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.

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.

 

 

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.

Frogs, Trolls and Amigurumi

My challenge to revive the lost art of the handwritten letter continues to be, well, challenging. I am writing a letter a day, but also illustrating each one with an original Ziggy Elf. I wanted to post up what I was doing, but quickly realized that I couldn’t show the contents of the letters. That would spoil the surprise for the recipient. So, ingeniously, I decided to illustrate the envelopes. So far I’ve come up with something that has meaning to each person, but it’s taxing my drawing skills. Just check out the latest batch.

Number 34 is going all the way to CHINA! I was so excited to hear from Chenchen who is creator of Pure Sketch and Comics. This is a young man who is so talented. His ink sketches are fabulous. He lives in Nanjing which is famous for its salted duck….nom nom.

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Letter 35 is going to somewhere equally exciting…Hawaii. Well it’s exciting to someone who lives in the North of England. It is for Paul who is a ceramicist and is the creator of Paper, Mud and Me. Like the letter that went to Hansi in California, this one is adorned with Sunny the Campervan. How wonderful to tootle around Hawaii in a VDub bus.

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Letter 36 goes to Virginia who hails from Eldersburg, Maryland, USA. She is another 3D artist, a sculptor and you can find out more about her at Muse-ings. Virginia made some lovely frogs, so I thought I’d have a go too.

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Letter 37 is staying in the UK and heading south to Dorset. Now this may not be the exotica of Hawaii but I can tell you this is one of England’s most beautiful counties, and pretty cool for a campervan adventure. The coast is known as the Jurassic Coast and is a World Heritage Site. Ha! Who needs palm trees now? It is home to Joanna who is creator of Pippin Run Wild, a veritable feast of all things vintage and crafty. Joanna made a beautiful bluebird pin cushion that inspired her envelope illustration.

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Letter 38 is the first to go to Sweden and is for Janna. She is the creator of Janna’s Whimsies. This blog is packed with lovely images and creative stories. The envelope illustration is inspired by a post about an ancient forest and it’s trolls.

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Letter 39 is going just up the coast to Amble in Northumberland, another breath- takingly beautiful county. It is for Jean Rafferty, an award winning journalist and author. You can find out more about this very talented lady at her website here. One of my favourite walks with the Skinny Dogs is from Warkworth, along the beach to Amble and back up by the estuary. You can always spot a magnificent heron or two, and here’s mine.

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The penultimate letter in this batch is going to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I actually have relatives in Vancouver going back two generations. I would love to visit. Maybe one day. This is for Caroline who is the creator of the very stylish blog The Girl in the Yellow Dress. The subtitle is Yellow Bird Dreams, so it had to be a little Tweetie Pie.

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And finally, letter 41 is going to the Illustrated Letter projects favourite destination; Australia. In particular Melbourne. This envelope is adorned with the strangest thing I have ever dreamt up and it is especially for Sharon at Gentle Stiches. She is all about the stitchery and the “gentle art of repair.” But Sharon is particularly fond of amigurumi, the Japanese art of knitting cute mini animals. So I’ve had a go at an Amigurumi Elf. What do you think?

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Phew! Around the world in eight illustrations.

Well, I still need help if I am to complete my challenge of a letter a day. I need 365 people to send letters to. Would you like to recieve an original Ziggy Elf? If so you’ll find all the details here.

Elves Like Trucking and They Like to Truck

Last week Tall Man and I were waiting our turn in a queue of vehicles at a roundabout when an articulated lorry approached from the right. It was a driver training truck with the driver under instruction. The roundabout in question is notorious as an accident black spot and it always makes me anxious. But the driver manoeuvred his gigantic vehicle around the lanes with ease. We were both very impressed and I wondered what it would be like to drive an HGV. “Probably easier than the campervan”, was Tall Man’s reply. Then, just yesterday, I was walking home with the Skinny Dogs and we had to wait on the pavement while a trucker reversed his petrol tanker across the path and into the station forecourt. It was such a tight spot and he had to avoid parked cars and pedestrians. But he completed the task without a scratch or a bump. On closer inspection of the driver I was surprised to see it was in fact an elf in the cab. I had no idea that they enjoyed life on the road. I also noted that he enjoyed chomping on a Yorkie.

 

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I fear the Elf Trucker may have been a little confused as to which kind of Yorkie he should pop in his mouth.

A fine example of trucking life can be found courtesy of Not the Nine O’ Clock News

(Please note, no Yorkshire Terriers were harmed in the making of this post)

Illustrated Letter 11; For My Favourite Pirate

My challenge for 2013 is to rekindle an interest in the art of letter writing. That’s hand written letters, slipped into envelopes and popped into post boxes. I’m attempting one a day for the year. But not just words, each letter will contain an illustration; a Ziggy Elf.
So far they have travelled to Australia, USA, Germany and the UK.

