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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”.

Ahh…

I would ramble at length as usual, but my brain is in the Christmas-New Year sludge, this time more than ever it seems. I have to admit, I am enjoying not doing much of anything at all.

This animation loop was rendered back in March, as a submission for Thurne Mill’s 200th birthday exhibition (which, of course, was indefinitely postponed). Thanks to the BBC Sound Effects Archive for the audio.

Perhaps it will calm things down for you, for all of eighteen seconds at least.

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When your job involves spending ages on Photoshop, what better way to unwind than to spend ages on Photoshop?

I found this photato a long time ago and put it away for a future session; taken in 1903, we see two leisurely boaters enjoying a smoke while meandering through the Norfolk Broads. I liked the composition and how content they looked in each other’s company.

Since this was a break, I had no choice but to move quickly and, coming in at around an hour, it is exceptionally fast for me – especially dealing with two people. The swiftness is probably clear, but it could certainly have been worse. It’s been a long old time since those Time Tested challenges.

Thanks to Ronald Shields for the most charming photato; fingers crossed it won’t be too long until people are allowed to be this close once again, though, perhaps without the smoking!

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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.

howhill-01Well well, hasn’t it been a while since my last post here? Almost half a year, in fact. I’ve mostly been too busy to keep this place going, and, if you’re wondering what would cause such a frightful thing, I kindly direct you to the top of my sidebar. Exciting stuff.

Anyway, I’m on a little break from that and the weather had me finally back in the mood for drawing. Usually when weather is the driving force, it’s winter and freezing; today, it’s 33C just on the coast, and that’s forecast to rise over the next couple of days. I cannot wait. Naturally I chose a sunset – the sign that it’s now safe to head outside – playing behind the old faithful.

And here’s something a little different, which I’ve been meaning to try for some time: a more ‘printerly’ aesthetic with a smock mill, in this case Horning Ferry Mill before it was converted to residential property. It’s not perfect and Illustrator might have been the wiser choice for this one, but I’m too pleased with my productivity today to worry that much.

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It has been a while, so it was nice to find my way around Photoshop again.

So, how you doin’?

 

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It was one of those ‘how did I get here?‘ moments. When I should probably have been asleep, I found myself looking at photos of particularly small or rarely used train stations. Naturally.

Berney Arms Station was a swift return to familiarity. It’s one of the least used in the country, which perhaps isn’t surprising given its location, out in the open somewhere between Yarmouth and Norwich, very much in the realm of wildlife. Its erection is all down to Thomas Berney, who owned the land when the track was being planned; he was quite happy for them to proceed, but insisted that a station be included.

I remember the days when my sisters would take me to Norwich for the day, we’d usually go by train until, at some point, we converted to the bus. I would always ask if it was going to go the Berney Arms way; it took a little longer than the usual route through Acle and Brundall, but was most definitely the more open and scenic journey. Coasting across the Broads with close-up views of Berney Arms High MillCantley Sugar Factory and Reedham was fun, and still has a certain romance about it. I highly recommend getting off at Cantley and visiting The Cock Tavern.

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I can’t remember a single passenger ever boarding or alighting at Berney Arms. My understanding is that it’s most popular on Sundays, as it’s veritably spoilt that day with the service of no less than four trains. Currently, with the pub a victim of arson and the High Mill seemingly closed more often than not, it’s perhaps not as attractive a trip as it once was, but the station will remain a curiosity, I’ve no doubt.

And, rather further from home, I got to sketching this little station shelter below: Campbell’s Platform in the Welsh country of Gwynedd, erected in 1965. Its main purpose back then was to serve Plas Dduallt, a fifteenth century manor house, connecting to the main Tan-y-Bwlch station. I took a few liberties with the reference in a bid to make it seasonably cosy, with varying degrees of success. Lots of fun, though – what a great little station!

These quiet, often secluded little stops are far more appealing to me than the crowded chaos of a large one, no matter how immaculate or warm they are. They’re like having your own little stop – as, indeed, these two were to begin with! Maybe I will look at some more of these; there was a nice feeling of being on the right track whilst making them.

