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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faery Tale Friday; Snow White

Snow White is probably the most famous fairy tale brought to us by the Brothers Grimm, although arguably they have Walt Disney to thank for this particular story’s popularity. It was first published in 1812 as Little Snow White and in its original form was far darker than their finalised edition of 1854. This was because they were now aiming their stories at children. Disney’s animated film, released in 1937, owes much of its influence to the final version but he lightened the mood even further.

 

In the original story the villain is in fact Snow White’s mother, not step-mother, which puts a shocking slant on things. So jealous is she of her daughter’s beauty that she instructs a servant to take the girl into the forest and kill her. To prove that her daughter is dead the servant was required to bring back Snow White’s liver and lungs. (Not heart as in Disney’s story). The servant, however, takes pity on the child, who it should be mentioned is but seven years old, and lets her run away. On his return the servant slaughters a wild boar and presents its lungs and liver to the Queen. And what does she do? Orders the cook to prepare the offal and eats it for her supper. Ah, cannibalism. That wasn’t in Disney’s version.

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Snow White comes across the house of seven little men. As none of them are at home the  girl helps herself to their food and wine and then looks for a bed to sleep in. “But none of them felt right-one was too long, the other too short- until finally the seventh one was just right.” Sound familiar? When the seven dwarves return from their hard day down the mine they are somewhat perplexed to find that their lovely house is not the way they left it. Contrast this to Disney’s version where you may recall Snow White started cleaning up after the dwarves. Mind you, what seven year old’s first thought is “Hmm I must tackle the housework” The dwarves are so bowled over by the girl’s beauty that they let her stay. (It must also be noted that the dwarves were never named. That came along hundred years later in 1912 in a Broadway production called Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. And you thought that was Disney’s idea.)

Snow White by one of my illustration hero’s Yvonne Gilbert

 

Meanwhile, back at the castle, the Queen is shocked to hear from her magic mirror that Snow White lives and is a thousand times fairer than she. Now, unlike Disney’s version the Queen visits Snow White three times in an attempt to kill the child and on each occasion disguises herself as a peddler woman selling her wares. Firstly she offers silken bodice laces with which she tightens Snow White’s corset so severely the child cannot breath and passes out. And the second time with a beautiful comb for Snow White’s hair. The tines are poisoned and when it touches her scalp Snow White falls to the floor. On both occasions the dwarves arrive in the nick of time and save the child. To be fair to the dwarves they had warned Snow White to not let anyone into the house while they were gone. But as in all good fairy tales good advise goes unheeded. Finally the Queen uses all her evil powers to produce an apple so delicious that Snow White can’t possibly refuse. One side of the apple is white and the other red and it is the red side that is poisoned. To convince Snow White that there is nothing amiss with the fruit, the Queen cunningly takes a bite from the white flesh. When Snow White bites into the red half she falls down dead.   The queen looked at her with a gruesome stare, laughed loudly, and said, “White as snow, red as blood, black as ebony wood! This time the dwarfs cannot awaken you.”

Snow White illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia

 

And indeed they could not. Not wanting to bury her under the ground they fashioned a coffin from glass, placed Snow White within it and gazed upon her every day. Along came a prince and this being the very best of fairy tales he fell instantly in love with her. And being a prince he thought nothing of demanding that he take her home with him. The dwarves gave in but when the coffin was moved the piece of apple becomes dislodged from Snow White’s throat and she wakes up. (You may be interested to know that in the original 1812 version the Prince’s servants had to carry the coffin around all day every day so Snow White could be near the Prince. One servant got fed up of this, removed the lid and took his anger out on Snow White by slapping her around the face, so dislodging the offending piece of fruit.)

 

Well of course the Prince is overjoyed, automatically asks Snow White’s hand in marriage and she says yes. They get married and the Queen, who is blissfully ignorant of this new queen’s identity, is invited to the wedding.  When her mirror tells her that the new queen is the fairest of them all the woman has to go to the celebrations to see for herself. Instantly, she recognises Snow White and in her terror cannot move.

Then they put a pair of iron shoes into burning coals. They were brought forth with tongs and placed before her. She was forced to step into the red-hot shoes and dance until she fell down dead. 

