IN MY COFFEE BREAK this morning I watched another You Tube video about animating in Photoshop and here are the results of me trying it out. I’m sure this is going to have a useful end result.

I’d been looking out of the window since this morning thinking that I’d like to do a watercolour of the wood in the mist and later in sunshine but I didn’t manage to get my sketchbook out until 5 pm I’d finished my other work. I dispensed with my usual pen and ink and used 2B pencil for speed. The sharp detail had already disappeared but by sketching quickly rather than drawing carefully, I had time to add some colour, relying one my knowledge where the colours are in my box.

Despite the limitations of this sketch which took little more than five minutes, I still prefer it to my animation!

Beaky Animation

I’M JUST STARTING to get familiar with a new version of Photoshop and I’m pleased to find that simple animation seems a lot easier than it did with my old version, Photoshop 7, where you had to jump to another program, Image Ready, to save your work as a GIF.

Here’s a first try. Annoyingly repetitive but at least it shows that I’ve understood the basics.


Looking towards the M62 from Starbuck's, Birstall.

There’s a chance to see a sample of the work of the next generation of animators at the cinema today in a short promotional film about the Red Bull Canimation competition. Every entry must prominently feature a can of Red Bull. It doesn’t sound like the most subtle form of product placement but the student animations look suitably impressive.

But I now know why I never made it in the animation world; I just don’t look cool enough, like the young hopefuls in this promo. The other essential is to have a film crew with you – whether you’re wandering in the backwoods or walking along the dreary terraced streets of your hometown – to capture the moment when that surprise call comes to inform you that you’ve made it onto the shortlist.

I like the scene where one young chap runs into the house, phone in hand, gasping excitedly ‘Mum! Dad! I’m going to London!’

Link: Canimation – these competition entries make you feel you don’t always need a Pixar-sized studio behind you to produce a presentable animation. I’ve got a long way to go though.

Game of Shadows

It’s good to see so much illustration in the work of these animators, in some of the advertisements and trailers and in the film we’ve come to see, Sherlock Holmes, A Game of Shadows. The clues to the mystery include a series of charcoal sketches on a very specific type of paper, as you’d expect in a Sherlock Holmes story, and the closing credits include 1890s Strand Magazine style versions of characters and scenes from the movie.

In one scene we see some of the hundreds of details that Sherlock observes as he scans a room, looking for a vital clue.

‘What do you see?’ asks his female companion.

‘I see everything . . . that is my curse!’

It’s such a good line that I feel Conan Doyle himself would have been pleased to come up with it, but I don’t remember it from the stories. It does show that Holmes would have made a good illustrator (like Conan Doyle’s father, grandfather and two of his uncles). In The Greek Interpreter Sherlock claims that he is related, through his grandmother, to the Vernets, a family of French painters.

Birds in the Bushes

LIKE A FISHERMAN’S TALE, it’s the one that got away that we’d really liked to have put on our list. It’s the annual RSPB garden birds survey so we move one of the sofas over to the patio windows and between 10.30 and 11.30, we record every bird we see and the maximum numbers at any one time.

I can't settle to sketching as we have to keep scanning the garden for any new species that we might miss.

After twenty minutes we have, amongst other birds, one Great Tit, three Blue Tits, several House Sparrows and a respectable total of 13 Goldfinches on our list. We’re pleased when a Coal Tit, a less frequent visitor, and a Willow Tit, an even less frequent visitor, show up briefly. No sign of the Long-tailed Tits but they typically call just before sunset to feed on the fat-balls. Bullfinch, Chaffinch and Greenfinch put in an appearance as I hoped they would.

It’s not until the final 15 minutes that the resplendent cock Pheasant struts up the garden path then crows challengingly when he reaches the lawn. But today there’s no sign of his coterie of hen Pheasants. Perhaps as it’s Sunday and people are out walking their dogs, they’ve headed off to a quieter corner of the woods.

It’s not people who spook the local birds this morning but our resident top predator, a large brown Sparrowhawk. All the birds at the feeders dive for cover as and the Wood Pigeons that have gathered in the tops of the Ashes at the edge of the wood take flight as the hawk makes its way up the meadow, on a straight flight-path about six feet above the ground.

Sparrowhawk, Wood Pigeons and a Jay that we see at the edge of the wood shortly afterwards don’t count for our garden birds survey because they’re not making use of our garden. Nor unfortunately can we count the female Great Spotted Woodpecker that comes and feeds from the suet log ten minutes later. We’ve seen Great Tits feeding on the fat-balls mixture in the holes drilled in the log but this is the first time we’ve seen a woodpecker using it.

Nor can we count the Siskin that shows up at lunch time!

