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Yet more pixel play. This is what I do now, it seems.

The urge took me to have a go at a signature Norfolk round-tower church… but I don’t think that’s what we ended up with. I’m not quite sure what happened, it just came out that way and I just rolled with it for now. There have been too many false starts and abandoned projects of late; I’m just happy to have completed something. Perhaps that explains the elevated colour of it – euphoria!

The church here is loosely based on one in the village of Acle, which does have a round tower, though the belfry is octagonal. I would pass it every day on the way to university, now a decade ago (where on earth has the time gone?) It was nice to see it looking pretty in the morning sun, or dusted with snow in winter; whatever the weather, the church was a pleasant landmark, reassuring me there was still plenty of time to daydream. Of course, autumn and winter saw it cloaked in darkness on the way home. The winding ride between those little villages was quite something at this time of the year – at least for those who weren’t snoring – maybe the odd flicker of civilisation in the distance, but mostly just black. It’s incredible to hear stories from grandparents and their friends who would walk or cycle back and forth in the pitch-dark depths of winter without a care in the world. Different times, I guess.

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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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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broads-horseyrain3East Anglia is often said to be one of the driest regions of the UK. This is normally something I’d dispute, but I don’t think I can remember a dry spell quite as long as we’ve had lately – it must be eight weeks or so since our last drop of rain! With this, I thought I’d try and rescue two unspectacular landscape drawings, stitching in some angry skies and throwing the scene into a much-needed rainstorm. Sorry, sun fans.

Above, we have the approach to Horsey Windpump on a more traditional summer’s day. This was a last minute thing, as the way my fiddling with Photoshop was going, it looked more like spits and spots on a windscreen. It’s a new spin on the concept for me, anyway – and I’ve always rather enjoyed the way raindrops transform the passing landscape. From experience, I can say that Horsey Mere is not the most desirable place to be caught in the rain, even less should lightning decide to tag along. Stay in the car!

broads-caisterrain3The remains of Caister Castle, standing just to the east of the town, still looking out over the trees. Built for Sir John Fastolf, a soldier and knight who fought in the Hundred Years War and Battle of Agincourt, its construction began in 1433, making it one of the earliest and best-preserved ruins of a brick-built residence in England.

Fastolf would die at the castle in 1459, aged seventy-nine, and was buried ten miles away at St Benet’s Abbey. With no children, ownership of the castle was contested, but eventually it went to John Paston, a close confidante and advisor. Challenging the inheritance, the Duke of Norfolk would end up attacking the castle with up to three thousand men, ultimately succeeding in taking the site, however, it would once again find its way back to the Paston family on his death, with several others claiming it into the sixteenth century. The castle gradually fell into disrepair, and with a new manor built nearby in 1600 it was all but neglected, except the tower, which saw continued used as accommodation. Easily the proudest and most intact feature of the building today – I believe you can still access and climb it – the tower is not only testament to the craft of those that erected it but a marvellous landmark, a beacon of inspiration against the vast Norfolk skies. Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, there’s also a motor museum on the grounds.

Temperatures are set to climb further still next week. Fingers crossed for a nice downpour to cool off – maybe a flash or two of lightning, too? 😉

thurne-motorI’ve put my windmill models into action before, using keyframes to bookend the motion of the sails. This time around, however, I’m playing with some of the software’s simulation tools and sticking the sails onto a Motor object. As you’d expect, this works rather like a continuous supply of energy, allowing objects to move or spin, depending on your configuration. It seems silly that I’ve not thought to use this before now, but then, I never have been one for the simple route!

With that constant power, the controls simply allow you to moderate and determine how much it provides, making a smooth start and fluctuating revolution speeds a breeze to animate. Not a ground-breaker, perhaps, but satisfying, and a very useful thing to have discovered.

Our subject for this experiment is Thurne, which stands on the outskirts of the village of the same name and beside the river of the same name. It was built in 1820 and worked for over a century, shutting down for the last time in 1936. By 1950, and like many of its peers at the time, the mill was lying derelict and under threat of demolition, but fortunately rescue came at the hands of Bob Morse, a windmill fanatic, and soon the Windmill Trust took it on. Since then, it has been kept in good condition and, with its splendid white coat and pretty vicinity, enjoys a reputation as one of the most popular on the Broads – I believe recently it has even been restored to full working order, an accolade that can’t be boasted by many broadland mills and one which makes it even more worth a visit.

A short time ago, I posted a clip of the motor power on my Instagram gallery.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXtnccMgwH2/?taken-by=jlsutton3

 

lightning-02…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.

lightning-01Such 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…

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stbenets-2Contrary to my previous post, it’s been lovely today. Hot, but not too hot. Later on, however, the sky developed a bit of a temper and I became hopeful of a storm, but as yet nothing has happened. Just like my previous post, I’m holding out for a rumble…

That would explain the attraction to a particularly stormy reference photo and a return to St Benet’s Abbey after almost two years. (The early days. I posted five images in that one post – what’s happened to value for money?)

