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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”.

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.

I was messing around with a pretty pixel landscape which didn’t get very far, so I decided to start all over again. Taking on board the lessons learnt from an earlier exercise, I just focused on a single element to begin with, seeing where that took me. It was greenery, again, but not confined to conifers this time, I can coniferm.

Attempting to cut corners actually seemed to pay off; I created a round scatter brush and started layering up colour very quickly, trying not to overthink. I like how they came out: fluffy, with a more painterly, dreamy quality than I’m used to. This might be the key to some bigger and better pixel landscapes as the style probably lends itself to a larger scale.

The quaint cottage I originally planned for the scene didn’t materialise – not this time – but last night I didn’t even get past the hedgerow, so I’m branding this a success, whether ya like it or not!

I don’t know where this came from, but I am certainly not opposed to happy accidents or a modicum of inspiration coming from seemingly nothing, which certainly appeared to be the case here. Indeed, that may be abundantly clear to you already.

On a vein not too far removed from my recent posts, I was simply playing with blocks of colour – green blocks of colour this time around. I just started copying and pasting, layering them beside one another, and then it hit me. Conifers. I love conifers and their sturdy, jagged charm, and wanted to see if I could abstract one in pixel using these strips of colour in different ways.

It was more fun than it may look, actually, trying to capture the different species and their marked variation in shape, some slender, some rather rotund. As you can see, I did start to lose some of that abstraction as I went on, experimenting with levels of detail. But I took these and used them as a template for the landscape, which isn’t anything amazing but I’m quite liking how the conifers came out, and the way the different patterns and styles overlap.

Good little experiment though, and much like my recent designs a reminder that sometimes dialling down and focusing on something simple can kickstart productivity. If you have a problem, well, call the copse.

Spring 2021 has certainly been a weird one. We’re locked down for it, and it seems the weather knows. The temperature here in Norfolk rose to about twelve degrees in February, then decided to pretty much stop there. I don’t normally feel the cold, and I can’t remember such a chilly April; my winter jumpers are still in rotation! And now it’s bucketing down with rain which, if nothing else, has made things a little more interesting.

With this in mind, it would seem fitting enough that these landscapes – if indeed that’s what they are – do not entirely conform to the standard vibe of the season. I can’t claim to have had much of a method behind the madness. It was raining, so I returned to some old drizzle-spotted glass textures I made some time ago.

Then followed a spot of experimentation with different gradients behind the glass, to see how it looked. I also threw in some old landscape drawings and pixel art pieces to see how they turned out. I think it’s the simple gradients that have achieved the best and least contrived results, and that’s why they’re heading and footing the post.

Here’s a song that sounds of winter turning to spring, possibly helped by a very green and sunny video. I can’t believe I’m talking about the transition to spring at this time of year but, well, that’s 2021 for you. And long-time readers will know, any excuse for me to share this! I hope it’s nice and comfortable where you are.

I’ve done lots of pixel art, to the extent that it now seems to have become that thing that I do. While it’s pretty restrictive in some ways – not in a negative way, either – it’s not often that I’ve gone down to the extremes of just two colours with the medium. This grimy urban scene is not so much 8-bit as 1-bit.

With the liberation of not having to worry about selecting colours or palettes, it was an altogether enjoyable exercise, as indeed most design exercises are; the less preliminary panic, the better. The only frustrations came in the nighttime conversion, with the street lights not coming out particularly well. But I do enjoy the side-by-side visual.

This being said, I did use the darkest and lightest colours from the legendary Game Boy here, as well as its screen dimensions. Hopefully my attempts at dithering would give a satisfying result were it to be shown on the handheld.

It rather forces a more stylised approach this way, and I like that. I need that! I’m intrigued to try it again and see how I could get on with a more rural setting. If anything good comes of it, you’ll be the first to know!

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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Rather sooner than I was expecting, we’re back to Ludham in the thirties and here’s that brighter, more postcard-appropriate view of
Beaumont’s Mill I touted last time. It’s even in colour, kinda – it was my old way of drawing something in tones and then colouring over the top with Photoshop’s blending modes doing their thing. I would call it magic, but that would suggest something impressive. I haven’t employed such a technique in a while, and when coming to the mill’s sails I remembered why: it’s bloody fiddly (as are the sails in general, I hasten to add. I don’t know why I keep putting myself through it). I much prefer the monochrome version.

What a pretty view this should be, though, with a charming craft strolling past the mill. By this point, trade would have well and truly given way to leisure and the Broads would have been one of the country’s premier getaway locations, surely driven by images so quaint as this. Needless to say, I would have enjoyed the voyage around the Broads back then as no doubt there would have been windmills twirling hypnotically all over the place. What can I say? Born in the wrong century.

broads-southludham-4 Well, hello there! It is I, for I am not actually dead. Well, some would probably disagree. And hey, what if this is the afterlife? Have to admit, that wasn’t how I was expecting this to start whilst I was putting this drawing together. It’s been a while since I’ve done this. Cut me some slack, jeez.

I might not be dead, but sadly, both of these Ludham windpumps are long deceased. A great shame that is, too, as we appear to have two magnificent examples of Norfolk drainage mills in close proximity – a classic tower mill, known locally as Beaumont’s Mill, and an open ‘skeleton’ mill – working together day to day together (together!) on the River Ant. Though I’m more enamoured with the tower mill, I think the skeleton mill is probably the bigger loss as I can only think of a single other on the Broads in any decent condition today, that being Boardman’s Mill, which, incidentally, stands just a couple of miles north on the same river.

My inspiration for this was, besides a sweet release from the ‘day job’, this postcard I happened across, showing Beaumont’s Mill presumably post-retirement and looking the worse for wear. I decided to substitute in a reference of the mill in better condition, and repositioned the neighbouring skeleton mill so that it could share the spotlight. The colour and shading is murkier than I wanted, but it’s a drawing, and pretty much the first drawing I’ve managed to complete this year, so that’s a victory in my book (pity it’s on my hard drive, in that case). Maybe I’ll try a brighter version someday.

I’m not sure if I’ve made this confession before, but it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I indulged in quite a bit of deltiology as a child, and yes, they were almost all of the windmill persuasion. Yes. I was that cool. I had a “walbum” full of the things, from home and abroad. I don’t know where they are now. But it’s nice to see postcards of these structures now long gone, which I actually knew very little about until recently. Demolished in the sixties, a boat mooring now occupies the site of Beaumont’s Mill and of the skeleton mill only the piers remain. Thank goodness for these postcards from the past.

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“Used up, worn out, in a state of near imbecility.”

Yes, that’ll do. Thanks to Susie Dent for that one. It’s a corker of a word, a euphemism that sounds like it’s plucked straight from Norfolk dialect – I can totally hear my grandfather saying he was dumfungled after a hectic day. Well, he or Willy Wonka. That’s probably the first time I’ve compared the two, but come to think of it granddad always did have an awful lot of chocolate in the house. And he liked purple.

The way this is going I think only supports the validity of the word.

Anyway, here are some rainy landscapes – one oldie and a newie (?). It’s been rather wet here, lately. The new one is above, and an addition of sorts to this digital arboretum coming together here lately – and, really, I just wanted to try some headlights, lighting the dark – and it can indeed be very dark if you’re out in the sticks here. Below, we have a leftover from a 2018 post, depicting Caister Castle in what, at the time, was a yearning for a much-needed summer downpour. I’m not sure why I dropped this sketch at the time – it’ll probably come to me just after I publish this. Well, I am dumfungled, after all! Right now, I just hope sanity will reign...

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