Whanganui Midweek - 2021-11-24


New book result of three-year journey


Paul Brooks

Fiona Goulding has done some stuff, seen some sights, travelled to foreign parts, and finally settled with her husband in Whanganui. It’s a long way from where she was brought up in the UK. Along the way, she has garnered a list of accomplishments, achievements and skills, not least of which is her ability to paint. She is also vegan, a woman of principle, as well as artistic talent, which manifests itself in a children’s book she is launching on Sunday at Paige’s Book Gallery. “I trained as a graphic designer,” says Fiona, who made the decision in her early 20s to try something else, rather than spend her life staring at a computer screen. “I then trained in sign language and became a communicator. I assisted deaf and disabled people through college. “One of the best things I did was I learned to type. I could then do office work and that’s been my staple, especially when I was travelling. I could get a job in an office.” While “youth hostelling”, Fiona picked up a pamphlet advertising volunteering in Africa. “That sounds like a good idea! Why not?” She raised the necessary funds and went off to Africa. It changed her life. “A totally different culture . . . and I got malaria.” She also collected a lifetime of experiences, all of which are grist for the artistic mill. “I always drew when I was younger. My mum was a photographer and my dad worked in architecture — an architectural technician — and my sister is amazingly creative. “I went into graphics and loved it.” She gained a First Class BA Honours in Graphic Design, but she also trained and ran her own business as a massage therapist in Christchurch. She is now an accountant, and spends her working day staring . . . you get the picture. Fiona loves to paint, but she didn’t start until she got to New Zealand. She had worked in textiles, tried ceramics, drawn elements for graphics, but never actually painted. While working in Auckland, she painted in a local studio, learning as she went. That was 20 years ago. “It’s not relaxing like a lot of people think, but it’s the one area that I don’t know what I’m doing.” Everything else she does, like accounting, has a right and wrong way of doing things to get the right or wrong answer. “But I have never wanted to learn how to paint: I love just not knowing. Obviously, I have developed my own style and do things my own way, but every painting is a lesson. I learn with each one — I never want to master it. I learn about the subject matter, which is why I would find it hard to paint something I don’t connect with.” Fiona Goulding is New Zealand’s first member of Artists for Conservation, the world’s leading artist group supporting the environment, a worldwide organisation based in Canada. Which brings us to the book. It was a three-year effort, marked by Covid-19 interruptions and daily living, with a prolonged search for a publisher. Fiona eventually published the book herself after receiving plenty of encouragement and advance orders during Artists Open Studios. “Talk about a learning curve!” The book, while it can be regarded as entertainment for children, has a purpose, and also contains the possibility of a prize. “I love animals, and animal welfare and animal rights are important to me. Some children are aware of how animals are farmed, some children grow up in cities and have no idea, some adults have no idea, I had no idea: I learned a lot [about farming] when I was in my 40s. “For children, it’s knowledge. This is not to try to convert anybody, because you make your own mind up, but if you’ve got the information there, but in a nice, subtle way, that’s fun. That was the challenge.” The story is an armchair treasure hunt, with the book filled with hidden gems. Concealed within its pages lies a series of written and visual clues as to the whereabouts of Silva, a missing calf, somewhere in New Zealand. The idea is for the child to solve the location of Silva, be the first to email Fiona with the answer, and they win an original oil painting of one of the book’s illustrations. “It’s about a welcome swallow called Sam. Sam is on his way, with his mum, to the dawn chorus.” He meets a cow, Cindy, who has lost her calf, Silva, and Sam helps in the search, meeting other animals along the way and hearing their stories. “There are clues in the text, there are clues in the pictures.” Although there is some sadness in the story, Fiona has kept it light, adding humour and illustrating it with her beautiful paintings. There is a happy ending. The author just wants people to think about certain farming practices. The Search for Silva is a 32-page book containing 15 illustrations. It is aimed specifically at 8-10-year-olds, but does not exclude readers either side of this age bracket. It is an educational, yet fun and engaging, look at animals’ lives and the influence people can have on them. Fiona is looking for children aged about 8 to 10 to compete for the prize, although she will allow some leeway. The Search for Silva is being launched on Sunday at 2pm at Paige’s Book Gallery in Guyton St.


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