Mini Review: “Sherlock – The Final Problem” (TV Show Episode)

2017-artwork-sherlock-final-problem-review

Well, having watched the dramatic finale to the fourth series of “Sherlock” a while earlier, I thought that I’d write a quick review.

Although I’ll try to avoid major SPOILERS, there will probably be some for both this episode and the previous episode here.

“The Final Problem” continues the storyline that was introduced at the end of the previous episode. Luckily, Watson was only shot with a tranquilliser. But, Sherlock and Watson must find Eurus before something terrible happens. Fortunately, Mycroft knows where she could be. A secret government prison called Sherrinford that is located on a remote island.

Of course, when the intrepid trio arrive, they soon learn that things are not what they seem….

One of the first things that I will say about this episode is that it is probably the scariest episode of “Sherlock” that I’ve ever seen. The easiest way to describe it is that it’s kind of like a cross between one of the “Saw” movies, “Shutter Island”, “The Crystal Maze” and an old James Bond movie. There are also hints of “The Ring” and other psychological horror movies too. It is also a brilliantly chilling reinterpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Musgrave Ritual“.

Unlike the very first episode of series four, the move towards more thriller-style storytelling actually works here. The whole episode is crammed with suspense from the first minute until the dramatic, if somewhat bizarre, conclusion. Yes, despite the fact that it’s more of a 90 minute horror movie than an episode of a detective drama, “The Final Problem” does this well enough that the sudden genre change isn’t as glaringly annoying as the switch to the spy thriller genre was in “The Six Thatchers“.

However, despite this episode being significantly more gripping than earlier episodes in series four, the episode does have it’s flaws. The constant focus on suspenseful drama occasionally turns Eurus from being a chillingly complex and creepily mysterious character to being a two-dimensional “evil for the sake of evil” villain. This then makes it somewhat jarring when she begins to exhibit more emotional depth later in the episode.

Likewise, some parts of the episode drift slightly towards the kind of confusing “unreliable reality” stuff that ruined last year’s “Abominable Bride” episode [Edit: Whilst I normally enjoy “unreliable reality” stories, they aren’t really appropriate in stories about a logic-based character like Sherlock Holmes].

Whilst some of these parts help to add suspense and drama to the episode, there are a couple of major plot twists near the end of the episode that don’t seem to be foreshadowed properly. Plot twists of that magnitude need to be preceded by an appropriate amount of clues (so that they make sense in the context of the story) and, from what I could tell, they aren’t.

Yes, these plot twists are still dramatic and/or genuinely creepy. But, the lack of foreshadowing was somewhat annoying for plot twists of that size. Still, this aside, the story is both chilling and extremely compelling, even though it veers dangerously close to silliness occasionally.

Other cool things about this episode include the fact that Mrs Hudson is shown to be a fan of Iron Maiden (it’s rare to see characters with such good musical taste in TV shows), a 1980s horror movie style segment near the beginning of the episode and the brief return of a much-missed character during a flashback scene. Likewise, the montage scene near the end of the episode is surprisingly dramatic, if somewhat cheesy.

All in all, this is an excellent ending to a three-episode series that has varied somewhat in quality. Yes, this episode is about as far from traditional “Sherlock” as you can get. Yes, some parts of it can be somewhat contrived. But, as a 90 minute horror movie, “The Final Problem” works really well. It is one of the scariest and most unsettling films that I’ve seen for a while.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

The Joy Of… Pulp Art

2017 Artwork The Joy Of... Pulp Art article sketch

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about a historic genre of art that fascinates me every now and then. I am, of course, talking about pulp art. If you’ve never heard of this genre of art before, it used to grace the covers of virtually every “film noir” detective, horror and/or science fiction-themed publication in 1920s-50s America.

Pulp art is melodramatic. It’s both realistic and stylised. It’s lurid. The colours are often bold and vivid. It’s occasionally disturbing/ horrific. It’s sometimes stylishly glamourous. It’s painted with a level of detail that wouldn’t look out of place in an art gallery or on a 1980s heavy metal album cover. It’s old-fashioned. It’s occasionally timeless.

