Cowslips Warren

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 2002and 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.

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  1. Great fun seeing these, Richard. I love to see how things are done and what makes things tick. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    1. After my brief experience of work behind the scenes on a movie, I have great respect for the creative teams working away behind the scenes and always try to wait to see the end credits. They sometimes include little bonuses for those who hang around but I’m always aware that the cleaners are waiting to get in. When I took Barbara, who I’d only recently met, to see Watership Down we were the last in the cinema and my name was so far down the list that it didn’t quite fit on the screen. But there I was! Just.

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