When your job involves spending ages on Photoshop, what better way to unwind than to spend ages on Photoshop?

I found this photato a long time ago and put it away for a future session; taken in 1903, we see two leisurely boaters enjoying a smoke while meandering through the Norfolk Broads. I liked the composition and how content they looked in each other’s company.

Since this was a break, I had no choice but to move quickly and, coming in at around an hour, it is exceptionally fast for me – especially dealing with two people. The swiftness is probably clear, but it could certainly have been worse. It’s been a long old time since those Time Tested challenges.

Thanks to Ronald Shields for the most charming photato; fingers crossed it won’t be too long until people are allowed to be this close once again, though, perhaps without the smoking!

Rather sooner than I was expecting, we’re back to Ludham in the thirties and here’s that brighter, more postcard-appropriate view of
Beaumont’s Mill I touted last time. It’s even in colour, kinda – it was my old way of drawing something in tones and then colouring over the top with Photoshop’s blending modes doing their thing. I would call it magic, but that would suggest something impressive. I haven’t employed such a technique in a while, and when coming to the mill’s sails I remembered why: it’s bloody fiddly (as are the sails in general, I hasten to add. I don’t know why I keep putting myself through it). I much prefer the monochrome version.

What a pretty view this should be, though, with a charming craft strolling past the mill. By this point, trade would have well and truly given way to leisure and the Broads would have been one of the country’s premier getaway locations, surely driven by images so quaint as this. Needless to say, I would have enjoyed the voyage around the Broads back then as no doubt there would have been windmills twirling hypnotically all over the place. What can I say? Born in the wrong century.

broads-southludham-4 Well, hello there! It is I, for I am not actually dead. Well, some would probably disagree. And hey, what if this is the afterlife? Have to admit, that wasn’t how I was expecting this to start whilst I was putting this drawing together. It’s been a while since I’ve done this. Cut me some slack, jeez.

I might not be dead, but sadly, both of these Ludham windpumps are long deceased. A great shame that is, too, as we appear to have two magnificent examples of Norfolk drainage mills in close proximity – a classic tower mill, known locally as Beaumont’s Mill, and an open ‘skeleton’ mill – working together day to day together (together!) on the River Ant. Though I’m more enamoured with the tower mill, I think the skeleton mill is probably the bigger loss as I can only think of a single other on the Broads in any decent condition today, that being Boardman’s Mill, which, incidentally, stands just a couple of miles north on the same river.

My inspiration for this was, besides a sweet release from the ‘day job’, this postcard I happened across, showing Beaumont’s Mill presumably post-retirement and looking the worse for wear. I decided to substitute in a reference of the mill in better condition, and repositioned the neighbouring skeleton mill so that it could share the spotlight. The colour and shading is murkier than I wanted, but it’s a drawing, and pretty much the first drawing I’ve managed to complete this year, so that’s a victory in my book (pity it’s on my hard drive, in that case). Maybe I’ll try a brighter version someday.

I’m not sure if I’ve made this confession before, but it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I indulged in quite a bit of deltiology as a child, and yes, they were almost all of the windmill persuasion. Yes. I was that cool. I had a “walbum” full of the things, from home and abroad. I don’t know where they are now. But it’s nice to see postcards of these structures now long gone, which I actually knew very little about until recently. Demolished in the sixties, a boat mooring now occupies the site of Beaumont’s Mill and of the skeleton mill only the piers remain. Thank goodness for these postcards from the past.

Here’s a portrait of Karen Carpenter I made about a year ago, based on a photato of her recording her ‘unreleasable’ solo album. It’s a great snapshot of the experience, showing Karen in the zone, free of any Carpenters baggage and really feeling the music. The drawing was meant to appear as part of a publication, but it appears this fell through as I heard no more about that. Ah well. Here she is again, anyway. In my haste (explained later), I took what was just a straight drawing and ‘sunnied’ it up rather a lot, duplicating layers, blurring them and overlaying gradients.

