Wednesday, 12 January 2011

How to draw animals...

The man who drew pictures for a living was flustered. He had just one day left to create the front cover of a new book, and he couldn’t get it right. On the floor by his desk was a mountain of scrunched up paper; the bin overflowed and he rubbed his eyes with weariness.

I know, he thought, I draw a nice, big rabbit. But he drew the rabbit so quickly that it kicked its back legs in the air and ran off the page to dig a burrow. Hmm, thought the cartoonist, I’ll have to draw slower.

So he drew another rabbit, less hastily, but still it scampered off the page and hid in the first rabbit’s burrow.

Right! This one’s not getting away from me! He drew a whiskery fat rabbit with a carrot, but that rabbit looked at him knowingly from its pencilled eye and hopped away, carrot in mouth.

Grrr, thought the cartoonist. What to do? Time was ticking on, the afternoon had darkened into evening and he got up to light a lamp.

Rabbits are all wrong, he decided. I need to draw a much slower animal that will not flee, nor hide, nor dig. He scratched his head with his pencil. A tortoise! Yes, a tortoise would be perfect. Just to make sure, he drew his tortoise slowly and deliberately until finally it was finished – a beautiful tortoise that would look marvellous on the front cover of the new book.

Hooray! he shouted out loud. The tortoise, clearly startled by the sudden noise, tucked its head firmly in its shell and refused to come out, even when he poked it with his pencil. Now his beautiful tortoise looked like a big pebble. Nobody would buy a book with a big pebble on the cover. He put the tortoise to one side in despair.

The cartoonist made a cup of tea. He walked about a bit. He made another cup of tea and ate a biscuit.

Then an idea came. He would draw a dog. It didn’t matter if he drew it quickly or slowly. He made it a shaggy sort of dog, the sort of dog you’d want to hug. As soon as he finished it, the dog barked, sniffed around a bit then ran off to annoy the rabbits and the sulking tortoise. But the cartoonist whistled and the dog lolloped back, sat down and waited until the man had finished sketching its basket. It got in and barked again, so he drew it a bone to chew on while – at last! – he could finally get some sleep.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011


January is an important month for elves.

On the 30th day the exam results from the School of Elven Magic are announced. No one has ever failed in 500 years.

Except today.

As the air rings green with thousands of tiny elvish hats being thrown up in celebration, one elf creeps away, hat pulled down over his eyes. He doesn’t want to explain that he hasn’t learnt anything at all and had mostly been asleep during his exams.

‘Not to worry!’ he thinks. ‘Everyone needs an Elf. Even an unqualified one. I shall go forth and sell my skills direct.’

So he makes his way to a school playground.

‘What are you?’ yell the children, delighted at the little green chap standing on their bench.

‘I am the Weather Elf! I make the weather!’

‘No you don’t,’ replies a girl. ‘The weather is made by air and water moving around high above there.’ She pointed to the sky. ‘They make the wind and rain and clouds.’

‘Oh,’ says the Elf. ‘Then I am the Flower Elf! I paint the flowers bright colours for all to see!’

‘No you don’t,’ says a boy. ‘Flowers have colour chemicals in them to attract birds and insects.’

These children know more than he thought. ‘Then I am the Rainbow Elf!’

‘That’s water in the air, again,’ says the girl, looking a bit bored.

‘Hmm,’ says the Elf. ‘I am the Honey Elf?’

‘That’s bees.’

The Popcorn Elf?’

‘Made in a pan.’

It seems like people don’t need unqualified elves after all. The Elf waves the puzzled children goodbye and wanders about a bit until evening sets in. As he passes a garden gate he notices a gnome, fishing at a pond. The company of a gnome is better than no company at all, he thinks, and walks under the garden gate to sit next to the gnome, who doesn’t look at him but carries on fishing.

‘Caught anything?’

No reply.

‘I like your toadstool.’

No reply.

‘What a miserable chap,’ thinks the Elf. ‘I shan’t bother with him any more.’ And he lies down under the toadstool and pulls a leaf over him against the cold.

The next morning, the frost has cracked the gnome right down the middle and his head has fallen off.

The Elf looks around him to make sure no one is looking, then kicks the pieces of broken gnome into the pond, saving the fishing rod. Climbing carefully onto the toadstool, he rearranges his hat at a jaunty angle and waits to see what happens next.

Out of the back door shoots a dog and three children. ‘Oh mum!’ they cry. ‘Thanks for the new gnome! The other one was rubbish. This one’s much smilier. And he’s got a better hat.’

‘I am the Garden Elf,’ thinks the Elf, satisfied.