Dragon Trainer

Back in the Spring I discovered a nest of dragon eggs in my garden, you can find out about it here and I was a little concerned by this. You see, there was no sign of the parents and I didn’t relish the responsibility of hand rearing baby dragons. Fortunately the adults returned, possibly because I had disturbed the nest, and removed the eggs elsewhere.

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I know this will disappoint a good many of you who were hoping to see the hatchlings. So I thought I would share with you a dragon related adventure from a couple of years ago. We were lucky to have at work an exhibition all about Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon books and this included some of the dragons that inhabit her stories. For the most part they were quite well behaved, with the occasional visitor suffering only minor injuries. The staff took it in turns to take the dragons for “walkies” around the Ouseburn Valley where our museum is situated. I took the opportunity to draw the dragons, but they kept eating my pencils and setting fire to my sketch books.

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Toothless, a Common or Garden dragon, in our cave.

 

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He liked being tickled under the chin….sometimes.

 

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Trying to capture a dragon’s likeness isn’t easy.

I had with me; Toothless, a Common or Garden dragon,  Stormfly a Mood Dragon and Fireworm a red Monstrous Nightmare dragon. Stormfly was my favourite because, as the name suggests, she changes colour according to her mood. Unlike the other dragons she speaks Norse rather than Dragonese and as I am married to a viking, I understood some of the things she was saying. However, she was a pathological liar (and turned purple when uttering untruths) so I paid her mutterings little attention.

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Picnic’s were popular.

 

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I soon found out that dragons and sheep don’t mix.

If you ever get the chance to take a dragon for a walk and a picnic I suggest you jump at it. You might lose a finger in the process, but it will be an adventure you’ll never forget.

Fact or fiction? You decide.

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Harajuku Inspiration

When it comes to ideas for something to draw, or indeed for something to Blog about, I get my inspiration from all sorts of places; a walk across The Moor, a snippet of overheard conversation, the glories of the Internet, the darkest recesses of my imagination. But I still find there is nothing better than a good book to spark my imagination. I’ve got a lot of non-fiction books stuffed full of images from art to architecture, fashion to ornamentation. And a prime example is this one.

Fresh Fruits 2

 Fresh Fruits is a collection of photographs taken by Shoichi Aoki from the main street in the Harajuku area of Tokyo. Every Sunday from the late 70’s until 1998 this street was declared a pedestrian haven and all traffic was stopped for the day so the teens of Tokyo could strut their stuff. Now referred to as Harajuku Street Style their outfits are incredibly inventive and so much fun. Tokyo has thrown up a vast array of fashion styles and trends that are constantly changing and I love drawing them.

Rather than slavishly copy an image I take aspects of lots of different photos and, like a photo-fit image, merge them together.

This pose….

Harajuku pose

 

 

Plus this skirt and fabulous pair of boots…

Harajuku skirt and boots

 

Plus this hairstyle…..

Harajuku hairEquals this drawing..

Harajuku Girl 2014

harajuku girl face

 

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you plunder the internet or pore over books? Or do you simply turn to your imagination?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Clutch of Easter Eggs

The Mid-Spring sun has been kind enough to shine throughout the Easter Weekend. So I decided that it seemed like a good idea to get out into the garden and give it a bit of a tidy up. The ivy in particular was in need of a trim and as I set to work with my secateurs I made quite an unusual discovery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHiding beneath an old rattan chair, which itself has been devoured by the ivy, was a clutch of eggs. Not birds eggs, not even chocolate eggs but Dragon Eggs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m not sure what species of dragon is responsible for laying them. But I’m hoping Pygmy or Dwarf Dragon because anything bigger will make a terrible mess of the garden.

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Dragons have the magpie tendency to be drawn to shiny objects and this nest has been woven with metallic ribbon. I have had some experience of living with a baby dragon and it’s not easy I can tell you, so I really don’t think we could manage another three. Perhaps now I’ve disturbed the nest the mother will move the eggs. Only time will tell.

Has anything been nesting in your garden this spring? I’d love to hear about it.

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Fact or fiction? You decide.

 

 

But Who Will Look After the Froglets?

There has been a considerable amount of action down on the pond recently; the Frogs have been a courting. My goodness, but what a racket! Splishing and splashing, dipping and diving and croak, croak, croaking.

A few days later and the writhing froggy bodies have been replaced with a thick clotted mass of jellied eggs. A tasty meal for someone. So who will look after the froglets? Well, surprisingly, up to 20% of frogs make pretty good parents. Sometimes Dad takes on the responsibility, sometimes Mum, either attached to their legs, on their backs or inside their stomachs. But what about the other 80% who are left to the forces of nature? Well it might surprise you to learn that…..no, wait….let’s have some froggy facts first.