I think Karen’s vocals certainly had a sunny quality, juxtaposing the somewhat more prolific – especially in hindsight – mystery and darkness. Sunrise, sunset. There are many layers to her readings and, even now, I can’t help but think her skills are underappreciated (and I could say the same for her brother, too). But maybe that’s just me being overprotective of a woman I never knew.

Why am I haplessly hacking together a sunshine analogy, you ask? Well, firstly it’s very generous of you to even call it an analogy. But, you see, it’s because I was recently nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award! Get in there, gowon my sun.


Thank you to Camilla at My Freddie Mercury for this honour. One of the very first people to ever follow me on here, now almost half a decade ago, I do admire Camilla for still putting up with my nonsense and supporting me to this day. Her blog is a must-visit for any Freddie fan.

Here are the nominations for the coveted Sunshine Blogger Award. Good luck everyone!

Congrats to all of our winners this evening! Do mingle and meet each other and make beautiful bloggy sunny music together. I did try to pick eleven fresh faces, so please don’t hate me if you’ve missed out this time.

I am now duty-bound to answer the following questions, pitched by Camilla herself.

Rock, somewhat of a contest.

Freddie Mercury, absolutely no contest.

Tea, also no contest.

Now there’s a tough one. I’ve always loved the cosiness of winter, however, I also love the long summer nights. I think winter would edge it, because of snow and the fact that it’s the snowmen who are melting, not me (although I do come close when I step into a shop who have felt the need to whack their heating up to ‘inferno’. Wear a jumper, man!)

My terrible reading record has been dredged up before in these little exposés, and you’ll be disappointed to discover that nothing much has changed. I would definitely watch a movie, although honestly I don’t even do that very often. I’m such a fun, cultured person.

Queen, most definitely.

Quiet house. Again, life and soul of the party, me – so much so that I don’t even need to throw one. I live next door to a family who keep what you might call a ‘party house’ and it’s not ideal.

I would love to travel but it’s not realistic at the moment. Looks like I’ll be sitting at home then. At least Norfolk is nice for mooching about.

Ha ha, well a wife certainly isn’t going to happen. I don’t know about children – he might turn out like me and nobody deserves that. I don’t mind being alone.

I’ll take the money, thanks Jeremy. Freddie would be entertaining I’m sure, but I doubt he’d want me hanging around, and think of all the positive things you could do with that much cash.

Love them!!!!!

I believe I’m supposed to offer up eleven new questions for my nominees, but as I’m such a rebel I won’t do that. I shall relay Camilla’s questions to you. The rules dictate that nominees should go ahead and answer those, and choose eleven of their own favourites to award, but it’s really up to you whether you want to do it or not.

That’s it! After all that Christmas grub, I’m dashing off to get out of this tight-fitting tuxedo. There’s some nightmare fuel for you – and me! Well, we’ve time to recover, as I probably won’t be posting for some time, sadly – Christmas is all but over and my workload just skyrocketed, which means several projects have to go on the shelf for now. That’s why I’m putting this out quite quickly; I thought it was a nice way to break. I shall depart with a Happy New Year to all of you, and I look forward to catching up with you, some other time.

Readers of recent posts here will hopefully get the title. For those who missed them: no need to be alarmed! I’m referring to projection of 3D textures which I covered in a post earlier this month. I’ve dialled it down, gone all minimalist and thrown in a circular gradient for a subtle slice of variety. I’m quite liking it.

Christmas is no time for restraint, so here are some alternatives; it’s the same design, just different colours. The choice for header was actually the last one made – that might seem natural and obvious, but it’s rarely the case for me, actually. With digital art and the array of enticing buttons and tools, it can sometimes have you going further than you really need to.

I hope everyone has a peaceful holiday, whether you’re celebrating or not. There’s not long to wait, now! To wrap things up, here’s a gorgeously elegant (and criminally underplayed) take on a classic Christmas song. Yes, of course it’s the Carpenters. I’m nothing if not predictable, but then, Christmas is all about familiarity. It really doesn’t get much better than this, well, not for me anyway; I bet even the Lindt Master Chocolatier wishes he knew Karen’s secret.