I’ve done lots of atmospheric-minded stuff quickly and with a limited palette, if not entirely monochrome; some of these were initially to be colour but didn’t turn out well, hence the reduction. Tonight I didn’t allow myself that safety net, and tried to capture in full colour that powerful, moody light as it bathes the ruins – something I’ve always loved about the onset of a thunderstorm.

This was fun. I am enjoying this particular brush – the same as I used last time for my picture postcard. Its long and weathered shape is coming in handy for both brick and vegetation, not to mention texture. I did end up spending longer on this than I’d planned – just a creep over the hour – but that was only because I was having too good a time marking the ruins. No complains there!

I wrote at some length before about the rich history and lore wrapped up in the remains; it really is a tremendously stimulating place, and so I would recommend a visit if ever you can – when the weather’s nicer than this, though!

lighthouse001Lighthouses are plentiful on the east coast, but few could boast the immediate charm of Happisburgh. The oldest of its kind left in East Anglia, construction in 1790 came in response to a dire winter the year previous, in which hundreds of sailors were lost for the lack of warning lights. Two towers were originally built, but the second structure, under threat of collapse due to erosion, was demolished in the late nineteenth century, granting the taller twin undivided attention.

lighthouse003After almost two hundred years, it seemed it was lights out for Happisburgh in 1988 when service was decommissioned, shunned for more sophisticated navigational technology. Thanks to a tireless local campaign and parliamentary action, it was saved and entrusted to a small group as an independent facility. Upkeep is entirely dependent on volunteers and tourists, thousands of whom visit each year.

The light still operates and has a range of eighteen miles.

lighthouse002It was nice to be able to work a bit more liberally with trees thanks to what was learnt in the Huizermolen build.

It seemed ludicrous and chicken to go so far constructing the lighthouse without due consideration for the light bit. Within the lamp room, I modelled a basic lens for beaming with a spotlight behind it, and it seemed to work, giving the small source a wider, tinted glow. I actually think I fiddled a bit too much, especially with turbulence, and started to lose some of the early promise. It’s something to look at on the next attempt.

I want to marry a lighthouse keeper, won’t that be okay?

 

bridge0002Rather than being on the water, we’re traversing it by train this time, as I attempted to model a historic broadland swing bridge. This particularly idyllic example is heavily inspired by that of Reedham, and the near-identical twin at Somerleyton. I’m sure we all recognise it as the backdrop to Annabel Croft on the Norfolk episode of Interceptor.

Built at the turn of the twentieth century, succeeding older, single-track structures, the two were – and still are – instrumental in linking both Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft to the city of Norwich without disruption to wherry trade.

bridge0001There’s a single red flag flying above the signal box, which means swinging will happen on request…

bridge0004Note that the derelict drainage mill appears to have been demolished in all but one of the shots. In reality, I removed it because I thought it jarring, conflicting with the bridge, which really is the star of the show here. As a compromise, I did regenerate the mill and give it a shot of its own:

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I had this brainwave in the shower, naturally, and by the time I’d got myself in any condition to make, had convinced myself that this would be too much for both the computer and myself. How happy I am to have, in this instance at least, proven that persistent voice of doubt wrong – even if I was up until after 5AM tending to it. That may sound naughty; it is late even for me! But I rarely sleep anyway, so I think it better to be up and doing stuff. There’s much to be said for having the dawn chorus as soundtrack!

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beach1_0002Tuesday was a scorcher here on the coast, with temperatures coming it at just over twenty degrees. I don’t know how on earth we’re expected to cope with such inferno; indeed, I didn’t fare that well, and after initial joy was willing a breeze to swoop in. In fact, I still feel as though I’m browning as I write this in the early hours of the morning. All this being said, opening windows felt good and some brightness was very welcome.

The persistent sun took me to the beach – well, in terms of inspiration, anyway. After a number of failed drawings, I thought it’d be easier to draw a beach hut. Then that failed, and I thought it easier to model one. And it came out – well, far better than the drawings! You’ll see these charming little shelters standing out vividly at many Norfolk beaches – elsewhere too, I daresay! – offering a place to change, or just seek refuge from unremitting heat. Perhaps I need one.

The joy of digital modelling means simple duplication and re-texturing, making those rows of colour easy to achieve.

beach1_0006Hmm! Spoilt for choice. I think I’ll take the mint green – even if there is an outside chance of neighbouring Mr Blobby. It’s a risk I’m going to have to take.