It’s a lot of things but, first and foremost, it is art in the truest sense of the word. Not only is it explicitly designed to grab the audience’s attention, but it often also contains lots of excellent examples of visual storytelling too.

In fact, I think that this is probably one of the reasons why it’s such a fascinating genre of art – there’s always something happening. There are gun fights, pouncing monsters, mysterious murders, steamy romantic encounters and shocking horrors. After all, the whole purpose of this genre of art was to give prospective readers a thrilling glimpse at the stories contained within a book or magazine.

This, ironically, is probably what led to the genre being overlooked in the history of western art. After all, it wasn’t shown in a gallery, it was mass printed on the covers of thousands of books and magazines. Back in 1920s-50s America, more people probably saw pulp novel covers than famous paintings.

Since the artists who made these covers didn’t have to worry about art critics and, since they were making these paintings to get people to read books, they had both a lot more creative freedom and a lot more incentive to create dramatic paintings.

In other words, pulp art is perhaps often closer to the true spirit of what art is meant to be about. It’s meant to make people think, it’s meant to make people curious, it’s meant to elicit emotion and it’s meant to look cool.

In a way, it has a lot more in common with prestigious historical paintings than with what was considered ” modern art” in the 1920s-1950s. I mean, just take a look at Caravaggio, some of his more dramatic paintings probably wouldn’t look out of place on the cover of a 17th century pulp novel.

It hearkens back to the days when art was primarily about storytelling (whether historical, religious and/or mythological) and, in this respect, it’s also somewhat related to the modern comic book. Yes, comics and pulp art co-existed in the 1940s-50s (and probably earlier), but pulp art often shows comic book-like scenes rendered in a level of detail that wouldn’t look out of place in an art gallery.

In addition to this, another awesome thing about pulp art is that it’s a reminder of a glorious time when artists were much more central to everyday life. After all, colour photography was still in it’s infancy and CG graphics hadn’t been invented yet. So, if someone wanted a dramatic cover for their book or magazine, they had to hire an artist.

I mean, just imagine a time where you could see lots of high-quality paintings whenever you walked into your local newsagent. It sounds awesome!

Yes, by modern standards, pulp art certainly shows it’s age (eg: for want of a less charged term, some of it would probably be considered “politically incorrect” these days). But, that aside, it’s also a reminder of what art should be. Art should tell stories, art should be attention grabbing and art should be something that elicits emotions. And, most importantly of all, it should be accessible to ordinary people – rather than hidden away in galleries.

—————–

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Three Tips For Making Quick Daily Art To Post Online

2017 Artwork Ways To Make Quick Daily Art

Although it doesn’t suit every artist, there are certainly advantages (for both you and your audience) to posting art online every day. It gives your audience something new to return to your site for every day. It also means that you have a strong incentive to practice regularly too.

Of course, you should probably have a “buffer” of pre-made art before you start posting any of it online. You’ll probably still have to add to the buffer every day, but it means that you’ll be a lot less likely to miss a day’s updates.

Likewise, if your site has a feature that lets you schedule posts in advance, then take full advantage of it (eg: this is why my daily art posts appear here at precisely 7:45pm GMT every day).

But, most importantly of all, how do you make art quickly enough to post it online every day? I’m sure I’ve mentioned all three of these tips at least once before, but they certainly bear repeating.

1) Standardisation: If you’re making slightly more elaborate art, then one thing that can speed up the creative process is to make sure all of your paintings or drawings are a standard size. If in doubt, start small and – when you feel more comfortable working at larger sizes – keep increasing the size and experimenting with different sizes until you find the right one.

Not only will a standard size save you thinking time every time you make a painting, but you will also eventually be able to work out approximately how long it takes you to fill each page (or part of a page) with art, allowing you to plan your time more accurately.

For example, most of my daily paintings are 18 x 18cm in size, with 1.5 cm black borders at the top and bottom of this area. This basically means that the actual area I have to paint in is only 15 x 18 cm (even if the painting itself looks larger).

Even if I add a lot of detail to one of my paintings, I know that it will usually take me no more than 1-2 hours at the most to fill this amount of paper with art.