Merry Christmas.

Well, here we are again! I am sensing polite smiles all around as we buckle up for yet another edition of Countdown. Honestly, the thinking behind this was similar to the previous pine cones. Not sure of the time I’d have, it was really just something I thought I could chip away at in short bursts without taxing my brain too much. It would just be a case of modifying my previous attempt, looking at the early nineties set.

This time, we’re in 1999, a happy time just before the millennium bug would come along and change life as we know it, blowing up all of our computers and pulling planes from the sky. Or, perhaps, not so much. Thankfully. I understand much was done behind the scenes to alleviate any potential issues, but, as a child at the time, all I remember is the media doing a good job of putting the fear of God into us. Some things don’t change, huh, or maybe it was a godsend that we all bought our Y2K-compliant watches, calculators and underwear. All this being said, I can’t have let it get to me that much, as my memories of that Christmas and New Year are entirely happy. I guess that’s how it should be when you’re seven.

Besides the obvious switch to indigo lighting, the main set really hasn’t changed much; some minor adjustments to the backdrop, and some new textures, but that’s about it. It was really a test to see how much I could do to clean up the clock’s ‘wings’ without having to redo them, because I remember they were quite the pain and I can barely even remember how I did it anyway.

cd1999-011aNew letters and numbers area! Clearly, they were going mad with the budget at this point – they might have even gone into triple figures throwing the lights in over here. The boards are the same as before, just modified, but the backdrop and numbers tray are completely new.

cd1999-010aIf you’re not a fan of the colour scheme – maybe you’d prefer it if it were blue daba dee daba die – here’s an attempt at recreating the credits, with the flashing lights and bright orange:

cd1999-lightsI feel like Countdown – with a warm presenter, at least – is a programme perfect for this time of year, whether you’re snowed in, dumfungled or just feeling lazy. Essentially a parlour game, friendly and unquestionably familiar, it seems to chime with much of the Christmas spirit of tradition. That would doubtless explains why, these days, the Christmas break is about the only time Channel 4 don’t show Countdown! It didn’t used to be this way, though; I remember when the grand final was screened on Christmas Day itself, indeed 1999 being one such year. I know it’s not as popular as it used to be, and Nick Hewer is so dour that he cannot be relied upon to big things up, but I do miss the finals actually having a sense of occasion. Ah well. I suppose hidden-away-at-two-o’clock Countdown is better than no Countdown at all.

abstract-pinecone-004cWell, it’s time to jolly things up a little bit. In truth, I feel a lot less dumfungled than I did at the beginning of the weekend. In fact, I feel a weight has been lifted, and now I’m even kind of looking forward to Christmas.

I could make a quip about such a boost leaving me pining for some artsy times but, honestly, these have been sitting around for a fortnight or so. I mentioned in a previous post that I wasn’t sure of how much time I’d have this month, so this was a Christmas card scramble, just so that I’d have something to deliver. As it turned out, I’ve actually had an awful lot of free time thus far (at least, as much as one can have juggling everything at this time of year) and these have been pushed into second place, with hopefully something nicer coming a bit closer to the event. Well, now you have a choice of two!

As you can hopefully gather, I attempted to abstract some pine cones. It’s simply an arrowhead shape cloned, there really isn’t much else to say about that. I did, however, have quite a play around with compositions, and even more so colour; even the glitch effect wormed its way in, as you can see above. Perhaps a bit dark and too cold, even for Crimbo, but I do rather like it nonetheless!


