Hare Today, Hare Tomorrow: The Enduring Appeal Of Beatrix Potter
When it comes to children’s books, it’s hard to think of a more enduring influence than Beatrix Potter (1866-1943). We had a copy of The Tale Of Peter Rabbit when I was growing up, and Peter’s, uh, hare’s-breadth escape from Mr. McGregor gave me some of my earliest heart palpitations.
However, it was only after seeing Miss Potter (thumbs up), a somewhat romanticized biopic starring Renée Zellweger, that I read a biography of Beatrix Potter. I became an instant fan. As a child growing up in Victorian England, she spent hours drawing detailed watercolors of fungi. Talk about a work ethic.
And I was amazed to learn that it was only after she had arranged for a private printing
of Peter Rabbit (1901), that it attracted the interest of publisher Frederick Warne. She made and patented a Peter Rabbit Doll and approved other spin-off merchandise, making her an early pioneer in both self-publishing and licensing. She also said:
Not the kind of tough talk you’d expect from someone associated with cute little bunnies and chamomile tea. It’s advice that all artists should take to heart.
To that end, I decided to pay tribute to Beatrix Potter by learning something new: a way
to colorize B&W photos in Photoshop. I got a bit more than I bargained for.
The obvious choice for the B&W photo: Beatrix Potter herself. I found the following six images, all of them poor and grainy. For reasons I can’t explain, I liked the top middle photo the best.
I suddenly realized I wouldn’t have the luxury of simply learning how to colorize a B&W image. I’d also have to figure out how to clean it up first, and solve the vexing problem of extracting hair. (Mr. McGregor’s problem was extracting hare.)
Was there a way to take the tribute a step further? I had an inspiration. I found a JPEG of a framed Peter Rabbit print. I pasted in my colorized photo, and used Photoshop masks and layer adjustments to alter the colors of the matte and frame. Why the light green color scheme? Scroll down.
How accurate is my color portrait? According to her biographer, Beatrix Potter had brown hair and blue eyes. I ad-libbed from there. As always, I learned a lot by stepping outside the old comfort zone. I shall try to explain some of the techniques I
used in future posts.
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