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Wigeons on the Wyke

Saturday, 28th December 2002, West Yorkshire


wigeonsI've set myself to draw in brush-pen and ink at the moment, with, perhaps, a book in mind. The only trouble is that when we go out for a walk the winter landscape of the valley just cries out for watercolour. There's the Wyke, a marshy field between the canal and the river Calder which this afternoon has attracted nine wigeon. Its modulated dun colours match the earth pigments of my watercolour box; the ochre, umber and sienna. Dun is a dull greyish brown so it's not a colour you find being promoted much by interior designers or fashion experts.

A dun is also the name for a grey brown horse. Three miniature Shetland ponies grazing by the canal have earthy-coloured coats. On this brooding afternoon they look like survivors from the last ice age.

Far from being dull and uniform these grey December skies and misty atmosphere give rise to veils of transparency drifting across aureoles of luminosity which are the stuff of English watercolours. As the sun gets lower a bank of cloud takes on a bronzy cast, contrasting with one small pool of pastel blue sky, while broad beams of warm light radiate from the break in the clouds.


Fieldfares and redwing seem to be present in greater numbers than we've seen for several years. My sketch above dates from the first season of my online diary, from 3rd December 1998. At the time I was determined to master Adobe Photoshop, my image editing program, and, although I made the initial drawing on paper in pen and ink, I coloured the scanned image using the brush tools available in Photoshop.

These days I prefer to draw the whole thing on paper, colour and all.

jaguarA Walk on the Wild Side

Four years later I'm still learning Photoshop; some things I'm now pretty good at but there's always more to learn. I've been asked to do one of my sketchbook-style animated loops for Wild Shots, a new natural history programme due for broadcast next month in the Granada area (Manchester, Lancashire etc.). It's months, if not a year or more, since I had the spare time to draw an animation and it takes me as long, if not longer, to get the hang of my new animation program, Image Ready (which now comes bundled as part of Photoshop 7).

This animation is based on original footage of a jaguar filmed in the rain forest of Brazil by Nick Gordon, who presents Wild Shots. I'm pleased with the movement. There's a slight wobble on the nearside front leg and I think that the back legs can go a tad further back towards the tail. Once this is all sorted out I want to add jungle and perhaps even a suggestion of a reflection of the jaguar in the river, alongside which this impressive big cat was walking in Nick's film.

There are twelve frames in this animation and, here's the clever part; the offside legs in frame 8 are doing what the nearside legs were doing in frame 1, in fact I traced them from the corresponding frames; in frame 9 the offside legs were traced from frame 2, in frame 10 from 3 and so on. Don't ask why it wasn't 6 and 1, 7 and 2 etc.; that might have made more sense. Still, it works. next page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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