Today’s Art (16th October 2018)

Well, I was still in the mood for painting from memory and this digitally-edited painting is based on a brief moment during a car journey the night before I painted it (or, rather, it’s based on the sketch I made shortly after said car journey).

Anyway, I happened to glance out of the passenger window and notice that the lights on the back of the car had bathed a nearby wall in a striking shade of red. Although I’ve exaggerated the blueness of the light nearby slightly (in order to give the picture a dramatic red/blue colour scheme), I quite like how this painting turned out 🙂

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

“Wing Mirror” By C. A. Brown

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Three Basic Tips For Making Tenebrist Art

Well, for today, I thought that I’d offer a few tips about using my favourite lighting style in your paintings or drawings. I am, of course, talking about gloomy, shadowy tenebrist lighting.

So, how do you use this amazing style of lighting?

1) Black paint/ink: I’ve mentioned this rule more times than I can remember, but it is always worth repeating. Try to make sure that at least 30-50% of the total surface area of your painting or drawing is covered with solid black paint or ink. Like in this digitally-edited painting of mine:

“Spotlight” By C. A. Brown

Not only does this make any lighting or colours you add to your art stand out a lot more by contrast, but it is pretty much essential to creating the type of gloomy, tenebristic look that you want to achieve.

2) Light sources: Although darkness might be the most noticeable feature of a tenebrist painting, the genre is actually all about painting light. It is about playing with light and/or using light to draw the audience’s attention to a certain area of the picture.

Generally speaking, it’s best to only have one major light source in your tenebrist painting (with perhaps a couple of smaller ones in the distant background at most). Whether this light source actually appears in your painting (eg: a computer monitor, a lamp etc..) or whether it is outside of the picture, you need to know where your light source is and to paint your lighting accordingly.

If you don’t know how to do this, then just imagine a 3D model of everything in your painting. The sides of everything that are facing towards the light source should be either the same colour as the light (if the light is red, green, blue, yellow, orange, purple etc..) or they should just be brighter (if the light is white). Conversely, the other side of everything should be darker (and should have shadows behind it).

Another way to think about it is to imagine “rays” of light emerging from your light source. Everything they touch should be brighter. Here’s a diagram to show you what I mean.

This is a quick diagram showing rays of light radiating out from a light source. The areas facing towards the light source are brighter, whereas the areas facing away from it are darker.

3) Realism (doesn’t matter as much as you think): Although it is important to understand the basics of painting realistic lighting, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

If you are faced with a choice between illuminating a part of your picture that you want your audience to see and being ultra-realistic, then go with the former. As long as the lighting looks reasonably right and helps to add visual drama to your picture, then it’s ok to use a bit of artistic licence. For example, here’s a preview of one of my upcoming paintings.

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 18th October.

The main light sources in this painting are the ominous green sunset and the light behind the door. Yet, several of the shadows are technically in the wrong place. However, this was done for artistic reasons. For example, the light on the door has a large shadow above it, which is unrealistic but it makes the light stand out more by contrast.

Likewise, the far wall is a lot gloomier at one side than the other – in a way that implies that the light source is in a different place to where it should be. Again, this was done for an artistic reason:

The “unrealistic” shadow at the right-hand edge of this wall is there to add depth and to signify that the two walls are not connected.

So, yes, it’s ok not to be 100% realistic with your lighting if there’s a valid artistic reason for it. Still, try to make sure that the lighting looks at least vaguely realistic at first glance.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (15th October 2018)

Well, today’s digitally-edited painting is of a room I lived in (which can also be seen in this painting, this painting and a few others) during one of the more memorable years of my life. I hadn’t planned to paint it again, but I ended up listening to Suzanne Vega’s “Songs In Red And Gray” album and a few songs really reminded me of that time.

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

“Another Time” By C. A. Brown

Mini Review: “Ghoul School 3D” (V 2.3) (WAD For “Heretic”/ “ZDoom”)

Well, with Halloween approaching, I thought that I’d take a look at a wonderfully ghoulish “Doom II”Heretic” WAD from 2017. Yes, you heard me correctly – “Heretic“. I think that this may well be a first for this blog.

I am, of course, talking about a WAD from the creator of “Project Einherjar“, “Strange Aeons“, “Nerves Of Steel” and “Derceto” called “Ghoul School 3D“.

As usual, I used the ZDoom source port whilst playing this WAD (since “Heretic” uses the same engine as “Doom”).

