Monthly Archives: August 2020

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.


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.


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.