Well, it is the blog’s second birthday, I suppose – and, with any celebration, one should look both back and forward, old and new. That’s actor Dominic Thorburn, whom we have apparently sat in the corner to think about whatever it is he’s done. Hmm! I feel as though I should be doing the same, but, in my defence, I can say that I don’t currently have any more naked men left to share.
He was actually quite a challenge, the angles of his legs and feet proving particularly tough; I can’t remember the last time I attempted to sketch someone sitting down and was rather caught out! It’s probably not my best facial likeness either – I keep getting a vibe of somebody else whose name I can’t place! – and some parts still look a bit off, but I thought it best to stop here lest I go the other way. A very fun subject, regardless!
That’s my David. An excited silver fox – what’s not to like?
I guess he’s a little perked up by the whiff of jubilation pervading this corner of the blogosphere. It’s two years to the day since I set this blog up and began wittering on to anybody who’ll listen. Yes, that has to be it. I’m stunned. It’s gone so quickly!
Within the first month I’d garnered inspiration from David, on a bigger (and nuder) scale than most that had come before. It began travelling, to my surprise, and reached him via social media. He was not only generous enough to drop in and pass comment, he also shared the work with his own followers. A simple click, but I was impossibly flattered, and it certainly encouraged me to keep going, to trudge through that rather awkward infant phase and press on in the pursuit of something worthwhile. With all that I’ve learnt and developed since then, I think it’s been a success!
I shouldn’t wish to make a tremendous song and dance about this date, but thought it correct to use it as an opportunity to return to Mr. Pevsner with the suitable gratitude. Of course, this feeling extends to you, too; whether you comment regularly or read silently, whether you’ve been here since the beginning or have only today hopped on board, thank you for all your inspirational art, your support and friendship but mostly just for continuing to put up with me – it’s no easy task, I know. Long may we continue, and sorry there’s no cake or fizzy.
Back to the thirties and Secrets of Nature, and through our time-warp binoculars we’ve spotted another broadland birdie: the bittern, described in the documentary as a ‘queer’ and ‘invisible’ character of fawn and brown stripes. Poor luv! Doubtless, such camouflage and the spear-like bill probably serve her well as she tends to her young.
Here’s the iconic boom of the male’s mating call, a frequent noise throughout the spring and summer, especially at dawn and dusk. One of my earliest memories of the Broads is being at Hickling Broad and hearing that curious sound – this seems even more special now, learning of how rare they are.
This was fun enough, but I’d like to try and focus more on that patterned plumage. I’ve something else in mind for the bittern, perhaps other birds too if I’m able to materialise the image. We’ll have to see!
As is often the way on YouTube, link from video to video and you will come across something of interest. This time, a 1930s series of documentary films collectively titled Secrets of Nature. Happier still, East Anglia was given generous coverage and so I couldn’t resist using the film as reference for some sketches, most of all the rather lovely shot of a man punting toward a working drainage mill. I could very well be wrong, but I’m wondering if it’s a working Brograve Mill as it looks about the same geography, same size and even appears to have the trademark lean. This, incidentally, was said to have been caused by the Devil himself – apparently preferring the Norfolk Broads untouched, legend says he tried to blow the mill over several times.
On top of that, it’s also claimed that Sir Berney Brograve, who commissioned the structure in 1771, was actually chased by the Devil into the mill one night: “The devil pounded his hooves on the door trying to get in, but Sir Berney stayed put, too afraid to come out. When he woke the next morning the door was covered in hoof prints.”
Spooky. Such stories even led to it earning the colloquial name of Devil’s Mill.
Of course the objective of this particular film, The Raiders of the Fens, was not to speak of the mills, but the birds nesting in nearby sanctuary, so I felt compelled to move in that direction. The above is rather a sketchy attempt at capturing both the beauty and devotion of a young mum; the Montagu’s Harrier hen muddling through and guarding her eggs. Hmm. Well, there’s always next time I suppose – and indeed there surely is more to come from this fascinating series.
In bouts of boredom or procrastination I often find myself in Photoshop, just doodling and playing with the brush tool – perhaps hoping something will stick, perhaps not. It certainly doesn’t often result in anything worth sharing. Last night, I began fiddling with the brush configurations and casually switched on ‘Wet Edges’, an option I’ve rarely used, if at all. That’s one of the things I love about Photoshop; I’ve been using it for almost a decade, and still there are new, undiscovered corners.
Something about the translucency of the strokes and the mixing therein led to attempting a sky, which in turn led to the above. Perhaps it’s the calm after our earlier storm? It was nice to break away from reference images, and there does seem to be a different texture and feel about it. Hmm. I’m sure I’ll give this another go someday, devoting a little more time.
In honour of this inspirational tool, I have named the setting Wet Edge. It sounds very Norfolk. I imagine it’s not far from Cockshoot Broad.
…Aaah! I’ve mentioned my desperation for an impressive thunderstorm a couple of times recently.
Well, yesterday certainly delivered; for most of the afternoon and into the evening we were bombarded with not only heavy rain (or rather angelpiss – hat tip to Gregory!) but frequent flashes of lightning and rumbles of godlike fury. I’ve always been told that a measure for distance on the delay between flash and rumble is one second = one mile. If that’s so, then this was very close, and didn’t seem in any hurry to move along.
Such excitement brought out these very quick stormy sketches. Being out on the Broads probably isn’t ideal in an electrical storm – I can say that with some experience – but, from a safe vantage point, the landscape certainly allows a spectacular show. Seeing them light up the dark in an almighty display of power, it’s no wonder our ancestors thought the man upstairs was livid.
I think that’s my fix for now. I wonder if we’ll get anymore this summer? Just as long as they keep those electric tentacles off the windmills, eh…
Twenty-five years, almost four thousand episodes and goodness knows how many rounds of Susie Dent rifling through the dictionary – that’s no bad thing. There are many good things about Countdown, obviously, but Dent’s unassuming charm is up there with the very best.
I spent considerably less than a quarter-century on this portrait, but hopefully her endearing personality is coming through.
Long may she continue!