I’M LOOKING forward to spring and being able to get out drawing wild flowers again but I can get a bit of practice by drawing cut flowers from the florists. The iris appealed to me more than the carnations and daisy-like flowers in the same bouquet because the structure of the flower is more obvious.
I’m continuing to familiarise myself with the features of the latest version of Photoshop and I’m intrigued by ‘Puppet Warp’, a new feature in Photoshop CS5. This works by putting a mesh across your drawing which you can then manipulate by adding node points and pulling and pushing them about to distort the drawing in various ways.
It’s useful for a whole lot more than the ‘puppet’ animation that the name suggests but that’s a good place to start to get to know what it does.
When I drew the walking Moorhen a few years ago I had to draw a dozen or more separate frames to make up the complete action. With Puppet Warp you can do just the one drawing and bend, distort and move it around in Photoshop.
It’s not going to give you the charm of a fully hand-drawn animation but for certain subjects it should work well. It has the advantage that you can avoid the ‘boiling’ effect you get from textures, such as crayon and watercolour, that you can’t possibly match between one hand-drawn frame and the next and it can save a lot of repetitive ‘in-betweening’ between the key frames of the action.
Fiver in the film, copyright Watership Down Productions, 1978.
I’VE WRITTEN before about my time working in the background department on the film version of Watership Down (see 5 November 2002) and included some roughs but here’s some of the actual artwork, which I’ve just found while going through the drawers of my plan chest. It’s drawn with a fine dip pen nib, a Gillot 303 or 1950, in Pelikan Special Brown Indian ink. This technique didn’t lend itself to the production size so I drew it half size and they photographed and printed a full-sized, sepia-toned version on matt paper.
The original drawing is about 5½ x 4 inches. It was an odd experience to see my postcard-sized drawing projected on the cinema screen – along with the animation, the music and the vocal talents of John Hurt and Richard Briers amongst others in that particular scene.
Another background artist added the colour later. No wonder I’m described as ‘Assistant Background Artist’ on the credits. As I’d explained when I took on the job, after working through the autumn on the film in London, I wanted to get back to Yorkshire by springtime to complete work on my first book, A Sketchbook of the Natural History of the Country Round Wakefield.
Like Cowslip’s Warren, this sketchbook format nature guide was drawn in brown ink using a fine-nibbed dip pen and printed – single colour – in the Pantone equivalent of Special Brown.
THIS MORNING I spotted a Kingfisher flying to a perch on a branch on a pebbly bank at the edge of the river by the Bingley Arms. It spent a minute or two bashing the small fish it had just caught against the branch.
It watched from the perch for a while then dived down into the shallows beneath, emerging without catching a fish. Back on its perch but looking the other way, it watched, then dived again, once more without success, before flying off downstream.
It’s a long time since I saw a Kingfisher and I don’t remember ever seeing one dealing with a fish but it’s good to know that they’re still about.
Monkeying about with Elements 5
As I listened to the radio, I started doodling on the back of an envelope. Envelopes are often pleasant to draw on, smoother than the cartridge I’m used to but still with enough grain on the surface to provide some character.
I’ve recently loaded up Photoshop Elements 5 on my computer. It came bundled with the scanner but I’ve never given it a try. I’ve yet to find a program that makes animated GIFs as simple as they should be. The Elements version won’t allow me to vary the speed between frames so this ape is doomed to roll his eyes continuously at a rate of 0.2 seconds between frames.