Blooming Marvellous

Katie Scott's latest project is a stunning, animated exploration of the life story of flowers, created with animator James Paulley for Japanese flower artist Azuma Makoto...

Story of Flowers is a stunning new animation directed by Azuma Makoto, the Japanese flower artist and sculptor known for his ambitious and experimental botanical work (you might remember him for the 2014 project 'exobiotanica', which saw him launch a selection of bonsai trees and floral arrangements into space...). For this latest project, Makoto enlisted the talents of illustrator Katie Scott to tell the life story of flowers, in a lush animation that aims to educate young children in some of the workings of the natural world.

The project came about when Makoto wanted to teach his own daughter, then three years old, about his work and  the life cycle of plants and flowers. Finding few existing illustrated books and films available to help him do so, he decided to create something himself—and after coming across Katie Scott's botanical illustrations and being drawn to the mix of the "academic and fantastic" within her work, he commissioned her to set her distinctive illustrative style in motion to create the visuals for the project, together with animator James Paulley. We caught up with Katie to discover how the piece was created, and to explore the creative challenges posed within the process of turning illustrations into animation...

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One of Katie's roughs for the animation.

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A screenshot from Story of Flowers.

How did the project come about, and what was the brief?
Azuma got in touch with us after finding our work online. He had been thinking about creating this animation for some time, and I guess he felt like we were the right team to work with. I had been a fan of his for years so it was extremely exciting to hear from him. The brief at the beginning was pretty open, just to make an animation about the life cycle of flowers, for adults and children. We then developed the idea further together over a few months.

How did your collaboration with animator James Paulley come about?
Well, James is my partner—we live together in Stoke Newington, and have a studio nearby. We liked the idea of working together and had done a couple of smaller projects in the past. When Azuma and his team got in touch, it was perfect timing to try pushing our collaboration further.

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One of Katie's roughs for the animation.

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A screenshot from Story of Flowers.

Talk us through the process of bringing your illustrations to life through animation for this project—where did you start, and how did it develop?
I had to be to lead through the beginning stages and needed to learn how to think in terms of time as well as space. So many of my initial ideas were quite one dimensional, and I couldn’t break out of thinking in terms of pages like I’m used to doing with books. But James has a great sense of motion and narrative, so slowly I caught up and we started to develop storyboards and initial animatics to shows Azuma. The first thing was to get my head around exactly how the life cycle of flowers works, and how to communicate quite a complex thing creatively and simply.

What particular challenges does the animation process pose to you as an illustrator?
Azuma was clear that he wanted to include scenes with landscapes and context, not only isolated plants like I usually draw. We both agreed this was important, but I had never done that before and really struggled with how my style would translate into landscapes. There are a few bad first attempts but I'm really happy with the final result, there's some weird perspective and 3D space in a some shots but I think it's quite charming and adds character. Its always good to be forced to do things you're not familiar with and I kind of feel like I have learned a new skill.

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One of Katie's roughs for the animation.

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A screenshot from Story of Flowers.

What was the most important thing you learned from the process?
Planning is everything. And animation takes ages, haha. We spent a long time in the planning stage of the project, and at the time I worried we were taking too long and we should be getting on with the final thing, but I'm so glad we did it this way. When you're working on animation everything needs to be considered in advance. It saves time in the long run.

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One of Katie's roughs for the animation.

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A screenshot from Story of Flowers.

Do you see yourself developing the animated aspect of your practice further in the future?
Absolutely! I cant wait to do more. Especially now I’m so much better at thinking in terms of animation and quicker at drawing my work in many layers! It would feel like a waste to not do more.

What are you working on next?
I have some book covers to do over the summer, and some fashion projects that have been on hold while we were in Japan. The animation has been my main job for about six months, so it’s going to be fun to pick up my other work again.

Azuma Makoto: Story of Flowers
katie-scott.com

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The launch event for Story of Flowers, in Japan. Image © AMKK(東 信、花樹研究所)

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The launch event for Story of Flowers, in Japan. Image © AMKK(東 信、花樹研究所)

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The launch event for Story of Flowers, in Japan. Image © AMKK(東 信、花樹研究所)