This film is quite a departure, both for the SAA and for art instruction films in general. Not only does it include location work, it also has documentary elements at the same time.
This latter is something that clearly needs to be handled with caution. You certainly wouldn’t want to find that what you thought was a piece about painting animals turned out to be the story of the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. However, the short interviews with staff about some of the animals don’t intrude and make a pleasant change of pace in what is a nicely-judged film. There’s also plenty of meat, in the form of demonstrations, to tip the balance in the right direction.
Pip begins by sketching a lion and emphasises the importance, with something that’s quite likely to get up and walk off, of choosing a pose it’s likely to maintain for some time. This is a cat, so that’ll be lying down, then. Getting the light balance right between the presenter, the subject and the reflective white paper is not a given, and it’s pleasing to report that, at the first attempt, this is well done. Pencil lines on a drawing pad don’t show up well at the best of times, but here you can clearly see what’s going on. I know it sounds like faint praise to pick on this, but it’s something not all video-makers get right.
This session is followed by a short interview with the keeper of the big cats which adds that extra dimension I was talking about and gives the film depth that makes it about more than just mark-making.
The main painting work is done back in the studio and is on more familiar ground. SAA studios are plain-background affairs which can seem a little bland, but also show up the artist and the canvas with no extraneous distractions. In the first of these demonstrations, Pip does an oil sketch of an elephant, showing how it’s important to get the basic shapes right at this stage to ensure the success of the finished result.
After this, it’s back to the Wildlife Park for another sketching session before we return to the studio to finish off a painting of an ostrich. It’s a nice touch that, in this, the basic sketch has been done – it effectively picks up from the point the elephant left off. Pip completes the painting, showing how to pick up details and put in a background that provides context without overshadowing the main subject.
Finally, there’s an interview which explains the work of the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. It’s impossible not to think that there isn’t going to be some sort of tie-up here, which would be perfect and ound things off nicely.
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