In a previous lettering post, I mused on the idea of taking sharp, industrial forms and giving them a Gothic influence. That’s how this succeeding project began, but, as you can probably tell, I ended up in quite a different place. Maybe I’ll revisit that someday.

This time, I ended up with circuit boards after discovering a ready-made model of one in C4D. They are fascinating to look at, with their intricate tracks within a city of components – even now, there’s a futuristic feel about them. Perhaps a touch of retro-futuristic too, as I remember marvelling at the board from our original ZX Spectrum as it sat broken in a container for years.

I ripped the bump map texture from the 3D model and started cutting it up into letters; not much to see there originally, so I started cutting my own letters. using the board as a guide. That’s how the header came about. The Photoshop threshold effect gave it a nice printed edge, which I thought an interesting juxtaposition. Furthermore, it pushed me back into my favoured position of monochrome goodness:

Though, I did pull myself away momentarily to try and give the impression of a letter-shaped tracking.

Eventually though I returned to the threshold effect, but using green! I worried that black and white tracks to this extent might become migraine fuel for you (and me). The letters are also inverted to help with contrast.

I suppose the next step (or likely the first step for any logical human being) would be to actually create a circuit board layout with the corresponding letter imprinted on it, rather than overlapping textures in the shape of the letter. It’s worth a shot. It’s always worth a shot. But I do think what we have here is a nice novelty. With my time so much less than before, I’m quite happy for anything to jump out in an evening, like this has.

As for why I chose the name Computer over Circuit, Circuitry or something more relevant – eh. At least I got a few more unique letters out of my choice.

It’s that rare time once again where I can actually sit down and cut some letters. I feel like every time I moan about not having the time for it, but I suppose it  at least makes me enjoy the process a little more.

Anyway, this time – and for whatever reason – I went for a fusion of steampunk and industrial forms. Indeed, ‘fusion’ ended up being the operative word for this project, as I then began cutting the final alphabet up and, well, fusing them together (in Photoshop, and quite badly… but it, er, adds a slapdash charm to the thing, right?). I do like to do this, although my tutors back in the day would probably have considered it indecision or a lack of confidence. They might have been right, but oh well! It enables alternatives to be substituted in, and I don’t really see that variation as a negative. I even ended up with a gothic-tinged M made from a B and two overlapping As, which you can see in the gallery below. These are the fruits of the iterative process. Perhaps I could attempt an ‘industrial gothic’ face in the future?

Lots of bulky, rigid slabs here with some Channel 4-esque blocks thrown in to make these weird letter machines, but I did make a conscious effort to try and include some rounded forms for appropriate letters, something I was initially going to avoid. They are probably the weakest of the set, but forcing myself to try was better than chickening out, and the S actually turned out alright.

It was after all this smooshing and fusing that I came up with the name: Bits + Bobs…

..but don’t let the cutesy name fool you; they can still look rather brash when blown up. I even tried linking the forms up to create a more literally mechanical feel.

Well, if I routinely complain about not having the time to do this more often, then I surely finish with a comment about how fun it was. But it’s true! Once a semblance of concept emerges, the time just flies by.

What a shock it was to hear of Joe Laurinaitis – Road Warrior Animal – passing away last week. Together with Hawk, he formed The Road Warriors, who are probably among the most celebrated tag teams in the history of professional wrestling. With their striking face-paint, spiked shoulder pads and dominant presence, you weren’t going to forget this pairing in a hurry. Sure enough, they were stars all over the world, wherever they went.

I vividly remember seeing them for the first time. It was when I was about ten; I used to buy lots of second-hand WWF tapes on the cheap, usually fairly recent pay-per-view events. One day, I plumped for an old one, likely because it was at the bottom of the pile and thus hardest to retrieve. That tape was SummerSlam 1992, which, on buying, I did not know emanated from Wembley Stadium. Animal and Hawk, then known as The Legion of Doom, were featured early in the event. The sight of their entrance, on motorbikes with their golden shoulder pads shining in the afternoon sun, was something special. Of course, the crowd were absolutely crazy for them, too – even more when Animal pinned ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase for the victory. It was hard not to get caught up in it all. Indeed, I was left wishing they had stayed with the WWF long enough to be there when I was a viewer; there were lots of young, up and coming teams around that time, and the Legion of Doom could have made the perfect ‘old guard’ to help them reach the next level.