For the Record

Birds in our back garden, in order of seeing them, were: Blue Tit (4), House Sparrow (7), Dunnock (2), Great Tit (1), Goldfinch (13), Chaffinch (1), Blackbird (2), Greenfinch (2), Bullfinch (2), Robin (1), Coal Tit (1), Willow Tit (1) and Pheasant (1).

Family Gathering

I FEEL AS IF I’m being a bit intrusive if I start drawing people in a social situation. If I’m drawing people, I’d rather be in a public place; sitting in a cafe perhaps or at a street market. So as we talked after the meal this evening I found myself drawing corners of the room instead of assembled relatives from as far afield as Paris and Wath-on-Dearne.

Four Finches

THE BIRD FEEDERS have been so busy recently. Not only do we have the cock Pheasant strutting up the garden every morning, he’s also accompanied by a growing harem of hen Pheasants. Whether he leads them into the garden or whether he tags along with them is debatable.

He was the first bird that we’ve seen drinking from the new bird bath and apart from him we’ve spotted only one Goldfinch perching on the rim, although we didn’t actually see it drink.

For much of today there have been up to a dozen Goldfinches feeding, often joined by Bullfinches (2 males, 1 female) and more occasionally by Greenfinches (3).

A female Chaffinch skulks around below, picking up spilt grain but Barbara spotted it briefly visiting the feeder during a quiet spell at breakfast-time. I don’t remember ever having seen one on the hanging feeders but the type that we’re using now have accessible perches (plastic rings at each hole) and they’re very close to the hedge which the Chaffinch perches in so it’s surprising that we don’t see it going directly to the feeder more often.

It’s the RSPB garden bird-watch this weekend, so we’re hoping that all these colourful finches will turn up to be counted during the allotted hour.

Another bird that uses the feeders infrequently and with difficulty is the Robin. It returned several times to the fat-ball feeder.

There were two Robins in the hedge by the feeders this afternoon, one soon chasing off the other.

Note; My drawings today are from sketches I’ve made over the years, some going back to the early days of this diary, a decade ago. Screen resolutions and average bandwidths were so different then, so if I could get a sketch, like the little one of the Bullfinch down to 1 kilobyte, I thought I was doing well. Seeing these on my latest computer I’m surprised how flat and dotty those early GIF (graphic image files) are. They used to look just about acceptable but I’d do things differently today.

Looking North

THE CAFE at Marks & Spencer’s Birstall looks out over the higher ground between the valleys of the Aire and the Calder. Ignoring the cars and the stores of the retail park I drew the trees and made quick watercolour sketches of the sky to the north when we called with my mum for coffee this morning.

Birstall appears as Burstall in 13th century manuscripts, a place name that derives from the Old English burgsteall, meaning the place of the burn, or fortified homestead’.


Gable Ends

THIS IS just the relaxed kind of drawing which I like to use my fine-nibbed ArtPen for. Adding colour, even the subdued colour of old brick and stone and grey winter skies, adds another dimension and more information, and helps to establish mood and atmosphere.

The views are disjointed because I was limited to drawing the details that I could see through the gaps in the vertical blinds at Barbara’s brother John’s when we called to see him and Margaret this morning.

Ash Twig

Close up of Ash twig: Photograph taken through the microscope.

AS WE TOOK my mum to the doctor’s last Thursday I picked up this Ash twig, blown down in the recent gales, in the car park. Even such an unpromising subject has a lot of interest if you look at it closely; with all those scars and cracks it could be the stem of a palm tree.

The gash at the end show where it was wrenched from the tree by the wind, while three pairs of oval scars near the tip show where the Ash’s compound leaves sprouted last spring.

The lenticular pore in my photograph below is just 4 millimetres, less than a quarter of an inch, across. It’s close to the point where the twig was attached and I’m guessing that it’s a pore, an opening in the bark layer, rather than a leaf scar.

Lenticular pore on Ash twig, photographed under the microscope.

Meals at Meadowhall

THIS AFTERNOON we’re at Meadowhall for my second lesson on my new computer and have a meal afterwards at Cafe Rouge. It’s the chef at Ciao Baby who got into my sketchbook, singing and keeping time with his wok tool. And the Thai food, cooked as you wait looked good.


Towards the End of the Afternoon

I’M AWARE that the predominate colour scheme of my sketchbooks is brown and green, but mainly brownish, whether I’m drawing shells, fossils or assorted birds and animals, so, looking out of the window this afternoon at 4.15, instead of starting with the trees, I started with a patch of blue and instead of starting with my current favourite brown pen, I just started laying on the colour, propping my sketchbook on my glasses’ case so that the watercolour wash ran down the page.

A vapour trail in the east above the wood was illuminated by the near to setting sun while grey clouds were approaching from the south, filling most of my view by the time I finished my second sketch.