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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Wait Just a Minute Mr Postman

Back in January I decided to revive the lost art of the hand written letter by writing a letter a day. I invited you to join in my challenge by emailing me your postal addresses so I could send out letters. But not just the written word; each one would contain an original Ziggy Elf. The promise of “a letter a day” has proved a little hard to keep up with but nonetheless over 70 letter elves have been dispatched right around the world, with many more ready to take flight.

However, even more wonderful, many of you have sent letters back to me. Beautiful, handwritten, illustrated letters often with decorated envelopes too.

Thank you so very, very much to everyone who has taken the time to reply. They are fabulously creative, fun and inventive. You are all so talented.

Many of the letters I have sent can be seen here. And if you want to join in with my challenge and receive your very own letter elf all the details are here.

Fish, Pigs and Coffee

It’s time for an update on those Ilustrated Letters.

For those just joining us, I am attempting to revive the lost art of letter writing by penning a letter a day in 2013. That’s 365 of them. And not just words, each one is illustrated with an original Ziggy Elf. I can’t show the contents of each letter as that would spoil the surprise for the recipient but each letter has an illustrated envelope.

Number 22 is going to Penland, USA and is for Laura creator of Soul Survivor a very compelling blog about living with Bipolar Disorder. Laura used to write a lot of letters and hopes that joining in with this challenge will inspire her to dust off her fountain pen.  She gets a be-hatted elf who I think is inspired by the cold snowy weather I’ve been experiencing.

Illustrated letter 22

Letter 23 is staying in Newcastle and is for Lauren who is another Seven Stories colleague. She is part of the hardworking marketing team and very kindly asked to join in with my ridiculous challenge. As well as having the cutest spaniel puppy on the planet, Lauren also has a little guinea pig. Again, a first for Ziggy; drawing a piggy.

Illustrated letter 23

Number 24 is heading off to Ontario, Canada to Claudia creator of  Summer Solstice Girl, a wonderful vibrant blog full of swing dance and Columbian Coffee. So a cup of coffee and a coffee bean elf seemed appropriate.

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Letter 25 is the first letter heading to the Philippines and is for Melody, creator of the blog 30 Minute Art. She is a full time teacher but allows herself 30 minutes a day to paint and draw. So I couldn’t resist a little messy artist elf.

Illustrated Letter 25

Number 26 goes to another Seven Stories colleague, Hannah, who works with me Front of House. Hannah can be found all over the building, rocking out story times, on reception and in the bookshop. She also delivers birthday parties and the most popular theme is Damsels and Dragons, for which, Hannah wears a beautiful dragon coat. So it had to be my favourite mythical creature.

Illustrated letter 27

Number 27 is for my very lovely sister-in-law Clare. She is the sort of person who never wastes time, always doing something, knitting, playing the piano, the flute, photography and tending to her vast allotment. So she gets a Fruit and Veg elf.

Illustrated Letter 26

And finally today, letter 28 is the first one to go to Poland and is for Jess creator of JNiggelArt an Art Photoblog. Jess is a dab hand with pencil or paint and I love her portraits. She also has a few fish on there so I thought I would join in the fishy fun.

Illustrated letter 28

In order to complete my challenge of 365 letters I need people to send them to. Would you like to receive a letter with an original Ziggy Elf? Then you’ll find all the details here.

 

Another Batch of Letter Elves Hatched

My quest to rekindle the art of the hand written letter continues. Another six letters have set off on their journey around the world; Boston USA, Tasmania Australia, Victoria Australia, Newcastle UK and two have headed to British Columbia Canada.

I can’t show the illustrations inside the letters, it would spoil the surprise for those receiving, but I have illustrated the envelopes.

Letter number 12 has set off to Jen Ross the creator of Winter Owls a delightful blog full of thrifty creations and of course Owls. Not surprisingly Jen gets an owl.

illustrated letter 12

Letter 13 is full of good luck and is off to Jade in Canada. Her Dad is the creator of Drawings for Jade. Each morning before he sets of to work he makes a drawing for Jade…how cool is that. Jade loves her ladybug boots so I thought a little spotty insect or two wouldn’t go amiss.

illustrated letter 13

Letter 14 is for Harini who is the creator of The Madras Designery. Harini, like me, uses fine liner pens for many of her drawings but takes the art to a whole different level.

illustrated letter 14

Letter 15 hasn’t gone very far at all, it’s stayed in Newcastle. It is for Erin who works alongside me at Seven Stories. Erin has given a home to some ex-battery hens who produce the most delicious eggs. So it had to be chickens.

illustrated letter 15

Number 16 is for Owlissa who is also doing a letter writing challenge. She has been far more sensible and is sending off one a week. Check out her blog Mum in the Woods   The little elf on the envelope is an homage to Owlissa who has a very cool hairstyle.

illustrated letter 16

And finally letter 17 has gone all the way to Canada to Shelley who lives in Honeymoon Bay. I hope that is as romantic as it sounds. Shelly popped by my blog and offered to help me out with my challenge by asking me to send her a letter.

illustrated letter 17

If I am to complete my challenge of sending a letter a day through 2013 I really need some help. I need 365 people to send to. If you would like to receive a Letter Elf from me you’ll find all the details here.

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.