Plus, since I write these reviews quite far in advance, it’s possible that this WAD may have been updated in between the time I prepared this review and posted it (the version I played was version 2.3).

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Ghoul School 3D”:

“Ghoul School 3D” is a large two-episode WAD (with each episode being one level spread seamlessly over several maps) that is a FPS-style remake of an old NES game called “Ghoul School”.

The story of episode one is that you play as a high school student called Spike, whose school has been overrun with ghouls, zombies and ghosts. Not only that, his crush Samantha has gone missing too! In the second episode, the school has been overrun with eyeball monsters due to the Necronomicon developing polyps…

Yes, seriously!

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it has personality! Not only does it have a wonderfully cheesy “1980s movie”-style atmosphere, it also features a variety of quirky and inventive weapons. There’s also a lot of humourous dialogue and (on a couple of occasions) voice-acting too.

Yes, even though it is a “Heretic” WAD, it includes “Strife“-style text dialogue trees (which you need to use to find mission objectives).

These dialogue trees also include most of the game’s comedy too 🙂

Although I initially worried that this WAD would consist of maze-like corridor-based style level design, it actually contains a surprising variety of different areas.

Such as this area. Hold on, is that a … Gremlin… on the door 🙂

Interestingly, the second episode re-uses some familiar locations – but with a variety of changes. This feeling of “familiar, but different” is really cool and it helps to add some depth to the game’s “world”.

In addition to this, despite the “retro” style, this is a WAD that actually requires jumping to be enabled. Fortunately though, there’s relatively little in the way of first-person platforming though.

Emphasis on “relatively”.

The level is fairly non-linear, with the school serving as a hub area that you revisit between exploring other areas. In the first episode, this area is populated by students, teachers and endlessly-respawning monsters.

Well, it is meant to be an invasion of the undead. So, this might explain it…

I’m in two minds about the respawning monsters – on the one hand, they keep the tension up and help to keep this area interesting. On the other hand, if you spend too long in a room, expect the entrance to be blocked by a crowd of them when you try to leave. In the second episode, this is less of an issue though.

Interestingly, several new areas of this hub level are also available to explore during the second episode – including a large sports stadium, a basketball court, several outdoor areas and an extra classroom or two.

And, yes, the ghouls and the eyeball mutants duke it out in the stadium too.

If you haven’t guessed from my mention of a hub area, this WAD is probably more close to “Hexen” than “Heretic” in terms of gameplay. And, yes, that means *groan* puzzles.

Dammit, I have to think as well…

Although there aren’t a gigantic number of puzzles, there are more than you would expect. Whilst some of the first episode’s puzzles are challenging but solvable (eg: the bookcase tower puzzle, the teleporting monster puzzle and the “sacrifices” puzzle) because of small clues nearby, I got completely and utterly stuck on at least two occasions and was forced to resort to using cheats.

In the second episode, I was forced to use cheats again – both to solve a puzzle (how on earth are you meant to get into the rat warren?) and because the sheer number of simultaneous fire effects in one large map slowed my framerate to below one (and, yes, I’m using an older computer. But, well, this is a mod for a game from 1994!). This then caused the game to get stuck in an unwinnable state (because a teleporter wouldn’t activate), which necessitated further use of cheat codes.

If you’re using an older computer, then this screenshot is a pretty accurate representation of the framerate during this map from episode 2.

I also solved at least one puzzle (eg: what to do with the red orb in the first episode) by accident too. Likewise, if you use the “raven logo” item in the first episode anywhere other than in one very specific area in the first episode, then you can easily end up permanently stuck too.

Yes, it’s the coolest power-up in the game, but don’t even think about using it frivolously….

Plus, a few parts of the game require you to use the school’s intercom system to open new areas. Although this sounds fairly easy, the intercom machine in one location has other machines nearby (which do nothing when you use them). So, finding it for the first time can be a matter of trial and error.

And, yes, you can mess around with the intercom too.

Likewise, you can find “Zelda”-style locked chests throughout the level that can be opened with golden keys that are hidden in various locations. Although I didn’t get to open every box, they usually just give you extra health, ammo and/or weapons.

In terms of the new monsters, they’re really cool. In addition to several varieties of ghoul, there are also zombies, burning zombies, zombie soldiers, eyeball mutants, fiery flying monsters, giant skulls, rats, tesla coils, ghosts, bosses etc.. too. Seriously, there’s a really cool variety of monsters here.

I guess you could say that this WAD is ghoulishly fun…

A wild MISSINGNO appeared!