I think my favourite is the five cone star, as seen above, with the extra points thrown in. This would have been the e-card of 2019, but I think what I have is a little nicer (if equally unoriginal). You’ll have to wait and see on that score. But, again, this is fun and, as Mr. Literal, it’s nice to be breaking away from that slightly and thinking design for the first time in a while.

abstract-rain-02Another tree try-out! Well, this time I endeavoured to take my previous post and bring that around to my earlier stuff. Throw some rain in, basically. I started off with a very rough sketch and then threw it under various distortion maps to ‘glitch it up’, as you can see above and below. Some of these are interesting, though I’m not sure if the sheer randomness of it all might make them a hard to manipulate, should I want to create something more precise.

abstract-rain-11Do you remember back in the days of Windows 95/98, there was a Windows desktop theme called Rainy Day? It was all murky blue-grey, as you’d expect. I think my dad was obsessed with that, as every time we got a new PC, one of the first things he’d do was switch the style to Rainy Day. That came to mind as I used very similar colours for the following developments; the tree silhouette and the background are wildly distorted, with several layers of noise attempting to look ominous, stormy, perhaps slightly hypnotic – I know I’m captivated by storms. It’s something to revisit, I’m sure.

Ice trees. Because that was the logical progression. In truth, these were supposed to be drops on glass, reminiscent of my previous post, though they do feel more Mr. Freeze to me. Still, it’s a bit weird and that’s usually interesting if nothing else.

It was a shame to hear of Marie Fredriksson’s death last week. Her voice takes me back to my university days: 2011, a mere eight years ago, though it now seems a lifetime ago in several respects. Back then, I often found myself procrastinating by means of old Top of the Pops on YouTube, and on one seemingly unexceptional episode from 1991, who should burst onto the screen? It was Roxette – just a few seconds, in a compilation package. I don’t think I even knew them before that. But damn – that hair! That voice! It was one of those great moments where you hear just a few notes and there’s a need to find out more, and then comes the excitement as you discover as much as you can. It’s the best thing about music. I got no end of stick for liking them, but couldn’t care less – Marie’s voice was worth it. Joyride is pure pop and will always be a go-to should I need a lift, but I think if I had to pick a single track it would probably be Queen of Rain, a beautiful song which very much fits the recent theme, so that’s why I decided to leave a little tribute here. Farewell to a remarkable talent.


“Used up, worn out, in a state of near imbecility.”

Yes, that’ll do. Thanks to Susie Dent for that one. It’s a corker of a word, a euphemism that sounds like it’s plucked straight from Norfolk dialect – I can totally hear my grandfather saying he was dumfungled after a hectic day. Well, he or Willy Wonka. That’s probably the first time I’ve compared the two, but come to think of it granddad always did have an awful lot of chocolate in the house. And he liked purple.

The way this is going I think only supports the validity of the word.

Anyway, here are some rainy landscapes – one oldie and a newie (?). It’s been rather wet here, lately. The new one is above, and an addition of sorts to this digital arboretum coming together here lately – and, really, I just wanted to try some headlights, lighting the dark – and it can indeed be very dark if you’re out in the sticks here. Below, we have a leftover from a 2018 post, depicting Caister Castle in what, at the time, was a yearning for a much-needed summer downpour. I’m not sure why I dropped this sketch at the time – it’ll probably come to me just after I publish this. Well, I am dumfungled, after all! Right now, I just hope sanity will reign...


geometric-trees-1Projection, you understand. Frontal projection of texture essentially positions it to face and fill the render region regardless of the object’s shape. This can produce some interesting results, one way or the other. I have dabbled with it sporadically in the past, but this time I ran with this tree spree and tried to get a little more out of it. I went with a radial gradient to start, with an inverted replica used for the background.

Bit much, perhaps? Mindful of its loudness, I did try and keep the landscape simple. It does look bolder with some different colours being used; I do like how crisp the blue turned out. Perhaps, if toned down slightly, there’s even potential in a Christmas card there. My thanks to Steve of Steve Kidd Art for helping me see sense on the windmill iteration.


And another experiment – the same idea, just using pixelated noise instead of the same gradient. This time, the subject was another favourite, the silver birch tree:

geometric-trees-D01geometric-trees-D02Perhaps a case of a birch too far, but more fun nevertheless. Who couldn’t love trees?