Back in 2016, the Japanese flower artist Azuma Makoto had an idea for his daughter. He wanted to show her the life cycle of flowers through animation, but didn’t have the right visual team to work with. In turn, he found the illustrator Katie Scott and animator James Paulley on Instagram. Both London-based, Katie is best known for her highly detailed botanical drawings which can be seen across book covers, window displays, toiletry packaging, not to mention wallpaper and print. James on the other hand, has freelanced for the likes of Wallpaper Magazine and Aesop and for this horticultural project, was tasked with animating Katie’s beautiful floral works detailing the ins and outs of a plant’s life cycle.
The project culminated in the Story of Flowers, a three-and-a-half minute tale of the birds and the bees set to the gentle hum of wildlife and breezy melodies. That was nearly four years ago though, and now, Azuma has moved onto a more ambitious project under the same theme, same title, and with the same collaborators. “Azuma wanted to develop the project into a more ambitious series of animations,” Katie tells us, “four in total.” With plenty more to explore on the subject at hand, the second edition of Story of Flowers was released late last month. This time, more complex in both a visual and thematic sense.
Directed by Azuma, the animation is intended with both adults and children in mind, communicating broad ideas of how flowers can help us think about life. While the first Story of Flowers focused on the life cycle of plants – from germination, pollination and decay – this time round, the story explores the cultural and emotional relationship between flowers and humans. Katie continues on the wonderfully sensitive short, “When it came to animating these ideas we wanted the visual style to be delicate. We thought this kind of emotion was best communicated by creating tone and atmosphere, rather than direct or obvious storytelling.”
Full of subtlety and nuance, the elegant animation leaves its interpretation down to the individual. “There’s plenty of room for viewers to have different impressions on the work,” continues Katie, as the film touches on a range of emotional moments where flowers are present – funerals, celebrations and other momentous occasions for example. But with this, came the challenge of illustrating and animating humans; a new challenge for Katie and James who had little experience depicting the subject.
Iteration after iteration followed this initial concern, with Katie hating 99% of the work in the first couple of weeks until finally, she was happy. Devising a style to compliment her existing botanical oeuvre, Katie then passed her drawings onto James to animate, presenting a wholly different kind of challenge. Eventually, he nailed the various idiosyncrasies of muscle joints and facial expressions which make up an accurate human representation; problem solving the best techniques to coordinate an accurate sense of movement.
“We have the same taste when it comes to animation,” Katie adds on their collision of styles, “which helps us create work together.” As there are a lot of different ways to bring movement into illustration, it’s imperative that an image maker and animator can overlap their working methods. That being said, Katie can create her drawings in Photoshop with lots of different layers which can then be used to animate with. The result is a hypnotic viewing experience, beautifully paced and accompanied by soothing sounds and colours. It exemplifies a myriad of ways we can think about flowers. How they are used in a spectrum of interactions from the “smallest and most commonplace of gestures,” Katie finally goes on to say, “to the biggest events; the personal and the communal.”
GalleryStory of Flowers 2
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.