Two Quick Tips For When Your Artistic Enthusiasm Runs Low

Although I’ve probably talked about this topic more times than I can remember, I thought that I’d take another look at the subject of artistic enthusiasm. This is mostly because I’ve had a somewhat variable level of artistic enthusiasm over the past month or so (due to being busy with various things, feeling uninspired occasionally etc..).

So, I thought that I’d give a couple of quick tips about what to do with your artistic enthusiasm is running low.

1) Find an inspiration: This can be a little bit of a challenge to get right, but finding a topic that really fascinates and inspires you can be one way to regain some of your enthusiasm for making art. If you’re unsure about how to take inspiration properly, then check out this article.

For example, I got over a brief period of unenthusiasm-based artist’s block earlier this month when I happened to find some fascinating Youtube footage of abandoned and semi-abandoned shopping centres in America.

Thanks to the combination of opulent 1980s/90s-style architecture, the eerie nature of the videos and the retro nostalgia, this was a subject that I found fascinating enough that I wanted to explore it in my art. This, of course, led to a highly-inspired art series that included digitally-edited paintings like these:

“The Forgotten Food Court” By C. A. Brown

“In The Ruins” By C. A. Brown

So, randomly trawling the internet for topics that seem interesting in some way can be one way to rekindle your artistic enthusiasm. The trick is, of course, to find a subject that fascinates you, but which you don’t know a gigantic amount about – since the feeling of curiosity that this evokes can propel you into wanting to explore a topic via making art about it.

2) Do something easier: This one is a little bit of a double-edged sword, but finding some way to make your art easier to make can either help to rekindle your enthusiasm (by making your art feel more spontaneous to make) or it can help you to keep producing art until you feel enthusiastic again. The thing is not to get too used to making art the easy way, since this can make getting back into making “proper” art a bit more challenging.

For example, due to being busy with various other things, I didn’t have as much time or enthusiasm left for some of this month’s art and/or comics. So, one way that I’ve found to make the experience easier is simply to switch to making monochrome art (hopefully just for 8-10 days). It looks a bit like this:

“The Gloomy Study” By C. A. Brown


Although it can take a bit of practice to learn how to make monochrome art, once you’ve learnt it – then it’s easier to make than “ordinary” colour artwork. So, it’s one of many ways to make art a bit more easily when my enthusiasm is running low.

Of course, every artist finds some types of art easier to make than others. So, there’s no “one size fits all” advice when it comes to finding an easier type of art to make when you’re feeling less enthusiastic. But, if you’ve tried a few different types of art and you know where your strengths lie, then temporarily making an “easier” type of art can be a way to rekindle your enthusiasm and/or buy time until you feel enthusiastic again.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Today’s Art ( 20th August 2018)

Well, since I was kind of busy, today’s artwork ended up being another digitally-edited monochrome ink drawing. Even so, I quite like how it turned out 🙂

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

“The Gloomy Study” By C. A. Brown

One Basic Way To Make Stories About Obscure Topics Accessible To A Wider Audience

Well, once again, I thought that I’d take a break from writing about the webcomic mini series I’m making at the moment and look at what something else can teach us about storytelling. In particular, I’ll be looking at a fairly basic way to make stories about obscure topics more accessible to a wider audience.

This is because I’ve also been going through a bit of a phase of watching a couple of the earlier seasons of a sitcom called “The Big Bang Theory” on DVD. If you’ve never heard of this show, it’s a sitcom about the lives of four highly-intelligent scientists and/or engineers (who work at the California Institute of Technology) and their friends.

It’s filled with nerd culture references, scientific references, mathematical references etc… yet, not only is it a popular TV show that has been running for over ten years but, even if you don’t get literally all of the show’s many cultural references and aren’t an expert on maths or science, it’s still absolutely hilarious nonetheless.

But, how does this show still “work” as a comedy, even though the audience is unlikely to understand literally everything about it? Well, it has to do with the way that the show focuses on characters, events and themes.

