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Monthly Archives: June 2016

pressmill2Today’s leg of this ever-growing tour is a little different to what has come before. We’ve gone back in time to nineteenth century Yarmouth for this one, and gravitated straight toward this gargantuan windmill dominating the view.

Known as ‘The High Mill’, or more specifically Press’s Mill after the long-standing owners of the site, this giant’s eleven floors soared some one-hundred-and-twenty feet into the Yarmouth sky – that’s almost twice the size of Berney Arms Mill, which boasts the ‘High Mill’ moniker today – and some accounts suggest another ten or twenty feet on top of that. Indeed, these anecdotal measurements have caused some to label the mill the tallest ever built in Norfolk, England, even the entire world. Perhaps there was truth in one or more of these claims upon its completion in 1812 – nobody knows for sure, but such accolades are a pleasing thought!

pressmill32Another stand-out feature of the mill is just what tops the enormous ensemble; the cap is not in the locally traditional ‘boat’ form but the fancier ogee, with, curiously, a large cabin complete with weather vane. Taking advantage of its loftiness, it was apparently intended to double up as a lighthouse, but this was a plan hastily dropped due to the very real risk of fire.

pressmill1The High Mill worked virtually flat out grinding corn until 1894, when it was brought to a grinding halt with a lightning strike. It never worked again – sold for just £100 a decade later, the mill was demolished soon after. The sails were fitted to another windmill, while the hundreds of thousands of bricks were also reused – they built a whole row of houses in the mill’s footprint. Some of the innards and the weather vane were kept for preservation, but didn’t survive the Second World War.

To think what might have been were it not for that strike of lightning – might it still be standing today? Along with the various others which bit the dust in similar fashion, it’s quite a shame to ponder that it might, and to think of the delight its presence could inject into the skyline. I can’t help but feel a little hard done by here, as it would have been right on my doorstep, and I’d doubtless have been ever enchanted by the thing – indeed, I always used to wonder why there was a pub near the site called The Windmill. It’s clear now!

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With very few reference images – and even those that do exist being of, obviously, not the best quality – this was something of an improvisation. I’m sure there are plenty of inaccuracies, but it’s getting there, and if nothing else it’s to scale compared to the (very basic) terraced housing, at almost six times higher. In my attempts to capture the atmosphere of the time and vicinity, I do wonder if I should perhaps not have choked the mill with other buildings quite so much –  looking back, most of the photos seem to suggest a more spacious immediate area and this might have been beneficial for emphasising the sheer enormity of the building. Of course, this could be down to my now-trademark lack of camera skill. Hmm! Hey ho – still a fun history lesson, even if I’ve once again left myself miffed by its demise!

With this somewhat special edition, I might (he says might) give the windmill tour a break for a little while and move onto other charming buildings. We’ll have to see what takes my fancy!

antoineDC-6After a rather nice comment from Cynthia at Sand Salt Moon likened my portraiture to that of the Wall Street Journal’s famous ‘Hedcut’, I thought I’d give this stippling technique some exploration, in the hope of it forcing a different outcome. The guinea pig for this experimentation is the relentlessly gorgeous Antoine de Caunes, French actor and director – having become a touch dotty about him of late, he seemed the obvious choice. Thank heavens for Eurotrash and the Fruit Pastilles advert, is all I’ll say.

I originally went full-on Hedcut ape, but indeed it soon dawned on me that I was probably using brushes too small and with not enough discipline (missing the point?) for that style to come through. Impatience overruled any inclination to start again, so I continued. You can see the orderliness drop as you venture out from the T-zone. Actually though, some of the more disarrayed areas of the portrait come off, to me, the better – I quite like the feel of the jacket – even if it’s not completely true to the reference image – and I was intrigued to find that many of the facial features came easier with dots than they often do with lines (many, not all – note the mouth, which, quite visibly, remained troublesome as ever). Knowing quite where to stop dotting though was harder than expected, meaning tonal graduation is somewhat tentative here; I’m sure I should have done more with the forehead.

As expected, this was mercilessly time-consuming (even with some Photos. Fun was had nevertheless, and it at least has given something of a departure from the increasingly stagnant norm. I’d certainly be up for another go – doubly so, if it means I’ve an excuse to draw Monsieur de Caunes again!

In the wittering of my last post I mentioned – for what must have been the hundredth time – that rendering vast broadland settings to stage my windmill models was tormenting my ageing machine. In finally beginning to think of a way about this, I touted the idea of ditching the landscape for figurine-esque stand, ornamental presentation, or perhaps restricting to just a small patch of land.

