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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:

When I started working on the Super Loop on Top called Colorado, I realised I was probably going to have to create some appropriate scenery for the backdrop. Hence, deserts, rock structures and mountain peaks were the order of the day, with a splash of waves and rapids to suit the water jets on the ride… a feature I ultimately didn’t include anyway. The ensuing studies and developments were, suitably, quite a rocky bunch; as per usual, it didn’t take me long to go completely off-brief. Here are some of the diversions that were taken.

The turquoise sky piece did actually find its way into the ride, adorning the control/ticket booth. Chiefly because I like turquoise.

Really, the only reason any of the above have made it onto my blog is because I transplanted the circuitry from my previous post and started concocting a similar landscape. The result – a series of cyber mountain ranges. I rather appreciate the dystopian, Doom-esque aesthetic. For me, they’re the peak.

A change of pace from the Norfolk Broads, anyhow.

In a previous lettering post, I mused on the idea of taking sharp, industrial forms and giving them a Gothic influence. That’s how this succeeding project began, but, as you can probably tell, I ended up in quite a different place. Maybe I’ll revisit that someday.

This time, I ended up with circuit boards after discovering a ready-made model of one in C4D. They are fascinating to look at, with their intricate tracks within a city of components – even now, there’s a futuristic feel about them. Perhaps a touch of retro-futuristic too, as I remember marvelling at the board from our original ZX Spectrum as it sat broken in a container for years.

I ripped the bump map texture from the 3D model and started cutting it up into letters; not much to see there originally, so I started cutting my own letters. using the board as a guide. That’s how the header came about. The Photoshop threshold effect gave it a nice printed edge, which I thought an interesting juxtaposition. Furthermore, it pushed me back into my favoured position of monochrome goodness:

Though, I did pull myself away momentarily to try and give the impression of a letter-shaped tracking.

Eventually though I returned to the threshold effect, but using green! I worried that black and white tracks to this extent might become migraine fuel for you (and me). The letters are also inverted to help with contrast.

I suppose the next step (or likely the first step for any logical human being) would be to actually create a circuit board layout with the corresponding letter imprinted on it, rather than overlapping textures in the shape of the letter. It’s worth a shot. It’s always worth a shot. But I do think what we have here is a nice novelty. With my time so much less than before, I’m quite happy for anything to jump out in an evening, like this has.

As for why I chose the name Computer over Circuit, Circuitry or something more relevant – eh. At least I got a few more unique letters out of my choice.

It’s that rare time once again where I can actually sit down and cut some letters. I feel like every time I moan about not having the time for it, but I suppose it  at least makes me enjoy the process a little more.

Anyway, this time – and for whatever reason – I went for a fusion of steampunk and industrial forms. Indeed, ‘fusion’ ended up being the operative word for this project, as I then began cutting the final alphabet up and, well, fusing them together (in Photoshop, and quite badly… but it, er, adds a slapdash charm to the thing, right?). I do like to do this, although my tutors back in the day would probably have considered it indecision or a lack of confidence. They might have been right, but oh well! It enables alternatives to be substituted in, and I don’t really see that variation as a negative. I even ended up with a gothic-tinged M made from a B and two overlapping As, which you can see in the gallery below. These are the fruits of the iterative process. Perhaps I could attempt an ‘industrial gothic’ face in the future?

Lots of bulky, rigid slabs here with some Channel 4-esque blocks thrown in to make these weird letter machines, but I did make a conscious effort to try and include some rounded forms for appropriate letters, something I was initially going to avoid. They are probably the weakest of the set, but forcing myself to try was better than chickening out, and the S actually turned out alright.

It was after all this smooshing and fusing that I came up with the name: Bits + Bobs…

..but don’t let the cutesy name fool you; they can still look rather brash when blown up. I even tried linking the forms up to create a more literally mechanical feel.

Well, if I routinely complain about not having the time to do this more often, then I surely finish with a comment about how fun it was. But it’s true! Once a semblance of concept emerges, the time just flies by.

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.

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It’s time for another look at lettering, and high time too, as I haven’t been able to do nearly as much as I would’ve liked this year; I wanted to fit in another Twenty-Six Spins but that doesn’t look likely, sadly. It will happen, though. When you least expect it. Consider this a warning for shoddy Photoshops and even shoddier wheel puns.

I was looking at quick, flowing forms and somehow came to ropes. I thought it might be interesting to try and model a rope in 3D. So that’s what I did. (It wasn’t that interesting, really).

Surprisingly simple it was, actually, done in a couple of minutes by sweeping a flower shape along a spline and having it rotate along. It does seem to lose something on longer forms, as you might be able to tell. It’s a bit ropey. I also wasn’t entirely sure about the texture that I made, so I went back to black and white to try and mask that as much as possible. It’s quite unusual for me to start with colour or texture then work backwards, especially with lettering; I’ve learnt over the years that the gold is always to be found in the simplest forms, and that, unsurprisingly, seems to be true of this exercise too. That’s where the hallowed Threshold filter comes in. Even the textured renders look much punchier in simple monochrome, I think.

I did attempt some knots, as you can see here with a couple of alternate forms. I’ve never been good with tying even the most basic of knots, so maybe that’s why I largely steered clear of this. They’re even harder with splines! I imagine there are plugins out there which can model such a thing with just a click.

And for all my slamming colour earlier on, I did throw a few letters into Photoshop and give them a paint job; kind of fun, I guess, but I might be saying that to the happy colours themselves rather than the letters.

