Remember The Sims? I’m talking about the original 2000 release with its isometric view, not the current game, whatever number in the series they are up to, because I haven’t played it and, by default, that means it isn’t as good. Do you remember when you’d blow all of your Simoleons constructing an obnoxiously large house for your Sims, furnish it and feel happy… then zoom out and realise it was a glorified stack of crates? I feel like that’s what happened here. I wasn’t going for something quite so brutal, but I think chickening out on the roof is the main reason for that, here. Still, the colours are appealing should you want your holiday home pained with strawberry ice cream. Choice words there for someone drinking strawberry milkshake.

This was a MagicaVoxel triumph for me, though, on a previously unmatched scale. Ever since I started exploring this software, a few years ago now, I’ve been looking at amazing creations online which appeared far larger than the 126x126x126 object limit. This perplexed me. Well, it turns out there’s a world editor where you can link objects together and position them pretty much however you desire, and apparently you can use as many as your computer can withstand. It’s a block editor that doesn’t make you want to scream and tear your hair out (although admittedly I was rather left to my own devices, as the only meaningful tutorial I could find on it was speaking French). But I got there in the end. This goes some way to explain the boxy nature of the piece, as it’s really made up of the same blocks: block with door and window, block with just window, balcony, etc.

After some time raising my eyebrow in befuddlement, I’ve unlocked something in MagicaVoxel with this exercise. I wonder how many others used it and gave up before they even knew of the world editor, as it’s quite well hidden. But it’s easy once you know how. I do still find myself wrestling with the camera quite a lot, but maybe at this stage it’s just me; it’s an intriguing twist on pixel art exploration and does what it does very well. Have a go if you like.

I don’t know where this came from, but I am certainly not opposed to happy accidents or a modicum of inspiration coming from seemingly nothing, which certainly appeared to be the case here. Indeed, that may be abundantly clear to you already.

On a vein not too far removed from my recent posts, I was simply playing with blocks of colour – green blocks of colour this time around. I just started copying and pasting, layering them beside one another, and then it hit me. Conifers. I love conifers and their sturdy, jagged charm, and wanted to see if I could abstract one in pixel using these strips of colour in different ways.

It was more fun than it may look, actually, trying to capture the different species and their marked variation in shape, some slender, some rather rotund. As you can see, I did start to lose some of that abstraction as I went on, experimenting with levels of detail. But I took these and used them as a template for the landscape, which isn’t anything amazing but I’m quite liking how the conifers came out, and the way the different patterns and styles overlap.

Good little experiment though, and much like my recent designs a reminder that sometimes dialling down and focusing on something simple can kickstart productivity. If you have a problem, well, call the copse.

I’m taking a trip back to 2018 for this post which, yes, you guessed it, seems like a lifetime ago now. These geometric grid pieces were given the working title Summer Nights and attempted to abstract a warm vibe with vivid and electric colours. I believe the ultimate goal was to make letters out of them, but unfortunately they were not finished before they were abandoned.

However, revisiting these in 2021 created the germ of the ideas that have appeared in recent weeks, so they are now pertinent.

Indeed the new pieces were made on the same files as the 2018 work, hence the similar colours and style. Some do stick out rather, though; even more once I dragged them kicking and screaming into Photoshop for some filtering fun.

Perhaps it says something that, after all of this experimentation, I ended up going back to the very first idea and really found it to be the most enjoyable process. Maybe I will try and put some letters together after all, although saying I might do something on here seems to be the kiss of death for my productivity! Fingers crossed for an exception to the rule.

So there we are: what’s old is new again. if you don’t like it now, put it away but don’t bin it. You might need it in three years.

I thought the logical progression from my previous post was to release some other shapes into the fray. Triangles are fun, but circles too? And semi-circles? Kid in a candy store, here. My intentions were of a similar natural, springlike bent and sure enough, I came up with some designs which rather fit the theme.

The usual Photoshop breaking and making followed.

Then I started playing with the circular and mostly symmetrical nature of these, cutting a quarter of each piece, flipping it and rotating around the centre. Quite possibly, this is some of the gaudiest work I have ever created; I tend to design patterns in black and white or a limited selection of colours. That’s just how I was taught. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with leaving the comfort zone and going all out.