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It’s not often the windmills are upstaged in the Norfolk skies, but a murmuration of starlings should do it (yes, it’s a murmuration, not a menstruation; Chrome, please take note). A bewitching spectacle that can involve anywhere from a few dozen to a few million birds, it is primarily a defence mechanism against predators. It seems it has a similar effect on them as it does us – the hypnotic sight of countless starlings twisting and turning in unison makes a catch virtually impossible.

This was really just a bid to shake up the nine hundredth or so Norfolk and/or windmill landscape (not that I apologise for that). I tried to capture this phenomenon a year or two ago, but never posted it as I wrote it off as, well, dreadful. Looking at it now, though, I kinda like the landscape, so I’m showing it for that at least – and, if the starlings have taught me anything, there’s strength in numbers.

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horsey4Is it 2016 again? No, thank goodness. But it is National Mills Weekend, and I feel like, in my time here, I’ve bestowed a reputation on myself such that it’d be remiss to not recognise/freely advertise the event in some way. So, here we go again. For old times’ sake.

This is Horsey Windpump, a mill participating in the weekend’s festivities. It was one of the last tower mills to be constructed on the Broads, replacing an older structure in 1912. Relatively young though it is, it’s had a bit of a tumultuous time of it – struck by lightning in 1943, the stocks were split in two and that was pretty much the end of its career. Picked up by the National Trust, it was cleaned up and restored in the early sixties, but the October 1987 hurricane dealt it more damage, blowing off the fantail and cap. Quite the sob story.

Currently, the mill is in the final stages of being returned to working order. Just a couple of months ago, a brand new cap and sails were fitted, and that’s what I’ve tried to model here. I don’t know if it’s going to be turning this weekend but as I understand it’s due to be up and running soon. This is nice – there really aren’t enough working mills on the Broads.

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Note the ‘strategic’ camera angles. Long-standing readers of this blog will recall with heady nostalgia my constant complaining and frantic battles with ancient hardware on these renders, especially as vegetation came into play. Rather than put myself through the torment again, I thought I’d try something else: photato manipulation. Having visited countless times over the years, I have plenty of my own terrible photatos of this mill, and wondered if I could convincingly sew my model into them.

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It was a fiddly job and didn’t turn out especially well, possibly because the DPI of my renders was low, making scaling and cutting a bit of a pixelated mess. I did attempt to render the mill on a green background to make the ‘keying’ easier, but with physical sky lighting it only discoloured the thing. Naturally, the results were slightly better when taking colour (and proximity) out of the equation:

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But there we are, anyway. Why not mill around if you’re free at the weekend? As for Horsey, it looks like it’ll be open from 10 to 16:30 on both days. There are seals on the beach (a short walk from the mill) and if I’m feeling brave I might even make the trip myself. What more incentive could you need?

ashtree-3aNow, here’s a horror story for Valentine’s Day: I’ve recently had a bit of a rift with my beloved. Yes, I’m talking about Photoshop. After just a few minutes of use, my brush strokes would begin stuttering on contact, not responding to what I was actually drawing; if I drew a curve in the two or three seconds it took to wake up, I’d get just a straight line from point A to B. Not the most patient at the best of times, having to wait seconds to get a responsive brush quickly became a no-no for me, and, with no settings adjustments seeming to make a difference, I had to reinstall the software. Fingers crossed, it does seem to be restored to working order, now, thank goodness!

Similarly restored is our subject, Ash Tree Farm Drainage Mill, though the reference for this drawing would surely have been back in its working days of the early-to-mid twentieth century. The dreadful storms of January 1953 blew the mill’s sails off, and from then it would lie derelict until about 2007, when a new cap and sails were fitted. Now, it’s a pretty sight just off the busy A47, linking Yarmouth to Acle – it actually sits in a region between the two known as Nowhere – and then onto Norwich. Having done that route so often, I’ve long thought of the mill as the first landmark en route to the city, or equally a sign that we’re almost home.

I can’t claim that the aforementioned gremlins were obstructing any creative cavalcade; it has, so far, been a very slow year on that front. That said, the reinstall at least gave me an excuse to sit down and make something, and that’s no bad thing even if I did perhaps take a predictable route. When life gives you wind, make windmills, as they say.