I’ve ultimately thrown these ideas together in my first play around, presenting the mills as dominant over their own miniature ‘world’, a vaguely faithful snapshot of their real-life vicinity (which was how I went about the landscapes). Here, and with the concept in mind, I’ve gone a bit over the top on saturation in an attempt to give a more elevated, idyllic feel to the thing.

windmill-worldThe bushes are created by displacement maps on simple hemispheres. This allows things to run ten times smoother, though there are some pesky intersections with other objects, something I don’t entirely know how to fix. The world itself is quite simple. It’s made up of two layers: a hemisphere of water beneath a hemisphere of terrain – grass, or reeds where appropriate, again achieved by displacement. I simply cut into the greenery wherever necessary to reveal the river (it’s more like the Broads than I thought!). Criminally, I originally neglected water completely, so this was a late revision – how foolish it was to try and represent the Broads without water! They look so much stronger for it, especially with the scenery options that became available.

ww-3herringfleetww-1boardmansww-stantonww-2berneyarmsBe sure to purchase all four now! They’d look great on your shelf, standing in union:

ww-0collectionI confess I don’t actually know if those are accurate in scale – I fear not, but they could easily be tweaked.

These were really, really fun to make, but in terms of opting for this over the previous, I’m not sure. The use of displaced shapes instead of complex trees might alleviate the performance problems anyway. All the same, it’d be a shame not to take this any further, as I think there is something coming through. I’m sure the concepts can co-exist!

Herringfleet1Another leg on this impromptu tour, and criminally we’re not actually in Norfolk for this one, but Suffolk – only just, mind! We’re but a whisker away from Somerleyton, on the marshes in the village of Herringfleet. While the patrolling pump is known as Walker’s Mill, I’ll be referring to it as Herringfleet Mill, as that’s all I’ve ever heard it called – even Wikipedia has taken my stance on this, so that’s me vindicated beyond doubt.

Built in the 1820s, Herringfleet is a rather charming little smock mill (a structure predominantly of timber, its frame ‘smocked’ by weatherboarding – indeed, Boardman’s Mill which we looked at previously is essentially a smock mill, only without the weatherboarding). As such, it is a rarity, but it’s also standout in that it’s the only mill left on that Broads reliant on not a fantail for winding, but the large tailpole attached to the backside of the cap.

Herringfleet3Though retired in 1956, Herringfleet has been in good hands ever since – safe in the care of the Somerleyton estate, restoration work began almost immediately and to this day it is still regularly open to the public with its sails turning. (Have a care, though… the mill is very small, and they reach low!)

Herringfleet4I think that’s every type of Broads mill covered now, so I’m not really sure of where to go next or to leave it there or anything at all really. I could pick out more with personal or aesthetic significance, or indeed I could branch away from East Anglia and look at others. If I do, I’ll certainly look into modifying the presentation – I am of course referring to the troublesome surrounding landscapes, which seem to be playing havoc on my ailing PC (as I mention every single time). Not wishing to burn a hole in the thing, I might limit them in future to a small patch around the mill model, or even create a decorative base and present them in more of an ornament or figurine mould. That could be fun, and hopefully will prove less turbulent!

Herringfleet2In publishing a blog post showing the completed work, I just started looking for video reference material – I apparently so very like doing things in the most ridiculous order – and happened across this quite nice film. It should give some idea as to just how attractively remote the location is:

How that might have helped if I’d seen it before! So many details missed (and my cap is insultingly rounded – lazily lifted from Berney Arms and shrunk. I should probably have built a new one.) Perhaps I ought to invest in some snazzy tech and go droning on the Broads, rather than droning on here!

fatherted-1A

And so we finish our visit with the man himself, Father Ted Crilly. An insecure and somewhat crestfallen man, his decency wholly blinkered by cheap ambitions of wealth and celebrity, Ted was banished to inhospitable Craggy Island after funds for his previous parish were traced back to his own bank account. They were just resting there, though, as he’s keen to remind us… and he certainly wasn’t planning a trip to Las Vegas with the cash. As punishment, he now has to contend with the mayhem generated by his unhinged fellows; the overtly-childlike Dougal, the outrageous Jack, and the tireless housekeeper, Mrs Doyle. In this role, he’s regarded with loyalty by some and contempt by others; I imagine his fearsome foe, Bishop Brennan, hasn’t quite got over being kicked up the arse yet. We shan’t ask about that.

At times however, Ted’s (relatively) level head can prevail and be the voice of reason. Let’s not forget the time he courageously lead his group out of the lingerie department; the largest lingerie section in Ireland, I understand…

…or indeed the last time we saw him, when he helped a suicidal Father Kevin off of a ledge. This earned the admiration of an American priest, in turn almost landing our Father his dream of dispatching wayward peers and retreating to Los Angeles. Almost. Wracked with guilt that his housemates believe they too are coming to the States, he was unable to tell them otherwise, and ultimately abandoned the move. And so, Ted is stuck on Craggy Island, forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever…

Though the series was always intended to end here, any prospect of subsequent reacquaintance with the cast of Craggy Island down the line was taken from us, and in the worst way; Ted actor Dermot Morgan died suddenly, just a day after the Going to America swansong was recorded. A mercurial comic talent and quintessentially Father Ted, the show immediately became his legacy, and in that it’s fitting that the performance and programme is regarded with such deep affection and acclaim.

