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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How Now Ginger Cow

A few weeks ago I talked about the Town Moor; a huge open stretch of land lying North of the city of Newcastle. It is home to soaring sky larks, grumpy crows and Whippet Dave. But there is another animal that lives on the moor and that is the humble cow.  They graze the coarse grass from Spring to Autumn, arriving around Easter time and departing just before Bonfire Night on the 5th November.

Cows on the moor

The people that own and take care of The Town Moor are the Freemen of the City and they have the right to graze their cattle there. There are hereditary Freeman who can trace their right to the land back to Anglo Saxon times. And then there are honorary Freemen and these include, former US President Jimmy Carter, Bob Geldof, Nelson Mandela and Newcastle footballer Alan Shearer.

Cows on the moor 2

No more than 800 cows are allowed to graze.

I used to have a problem when the cows arrived on the Moor because Mischa Skinnydog liked to round them up. But seven years of training and we’ve got it cracked.

Cows and Mischa

The cows are usually quite shy, but last autumn I met a particularly friendly one. (I’m saying cows but actually they are all boys.) I saw him in the distance with a Magpie riding on his back.

Cow and Magpie

Old Ginger and the singing Magpie.

“Gee up” said the bird and they trotted over to say hello. What a beautiful beast he was wrapped up in a thick ginger coat. He batted his long curly eyelashes then bowed deeply before me. “What a pleasure to meet you Ziggy.” he said then trotted away with the Magpie singing Ghost Riders in the Sky. 

Cow and Magpie

 

I imagine he’s “a ploughing through the ragged sky” by now, which makes me sad because he was so friendly. But there’s a whole new herd arrived on The Town Moor just waiting to make Mischa’s and my acquaintance. We’ll see what they have to say.

Ginger Cow

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.

A Haunted Halloween

It’s that time of year again when the door to the Otherworld opens a fraction to let who knows what into our midst. Pumpkins are carved, kids faces smeared with grease-paint and dogs are being made to dress in ridiculous costumes.

It’s also the time for a good ghost story and a bit of Author Elfing.

Earlier this month author William Hussey visited Seven Stories for an evening of chilling tales in our Artist’s Attic. With the lights down low the Attic was the perfect place for William to frighten the living daylights out of us. First he read Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You by M.R James, just to get us in a spooked out mood and then went on to tell his own short story Turn Her Face to the Wall, that had a brilliant twist in the tale. Finally William read an abridged version of the prologue from his latest novel, Haunted. That really had everyone leaping out of their chairs because….well I can’t say, you’re just going to have to read the book which is spooktastic. Of course this isn’t a book blog but my literary hound just loves to have a bit of book banter so check out Mischa’s review here.

After the readings it was Q and A time.

William told us he got his inspiration from everywhere and that we should carry a notebook with us at all times…just in case. The spark of the idea for Haunted came from a true story based on an incident in the life of Thomas Edison. In 1920 Edison claimed to the press he was on the verge of inventing a machine for speaking with the dead. After his own death, a search was made of his lab notes but no such machine was found. Everyone assumed it was a practical joke. But William thought, “What if it did exist and someone got their hands on it? What would happen then?”

About writing William said he covers 2 sides of A4 for ideas and plotting and that character is “the God of story”. Funnily enough the original story had a boy as the main character. It was later on that William changed this to Emma Rhodes, the feisty, ghost busting heroine.

Even though it was dark and gloomy in The Artist’s Attic and I was shaking with fear I managed to sketch William entertaining the audience while he sat in our massive story tellers chair.

Lomogram_2013-10-03_08-45-45-PMHe was kind enough to post this up on his website and referred to me as “Seven Stories own artistic genius.” So I thought I should repay such kind words by elfing Mr Hussey. He asked if he could be a dark elf, which given that today is All Hallows Eve, seems highly appropriate.

William Hussey Elfed

He may not be truly dark but his “elfter-ego” certainly has an air of mystery about him. Check out William’s photo here to see what he really looks like.

Happy Halloween everybody.

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?

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.