Today’s Art (17th September 2014)

Well, I’m still looking at some of my old drawings from 2007 and re-making better modern versions of them.

So, today’s (digitally-edited) watercolour painting is based on one of my first attempts at sketching from life – back when I was a student in Aberystwyth in 2007, I used to hang out in this cafe in the Arts Centre between lectures. And, one day in November, I decided to try to sketch the view from the window (I’ll include this sketch here as well).

Today’s painting is also another addition to my “Aberystwyth Series” of paintings – although I don’t plan to go back to making these regularly.

As usual, both pictures in this post are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Aberystwyth - Heart In The Dark" By C. A. Brown

“Aberystwyth – Heart In The Dark” By C. A. Brown

And here’s my original sketch from 2007:

"Arts Centre Steps Sketch" Drawn by C. A. Brown in November 2007

“Arts Centre Steps Sketch” Drawn by C. A. Brown in November 2007

How To Keep A Daily Webcomic Running

2014 Artwork Keep Webcomic Running Sketch

Although it’s been quite a while since I last made a daily webcomic of any kind, they’re one of my favourite types of webcomics – both as an artist/writer and as a reader too.

Still, if you’re new to webcomics – then the idea of making a daily comic can be kind of daunting. Yes, it gets easier once you’ve been doing it for a while and have got to know your characters a bit better – but it can still seem like an almost impossible challenge at the beginning, so here are a few things that might help you out.

This is all pretty basic advice and there’s nothing groundbreaking here, but I hope that it’s useful :)

First of all, you need to build up a “buffer” of comic pages before you even begin to post your comic online. Personally, I’d recommend making at least ten pages before you post your first one online but you can make more or less than this, depending on your preferences.

If you’ve started your comic without a buffer, then try making two comics on a day when you have more time (or making a couple of quick filler posts) and gradually build up a buffer this way.

The reason why it’s a good idea to have a buffer is because it means that not being able to make a comic on a particular day and/or getting writer’s block (and you will probably end up getting this at least once or twice) isn’t as much of an issue as it would be if you’re posting your comic pages on the same day that you’ve made them.

Secondly, you need to keep your art fairly simple. Not only will this mean that you’ll be able to make each update in a reasonable amount of time, but it also means that it’s easier to make sure that the characters and/or settings look the same in every panel.

For example, my very first webcomic from 2010 (an embarassingly badly-written sci-fi comic called “Yametry Run”) used simple black and white artwork for almost every update:

It looked a bit like this *cringe*

It looked a bit like this *cringe*

Don’t worry about your audience looking down at your simple art – people have much lower expectations with webcomics (compared to print comics), and if you’re writing/dialogue is pretty good, then people won’t care too much about the quality of the art.

Thirdly, if possible, choose to post your webcomic on a site that allows you to schedule your updates in advance. Not only will this mean that your updates will be automatically posted at precisely the same time every day, but it will also mean that your comic will still be updated even if you don’t have a chance to visit the site you’re using on any particular day.

Fourthly, learn how to make filler content. With a daily webcomic, the most important thing is that you post something every day – your audience expects nothing less.

As such, it’s ok to post filler content occasionally when you’ve got writer’s block or if don’t have time to make a proper update. There are many ways to make filler content, but a good example of a filler post would be a quick sketch of one of your characters.

If your webcomic has been going for a while and you know other webcomic creators who like your comic, then a slightly better way of adding filler content to your comic is to ask them to make guest comics for you.

Not only does this give the other artists some extra publicity (and the chance to make an episode of your webcomic), but it also means that you’ll have high-quality content posted on your website on the days when you can’t make an update yourself.

Finally, you really have to care about your webcomic. I know that this sounds obvious, but don’t start making a daily webcomic unless you’re a massive fan of daily webcomics and are really passionate about making one.

Yes, your daily webcomic might seem new and exciting in the beginning but, after a while, you’re going to need all of the internal motivation and enthusiasm that you can muster to keep it going. Ok, making daily webcomics gets easier with practice, but it can still be fairly draining – unless you really care about your webcomic.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful :)

Today’s Art (16th September 2014)

Sorry for the long introduction but, I recently rediscovered some old drawings I made back in 2007 and I thought that I’d re-make at least one of them in my current art style.

Today’s painting is based on an illustration I made to a ( badly-written and thankfully unpublished) “Richs and Coates” story I wrote called “The Case Of The Sandown Gamblers” – which involved Richs and Coates solving a very contrived mystery on the Isle Of Wight.

