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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:

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.

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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Ho Ho Ho.

Having come to a few dead-ends, I was starting to panic about the annual Christmas card. Friends began sending their own, heightening the pressure. It was then when I stumbled upon a photograph of a windmill in America, all glammed up with fairy lights to celebrate the holiday. The deal was done, and one lucky model of mine got its own set. What a sight this would be for real – well, for me, anyway! I’m not convinced the wildlife would be too happy – our chickens refused to sleep when my parents strung some blinking blue lights along the garden fence – but it would look quite magical on the skyline. Two or three would be even more so, of course.

Thankfully, with that, the greeting cards have all been sent, and the Christmas rush is through. Or so I think. I’m going to collapse into a comfy chair, listen to the radio (hey, the Carpenters are on!!!) and do as little as possible – at least until I remember the other dozen or so things that currently escape me. That’s the Christmas spirit.

Wherever you are, and whatever you’re celebrating, I wish you a very cosy and happy holiday.

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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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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? 😉

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.

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The idea that I’m playing with windmills on a regular basis probably won’t surprise any friend of this blog.

This week it was reported that £4million is being pumped into the Water, Mills and Marshes project. Among other pursuits afforded by the grant, twelve derelict mills are set to be cleaned up, restored with the assistance of mind-bending 3D laser technology and, most importantly, preserved for the future.

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So, in response to such happy news, here’s an assortment of old mill and pump studies, 2D and 3D, given a splash of colour and some Photoshop filters. They might not have found a place in my postings over the last couple of months, but they certainly come together here, in celebration of these beautiful structures.

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I’m not sure quite how far the grant money will stretch, but perhaps, in years to come, there will be a few more sights like this about the Broads. Here’s hoping!

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stream-1Ah, the stream.

It’s one of those natural spots where you could happily wile away hours at a time, watching the water trickle along. As transpired with the piece above, the setting is just as meditative to draw, which was just as well, really. I loosely referenced a shot of the rocky stream beneath Ashness Bridge of the Lake District, taken by my friend Mark. Not to peddle an ulterior motive, of course, but he’s a fantastic photographer – do take a look at his gallery!

bamill-3Obviously, another inspirational landmark is the windmill. Have I ever said that before? It’s enough of a link to justify bundling this in here as an extra! It’s just a little experimentation, really; I’d been tinkering with some environmental lighting and attempting to create a foggy view – the impressive Berney Arms Mill rising above the morning mist with her brand new sails.

BAmill0012Quite handily, it meant that I didn’t actually have to render that troublesome terrain! This could breathe a bit of life into the landscapes I’ve been modelling, so it appears both of these streams are flowing.