  • a group of frogs are known as an army
  • a person who studies frogs is called a herpetologist
  • frog bones form a growth ring every year. So you can count the rings to see how old they are, just like tree!
  • frogs don’t drink water through their mouth, they absorb it through their skin
  • when a frog swallows its prey it blinks. That’s because the eye balls drop down in its head and pushes the food down the throat.
  • but it can only see in black and white
  • the Golden Dart Frog is the most poisonous frog in the world. The skin of one frog could kill up to a 1000 people

Golden Poison Frog

Frogs also feature in folk-lore and fairy tales, the most popular story being The Frog Prince in which a princess has to kiss the frog. They were believed to be a witch’s familiar and had an unfortunate habit of allowing their body parts to be used in spells and dropped into steaming cauldrons.

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But back to my original question; who will look after the froglets? Well, it is none other than the Frog Elf, a strange little creature with bulging eyes and abnormally long legs. I’ve spotted him on occasion while walking Mischa down by the pond and managed to sketch him. He sits hunched in the grass by the edge of the water waiting to chase away predators, be they heron, duck or small child with jam jars. If you listen carefully you’ll hear him singing a little tune;

A frog he would a-wooing go,
Heigh ho! says Rowley,
A frog he would a-wooing go,
Whether his mother would let him or no.
With a rowley, powley, gammon, and spinach,
Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley.

I’ve noticed he often sucks his fingers as if he’s just popped something in his mouth. Should the frogs trust him to be their protector? Hmm, I wonder.

Ziggy's Frog Elf

The Frog Elf

Fact or Fiction? You decide.

Back in the Saddle

Spring is finally here so I’ve dusted down my bike and I’m commuting to work under pedal power. For my birthday Tall Man bought me a Brooks saddle and after two weeks I think I’ve broken it in.

Ziggy's Brooks Saddle

Ziggy’s Brooks Saddle

The route to work is lovely as it takes in crossing Newcastle’s Town Moor. A haven of peace to the north of the city. It’s about 350 acres which is bigger than Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath combined. If you’re talking football fields that’s around 299 of them. Of course if you add all the other moors; Nuns Moor, Dukes Moor, Little Moor, Hunters Moor and Castle Leazes Moor then you’re probably looking at, what, 600 football fields?

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You don’t see a lot of people on The Moor. They hurry along the tarmac paths that criss- cross it’s belly like a hot cross bun; on their bikes, with their dogs or just jogging. Kids don’t play on The Moor or picnic on it. Nobody lingers. Maybe it’s because it’s so exposed and desolate and wind-blown.

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But that’s what I love about The Moor, its wide open space, huge skies, and emptiness. I love listening to the skylarks singing their hearts out high above my head and even the beady eyed crows that swoop down and shout abuse at me and Mischa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m not a speed freak kind of cyclist. On the contrary I take things steadily and with what I hope is a modicum of style. You won’t catch me in skin tight Lycra going for the burn. Everybody overtakes me, even children on tricycles, but I don’t care. I like to arrive at work energised sans sweat. Unfortunately the wind plays havoc with my eyes and I roll in looking like this……

Should.ve worn waterproof mascara

Should’ve worn waterproof mascara

Do you ride a bike? If so how do you stay stylish?

And talking of being back in the saddle, it’s good to be back blogging. Hope you’re all doin’ fine.

That Was The Summer That Was

That was the summer that was, it’s over let it go to paraphrase the sixties satirical TV series. But I can’t let it go without a final salute;

First there were animals to wrangle.

Petting a python

Petting a python

Meeting a meercat

Meeting a meercat

Story Book dogs to entertain.

Timmy the Dog from Enid Blyton's Famous Five series

Timmy the Dog from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series

George from Oh No George by Chris Haughton

George from Oh No George by Chris Haughton

Hot Rods to admire

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Seriously shiny

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richly rusted

 

Campervans to cook in

 

camper capers

camper capers

 

Knights to nuzzle

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What can I say!

 

And costumes to cavort in

 

Training Dragons

Dances with dragons

 

Taming a tiger

Tea with a Tiger

 

So, what did you do this summer?

 

 

 

 

 

Would You Read a Blog Post written by a Dog?

Hello, this is Mischa SkinnyDog sneaking onto Ziggy’s blog.

Ziggy has been very busy lately writing her very first novel for young adults. Given her inner turmoil it may be her last. I wish her well, I really do. I have been happy to wait hours for her to remember to feed me and walk beside her while she completely ignores me muttering about first person versus third person limited. Clearly I should be her first person and that would be limited to just…well…me!

Anyway, not having the attention I fully deserve I have taken to reading. Ziggy has lots of books, many of which have pictures in and I love nosing through them. Of course when you get to the end of a good book you want to talk about it to someone. Ziggy is too busy so I thought I would embark on my own blog and find people to have a bit of Book Banter with.
Do you like books? Do you like looking at beautiful illustrations? Would you read a blog written by a dog? If so you can join me here.

But dogs can’t read or write or blog I hear you cry! But if you believe in elves then you’ll believe a dog can blog. The trick is I use a tablet; I just dab my nose all over the Gorilla Glass (I thought glass was made from sand but.. hey?) and voila! I even Tweet. When it all gets a bit slimy a quick swish of my tail and I’m good to go again.