File:Snow White Iron Shoes.png

Disney opted to kill off the Queen by hurling her over a cliff, but I prefer The Grimm Brother’s shockingly cruel ending.

What do you think?

 

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.

File:John William Waterhouse - Magic Circle.JPG

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.

Faery Tale Friday; Little Red Riding Hood

I absolutely adore fairy tales, the darker the better, and one of my favourites is Little Red Riding Hood or sometimes known as Little Red Cap. It is French in origin and dates back to the 10th century. Of course it would have been told orally and over the centuries each story teller would have embellished the tale with each and every telling.

Illustration by Gustave Dore (1883)

The earliest known printed version was called Le Petit Chaperon Rouge by Charles Perrault. This is a very moralistic tale where the hapless Miss Hood naively gives the wiley wolf directions to her Grandmama’s house. He arrives before the girl, devours Grandmama then, after donning the old lady’s clothes, gets into bed and invites Little Red Riding Hood to join him. After pointing out all his distinguishing features, yet still failing to notice his wolfish good looks, Miss Hood follows the fate of her dear Grandmama and is gobbled up by the beast. There is no happy ending.

File:Carl Larsson - Little Red Riding Hood 1881.jpg

Little Red Riding Hood by one of my favourite artists Carl Larsson (1881)

Of course the Brothers Grimm version cleaned things up a bit and introduced a woodcutter who saved both Granny and Little Red Riding Hood. There is of course no happy ending for the wolf. But my favourite adaptation is The Company of Wolves by Angela Carter. Taken from her book of short stories, The Bloody Chamber, it tells the dark and savage tale of a werewolf who charms a young virgin walking through the woods to her Granny’s house. As in the original story he tricks her into telling him the location of the cottage then races ahead. Poor Granny is devoured and he lies in wait for the girl. However, on entering the house she spies a tuft of white hair burning in the fireplace.

When the girl saw that she knew she was in danger of death. “Where is my Grandmother?” “There’s nobody here but we two, my darling” Now a great howling rose up all around them…the howling of a multitude of wolves….”These are the voices of my brothers darling; I love the company of wolves.”

Carter’s story is inspired by the very early versions of the tale and her young woman triumphs over the wolf.

There must be as many illustrations for this story as there are versions of the tale itself. So I thought I would add to them.

Faery tale Friday Sketch

My Little Red Riding Hood

 

Faery Tale Friday Composition

What big eyes you have.

FaeryTale Friday Little Red Riding Hood

Faery Tale Friday; Little Red Cap

Do you have a favourite version of Little Red Riding Hood?

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Whippet Dave

When out on walks Mischa Skinny Dog always attracts attention. Ask anyone owned by sight-hounds and they’ll say the same; it’s like walking with a celebrity. People wander over and want to stroke her, ask questions about her or exchange tales about the skinny dogs they have been owned by. If their dogs come over for a play the owner always says “No chance of catching that one son” as Mischa hares away with a rotund Labrador in futile hot pursuit. Ah, she loves to tease does Mischa.

But today we met a different kind of admirer.

Mischa and I had bided our time this morning waiting for the storm to ease, ( A true sight-hound will never get her fur rain-sodden) and as the sun emerged so did we. Our journey took us across Nun’s Moor, through the copse and over the hills onto Town Moor. Apart from the cows we met not a soul. Until, seemingly out of nowhere, a figure ambled toward us. He was a little under- dressed for the weather in a baggy t-shirt and sweat pants, but hey, Geordies are a hard race of folk. Once he was up close I noticed the ears and realised we were in the presence of a particularly friendly elf.

He was impressed with Mischa’s shiny coat and clean white teeth and ran an expert hand along her back. He then counted the whiskers under her chin announcing that was a sure fire way of telling which number pup she was in the litter.

“Three” he declared with quiet confidence. I thought it best to agree. “Bin wi skinny dogs all me life” he said “Put a leash in me hand before I cud walk. That’s why they call me Whippet Dave”

And then he vanished.

Whippet Dave

Digital Doodle; Whippet Dave

Fact or Fiction? You decide.

