As a starting point for this hand-drawn font I’ve taken a character from Watership Down: Cowslip, an effete but vaguely sinister rabbit, given to reciting poetry, including ‘Like Trees in November’, which provides the title for the Cowslip’s Warren chapter in the Richard Adams’ book.
I got to know this character when I spent two or three months drawing the backgrounds for the Cowslip’s Warren scene for Martin Rosen’s 1978 movie. I drew in dip pen in Indian ink, which I felt answered the brief of ‘creating the atmosphere of a claustrophobic Victorian vicarage’. Another background artist added the colour.
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.