Letter Elf 11 is the first to stay in the North East of England and is going to Louise who lives in Stockton-on-Tees. She is the creator of YellowHighWayLines a lovely blog full of her miscellaneous musings, photos and more. Louise also happens to work with me at Seven Stories, the children’s book museum. We spend a lot of time dressing up at work, and by dressing up I mean costumes; fairies, vikings, astronauts, gorillas, Christmas Elves and the like. But Louise’s default costume is Pirates and is now known as “Cap’n Corky”. So, although I can’t show you the content of her letter, it would spoil the surprise for her, I have illustrated the envelope with a pirate and skull and cross-bones. It couldn’t have been anything else!

 

Illustrated letter11 Louise

In order to complete my challenge of 365 handwritten illustrated letters I need people to send them to. If you would like to join in the fun and receive a Letter Elf you can find all the details here.

 

 

 

Illustrated Letter 10; A Little Closer to Home

In a bid to revive the lost art of letter writing I am composing and sending an illustrated hand written letter a day through 2013.

The first batch of letter elves have now flown the coop including number 10. This one is not roaming too far away from Newcastle, just a little further up the coast to Berwickshire, to nestle down with Hannah, creator of Cameo Curio. I discovered this blog back in February last year and love it. Inspirational art, beautiful photos….and Buddy the Puppy. Pop over and take a look.

As always the content is hidden so Hannah can’t see her elf, but there is a cheeky little creature peeping out of the envelope.

To see the other letters take a peek here.

 

Illustrated letter 10 Hannah

I am having so much fun with this challenge but I need people to send the letters to. If you would like to receive a Little Letter Elf the details are here.

Illustrated Letters 8 and 9; off to Germany and California

I have embarked on a challenge to revive the art of letter writing by composing one a day for the year. But not just the written word, each one is illustrated with a Ziggy elf.

Here are letters 8 and 9 for two lovely people who agreed to join in. Firstly a little elf is off to Germany to live with Geralin, creator of The Colourful Sketchbook. She deftly produces with simple lines delightful images. Take a look. I can’t show the contents of the letter, it’ll spoil the surprise for Geralin, but I’ve illustrated the envelope. Somebody had to get a Skinny Dog and Geralin is the first.

Letter number 9 is going all the way to Southern California. I wish I could squeeze into the envelope and bask in some of that lovely sunshine. But I don’t think Hansi would be too keen. He is the recipient of the latest letter and creator of Hansi’s Hallucinations. How can I describe his blog? Do you know, I don’t think I could find the words to adequately do it justice. His tag line is “The Drawings and Rants of a Mad Man” which does it nicely. Head on over and say hello. Hansi gets a VDub Splitty ‘cos campervans and California go hand in hand.

 

Illustrated letter 8 Geralin

 

Illustrated letter 9

But if I am to complete 365 I require some help. I need more people to send them to. If you would like an Illustrated Letter you’ll find the details here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illustrated Letter 7; For Little Miss Emma

I can’t tell you how delighted I am with the response to my challenge to revive the art of letter writing. And nothing makes me happier than to hear that the younger generation, those born into the world of texting and emails, enjoy writing letters too. This letter, containing a very chic elf, is for Jared’s 8-year-old daughter Emma. Jared is the creator of Lunch Sketch a fabulous blog inspired by his lunch time drawing. Now, if you want to see some fine pencil wielding head over and take a look. I understand that Emma is a brilliant elf creator too, and will be sending an illustrated letter back. I’m really looking forward to seeing it. And guess what part of the world Emma lives in? Australia! Yes this is letter number 3 off to Oz.

I can’t show you the contents of Emma’s letter, it will spoil the surprise for her, but I have illustrated the envelope.

You can see the letters so far here.

 

illustrated letter 7 Emma

I need lots of people to send letters to if I am to complete my challenge of a letter a day for 2013. If you would like to be a recipient of a Ziggy Illustrated Letter details are here.

Illustrated Letters 5 & 6; Heading to Bath and Ohio

Well, I did write a letter yesterday, I just didn’t get time to post it up. Too deep in reflection. So here are both letters 5 and 6.

Letter 5 is wending its way to the south of England to the very beautiful spa town of Bath. The little elf contained within has to remain a secret until, Becky, takes ownership. But the envelope has a couple of cheeky Puffins.

Letter 6 is travelling further afield to Ohio, USA . This little elf is going to Susan, creator of Chez Lilly; a chilled out art blog. On Susan’s “About” page is a quote from Alice in Wonderland so her envelope is adorned with the Mad Hatter, and the White Rabbit. Earlier last year I created an elf especially for Susan. You can see it here. If you would like an elf of your own or would like to be elfed take a look here.

Thank you so much to everybody who has offered to help me in my quest to revive the art of the hand written letter by writing one a day for the next 12 months. But I really need more of you to be recipients if I am to write 365!

 

Illustrated letter5

Illustrated letter 6

If you would like to take part in the challenge and receive a Ziggy Illustrated Letter all the details are here.