Knights in Black Leather

A couple of months ago, when England was still enjoying a glorious hot summer, author Kate O’Hearn swept into Seven Stories. She was not alone. Hot on her heels were an amazing crew carrying the most incredible set of props and costumes I’ve ever seen. All at once the office was filling up with the delicious aroma of animal hide as these people eased themselves into intricately detailed leather armour. I watched from behind my computer, mesmerised, as they transformed themselves from ordinary mortals into warriors of myth and legend.

Kate and her entourage were visiting as part of the tour to promote her latest novel Valkyrie. It’s a story that mixes Norse mythology with a contemporary tale that ends up releasing the Midgard Serpent into Chicago! It’s a great book and if this was a book blog I’d tell you  more. But it just so happens that my faithful hound, Mischa SkinnyDog, DOES have a book blog so check out her review here.

Anyway, back to Kate and her gang. They were so much fun and delighted both staff and visitors as they brought the story of Freya the Valkyrie to life.

Scary knight

Kate O'Hearn at Seven stories2

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The attention to detail on the costumes were incredible, in particular the dreaded Dark Searcher who took great delight in frightening me at every opportunity.

dark searcher 1

dark searcher 2

Kate O’Hearn herself was not adverse to a spot of dressing up either and was sporting the most fabulous red velvet Steam Punk coat complete with an ostrich feather festooned top hat.

Kate O'Hearne at Seven Stories

Kate being entertained by a young fan

It was probably one of the most fun days I had at Seven Stories this summer. They were such a delightful bunch of people with a great sense of humour. I was so sad when they left and when I returned to the empty office all that remained was the intoxicating scent of leather armour.

However, Kate being the crazy person she is, agreed to being elfed. She is the second author to undergo such a transformation. The first being Gareth P Jones who funnily enough was also wearing a top hat.

Kate O'Hearn elfed 2

Ok, I wimped out of drawing the feathers but Kate still makes an impressive elf.

I would recommend Valkyrie to confident readers and teens…..or any adult that’s still in touch with their inner child.

Digital Doodles

I pride myself on being “old school” when it comes to creating my drawings. You know, pens, ink, pencils and good old fashioned paper. The closest I’ve got to digital wizardry is taking images of my work with my phone and chucking them through a photo app.

Until now.

Fab artist Rosie Scribblah has recently posted up some sketches created on her tablet and they’re great! Take a look. Unlike me, Rosie is a real artist who works in a studio and stretches canvas, daubs acrylics and even etches! So I thought if Rosie’s giving it the thumbs up I’ll have a go.

Smudging around on the tablet with your finger is not dissimilar to messing with charcoal and pastel, but a hell of a lot cleaner. I have a nexus 7 and the app is Sketcher. A very basic app, but then I’m a very basic artist. This was my first attempt; the first two images are the progression and the last one was after a bit of photo digi-thingy.

 

elf child 1

elf child 2

Elf child 3

Spooky Elf child

 

I have to warn you there are more of these because it turns out Digital Doodling is FUN. It won’t replace my fine liner pens or super soft pencils but it’s certainly an interesting alternative medium. I’d love to know what you think.

Has anyone else set aside their sketch pad for an iPad?

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

 

A Small Life

I attend a writing class. We meet in the very chilly basement of the Amnesty Bookshop, after closing, once a week. Surrounded by stacks of books with improbable titles we read out our work and thrash out ideas. The group is led by a local author and playwright who sets us weekly “homework” to inspire our writing.

Once a term it’s poetry. I’m rubbish at poetry. Love reading it but can’t write it so I always do something daft. This terms poetry homework we were given one line from a song and had to use that as the inspiration and first line of our poem.

I’m going to let you suffer; here is my poem.

 

 

A Small Life

 

 The beast in me is caged by frail and fragile bars

And I want to reach through them and touch the stars

But I’m only a hamster and I don’t know what stars are

Can you eat them?

The beast in me is run ragged on the wheel

And I race around with such passion and zeal

But I’m only a hamster is zeal a meal?

I hope so.

The beast in me whirls around in a plastic ball

That spins down the stairs at the end of the hall

I’m only a hamster is this my all?

Probably.

 

Hamster

A frail and fragile hamster

 

Extra points if you can name the song and artist.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Honey had springs for legs

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.