The illustration is from this part of the story (complete with the original tense and grammar errors) where Coates strikes it rich:

“My next memory is of waking up behind the sand mound in the afternoon, unsure as to whether I’d fallen asleep or fainted from sheer exhaustion. As I opened my eyes, I saw Coates standing over me. Instead of his usual jeans and dark t-shirt, he was wearing a rather impressive suit. A cigarillo extended from one corner of his mouth and he puffed on it while talking to me in relaxed tones:
“Larry, you look terrible, glad to see that you survived last night’s ordeal though.”
“More importantly, did the police get Ebenezer?”
Coates shook his head as he helped me to my feet, I brushed the sand from my jacket and stared again at his smart clothes. Chuckling, he continued:
“Oh, these? Let’s just say that I was one of the casino’s first customer’s this morning after the police left.”

Like with all of these redrawings, I’ll include the original badly-drawn illustration from 2007 for comparison too.

As usual, both of these pictures are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"The Sandown Gamblers" By C. A. Brown

“The Sandown Gamblers” By C. A. Brown

And here’s the hilariously terrible original drawing from 2007 (Wow! The perspective is terrible!):

"Richs And Coates in 'The Sandown Gamblers'" Original illustration from 2007 by C. A. Brown

“Richs And Coates in ‘The Sandown Gamblers'” Original illustration from 2007 by C. A. Brown

Four Ways To Back Up Your Creative Work

2014 Artwork Backups article sketch

Ever since I lost most of the fiction I’d written between about 2008 and 2010 (eg: from the peak of my writing days) due to a rather serious hard disk error four years ago, I’ve been fairly paranoid about making backups.

And, since one of my USB sticks (with some of my backup files on it) also failed a few weeks ago, I thought that it was about time that I wrote an article about backups.

If you’re writing a lot of fiction or making a lot of digital art or scanned traditional art, then you should be making regular multiple backups of all your stuff and have at least something of an emergency plan for hardware failures too.

For example, I’ve made two bootable “Puppy Linux” Live CDs which will at least let my computer fuction offline in the event of a physical hard disk failure.

I’ve also got an old Windows 98 computer from the late 90s/early 2000s which I haven’t used in years. This served as a backup unit during my hard drive crash in 2010. But, if you’ve got a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone, then these could also serve as good hardware backups.

Fortunately, making backups isn’t as difficult as it sounds and sometimes you’ll end up having multiple backups without realising it (eg: if you scan your drawings, then either the original drawing and/or the scanned copy can serve as a backup). But I thought that I’d list a few easy ways to make as many backups as possible.

1) USB Sticks: These are fairly cheap and perfectly suited for storing regular backups – however, it’s probably a good idea to keep copies of your backups on more than one USB stick because, as I mentioned earlier, they sometimes have a habit of failing.

They’re also perfect for backing up writing too and you’d be surprised at how little memory a lot of writing can take up (for example, all of the text on this blog only takes up about 3.5 MB of space – yes, that’s just three or four floppy disks worth of information!).

However, if you’re editing videos or producing lots of high-resolution artwork, then you’re probably better off investing in a removable hard disk than getting a memory stick for the simple reason that the largest size of most currently available memory sticks is about 64 GB, I think.

2) Online: If you post your creative work online, then this is another form of backup. For example, I was able to recover a fair amount of the art and comics I made in 2010 just by downloading them from my DeviantART gallery.

This isn’t exactly a rare thing, as can be seen from this hilarious Youtube video of an artist recovering some of her old art from a fantasy art site called “Elfwood” [some of the art on there may be NSFW].

This method of backing things up isn’t entirely infalliable though, since the site you use may have problems at some point in time or you may or may not have issues with the sites you use at some point in time (eg: I briefly had a couple of problems with this blog in July). So make sure that you have other forms of backups too.

Another way to back up your work online (provided that the file sizes aren’t too large) is to set up a webmail account (eg: Outlook, Gmail etc…) and then e-mail your work to yourself at regular intervals.

Again, this isn’t a 100% reliable form of backup, but it’s a good secondary backup for the most important things you’ve created.

3) Non-proprietary formats: When you’re saving backups, make sure that you use file formats that can be opened by a wide variety of programs and aren’t specific to a particular program.

This is because, if worse comes to worse, you might have to open your backups on other computers (which may not have the programs you use) or you might lose the programs that you used to create/read them.

For example: I save the text of these articles as “.rtf” files, which means that they can be opened in pretty much any text editing program. If I were to save them in Microsoft’s proprietary “.doc” or “.docx” formats, then this would mean that I would also need to have a copy of MS Word in order to open them.

Yes, this isn’t a great example (since some versions of Open Office, like the one I use when I’m not using WordPad, can use these formats) but I hope that you get the idea.