It is sad to lose yet another guy I used to watch a lot, and young too – he only recently turned sixty. Just last year, I worked on his likeness for RetroMania Wrestling, which was something I never expected to be doing – a shame indeed that he will not see the finished product. Everyone seems to have remarked on how great and approachable he was and, I have to say, I always got that impression, despite the menacing façade. I have no doubt the legacy of the Road Warriors will continue to grow, even more legendary than before, for they made quite a name for themselves while snacking on danger, and dining on death.

Ready to be picked. I don’t know who he is, but he was a lot of fun to draw and, after several false starts recently, this happened very quickly.

Thanks to Fearsome Beard for selecting the photato as Beard of the Day and bringing the subsequent inspiration. Do check out his site if you, like me, are fans of charming men with charming beards.

Also, wow. So this is the new WordPress editor that I’ve seen various bloggers struggle with and complain about for months. Argh! I can see why. It does seem rather daunting. Hopefully this post comes through without catastrophe.

GYps-ls-10It’s a part of Great Yarmouth you probably won’t find on a travel brochure.

To those familiar with the town, I realise that doesn’t narrow things down much. But I’m still talking about the seafront. Venture beyond the gaudy glow of the Golden Mile, past the joyous screams of the Pleasure Beach, and you’ll enter the grimy soup of Yarmouth’s docklands.

That’s not to say there aren’t some points of interest hidden in this maze. There’s Nelson’s Monument, which sticks out like the sorest of thumbs surrounded by warehouses and factories. There’s the gasometer whose Victorian detail is juxtaposed by the stern efficiency of its neighbours. There’s the much-hyped outer harbour, where the massive cranes were shipped in from Singapore and never used, so were shipped back.

Back in the day, an enormous oil power station loomed over the scene, and indeed much of Norfolk. Its 360ft chimney was the tallest structure in the county. Eyesore? Very fair to think so, but it does seem fondly remembered by many, and as a child it got a free pass from me just for being so huge. I remember the skyline appearing empty after its demolition. The modern-day successor is smaller and surely far more efficient, but doesn’t have nearly the appeal, blending into the vicinity by comparison.

I found some old photatos of the station recently, which drove the inspiration for these pieces. As commanding as it was in reality, I discovered it isn’t a whole lot of fun to draw. This started out as a ‘straight’ digital painting, as you can see below – it’s not finished, and a glitchy pixel effect has been added in a desperate bid to give it some life.

powerst01Side note: riding along this road always gave me the creeps as a child. Sitting on the passenger side, you’re so close to the river that you can’t see any road or indeed ground beneath you, just the murky water of the Yare. Never has the name Riverside Road been more appropriate.

Anyway, with that painting not really working out, I switched to 3D to create some flat (because of course you do) pieces and obeyed a grid in trying to capture the area’s packed and stacked geometry. They’re still not terribly interesting, but there’s a lot more going on than the painting, and any hint of simplifying or abstracting is good practice in my book – or blog, I suppose.

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pixelpractise-INTERCEPTOR-02As long-standing readers of this blog may know, I like Interceptor. In fact, I’ve come to think it’s one of the best game shows ever made; throwing a villain into the game show equivalent of orienteering was a stroke of genius, and Sean O’Kane made sure we would never forget such a character. He’s the uber-ham, and that means he’s brilliant. His performance actually makes it impossible to root for the contestants.

Of course, Interceptor‘s life was criminally short, with ITV ditching the programme after only eight episodes. It’s a decision that makes me a little mad, especially when one thinks of all the mileage left in the Interceptor running (or hovering) around being an arse, branding presenter Annabel Croft an ‘onionhead’ and scaring the life out of the jolly hockey sticks contestants. Those eagle screams are probably still echoing across the countryside.

Its premature termination also means we never got the slew of merchandise that accompanied popular game shows of the time. We never got the disappointing board game, we never got the disappointing zapper toy which did not work rather like a television remote controller, and, circling around to this post, we never got the disappointing computer game. That makes it a prime candidate for my loading screen treatment, so, here are my attempts at a loading screen for Interceptor on the Spectrum. It most likely would have been the best part of the experience. That being said, I would love to hear a Speccy or Commodore 64 rendition of the theme tune.

