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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.

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.

abstract-rain-02Another tree try-out! Well, this time I endeavoured to take my previous post and bring that around to my earlier stuff. Throw some rain in, basically. I started off with a very rough sketch and then threw it under various distortion maps to ‘glitch it up’, as you can see above and below. Some of these are interesting, though I’m not sure if the sheer randomness of it all might make them a hard to manipulate, should I want to create something more precise.

abstract-rain-11Do you remember back in the days of Windows 95/98, there was a Windows desktop theme called Rainy Day? It was all murky blue-grey, as you’d expect. I think my dad was obsessed with that, as every time we got a new PC, one of the first things he’d do was switch the style to Rainy Day. That came to mind as I used very similar colours for the following developments; the tree silhouette and the background are wildly distorted, with several layers of noise attempting to look ominous, stormy, perhaps slightly hypnotic – I know I’m captivated by storms. It’s something to revisit, I’m sure.

Ice trees. Because that was the logical progression. In truth, these were supposed to be drops on glass, reminiscent of my previous post, though they do feel more Mr. Freeze to me. Still, it’s a bit weird and that’s usually interesting if nothing else.

It was a shame to hear of Marie Fredriksson’s death last week. Her voice takes me back to my university days: 2011, a mere eight years ago, though it now seems a lifetime ago in several respects. Back then, I often found myself procrastinating by means of old Top of the Pops on YouTube, and on one seemingly unexceptional episode from 1991, who should burst onto the screen? It was Roxette – just a few seconds, in a compilation package. I don’t think I even knew them before that. But damn – that hair! That voice! It was one of those great moments where you hear just a few notes and there’s a need to find out more, and then comes the excitement as you discover as much as you can. It’s the best thing about music. I got no end of stick for liking them, but couldn’t care less – Marie’s voice was worth it. Joyride is pure pop and will always be a go-to should I need a lift, but I think if I had to pick a single track it would probably be Queen of Rain, a beautiful song which very much fits the recent theme, so that’s why I decided to leave a little tribute here. Farewell to a remarkable talent.

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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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geometric-trees-1Projection, you understand. Frontal projection of texture essentially positions it to face and fill the render region regardless of the object’s shape. This can produce some interesting results, one way or the other. I have dabbled with it sporadically in the past, but this time I ran with this tree spree and tried to get a little more out of it. I went with a radial gradient to start, with an inverted replica used for the background.

Bit much, perhaps? Mindful of its loudness, I did try and keep the landscape simple. It does look bolder with some different colours being used; I do like how crisp the blue turned out. Perhaps, if toned down slightly, there’s even potential in a Christmas card there. My thanks to Steve of Steve Kidd Art for helping me see sense on the windmill iteration.

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And another experiment – the same idea, just using pixelated noise instead of the same gradient. This time, the subject was another favourite, the silver birch tree:

geometric-trees-D01geometric-trees-D02Perhaps a case of a birch too far, but more fun nevertheless. Who couldn’t love trees?

Don’t say I didn’t warn you – I said there would be more of this carry-on to come, and here we are. I didn’t quite expect it to come this quickly, but there will be no complaints about that. This little spike in productivity is very welcome.

First, we have these concoctions above, trying to take my previous post onward and into a 3D space. They aren’t really up to much at the moment but who knows, with someone clever texturing and arranging lighting they might have something going for them. As it is, the sphere arrangement just reminds me of the Chupa Chups display in sweet shops – temptation aside, that’s not really a bad thing.

On that mention of texturing, here are a couple of late additions; it’s the same basic principle, only with rounded branches and a snazzy steel finish:

I broke that down a little more with the next set, removing the branches and coming to floating shapes housing the tree’s image; in this case, said image comes from a post I made way back in 2017.

Finally, introducing the old favourite, the glitch effect; this time done with layers and layers of lines, each with different colours:

geometric-trees-B005geometric-trees-B006The first actually seems to chime quite nicely with the original and its setting. The yellow is perhaps a little loud, but who’s worrying about that? I’m pretty good at messing things up in general, so it’s rather surprising it’s taken me this long to embrace the glitch effect in my work. It’s fun.

pixeltree-3dI’ve developed a bit of a thing for this reductive/De Stijl/glitch/whatever I’m calling it today style I’ve been exploring lately, so set about doing some more, moving the focus from line and more toward shape – topiary, if you will – just throwing blocks and circles together, basically, and trying not to balls it up in the process.

I did give myself some rule and order in that I restricted myself to circles, triangles and oblongs, each of which having three proportionally sized ‘heads’. I then attacked them with texture brushes. The copses above were rather thrown together, trying to not to overthink composition. The same went for an attempt at one of my favourite trees, the weeping willow:

pixeltree-3I would say these have been the most exciting experiments of the year, but, given my rate of posting that isn’t really saying much. It’s the most fun I’ve had in a while, anyway, and I’m sure there will be more.

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Trees! Trees! Teresa Green! Or not as the case may be, sorry Tess. The above was something of a detour from my standard pixel practice; I tried to go wild with nature by creating a spooky tree with blocks of pixels, which I’d previously put together using a selection of shades. It seemed like a clever idea at the time. As you can see, it didn’t go that well, so that was something of a “one and done” exercise.

I started thinking back to old tree pieces I’d done and furthermore to artists who’d made interesting interpretations of them. Of course I found my way back to Piet Mondrian, my old GCSE Art bae. Always a joy. I went a step further with the reduction, however, sticking to my favoured black-and-white style to begin with.

pixeltree-2bThese were such fun, actually, and I like them all the more for their imperfections. I did attempt some later on using sharp lines, but they didn’t appeal nearly so much.

Branching back to my glitch stuff a couple of months back, I felt it was now time for Photoshop to take over. I drew a very rough impression of some leaves over the grid, and then pixellated it, resulting in a glitchy mess. Cue play, and we ended up with these intreeguing puppies:

And then I recoloured one to reflect autumn. Tis the season, after all, close bosom-friend of the maturing sun.

pixeltree-2fThe main take-aways from this post are: wasn’t Mondrian a legend, and; isn’t Photoshop also a legend? These are also uber-abstract for Mr. Literal over here, too, so I’m taking this as a victree one way or another.

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Back to the beach, this time with a specific sight in mind: Covehithe. This remote hamlet on the Suffolk coast was one of several fruitful locations pointed out to me by my photographer friend Mark. It’s quite possible I visited as a child, but I have no memory of it, so certainly if I did it wasn’t a regular haunt.

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Taking the pathway from the impressive ruins of the church – which I should hope to get to another day – to destination at the crumbling cliffs, a lone, rather post-apocalyptic atmosphere pervades the shore, particularly at this time of the year. Strewn along the beach are fractured skeletons of fallen copses, now at the mercy of the tides as they slowly bed into the sand. Like so many of my more familiar Norfolk beaches, the coastline is transformed on a regular basis, and edging further and further backwards; a sobering reminder indeed of the sea’s unrelenting force, though in this instance it has, unquestionably, carved out a dramatic and gripping place.

Having thought for a while about focusing on trees and with my current endearment to the ocean’s shore, the cocktail of Covehithe was an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up. It really is a very well-kept secret, and I’m so grateful for the tip-off!

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