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Using a rather different pallette to recent adventures, here we have twin electricity pylons which stand near to the village of Haddiscoe. Due to their position next to a waterway (called the New Cut) they are rather tall – exactly how tall I’m not sure; I haven’t climbed them, and won’t be doing so any time soon. Of course, on the Norfolk skyline such a construction is visible for many miles around, so these have never really been far from my eye, but I kind of like pylons and their weird, ominous presence, so this isn’t an issue for me.

That personality was the focus of these developments. The sketch came from wandering around the area in Google Street View, just out of curiosity really, after a local news report of some weather damage to the railway embankment there. There’s just something about the way these pylons have stood so tall in the remoteness for so long, effortlessly looming over the space.

Though the sketch from Street View goes some way to depicting the atmosphere, I feel these more graphic pieces better capture their “power”.

Following on from the snowy conifers, we have a rather different take on the snappy winter weather, and a subject making its welcome return. Rejoice, the first windmill in over a year! And even that one was just an animation of a model made in 2017. The last one before that was a drawing back in March 2020.

Well, I must confess this isn’t entirely new, either. In fact, it’s a repurposing of several elements. It’s my Post Mill model from way back in 2016 (which was very much inspired by Stanton Mill in Suffolk) decked out with new sails and a coat of paint. I then added some grids, randomly distributing squares and rectangles which use textures I created years ago but still really enjoy playing with. While I have applied them to the mill model, using the favoured frontal projection, I really like creating bumpy, displaced 3D textures and sending them to a two-dimensional plane. That might sound counter-productive or plain silly, but the results are quite exciting to me. I’m a sucker for that harsh, icy aesthetic, and this method creates it in such a way that I probably couldn’t draw or paint, even if I tried. It’s possible that the end result is a little heavy-handed with the squares, but I do enjoy the frosty vibe. It’s not often I “frame” work, either, but I felt like it added a little something in this instance.

How nice to spin a few old bits and bobs into something new.

Here’s a curious little programme about windmills from more than half a century ago:

On an unseasonably warm winter afternoon, here’s a quick sketch of some snow-capped conifers. I would say it’s like a half-finished Christmas card, but that would be an obscene suggestion to make in January so I shan’t do it. There’s really not much more to say in terms of rationale, but I will say that trees are good. I like trees. Hopefully, you’ll appreciate this little wintry blast. I’m off to change into shorts and T-shirt.

Whilst looking through some old school exercise books recently, I found a set of haikus about the seasons. Here’s what I came up with for winter:

Winter time, snow, ice
Evergreen trees standing strong
High above the rest

That’s better than I could do now.

Brrr! Or not so brrr to be accurate, as it’s relatively mild here, the thick fog not really creating much of a marshmallow world or winter wonderland. There’s certainly not much of a chill placed in my heart; indeed, there’s something special about these days as we count down to the main event. A cosiness sets in at some indeterminate point. Possibly when all the shopping is done.

As the time to put together a Christmas card drew ever closer, I kept telling myself that, this time, I was going to try something more traditional; slower. A nice landscape drawing, maybe, or an intricate voxel model. Well, that turned out didn’t it? It’s always the way. There must be an angel, quite a mischievous one, playing tricks on me, but far from being a thorn in my side, they guided me to something different. I enjoyed it, and I guess that’s all that matters.

A peaceful, safe and happy holiday season to you all. Fill the bowl, roll out the barrel, and sweet dreams of your perfect winter wonderland.

The best tattoo there was…

and the best tattoo there ever will be.

Well well, here’s something I never expected to happen. A few weeks ago, I was asked if a couple of my custom WrestleFest character designs could potentially be used for a tattoo – Bret and Owen Hart, to be precise. Of course, I said yes; it’s beyond flattering that somebody wanted my art to be quite literally a part of them.

And sure enough, earlier today I received this:

How cool is that!? My thanks to Ajay for being mad enough to want this and for going through with it. I still can’t quite believe it!

Working on another Pixel Dailies prompt, “computer icons”, again with a 32×32 pixel restriction, I ended up going back to the days of Windows 95 and its incredibly familiar (at least for those of a certain age) teal desktop.

What if contemporaneous TV shows were available to stream? One-off streams had already been done by this point, but can’t you just imagine the quality of an on-demand catch-up service in 1995, and on a dial-up connection? As nightmarish as it would inevitably have been, some would doubtless be waxing nostalgic about it today! But let’s suspend our disbelief and imagine that technology allowed it at a passable standard…

I had a bit of a think of what shows I remember from that time; I was only three years old when Windows 95 was released, so, besides a couple of personal favourites, I’ve gone with shows that I remember my parents watching. Brookside and Coronation Street narrowly missed out. The icons don’t look too out of place, so I’m counting this as a win.