2) Sketchbooks: Even though I really don’t seem to keep a non-painting sketchbook these days (well, I have one, but it’s turned into a general notebook, where the closest things to drawings that appear in it are my plans for my occasional webcomics), keeping a sketchbook might be a good idea if you want to post art online every day without it taking too much time.

If you see anything interesting or have any interesting ideas, then just make a quick sketch in your sketchbook. Since these sketches will probably be fairly small and they probably won’t be too detailed, you’ll probably also be able to produce more than one sketch per day.

However, if you only post one of them online every day, then you’ll also be able to increase the size of your art “buffer” – which can either take some of the pressure off of you, or give you time for more elaborate art occasionally.

3) Find “Backup Ideas” For When You’re Uninspired:
One of the major causes of time wastage when making art is probably the planning stage. A drawing or painting may only take you 30-90 minutes to make, but trying to work out what you’re going to draw or paint can sometimes take a lot longer when you aren’t feeling inspired.

To speed this up, I’d recommend finding several “backup ideas” that you can turn to when you feel uninspired. These vary from artist to artist, but they’re basically the kinds of things that you can practically paint or draw in your sleep. In other words, the types of art that you find easiest to make.

For me, this includes natural landscapes, minimalist art, still life paintings, some types of sci-fi art, re-paintings of my really old paintings, fan art etc…. But it might be different for you.

Yes, you might find that some of the paintings you make using these ideas may look “boring”, but you’ll actually have a painting to post online. And you will have made it quickly, because you could start painting right away – rather than having to wait for “inspiration”.

Anyway, the main role of a “backup idea” is just to keep you making art regularly until you feel inspired again. So, even if you might spend four days painting similar-looking minimalist paintings, you’ll still be in the ‘rhythm’ of making daily paintings when inspiration strikes again.

—————-

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (13th January 2017)

Well, after finishing my “Damania Resolute” webcomic mini series, I was in the mood for making some stylised retro-style art. Surprisingly, this digitally-edited painting ended up being a (non sci-fi) 1980s-themed one rather than a 1990s-themed one though.

Although the composition and the lighting weren’t quite as interesting as I’d hoped, I still quite like how this picture turned out.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Random 1980s Office" By C. A. Brown

“Random 1980s Office” By C. A. Brown

The (Almost) Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My “Damania Resolute” Webcomic Mini Series

2017 Artwork Damania Resolute lineart article sketch

Well, I thought that I’d show off the ‘work in progress’ line art for all twelve comics in my recent ‘Damania Resolute‘ webcomic mini series.

If I remember rightly, there weren’t too many major art/dialogue changes between the original line art and the finished comics in this mini series.

I removed a satirical line of dialogue from the finished version of the third comic (I also reluctantly ended up censoring it in the line art too, because I was worried that the satire was too harsh). I also made a couple of slight dialogue changes to the first comic for pacing reasons. There were also some slight changes to the art in the “Yet Again” and “Clay Pigeon Shooting” comics too.
Plus, shortly before posting, I also altered some of the dialogue in the finished version of the “Conspiracy” comic too (since I’d originally prepared the comic before some of the major political upheavals of 2016 happened).

Plus, I forgot to scan the line art for the final comic in this mini series until shortly after I’d started adding watercolour pencil. So, the last piece of “line art” in this post is actually a digitally-edited version of the partially-painted comic that is meant to simulate what the original line art looked like.

As usual, you can click on any of these pictures to see a larger version, if they’re too small to read here.

"Damania Resolute - Discouraging (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resolute – Discouraging (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resolute - January (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resolute – January (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resolute - Serious Games (Line Art) [Censored]" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resolute – Serious Games (Line Art) [Censored]” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resolute - Absinthe (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resolute – Absinthe (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resolute - Conspiracy (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resolute – Conspiracy (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resolute - Yet Again (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resolute – Yet Again (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resolute - Virtual Pets (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resolute – Virtual Pets (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resolute - Clay Pigeon Shooting (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resolute – Clay Pigeon Shooting (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resolute - Eventful (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resolute – Eventful (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resolute - Four Nights (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resolute – Four Nights (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resolute - Pen Nerds (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resolute – Pen Nerds (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resolute - London ( Simulated Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resolute – London ( Simulated Line Art)” By C. A. Brown