price structure. It is:

  • free with Weebly in the domain name, and with a small advert at the bottom of the website
  • $4 a month to have a custom domain name not referring to Weebly, and no Weebly branding on it.  This $4/month approach would be better, if your budget allows. 
In contrast, a free Wix website would have much more prominent Wix advertising. The website domains are very long in Wix, unless you connect a custom domain. Another disadvantage of Wix is that once a template is chosen in Wix, it can’t be changed. 

However, Wix offers more templates to choose from, and they are generally considered more 'beautiful' than the Weebly ones, which have been described as 'cosy'. So if the purpose of your website is related to design, such as photography or sculpture, this is probably a better option for you.

I like the easy connection to purchasing the domain name directly from Weebly (at a cost of $38 per year), as well as the ability to have a blog, social media integration, and site analytics (to measure visitor numbers). 

I particularly like the ability to upgrade a Weebly website. You could start with the free plan which only provides for five pages, which would be plenty for a brochure style site. Another advantage of Weebly over Wix, is that all the information can be transferred to a different website host in future, if required.

My opinion is based on reading these reviews, as I don't have a Wix or a Weebly website:

Monday, 4 May 2015

How to be Happy

I'm reading a book called 'Engineering Happiness - A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life'. It's written by two engineers (Manel Baucells and Rakesh Sarin) who have identified six laws related to happiness. While their equations are still a bit of a mystery to me, their six laws of happiness are directly relevant to my own life. I hope they are useful to you as well.

Law 1 - Relative Comparison

Who and how we compare ourselves to others can make us happy or unhappy.

The first thing to do is accept the fact that we do this, and that we won't outgrow the habit. However, we can make choices about how we do it.

The authors say "choose the right pond" - be aware of your capacities and limitations, and choose social groups that are a good fit for you. So, don't beat yourself up for not dressing as well as Barack Obama, or for not being as good at singing as Kiri Te Kanawa ...

Other tips within this category are:

- Develop mental discipline in taking a broader perspective in life and in consciously looking for reasons to be grateful about our own situation.
I live on the Tahunanui flats, and look up at a lot of big houses on the Tahunanui Hills with sea views. But a modest house means I don't have to spend as much of my life working to pay for my accommodation or rates, and I am glad of that.

- Cultivate an attitude of admiration. 
Admiration is an antidote to envy. Everyone has the capacity to enjoy their neighbour's garden without diminishing the joy their own garden brings them.

Law 2 - Motion of Expectation

What you got in the past can determine your expectations for the future.

The authors give the example of people receiving salary changes. Person A who starts with a $10,000 salary who then goes up to $15,000 and then 20,000 will be happier than Person B who starts on $20,000 and remains on $20,000. And Person C who starts on $30,000 and goes down to $20,000 will be the most unhappy.

It seems that gradual improvements in circumstances is the most reliable pathway to steady gains in happiness.

Law 3 - Aversion to Loss

The unhappiness experienced from a loss of ten dollars is significantly more intense than the happiness experienced from a gain of ten dollars.

Budgeting for some losses (such as being overcharged for a taxi while on holiday overseas, car repairs or parking tickets) will make it less painful to have to pay for these costs, provided they are within the budget you have set for these losses.

Law 4 - Diminishing Sensitivity

Doubling the stimulus (for happiness) does not double the intensity of the emotional response. For example, the first bite of an icecream on a hot day tastes delicious, the second bite tastes good but a bit less so, and the third bite even less than the second.

An example in my life is that there is likely to be more happiness to be gained from my husband's paintings selling throughout the year - each sale creating a high level of happiness, than the same number of paintings sold in one exhibition and then a long period without sales.

Law 5 - Satiation

Any kind of pleasure has a limit that makes lasting happiness impossible.

The more frequently a signal is sent to the brain, the less able the brain is to process it as new information, which lowers our potential for satisfaction. A remedy is to have a variety of interests so that we can move from one to another when we begin to feel monotony.

A simple example in my own life is the dog exercise area at Tahunanui Beach. It's a stunning place, it's only two minutes from home, and it's the best walk for Max (our mini-schnauzer) because there are always a number of different of dogs for him to meet. However, it's better for me to mix up where I walk, so that I can see the beach with fresh eyes when I am there.

Law 6 - Presentism

We forecast that future preferences and emotions will be more similar to our current preferences and emotions than they actually will be.

We rely too much on how we are feeling in the moment, when thinking about the future. That's because preferences and emotions change more than we realise - so we don't predict our future happiness or unhappiness particularly well.

One way to counter this effect is, rather than speculating about how much happiness some product or experience will generate, to ask a friend who already owns a product or had an experience that you are considering, how much they enjoyed that experience.

In my own life, it has been great to hear about my sister's experiences of self-employment, before making the jump myself. It's been extremely handy to have an older sister who is always a few steps ahead of me!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Mt Arthur Photos

I climbed to the summit of Mount Arthur for the first time on Saturday. Here are some of my photos from that trip. Thanks to Fiona Ingram and Susan Shaw for helping me reach the top!

And one of me, just to show I really was there!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Te Waipounamu - new painting by Dean Bradley

Here's a painting Dean finished this week, which is now on show at Icon Art Park.

Te Waipounamu

This side-on photo gives a better idea of the raised elements in the work.

This photo shows more of the details.