So, use widely-used file formats which can be opened by a wide variety of different programs (eg: “.rtf” or “.txt” text files, “.jpg” or “.png” images and “.mp3″ or “.ogg” sounds).

4) CDs/DVDs: Every few months, I usually end up burning a backup CD or DVD with all of my important files on it. Since most of the blank CDs and DVDs I have aren’t rewritable, this is something of a “last resort” backup which is there for peace of mind more than anything else. However, my old backup CDs were absolutely invaluable after the crash I experienced in 2010.

The advantage of making backup discs is that they are a lot more reliable than USB sticks are and they will work on any computer with a functioning CD or DVD drive (so you don’t have to worry about drivers for your USB sticks if you’re using older technology and/or operating systems).

However, burning a data CD/DVD can take a while to do and you have to find somewhere to store it too – so they’re better for occasional long-term last-resort backups.

Also, you can’t use a backup CD/DVD if you’re also using a bootable Linux live CD (unless you have multiple drives). So, keep some USB backups too.

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Anyway, I hope that this has been useful :) Now, make some backups!

Art Evolution Gallery (2012 -2014)

2014 Artwork Art Evolution Sketch

When you’re just starting out with art, it can be easy to feel discouraged. It can be easy to think things like “My art will never be as good as some things I’ve seen other artists make!“. Well, that’s where you’re wrong!

I know that it’s the oldest piece of advice in the book, but the fact is that with enough regular practice, your art can indeed improve dramatically. Yes, it will take time – but remember that literally every artist starts out by producing art which “doesn’t look very good”.

So, since I can’t think of a good idea for an article for today (sorry about yet another filler post), I thought that I’d show you a collection of my art over the past two years or so – both in order to show you how my art has progressed and, more importantly, how your art can progress if you keep practicing.

I’m also starting this gallery at 2012 because my art from before then is embarassingly terrible – seriously, it looks a bit like this:

One of my embarassingly terrible drawings from 2005.

One of my embarassingly terrible drawings from 2005.

(Note: The dates of these pictures are the months when they were originally made, not necessarily when they were first posted online. This is also why this gallery only goes up to July this year. And, to keep the loading time of this page down to a sensible level I won’t include one picture from every month, as I’d originally planned to do.)

Anyway, enjoy :)

(As usual, all of these pictures are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence)

"Skylight" By C. A. Brown [MAY 2012]

“Skylight” By C. A. Brown [MAY 2012]

"Sides" By C. A. Brown [SEPTEMBER 2012]

“Sides” By C. A. Brown [SEPTEMBER 2012]

"Lot 89 (II)" By C. A. Brown  [ OCTOBER 2012 ]

“Lot 89 (II)” By C. A. Brown [ OCTOBER 2012 ]

"Crystal Falls" By C. A. Brown [ SEPTEMBER 2013]

“Crystal Falls” By C. A. Brown [ SEPTEMBER 2013]

"In Concert" By C. A. Brown [OCTOBER 2013]

“In Concert” By C. A. Brown [OCTOBER 2013]

"Street 753" By C. A. Brown [NOVEMBER 2013]

“Street 753″ By C. A. Brown [NOVEMBER 2013]

"Crash Down" By C. A. Brown [ FEBRUARY 2014]

“Crash Down” By C. A. Brown [ FEBRUARY 2014]

"Aberystwyth - Hokusai Pier" By C. A. Brown [APRIL 2014]

“Aberystwyth – Hokusai Pier” By C. A. Brown [APRIL 2014]

"Vintage Voyage" By C. A. Brown [JUNE 2014]

“Vintage Voyage” By C. A. Brown [JUNE 2014]

"Green Palace" By C. A. Brown [JULY 2014]

“Green Palace” By C. A. Brown [JULY 2014]

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Sorry for posting the blog equivalent of a clip show, but hopefully I’ll think of an idea for a proper article tomorrow :)

Today’s Art (14th September 2014)

Well, whilst writing an upcoming article about webcomics, I briefly ended up looking at my embarassingly badly-written first webcomic (called “Yametry Run” – which also features the first appearance of Jadzia Strange too).

And, well, when I was looking back at it, I noticed one of the better episodes of it. So, for today, I decided to see what it would look like with more “modern” art.

In case anyone is curious, I’ll also provide the original comic page from 2010 for comparison too.

As usual, these two comic pages are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Yametry Run - Episode 68 Redrawn" By C. A. Brown

“Yametry Run – Episode 68 Redrawn” By C. A. Brown

And here’s the original comic page from 2010:

"Yametry Run - Episode 68" By C. A. Brown [From 2010]

“Yametry Run – Episode 68″ By C. A. Brown [From 2010]