Also this IS a dog talking because it’s not in ickle wickle baby talk. If you ever see a dog writing about his hooman’s then his owner is talking for him. Trust me, dogs talk to each other just like you….except we do it telepathically. Plus if you look at the top of this post you’ll see it’s written by The Literary Lurcher NOT Ziggy Shortcrust. Proof, if proof were needed.

I know Ziggy will be back on here soon. After all she wants to talk to you about Hotrods, python handling, dressing as a Viking for the BBC, and very scary leather clad knights.
In the meantime please take a look at The Literary Lurcher and share in some Book Banter.
Love and Licks
Mischa x

You will believe a dog can read

You will believe a dog can read

 

Ziggy and the King of the Rook Elves

Mischa SkinnyDog and I went for our usual walk; through the houses, onto the moor and up into the woods. As we made our way between the trees such a racket began above our heads.

“Look,” said Mischa “crows.”

“Ah my skinny friend” said I “if you see a rook on its own it’s a crow. If you see a lot of crows, then they are rooks.”

Mischa was contemplating this when the rooks swooped down and took hold of us. There were dozens of them grasping at us with their sharp talons and beaks. They lifted us from the ground and took us high above the tree tops until we came to an old oak whose trunk had a gaping hole. From our vantage point it appeared like a wooden chimney. Down flew the rooks taking us with them into the depths of the tree.

Like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole we fell further and further and deeper and deeper under the ground. All at once the rooks loosened their grip and we were dropped unceremoniously on to leaf littered earth. Considering how far we had fallen it was surprisingly light and I could see that Mischa and I were in a vast cavern tangled with tree roots suspended from its roof. The rooks circled around us cawing loudly but as the settled amongst the roots they took on their true guise; Rook Elves. These are particularly clever, yet mischievous creatures who excel in thievery.Each one had about their shoulders a cloak of glistening jet black feathers but only one wore a crown made from a rook. He leapt down from the roof top roots and stood before me and spoke.

“Now I’m the King of the Rook Elves, a Pixie VIP. I’ve reached the top and had to stop and that’s what’s bothering me. I want to draw like Ziggy Shortcrust and doodle round the town. Give me the dibs on your inky nibs, I’m tired of elfing around.”

“Goodness me!” I said, “I’d be happy to help in fact it would be an honour but I’m afraid I don’t have my pens with me.”

“Now don’t try and kid me Shortcrust,” he said, “Clue me what to do. Give me the gen on your fine liner pen so I can be like you.”

Then all the elves gathered around Mischa and I and started chanting, “Oh oobee doo, we want to be like you, we want to draw like you, sketch like you too. You’ll see it’s true, Elves like us can learn to be doodlers too.”

I could see these creatures weren’t going to take no for an answer but I had no pens. What could I do? Then it struck me….quills. We could make pens from feathers. So I set Mischa to work nibbling away on the rook feathers until we had enough for everyone. I can’t tell you what we did for ink, but it was a scary process getting it. Silver birch bark served as paper and off we went. I conducted my very first Elf Doodling class. We were only there for a couple of hours but on our release it turned out we had been gone two whole months. You may remember from my last visit to the OtherWorld that the elves sent out a Ziggy Changeling in my stead. It would appear this happened again as nobody missed me at all. But she appears to have an aversion to blogging so that’s why I haven’t posted anything for a while.

Fact or fiction?

You decide.

 

King of the Rook Elves drawn with a quill.

King of the Rook Elves drawn with a quill.

A Final Farewell to Honey the Skinnydog

For me a home is not complete without a dog or two lounging around it. Over the years I’ve had some fabulous canine companions to sprawl across the sofas with. They’ve always been rescued dogs who have enjoyed a second bite of the cherry and the most recent hound to join us has been Honey the Skinny Dog.

Hunny on the Moor

taking the occasional rest

A dog of very little brain but a huge heart who has given us so much love since bursting into our lives back in September 2010. I have not met a creature who fizzed with energy like Honey. For her, every day was an adventure that had to be attacked at 100 miles an hour. But sadly, last Saturday morning Honey suffered an embolism in her spine leaving her back legs totally paralysed and her front legs partially so. 48 hours in the vet’s care saw no improvement. Honey was not a dog to lay still for the rest of her days watching the world go by, so, we had to make the heartbreaking decision to say a final farewell to this beautiful dog.

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Honey had springs for legs

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A great pal for Mischa the Skinnydog

But I don’t do sad or regrets. Yes, sure, I bawled my eyes out holding her head in my hands, feeling it grow heavy as her  life ebbed away. And heaven knows what her world was like before us; she was found as an emaciated stray. But we had two and a half fabulous years together. My regret would’ve been not to have given her a home and not to have known her.

Tattoo Honey

Honey inked up

So raise a glass to all those pets who bring so much love and companionship to us feeble human beings. Tip your head back and give a howl of happiness.