The Art of Au Contraire! 2013

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The Taniwha, by Angela Oliver

A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure to attend Au Contraire!, the New Zealand national Science Fiction, Fantasy and Geekery convention here in Wellington. It was the second Au Contraire! I attended: three years ago, I was personally recruited by Kelly, the principal organizer, who walked into my art show on Cuba Street and suggested that I come along and play my harp for the Sir Julius Vogel awards ceremony. Which I did, and I also dragged along my merchandize and discovered that if I was looking for my target audience, this is it.

The Con in 2010 was slightly more glamorous in that it happened just a week before the WorldCon in Melbourne, and a number of international fans (mainly from the United States) had taken the opportunity to book a round trip and attend both Cons. This year’s Con lacked the international vibe (apart from the odd Australian), but it was hardly smaller in terms of attendance, and possibly larger in terms of interesting talks and events to attend!

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Scavengers: Captain Morgan & Luca, by Angela Oliver.

Conventions like these tend to be heavily geared towards writers, or storytellers in other media, such as film or tv. The visual arts are gaining ground though: This year’s convention featured a three day art-in by the folks from Drawfest, a largely self-organizing group of young artists from all across New Zealand, who are all active on DeviantArt, and regularly organize drawing meets, and stalls at more commercial events such as Armageddon.

Most of them are interested in Manga and Comics, and a small group was busily drawing away for hours each of the three days. It resulted in quite a little stack of new artwork! Most successful was the comic challenge: participants came up with an entire little graphic novel in the course of the convention, and were spontaneously added to the awards ceremony on Sunday evening, along with the official Art Show, which required pre-registration.

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Chameleon * Angel Lemur * Halloween Owl, by Angela Oliver.

I will shamelessly take the opportunity to blow my own trumpet, by proudly announcing that I won first prize in Au Contraire!’s first ever art contest. Admittedly, participation was a bit slim. But yes, there was more than one entrant. Just.

One of the pieces I entered – Waiting for Spring – actually had its genesis at the first Au Contraire! in 2010: the oil painting is based on a sketch, or doodle, I came up with during one of the Drawfest sessions. I liked the idea so much that I turned it into a full fledged painting, and it moreover fittingly represents the theme of the Con, which was “Regeneration”.

Each entrant was allowed to enter three images, and I made use of my full allotment: the second piece I am posting here is another oil painting, for a show I have coming up in September: a bit more playful, it is a combination of influences ranging from baroque depictions of angels I once saw in a dusty provincial museum in Mexico, Indian dance poses and costumes, and telescope photos of far-off galaxies. There will be a series of them, eventually. They are entirely the result of watching too much Doctor Who: though I would be a little hard put to explain how, exactly, I am making that connection.

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Waiting for Spring * Time Angel, by Astrid Nielsch.

One of my personal highlights was the Floating Market: a surprisingly large range of stallholders were offering books, art, and other items which make a geek’s heart beat faster – and which one will rarely find assembled and for sale all in one room. My own stall was next to that of Simon Petrie, representing Peggy Bright Books, a small publisher of very well made books. Simon was nominated twice, and won once, in the novella category of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, and one of his outlet’s covers also won the award for best illustration. I feel rather honoured that he swopped me one of his books for one of my posters!

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A selection of lemurs, by Angela Oliver

Another author-slash-illustrator I met on the market (and at the Drawfest events) is Angela Oliver, whose artwork is gracing this blog post. She has a degree in zoology, which (as you can see) reflects in her work, and her characters. She had a large and colourful array of very small scale artwork on offer, and a couple of self-published books. There went the rest of my meagre market earnings!

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Fellowship of the Ringtails cover art, by Angela Oliver.

Her latest novel is a tale of lemurs. This is how Angela describes her book:

“The kingdom of Madigaska is in turmoil. The King has died under suspicious circumstances and another has usurped the throne. The sole survivor of the royal bloodline is an illegitimate orphan, Aurelia. Born many miles away, and raised by a peaceable fishing tribe, she knows little of her heritage, her destiny. But with the fierce Hunter, Noir, on her trail, what hope does she have?

Set in an alternate world Madagascar, where the dominant life forms are lemurs with a level of technology equal to primitive tribes, “Lemurs: A Saga” contains true elements of Malagasy history and culture, intermingled with a heavy dose of pure fantasy. It is, indeed, epic fantasy, with lemurs.”

The book is available on Amazon and Kobo, in both paperback and ebook versions. I haven’t managed to read my own copy yet, but it looks like a whole lot of fun! With lemurs.

I did not manage to attend a whole lot of events – mainly because, after living like a recluse for several years in a row now, the prospect of spending three entire days amoung *people* somewhat frightened me. But they were all really nice people, and I even had fun at the Award Ceremony cocktail party – instead of just standing around looking lost. Fortunately, I was not pressed into harping service this time round! Much nicer to get an award for my art, and suddenly find myself something of a VIP. 😀

Guests of honour this year were bestseller author Jennifer Fallon, who gave a very interesting talk about using dialogue to define one’s characters, and Anna Klein, who is heavily involved in the Roleplaying community here in New Zealand: among other things, she organizes Chimera, New Zealand’s largest LARP convention. She also has a Master’s degree in Lovecraftian literature, and so the whole convention had a bit of a Lovecraft theme going.

Other notable events I attended included a panel on “Alien Attraction” – as in, sexual attraction among aliens, and why female aliens always have boobs, even though this breaks every law of statistical likelyhood. Another panel addressed “Science Fiction and Climate Change”. Then there were video screenings of obscure black and white silent movies, the obligatory audience participation Rocky Horror Picture Show, workshops, fan gatherings, gaming, cosplay and filking – and the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, New Zealand’s very own version of the Hugo’s.

Fun was had, friends were made, and much exchange of ideas took place. I almost felt a bit lonely for a moment there, when I went back home, and to my reclusive artist-cum-gardener’s routine come Monday.

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Bird love: South Island Tomtits * Tarot card , by Angela Oliver.

Images are copyright the respective artist, and may not be reproduced without their permission.

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