Some monsters also have weapon-specific vulnerabilities. For example, the WAD’s “lost soul”-style ghosts take more damage from fire, lasers and water. The water-based vulnerability also applies to the burning zombies too (although they can be killed with other weapons, if you want to waste ammo), and it’s a really cool gameplay feature.

It isn’t a Super Soaker, it’s a reverse flamethrower!

As for the new weapons, they’re really good too. Although some of them re-use sprites from various other 1990s FPS games, they fit into the game’s setting really well and are fairly satisfying to use. They include a baseball bat, a Super Soaker filled with holy water, a rivet gun, a spray can flamethrower, a magic-based attack and a badass laser gun.

It may look boring, but just wait until you fire it….

In terms of music and sound design, this WAD is really good too 🙂 In addition to some interesting “vintage horror”-style theremin music in one area, one cool feature is that one of the bosses actually has voice-acting, and it is hilarious. I can’t remember the exact wording, but he says something like “Nothing can destroy me… except death” when you kill him. Likewise, Spike will also occasionally say stuff when you pick up weapons and upon death.

All in all, if you’ve got a copy of “Heretic”, then “Ghoul School 3D” is worth checking out. It’s filled with atmosphere, personality, action and humour. The level design is really good too. However, the puzzles can be frustrating at times and one segment of episode two is pretty much unplayable on older computers – so, expect to get stuck or use cheat codes a few times.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four. Because, despite the flaws I’ve mentioned, this WAD has personality, humour, creativity and style. It may have been released in 2017, but I wish that this WAD had been around during the 1990s.

Why A Failed Painting Is Never A Total Failure – A Ramble

The afternoon before I prepared this article, I made a failed painting. It was meant to be a memory painting/self-portrait which would show me sitting in a room I used to live in. It was to be illuminated entirely by the streetlights/headlights outside the room, in order to create a cool “film noir”-like look.

Unfortunately, the final digitally-edited painting looked nowhere near as good as I’d hoped. Here’s a preview of it:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 17th October.

Still, as annoying as this was, it wasn’t a total failure for a number of reasons. After all, a failed painting is never a total failure. But, why?

Firstly, failure means that you’ve tried. This isn’t a “participation medal” motivational statement. It’s a fact. If you’ve failed at making a piece of art and you feel bad about it, then this means that you care about making art. It means that you want to make good art. It means that you have intrinsic motivation. So, your failed painting isn’t a total failure because it can remind you of how much you care about making good art.

Secondly, failure usually means that you’re trying something new or different. For example, the painting I showed you gave me a chance to try out a slightly different technique for painting light and rain. If you look at this close-up of the window, you’ll see that the raindrops surrounding the headlights are the same colour/brightness as the headlights.

The raindrops surrounding the headlights are brighter and/or more yellow than the raindrops in the background. I’m surprised I didn’t think of doing this before…

Although the painting as a whole wasn’t great, it gave me a chance to experiment with new lighting techniques. Which means that, when I make a good painting, I’ll be able to make it at least slightly better by using this technique (if I remember to use it). So, failed paintings usually mean that you’re learning new stuff.

Thirdly, a failed painting is never a total failure because failure is relative. If you’ve been making art for a while, then there’s a good chance that your current “failed” paintings will still look better than the “good” paintings you made when you were less experienced. In other words, a failure can remind you of how far you have come as an artist (and how far you still have to go).

Fourthly, a failed painting is never a total failure because you actually made it. Seriously, even a failed attempt at painting or drawing something is much, much better than just thinking “I can’t do that” and doing something else instead.

So, even if the painting turned out badly, you still made it. You still followed your inspiration or tried to challenge yourself or something like that. In other words, you did more than 99% of people probably would have done.

Finally, a failed painting is never a total failure because it can teach you what not to do. If you’re able to work out why you failed, then you can use these lessons to improve your next painting.

For example, in the failed painting I showed you earlier in this article, it failed because I got the composition wrong (eg: I should have used a “camera angle” that included two windows) and because I was a little bit over-enthusiastic with my use of shadows in some parts of the picture.

Yes, it can be easy to forget the lessons you learn from a failed painting. But, even if you have to fail ten times before you learn something, each failed painting you make will teach you something.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (13th October 2018)

Well, I was in the mood for “retro horror movie” style art when I made this digitally-edited painting. For a while, I considered giving the picture more of a Lovecraftian look (eg: by changing the colours digitally) but then I decided to stick with my original colour scheme.

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

“Dusk” By C. A. Brown