Ted is on the surface unabashed in lunacy and profanity – a surreal snapshot of both Catholic church and Irish humour, locked its own hellish exile. Beneath that, though, is a sweet, adorable and ultimately good nature, strengthened both by the chemistry on screen and in the genii of its writing. These quirks and qualities are proven by Ted‘s enduring appeal – two decades on, and I daresay there’s not a week that passes without a sprinkling of reruns – and that it seems to only get better with each worship. I could never tire of Father Ted – it’s an ever welcome indulgence. Moreover, it’s just really, really funny.

‘Night, Ted.

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We’ve not visited Craggy Island for a while, but I’ve no doubt Father Dougal McGuire will greet us warmly regardless. As cheerful and innocent as he is utterly, shockingly dim, he finds himself constantly at odds with his much more grounded peers, and indeed, it remains a mystery to all as to how Dougal even got into the priesthood (“it’s all a bit of a laugh!”). Within that childlike, lovable demeanour, however, lies an intense loyalty; he depends on Ted, and they are ultimately very good friends. I’m sure if you enjoy rollerblading, game shows or scary films, he’d be your friend too… that is, if he’s not kicking around with rebel Father Damo.

BAmill1Time for another whirl around the world of windmills and three-dimensional building thingies. Yes, again. I don’t know how many more of these I’m going to bash out, really. I didn’t intend it to become a tour of the entire Norfolk Broads!

Anyway if you’ll look to your right you’ll see Berney Arms High Mill, probably one of the most famous emblems of the region, and quite rightly too given its powerful and resplendent appearance; in its almost complete solitude, it enjoys full command. The largest of all the mills on the Broads – hence the ‘High’ – it stands over seventy feet tall. Built in 1865 originally to grind cement clinker, it was two decades later converted into a drainage pump and worked through to 1948. I believe it’s one of a very select bunch that can still turn its sails today. That’s a sight seen not nearly often enough.

For something of a windmill enthusiast, I’ve been inside shamefully few – in my defence, most are derelicts and so hardly inviting – but I have ventured inside Berney Arms. We went there one school holiday when I was no older than around four or five. You can reach the mill by boat, by train – stopping at the Berney Arms Station, perhaps the most isolated train station in the world – or by taking a long walk around Breydon Water. There’s also a pub nearby – the most isolated pub in the world.)

BAmill2We went by water. This was terrifying, not least because the boat looked three hundred years old, but because everyone got a life jacket except from us. “It’s okay, you won’t need one,” we were assured. ‘Twas the 90s! As it happens, these particular boat trips stopped running shortly after our excursion.

From the patches I remember, it was a lot of fun, even if I was bitterly disappointed that the big red ‘turn sails’ button that I’d imagined was nowhere to be found. I like big red buttons. I don’t think we were able to go right up and out onto the cap stage, but we did go to the top floors and the view out of the big windows was something else. Norfolk’s flatness is such that, with the slightest increase in altitude, you can watch over (and indeed be seen by) virtually the entire county. It was amazing!

Oh, and one more thing: Berney Arms was one of the starting positions in that episode of Interceptor they shot around here. Fantastic. I think we can deduce that this is what has sealed the deal insofar as the mill’s perennial appeal goes.

Onto discussing the build, then. Well, there’s not actually that much to discuss – I’m not sure this was terribly valuable, and for an unknown but worrying reason this did appear to take my computer to near death. Trees are very problematic, so I’m attributing it to them provisionally. Pesky things, who needs ’em? And I’m still far from satisfied with regards the Physical Sky lighting.

One thing I did take from this, though, is the displacement of texture for reeds/grass, rather than putting in ten million objects and again nearly murdering my machine. This uses a grid of noise to generate peaks and troughs, which can then be applied to any object – with the noise set to a very fine scale, it produces thin and sharp points which I think for now will do for suggesting greenery; from a distance at least, I think it actually looks better than my work with Boardman’s Mill. On larger scales, this technique could be fun for generating vast, mountainous landscapes, or other more abstract geometry.

BAmill3I know… I should have put a wherry in. Perhaps I’ll try and make one soon. The boats were an afterthought, really – they’re not my own models, so I can’t take any credit for them. The rowing boat came from here and the yacht here.

BAmill4
And just for a touch of Norfolk eeriness – and because it was intended to be another sunset, but went horribly wrong – here’s a shot in creepy monochrome. Though, truthfully, that could just as easily be a colour photato – Norfolk’s always that colour. Don’t let that put you off visiting, though…