Yes, it’s what you’ve long clamoured for – and that’s a nine-letter word.

A return visit to this Countdown malarkey (only eight, but a darn good word) is, admittedly, normally code for having a thirst to create but a total drought of practical (nine letters) ideas – it’s often the way, or vice versa. Had I the skills before, though, I probably would have gone straight to this one, rather than chip away at the very wooden predecessor. It was a bit of a nightmare with curve upon curve, and troublesome splines all over – a lot of the successes came from just winging it, but I guess that’s part of the fun. I’m pretty pleased with what I eventually coaxed out of the chaos, and I’d hope it’s all the better for the time that’s passed since my last go.

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A retro look for the early nineties, the show went truly overboard (nine!) with lights – hundreds of the things, in strands strung from the clock in chevron-esque ‘wings’, which I always presumed was a grandiose (again!) nod to producer Yorkshire TV’s logo-mark, but I could have overthought that. They would even blink when somebody scored the ultimate goal of a nine-letter word – a reward whose manner probably says all that need be said of Countdown.

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With all that flash and the show being at its peak during the nineties, it’s probably the definitive Countdown look for many; it’s certainly the one in which the warmest memories are wrapped up for me, spending half an hour each day in the company of avuncular pun-master and sartorial deckchair, Richard Whiteley and, in the perfect TV/dinner partnership, a bowl of Alphabetti spaghetti. (I think it’s this wistful nostalgia that tricked me into thinking that stuff tasted good!) I’m moved to think of my grandfather excitedly telling me that Countdown was about to start and sitting me on his knee, or asking if I managed to outdo the contestants last time. The answer was always no, but he knew that one day I would figure it out, and, sure enough, I did! Appropriately for a game dominated by a big clock, Countdown over its thirty-five years has forged an affinity with time like no other TV show I can think of – both my grandfather and Richard are now much-missed memories, but they come to mind whenever the music hits. They were happy days.

There are probably several nine-letter words in there.

cd94F2All this being said, it figures that it jarred somewhat when the show was given a makeover, but the flowing locks live on as that thing of unmatched beauty, the victor’s teapot, which takes its form even today.


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I should put this in the Timepiece series – yes, the one I started in September and haven’t added to since; a much-needed kick up the arse for it, let’s hope it works! And it’s not like it’s unjust. The nation can continue without Big Ben, but I wouldn’t fancy our chances if the Countdown clock were silenced, would you!? Long may the clock tick.

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It is now acceptable to talk about Christmas. November departed with snow – just a dusting, but it doesn’t take much for me to get overexcited!

What with that and the mounting urgency to get some Christmas cards sorted, I found my way to this. There isn’t much more in the way of rationale, but who needs one at this time of year? The main attraction for me was the sky, and in fact I didn’t really intend for the landscape to even be there, or at least not one so populated – it rather pushed its way in. I find churches difficult and often frustrating from reference, so dreaming one up was perhaps both ludicrous and inspired (aha spire). The snowy conifers more than make up for any torment the tower caused.

After Thursday’s tease, I’m hoping that, just one day this winter, I’ll have an excuse to get the scarf and gloves out.

I’m sorry if this post is a little overloaded. I might have overdone it a tad with GIFs, here. Just going with the flow – as indeed I was when I started drawing some letters thinking about the strong industrial take of my last post.

In this first attempt, it was a case of taking the piping down its simplest form – helped, as always, by staying well away from colour – and then having the glyph flow through. There are sequences for every letter, but they’re all the same deal and so I thought better of uploading twenty-six GIFs to one post.

Nothing much else to it, really, but the sweeping nature is quite effective and I’m pretty chuffed with it for an evening’s work.

It’s nice to be getting addicted to lettering again – it was always the discipline I enjoyed the most. All the more exciting is that my drawings and other areas are now informing and feeding into it. Possibilities abound – yay!

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It’s quite a departure from the usual Norfolk landscape, with two hundred foot chimneys and silos on the bank of the River Yare. This is Cantley Sugar Factory, which opened in 1912 and has slowly but surely grown into the monster you see today – one of only four sugar beet factories left in the UK.

It has a reputation as something of an eyesore, and that’s understandable. It seems to threaten the puny windpumps across the river, who try their best to defy by facing the other way. It’ll loom over many a photograph. But, having grown up fascinated by the immediate juxtaposition of old and new industry – like gasometers and inexplicably tall chimneys of the old power station – I don’t really mind it. For me, it’s just another piece of the landscape.

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That being said, after taking the perceptions into consideration and having looked at some shots of the machinery, I did get a thirst for the excessively industrial; something harsh and overbearing. With that, I found my way to 3D and started randomly throwing steel and piping together:

Less regimented and just a bit of a mess at the moment – perhaps that works in its favour? – but it’s thrown up some exciting ideas. Maybe there’s something in a typeface using these elements? It would be fun to try and construct some monstrous three-dimensional letters, but it seems as though it could look rather sharp in 2D.

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I feel like the title of this post promised so much but delivered so little – sorry about that. Perhaps one day I’ll draw a sugar daddy to make amends. It’d be rude not to.

After a simple decision in presentation of some cormorants led to a happy diptych, I began thinking more about composition and relationships. From that came a thirst for something not complacently square or 8×10. It’s something I haven’t really considered for a while.

With being out to sea at the moment – circles portholes, naturally!

Going for something crisper and even less literal, I took to Illustrator and warped some stripes, trying, for now, to stay away from colour.

They turned out rather more marble than crashing waves, didn’t they? It’s been refreshing experimentation nonetheless; certainly it seems potential is there, once the tide turns and I can pinpoint a clearer approach. Hard to starboard, as we of the sea probably don’t say all that much. At least I didn’t mention the Jolly Roger.

 

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Back to the beach, this time with a specific sight in mind: Covehithe. This remote hamlet on the Suffolk coast was one of several fruitful locations pointed out to me by my photographer friend Mark. It’s quite possible I visited as a child, but I have no memory of it, so certainly if I did it wasn’t a regular haunt.

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Taking the pathway from the impressive ruins of the church – which I should hope to get to another day – to destination at the crumbling cliffs, a lone, rather post-apocalyptic atmosphere pervades the shore, particularly at this time of the year. Strewn along the beach are fractured skeletons of fallen copses, now at the mercy of the tides as they slowly bed into the sand. Like so many of my more familiar Norfolk beaches, the coastline is transformed on a regular basis, and edging further and further backwards; a sobering reminder indeed of the sea’s unrelenting force, though in this instance it has, unquestionably, carved out a dramatic and gripping place.

Having thought for a while about focusing on trees and with my current endearment to the ocean’s shore, the cocktail of Covehithe was an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up. It really is a very well-kept secret, and I’m so grateful for the tip-off!

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afloat-letters5-02Likely because I’m a terrible swimmer, my previous foray into the waves put rubber rings into my head.

Rather than try and draw or model one – though one complete with cute duck is just asking to be done someday – I thought about combining that flow of the water and the ring. This immediately took me back to lettering, and aiming for a rounded, fluid face.

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I expect some characters would keep you afloat better than others.

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I originally looked at full colour and rounded segments within the glyphs – perhaps that would have been better, in retrospect. It does have a bit of a whirl to it.

I wanted to do some animation with the below, but the simulation options didn’t seem cooperative – which makes this concept all the more fitting, I suppose. I didn’t try to replicate the colour of the seawater here, as I don’t think even my computer has that shade of brown.

Whatever the result, it’s always fun to play with lettering!

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