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terminatorcolorado1737Here’s another funfair contraption. Anyone know what it’s called? Oh well, take a seat, they’re going fast! Or not, as it appears here. Which, to be honest, chimes with my memories of the same ride at the Pleasure Beach. I am guessing it was more popular elsewhere.

terminatorcolorado1440This nineties wonder is known as a Super Loop on Top, though of course this has been styled as Colorado, complete with springs and red rocks. I did attempt to model the local version of this ride – Terminator – a few years back, but this time I wanted to try Colorado. The ride always caught my eye with its swerving, tilting movements, but I think this paint job makes it even cooler. I believe there are also water jets to make the ride literally cooler, but I evidently haven’t reached that stage yet.

I also wanted to get the proportions a little better this time around. Feeling bullish, I ended up contacting the manufacturer, Moser Rides, and asking if specifications were available. To my surprise, Stefano Moser responded and sent me some catalogue scans which came in very handy indeed. Grazie, Stefano! As they say, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

terminatorcolorado1068A first for this build was the inclusion of backdrop scenery, lined with an excessive number of flashing bulbs. I mostly just copied the artwork from reference images, so I can’t take credit for that, but it’s fun; certainly it adds to the fairground feel.

terminatorcolorado2484Animation-wise, it’s still not perfect and it was still rather frustrating, but at least this time the gondola is actually joined to both arms. Hold on tight!

lastcall-01My week has been punctuated by bangs, crashes, occasional curses and the wonderful beep of reversing trucks. Yes, the demolition men have moved into the nearby college and they’re knocking down an old, disused block. Originally a middle school, the buildings were converted into college music rooms some time in the sixties and, indeed, I would enjoy the sound of singing and drumming from my bedroom (not in the sixties, mind you. I’m not that old). More recently, they have stood silent, entangled in ivy and generally looking rather sad. It’s probably their time, though there is a poignancy there; I believe they were built in 1906, so that’s a lot of classes and a lot of people passing through.

More poignant, though, are thoughts of the birds who have made the place their own. Countless sparrows seem to dart to and from the overgrowing ivy, often visiting the garden. Then, there are the pigeons and gulls who take it in turns to stand atop the facade and call. While surveying the progress from my window, I could see several birds standing around a pile of rubble, almost mournful, wondering what happened to their favourite lookout. This inspired me to make a quick sketch of the demolition from my usual vantage point – the back window – with our pigeon friend standing tall one last time, before moving on to a new perch. I normally hear said pigeon every morning, hopefully they won’t go too far!

sonic-loading-01Sonic on the Spectrum. Can you imagine the fun as our spiny hero spins through the labyrinthine zones at supersonic speeds, navigating loop-the-loops and seeing off hordes of robotic obstacles en route to thwarting Robotnik’s latest sinister scheme? (and yes, I do still call him that because that’s his name!!!) Can you imagine the fun, all packed onto one super cool blue cassette?

No, me neither.

But I’ve been on something of a Sonic nostalgia hit lately – it happens every once in a while. I tried to make a 3D model of Dr. Robotnik, with hilarious results – I shan’t be uploading that any time soon. Hence, we have a Sonic loading screen, Spectrum style. I realise now that I did something similar back in November with André the Giant’s mug, but this time I used a full colour pallette. Well, full colour as far as the Spectrum is concerned. That’s fifteen colours. And I didn’t even use them all.

My biggest failing here was going in all leisurely and not really bothering about one of the Spectrum’s biggest artistic challenges: colour clash. The Spectrum cannot handle more than two colours in the same 8×8 pixel tile, of which the game screen is made up; should that occur, the more prominent colour will take precedence. While generally easy to avoid in still images (if you’re more awake than I clearly was, anyway), it can rear its head frequently during gameplay, with anything animated changing colour depending on which part of the background it’s up against.

Anyway, I decided I should probably sort it out, and so I turned to the handy Image2ZXSpec application to convert my finished drawing to Spectrum mode, and spent a while whittling the clashes down. If you’re really bored, you can play spot the difference with the top and bottom and see what I had to change. It’s still not perfect, but I think it’s about as good as it can get without starting again. Still a really fun process though. I always seem to enjoy working to the constraints of this machine, and I am not surprised to see many others are to this day creating similar things.

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