At first I was thinking seamless floor tiles, but the ‘boldness’ of these brought to mind the interesting wallpaper choices of the mid-to-late twentieth century, coming out of the war and injecting some much needed colour into life. When my parents moved into their house back in 1976, apparently every room was done up in contrasting colours and patterns – bright purples, yellows, greens. They soon got rid of all that!

Imagine your boudoir done up with these bad boys:

I don’t think I’ll be snapped up by Changing Rooms anytime soon; Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen, you’re safe for now. But don’t let my sneering give the impression I didn’t have fun. This was an absolute blast!

Remember those art lessons in first school where you’d be given sheets of tissue paper to cut out flower shapes, and have to stick them to sugar paper using those glue spreaders? Wasn’t it always a mess, with the tissue paper getting all crumpled if not outright ripped? Maybe that was just me? Should I stop with the questions already? What is this?

Well anyway, this geometric exercise was reminiscent of those days, just without the heady whiff of PVA. I wanted to do something with flowers and spring again, but quite where or why the triangle fetish emerged I have no idea. Still, I’m always willing to give new things a go and what we have here is me just drawing triangles in rather a carefree manner (for me at least) to give some semblance of a flowerhead.

Of course, then came the onslaught of Photoshop effects! Similar to my previous spring exploration, mostly dropping old pieces or textures over and under the drawings. Some flower power vibes coming through here, especially with the pink.

When I got to a rose – or at least that’s what I’m thinking it is – and found I was thinking about composition too much, I decided it was time to call it a day. But it was interesting. The layered outlines below are something, though. I think this could be the way to go in future.

Triangles are fun. Not as good as hexagons, but still rather neat.

Round and round we go, for it’s something of a circular journey here in blog land. Is it? I’m not sure. But, here we have a Ferris wheel, which certainly does go round and round. I tried one way, way back in January 2016 which looked to be a whopper of a thing, but this time I’ve opted for a smaller, more rudimentary model, the likes of which you might have seen at the town fair years ago, or at a vintage fair today. At least there’s a bit more to the scene than five years ago, and, yes, I have worked out how make the chairs rotate in sync with the wheel without them going upside-down. Progress.

I went with the name Wonder Wheel, which I saw given to a real-life version somewhere but can’t place. Maybe it was a common name. It certainly seems fitting to me; few rides are as wondrous or iconic as the big wheel.

Vintage very much the word of the day here, hence these black-and-white renders, perhaps taken in those days of yore when the sun went gone down and the big bulbs started to light up the rotating wheel. It’s quite a magical sight and one which encapsulates so much of that atmosphere about the fairground which I love. Wonder wheel, indeed.

Spring 2021 has certainly been a weird one. We’re locked down for it, and it seems the weather knows. The temperature here in Norfolk rose to about twelve degrees in February, then decided to pretty much stop there. I don’t normally feel the cold, and I can’t remember such a chilly April; my winter jumpers are still in rotation! And now it’s bucketing down with rain which, if nothing else, has made things a little more interesting.

With this in mind, it would seem fitting enough that these landscapes – if indeed that’s what they are – do not entirely conform to the standard vibe of the season. I can’t claim to have had much of a method behind the madness. It was raining, so I returned to some old drizzle-spotted glass textures I made some time ago.

Then followed a spot of experimentation with different gradients behind the glass, to see how it looked. I also threw in some old landscape drawings and pixel art pieces to see how they turned out. I think it’s the simple gradients that have achieved the best and least contrived results, and that’s why they’re heading and footing the post.

Here’s a song that sounds of winter turning to spring, possibly helped by a very green and sunny video. I can’t believe I’m talking about the transition to spring at this time of year but, well, that’s 2021 for you. And long-time readers will know, any excuse for me to share this! I hope it’s nice and comfortable where you are.

I’ve done lots of pixel art, to the extent that it now seems to have become that thing that I do. While it’s pretty restrictive in some ways – not in a negative way, either – it’s not often that I’ve gone down to the extremes of just two colours with the medium. This grimy urban scene is not so much 8-bit as 1-bit.

With the liberation of not having to worry about selecting colours or palettes, it was an altogether enjoyable exercise, as indeed most design exercises are; the less preliminary panic, the better. The only frustrations came in the nighttime conversion, with the street lights not coming out particularly well. But I do enjoy the side-by-side visual.

This being said, I did use the darkest and lightest colours from the legendary Game Boy here, as well as its screen dimensions. Hopefully my attempts at dithering would give a satisfying result were it to be shown on the handheld.

It rather forces a more stylised approach this way, and I like that. I need that! I’m intrigued to try it again and see how I could get on with a more rural setting. If anything good comes of it, you’ll be the first to know!

Who thinks academia is a blood condition?

If ignorance is bliss, who’s in heaven?

Who should blog off?

It’s time to vote off… the weakest link!

The Weakest Link. It’s that show from 2000, where the host was really mean to the contestants, and even encouraged them to be mean to their so-called teammates!

Well, apparently that wasn’t even meant to be the case; the original intention was for the host to play it straight. However, Anne Robinson found herself getting so frustrated with the players’ poor performance and questionable voting that she just started “telling it like it is”, and that became the format’s unique selling point, imitated by others all over the world.

The nostalgia for Weakest Link, actually, doesn’t really come from the programme, which I rarely saw as everybody else wanted to watch Neighbours instead. As it was, the most I normally saw of it was the last few minutes before The Simpsons. No, the memories here are in the merchandise; fond memories of dark Christmas afternoons with the board game, which was good enough to come not only with several cards full of those pre-voting barbs, but also an Anne Robinson mask for the host to wear. The PlayStation game was a good laugh too, offering a good representation of the game with the added bonus of voice actors, who really hammed up their portrayal of the show’s contestants.

Initial success petered out naturally over time, but the show trucked along on BBC Two for several years, with the odd celebrity special at the weekend on BBC One. Link would see a belated full-time promotion to One in 2008 after they lost Neighbours to Channel 5. It would remain there for a few years before returning to its original channel, making way for the burgeoning Pointless, which has held the slot seemingly ever since. It was around this time that Anne decided she’d had enough of insulting strangers, and the show met a fairly quiet end in April 2012.

There were rumours of a comeback in 2017, in a bid to bolster lacklustre Saturday night schedules on BBC One. Alas, besides a one-off for Children in Need that year, this did not come true; if it was on the table then evidently Robinson didn’t want to do it, which is fair enough. She’s taking the helm of Countdown shortly, a choice I absolutely was not expecting. I would say the chances of her returning to Link any time soon are slim, but that’s not to say it couldn’t return with a new host – it might even help break in the inevitable shift in tone (there were instances where Robinson got a bit full of herself and went way too far). Robert Rinder’s Weakest Link, anyone?

I thought this would be fun in a “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire set, play with lights” kind of way. It turned out that the animations and lighting sequences in this show are much more complex than just dropping them like Millionaire. I had some peculiar hiccups too, with cloned lights deciding to fade out by themselves, but I managed to work around that, sort of, by taking them out of the cloner and making them follow moving targets. As usual, I suspect there was a much easier solution staring me in the face. So, really it wasn’t a huge amount of fun, but it’s productivity in what has been a most unproductive year thus far, so you can’t vote me off for that.

BANK!” – five seconds out of time, as usual.

I think the weakest link for me is this block editor… ugh!

Not the usual fairground foray, as, besides some modest improvements, we have the exact same model as before. I just fancied turning Colorado back to Terminator, although not the Terminator paint job I remember from the Pleasure Beach. This being said, it still took a fair amount of time, probably not aided by my dodgy modelling skills. Then again, I’ve only been practising for about nine years…

At least it looks better than my original Terminator. We can certainly say that much.

It was this interesting little retrospective on the Super Loop on Top which gave me this Terminator itch once again. The series is well worth a look if, like me, you are nostalgic for the fairgrounds of days past. It’s nice to see it getting some recognition; I still think it’s an attractive beast and one of the coolest rides to witness in motion. Maybe when I win the lottery I’ll dig one up and get it back out on the circuit!