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Well, that ties it up for now. This experiment might knot be for everyone, but it was once again fun learning the ropes. Hopefully next year I’ll not be roped into other things, and shall be able to do a little more in this vein.

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Pixel art is going to be big for me in 2019. Just before Christmas, I was snapped up to work on a game firmly rooted in this retro aesthetic. My role there is mostly to create individual likenesses for the cast, but I thought it would be beneficial to take a step back and, in my free time, look at some broader arenas. Hopefully, I’ll pick up a few tricks along the way.

With the pylons going up on Sunday, I thought a general industrial theme was a good place to begin. The quick pipe lettering above was not only an excuse for more letters but a warm-up tiling exercise. Tiling allows for quick and clean creation of environments. Most platform games of old used this technique for their scenery.

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These crates and barrels were mostly studying texture and dithering.

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You can’t spell industrial without corrugated iron:

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If I’ve learnt one thing from my work so far, it’s that size really doesn’t matter. Working on a small grid of pixels can be just as time-consuming as the most detailed sketch – sometimes more so, as I start to panic about the sharpness of certain edges, the pallette, and whether I should introduce more colours or even reduce them. Hopefully these are the sort of hurdles that will be overcome with just making as much stuff as possible. Saying this about time, perhaps the two industrial stations below could have done with a little more TLC, but it’s a start:

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pixelpractise-industrial04Once the pixels start to look happy (and like things) it’s quite a lot of fun, and the time whizzes by. Like the web address says, onward I go!

electric-recharged-2-02I’ve been in a typographic mood of late – even more than usual. It’s most welcome. Even so, this was a bit of an impromptu jolly; I was playing with a face I cut several years ago now, long before the days of this blog. It was called Electric, and this is shown in orange above. Inspiration came from the frontage of a rusty, run-down electrical shop in Norwich; it bore lettering of a slender form with enormous, authoritative slabs – delightfully retro-futuristic and, as such, most appropriate for a store likely still selling VCRs and 8-track. Them’s the future.

The blue counterparts were made this evening – essentially, I was curious to see what would happen if I were to reverse the thickness of each character, across the entire alphabet. It does look rather more burly, doesn’t it? Some letters were scuppered slightly – particularly Q – but overall it seems a worthy companion.

It’s quite fun using the two in combination.

The simplicity of both faces means you can do virtually anything with them. They can be warped, scaled, squashed, or pulled however you want, and still look pretty stable. Such versatility can come in handy when you have a specific message in mind.

I did also experiment with Illustrator’s ’rounded corners’ feature, which somehow managed to make the lettering even more delightfully retro:

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Ah well, nothing spectacular but just a bit of fun. I’ve been so woefully unproductive this year, I’m going to jump on any burst of inspiration that I can!

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Who needs rationale when it comes to making letters? I certainly don’t! The most fun lettering exercises, as I doubtless say every time (sorry) are the ones where you just run with something and see where it goes – it’s all about that iterative process, as one wonderful man always used to say.

And so, eyeing a coat hanger and seeing that its lines and curves could easily be bent into several letterforms spiralled into an afternoon of work. That’s an achievement in itself at the moment, regardless of the result. Thank you, coat hanger – potential there was! I ended up with a veritable wardrobe full of alternatives:

The process, there. Having sliced those up in Photoshop and Illustrator, they were a bit rough and ready, so I had a go at refining some of the stronger ones. Among my favourites are probably the M, W and E, who came out of the closet looking quite bold and trendy. I did enjoy using the hook for slimmer, twisty forms too, though, as you can probably tell.

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Well, it gave me something to do with my Sunday! I wonder if there are other objects lying around that I can subject to similar experimentation…

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Of course A would be chosen for the final letter! Coupled with the return of Geometric, more messing with shapes beckoned. Wanting to mark the finale in some way, I started off thinking about something suitably jubilant – a geometric firework display, perhaps, or game show glitter…

…but that rather quickly fell by the wayside, as it didn’t come together quick enough. Maybe an upward triangle with sunny colours could be seen as positive enough in its own right? Yes, let’s go with that.

Blending the above developments somehow resulted in this fierce eye creation. A for angry, I suppose! Perhaps he’s miffed that the series is coming to an end? Anyway, it’s something quite peculiar, and it’s geometric. That’s good enough for me.

***

That’s it, then: twenty-six letters and more than 420 developments (!!) later, here we are with our rather repetitive alphabet. Generally, I think the wheel behaved itself. Some themes evaded the flipper, though; I would have liked Gothic and Speccy to come up. I’m alarmed to discover that my name is apparently no longer valid. We’ve skipped, among others, an E, N, and the beloved W. Let’s not joke about the lack of D.

Of course, that’s the very nature of the wheel. Chance. If I’m to do this again, I may only choose the theme at random; at least then there would actually be twenty-six spins! We shall see. But, whether you have a super-exciting wheel to spin or not, I cannot endorse the random element enough; it not only enabled me to create by eliminating the awkward dithering stage altogether, but often demanded fresh approaches or a reconsideration of old ones. Results vary, naturally, buy today’s concluding letterform is a prime example of an aesthetic which probably wouldn’t have happened outside of the series. Prospects abound with challenges like this. Give it a whirl and see how you fare.

Until next time, it’s been fun. Here are the fruits of the last few weeks’ labour: