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norfolk-5

This is, I believe, the first drawing I’ve uploaded to this space which hasn’t relied on a photograph or reference image in any way. This was created completely by the mind… there were supposedly limitless possibilities, and this is what came of it! I don’t know what that says to you about my imagination. Well, I guess it begins to illustrate the thoughts of eeriness I mentioned a while ago when drawing Norton Marsh Drainage Mill, with what appears to be a hazy summer sky moving aside for a big-arse storm, just to make things extra scary… you don’t want to be out on the broads when a lightning storm hits, let me tell you from experience!

As it happens, I used to dream up scenes much like this as a child, often inspired by Sundays out with my family, which invariably saw us out on the broadland somewhere (These were the days when, being Sunday, it meant there was little else to do!). Using only a pen and whatever paper I could get my hands on, my mother knew it kept me out of mischief, so she would buy me no end of sketch pads, old diaries, anything… I wasn’t much fussed… I’d be out of her hair for a few hours. She would do that a lot.

I wonder if this ‘full circle’ of sorts has been spurred in any way by my recent return to walking. I’ve been out and about a lot over the past few months, indeed every single day since the start of August, as it’s widely reputed to be good for depression. It’ll do me the world of good, they all say. (And then I scream at hearing that tiresome bloody phrase on endless repeat.) I can’t say it’s had a massive impact in that respect – I probably got desperate and overestimated the effect it’d have – but I have found myself forcing myself to do it every day, so it must be doing something positive in there. I’m trying to increase my mileage with each week… maybe one day I’ll outstretch and bend time backward, to the pathways I explored as a youngster, which look a little like this one.

mill-1

There are few images in my head more stimulating than being marooned out on the Norfolk Broads, trapped in the clutches of a twirling time machine and finding oneself in the ilk of a 40s-cum-1840s horror, veiled in chilling black-and-white and the rumble of the wind as it surfs the empty landscape… everywhere and yet nowhere to go, we are no doubt fleeing from some hideous creation and in panic setting eyes upon and seeking solace in the embrace of the most haunting place of all: the creaky old windmill in the distance, whose door is conveniently left ajar.

That’s why I love to draw them. They’re such effortless, inspirational subjects, and indeed they must be some of the most popular. I have long been enamoured with them; they were some of the earliest things I remember trying to draw, amounting to a triangle with a cross at its head. When I was a little boy, I knew the names of all in the locality (and there were loads) off-by-heart – though I wouldn’t fancy being tested today! – and it soon became such that the photographs weren’t enough; I’d get overexcited at the prospect of visiting them up close, taking in the details so that I could then come home and draw one that was a little more accurate than the last.

If we’re to be technical, of course, this drawing isn’t actually a windmill at all. It’s Norton Marsh drainage mill, or windpump. The majority of mills on the Norfolk Broads were of innards this way, for they once played a pivotal role in making sure the land nearby was suitable for farming upon. Almost all of these are long since retired, replaced by electrical pumps, and as such many of the mills themselves have just been left behind, standing as derelict shadows of the past, and even scarier than before… though some have been restored to resplendent glory and look quite lovely, though it’s incredibly rare for them to be restored to working order. Seeing one turn on the landscape today is a rare and real treat.

The source image only gives ‘before 1918’, so I don’t know any more than that about the context of the drawing. I do know that Norton Marsh still stands, though without any sails. It appears it’s now privately owned and used as holiday accommodation by some who are very fortunate.

One day I’ll have my own mill, provided it’s not too scary.

I’m pleased with the drawing, though it’s a little vanilla for what I was hoping to get from the exercise. Probably a bit too controlled and so not as ominous as it could be. I’m going to try and do some more windmill stuff with a view to capturing a bit more of that spirit and inspiration with which I opened, a bit later on.