New Video: Through the Eyes of a Child – The Making Of

We found some footage in our archives that we thought was best published – so here it is. This archive footage shows the creation of this stunning aquarium which James Findley created back in 2010! We hope you enjoy it!


Video Transcript

00.05 Welcome back to the green machine, the nature aquarium specialists. This short video from the TGM archives showcases one of James’ old aquascapes: which he entitled ‘through the eyes of a child’. This nature aquarium was commissioned by arcadia for the Aqua 2010 trade show.
0.29 ‘Through the Eyes of a Child’ is a unique, original and artistic work by James. It was very popular with the TGM team and a favourite of the public at the show and in store, so when our editorial team found this footage we decided to release it. 
0.50 As you will see, James’ techniques have come a long way over the last few years as he has gained more experience and developed more sophisticated, simpler and effective techniques, but even back then with a less polished approach, he was producing beautiful works of art, which goes to show that a beautiful nature aquarium can be achieved by anyone, with the right advice, guidance and a little bit of patience.
01.18 James used cardboard strips, carefully sellotaped to the bortrom of the aquarium, to place the nutrient rich substrate in the areas where intended to place aquatic plants. Keeping the substrate only in these areas helps to prevent the plants contained in the desired areas: in this layout, James wanted the middle area to be a light, sandy area with no plants, which is why he has adopted this technique. Later on in the video you will see how he places some riccia stones between the sand and substrate areas, to further minimise the risk of the plants spreading into this area. These days, James uses substrate supports allow you to place your substrate and sand areas easily and also provide a barrier between the two areas afterwards, so you do not need to place stones in between.
02.11 Here, you can see how the cardboard dividers allow the sand to be added easily and with a fair amount of precision which allows for more artistic control of the layout.
Notice how James has placed the sandy path roughly in line with the Golden ratio, or rule of two thirds. The golden ratio is a rough guide to composing beautiful artistic layouts. It has been applied to many varieties of art since the days of Michael Angelo and even before… for more information on the golden ratio please read the article on it in our free online aquascaping library, or watch our other videos online.
02.58 now James smooths the sand out, carefully drawing it up to the cardboard barriers so that it fills the space evenly, and is a little deeper at the back to allow for the effect caused by the refraction of the water.
03.10 once the substrate layer is complete, the hardscape is added. This layout is called ‘through the eyes of a child’ because the stones for the aquascape were chosen by James’ young daughter. 
12.31 James wanted to create a layout that demonstrated the beauty, simplicity and perfection of imperfection and the absolute ability of a child to appreciate the simple beauty of nature: As we become adults we are taught to organise everything, to regiment ourselves, to schedule our lives and categorise life, and the danger is that we lose that child-like appreciation of the world. 
03.53 notice the cardboard divides can be fairly easily removed, and the sand and substrate layers remain separate. Before you remove the cardboard, make sure that the height of the two areas matches. Lightly coloured sand adds an element of light to an aquarium, because it is more reflective than substrate.
04.16 When creating an aquascape, a regimented, organised, orderly layout will not be beautiful – so to create a truly stunning layout we must once again learn to see the world through the eyes of a child. 
James created ‘Through the eyes of a child’ to demonstrate this, and the beauty, originality and impact of this aquascape are striking.
04.59 riccia stones are now placed between the substrate and sand areas, to create a divide and minimize the spread of plants. The divide helps to stop the plant roots from spreading into the sand area and therefore allows the aquarium to be maintained more easily, but as mentioned earlier, James now uses Substrate Supports which work more effectively, are more cost efficient and are simply easier and quicker to use. As you can see, it is possible to use this technique, and you will see later that fantastic results can be achieved, but when working professionally, ease of maintenance and efficiency are vital and this technique is a little time consuming!
06.07 next, some smaller stones are placed in the layout. These smaller stones may seem insignificant but they add an element of intricacy and detail to the layout that makes a big difference to the overall feel of the layout. When planting a nature aquarium we are attempting to recreate nature, and if we observe nature we see that small, seemingly insignificant details are everywhere –… so without these details a layout does not feel authentic and is simply not as beautiful. 
In addition to this, the smaller stones are used to draw the eye effectively around the layout.
The key to placing hardscape is to create a natural feel – which means avoiding the regimented, orderly, organised patterns that adults are conditioned to create! The beauty of nature is in its perfect imperfection – and this is what we strive to create within the nature aquarium.
(there will be a Pause here)
For more information on creating beautiful layouts, as well as some layout guides, please visit the ‘tips and tricks’ section of our website where you will find our free aquascaping library of articles.
08.30 james is standing behind the aquarium so that it can be filmed, but it is obviously much easier to create a layout from the front of the aquarium, as this allows you to check the overall balance and impact of the layout more regularly. Once you have completed the hardscape layout, James always recommends taking a break before you move on to the planting, waiting overnight is a good idea, because it allows you to approach the layout with fresh eyes in the morning, and make any alterations you might like to, before you plant the aquarium
(Another pause)
09.16 james stands back to check the overall balance of the layout and see if anything needs to be added, removed or repositioned. After consideration, he adds some more stones. When creating a layout it is vital to take a step back now and then to consider the overall layout – otherwise you can find yourself concentrating on a small part and accidentally forsaking the overall balance of the layout – and since a layout is an artistic composition, whilst the detail is important, we must not forget the overall composition of the layout. Finally james adds some graded gravels to create a natural sense of intricacy.
When creating a narturte aquarium it is important to remember that you are creating a piece of art – so there is no right or wrong, and there are no hard and fast rules: art is subjective. There are general guides that we can follow, such as the golden ratio, and there are many tips and tricks that can be learnt, but in the end it is practice and experimentation that makes the biggest difference! Understanding the basic rules of composition will assist you in creating a beautiful layout, and understanding how the plants will grow is vital to ensure that you can create a manageable layout. but don’t get caught up in trying to create something perfect – not least because that will hinder your artistic abilities!
11.20 James fills the aquarium with water and begins to place the plants. As you can see, a good pair of aquascaping pinsettes are vital for this job! James used 


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