Pixel Dailies on Twitter got all seasonal recently, prompting followers to create a “set of ghosts”, with a 32×32 pixel restriction for each piece. Here is what I came up with in response to said prompt – significantly enlarged, obviously. The small size was an interesting challenge; I thought about going all Pac-Man and cutesy but, seemingly, everyone else beat me to it. So, I used a brightness jitter on my pixel brush to create a reasonably spontaneous noise effect which I thought would work on small spectral spookies. I’ll let you be the judge. See it with your own eyes.

Where ghosts are concerned, I’m a bit of a sceptic I’m afraid. Those “paranormal investigation” shows do not help the cause, with the likes of Most Haunted eliciting more hilarity than concern (I’ll never forget that Mary loves Dick). But who isn’t fascinated by a good ghost story, especially at this time of year? I remember people saying the middle school toilets were haunted, which – shock horror – led to a few people claiming they saw a man by the washbasins. One said he looked scruffy and “like he was from the 1800s”. Perhaps it was the caretaker? I never went in, not because I was scared or anything, of course not. And there was another time where our dog became agitated, barking at seemingly nothing, and then refused to walk past the spot where this bizarre turn occurred. Who knows what he might have seen? Bad dream or something more?

I’m sure it’s nothing…

Back to lettering. The old faithful.

It’s somewhat traditional at this stage for me to moan about not having done much lately, but this seems to have been a particularly long dry spell, with nothing really working out for what felt like months. I feel weird when not creating anything – it’s unnerving. Last week, though, something fun and game show-y came along, which was nice – but that’s another post for another time. Tick tock.

Getting rather desperate, I turned back to my rope letters from 2019 and decided to try and convert them to barbed wire. It turned out to be reassuringly simple, just requiring adjustments to the spline rotation and the addition of the “barbs”.

Though I started in 3D, I found myself moving to 2D aswell. A very quick attempt at making a barbed wire brush in Illustrator yielded these developments. It seems to have become more scraggy than I originally intended; almost like thread, or lightning on the black background. But still, fun to explore and yes, something has emerged at long last.

And that’s a suitably inviting message on which to end.

Would you enter a dungeon to play a game devised by these two?

I hear that the new The Crystal Maze has been axed by Channel 4 after only three series. I must confess I stopped watching it about five episodes in, feeling it was not made for me. It doesn’t sound like it ever improved, and indeed the trajectory of viewing figures suggested it wasn’t made for lots of other people also. Going celebrity only for its final run was the final straw. It’s a frustrating misfire; the first episode back in 2017 drew one of the biggest audiences of the year for Channel 4 and the opportunity for something special was obviously there. Oh well! At least we still have the original series, and that was actually quite good.

With that mindset, you can understand why, on hearing of its termination, I produced this. Here’s a pixel art portrait of our mellifluous maître-d to the Crystal Maze, Richard O’Brien and his Mumsey (Sandra Caron) from days of yore. The style is loosely based on the RetroMania characters I worked on. Neither look particularly like their real-life counterpart – I’ve tried Richard several times in pixel and have yet to perfect his unique visage – but the “eclectic” outfits were fun to work on. I wouldn’t want to complete a sprite sheet of either, though!

On a completely unrelated note: did you know it’s once again possible to access the Classic Editor, free of blocks? Maybe it has always been there, I’m not sure, but I thought if anybody out there is still annoyed by them then you might want to know. In your admin, go to Posts and note the ‘Screen Options’ tab in the top-right corner. Change to Classic View. You’ll then get the little ‘Add New’ button with the drop-down menu which allows you to select the Classic Editor. Hooray!

Ditherless is, of course, a small village in central Norfolk.

(Gotcha! It’s not really.)

But rejoice, for here is the “quaint cottage” I mentioned in my previous post – I think it’s rather quaint enough, don’t you? This was attempted in a similarly simple way as those trees, trying to avoid dithering and instead simply layering colour to suggest shades and highlights. It still took a few hours, but far fewer than it might had I been hatching and checkerboarding all over the place to capture variation in tone, like I have in previous pixel parties. There’s nothing to say I won’t revert to those methods in the future – or perhaps adopt a mixture of the two – as always, it depends on the subject. But it’s interesting to note how they inform the overall style.

I wouldn’t mind a cottage like this, just saying.