In other words, the humour comes from the eccentric ways that the characters react to various events. It also comes from the show’s theme of romantic relationships. It comes from the main characters’ awkward interactions with people who aren’t scientific geniuses. It comes from more traditional things like irony, slapstick comedy etc… In other words, the comedy in this show revolves around the characters, events and themes rather than science or nerd culture references.

At it’s most basic level, it’s an ordinary sitcom… that just happens to have lots of science-related stuff in the background. If the characters were literary critics or professional chess players or had any other specialised skill, then the show would still “work” because most of the humour doesn’t come from the science but from the characters and the story of each episode.

This focus on basic, timeless underlying elements (eg: characters, story, themes etc..) is one of the most effective ways to make any kind of story about obscure or strange topics accessible to a wider audience.

Another good example of this is probably “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. Although this TV show is commonly seen as a ‘nerdy’ show, it’s actually designed for a mass audience. For example, I first watched it when I was a young child and I enjoyed it enough to keep watching it every week. I’m still a fan of it to this day.

Even though the show features lots of futuristic gadgets, complicated technobabble and intellectual discussion – it is still accessible to a very wide audience – purely because this stuff isn’t the sole focus of the show. There’s traditional-style drama, there’s a focus on thrilling puzzle-solving, there are likeable characters, there’s an optimistic utopian view of the future, there’s humour, there’s action, there’s adventure etc… In other words, timeless elements that would still “work” when transposed into another type of story.

So, again, one basic way to make a story about an obscure topic accessible to a wider audience is simply to focus on more timeless and universal elements. Even if the audience doesn’t understand literally everything, then they are still going to be interested because of the characters, the story etc…

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Why Making A Comic “Unfriendly” To Readers Can Work Sometimes – A Ramble

Well, I thought that I’d take a break from talking about webcomics and talk about narrative comics instead. This is mostly because, whilst sorting through some of the stuff in my room, I stumbled across a rather cool graphic novel that I’d forgotten that I owned.

It’s a graphic novel from 2005 called “Silent Hill: Paint It Black” by Scott Ciencin and Shaun Thomas which tells a self-contained story that is based on the disturbing fictional world of the old “Silent Hill” videogames. This article may contain some mild SPOILERS though.

Suddenly discovering this graphic novel was both a cool… and mildly ominous… experience at the same time.

Anyway, one of the most interesting things about this comic is that it is very deliberately designed to be “reader-unfriendly”. In other words, this isn’t the kind of comic that can be read mindlessly in five minutes. And, surprisingly, it’s actually a better comic because it isn’t designed to be easily read.

This decision to make the comic “unfriendly” to readers mostly works because of the context. It wasn’t just a random decision that was made in order to appear “edgy” or “avant-garde”. So, the main lesson here is that context matters a lot when it comes to deciding how ‘reader friendly’ to make your comic. But, let’s look at some of the reasons why it works in the context of this comic.

Firstly, this is a horror comic based on a series of disturbing horror games. As such, the story needs to evoke a feeling of unease in the audience. So, making a comic that can be easily and quickly read without thinking about it too much wouldn’t really work in this comic. By including things like disturbing artwork, an unusual main character, a slightly bizarre storyline etc.. the comic is deliberately designed not to be relaxing.

Secondly, the occasionally bewildering story of the comic works well because it is a brilliant fit with the comic’s main character. The comic follows a homeless artist who ends up travelling to the haunted town of Silent Hill and living there. After a while, it quickly become apparent that he is more comfortable when surrounded by evil monsters than by people.

As such, some of the story’s more confusing and outlandish plot elements (eg: such as the arrival of a bus filled with cheerleaders at one point in the story) work because they make us question whether we’re seeing the “real” world or merely the main character’s anxieties, memories and nightmares. This is also heightened through the use of bizarre visual symbolism too – for example, any visitors to the town of Silent Hill that the main character sees appear as indistinct mannequin-like figures who are dressed in yellow overcoats.

All of this means that the reader also sometimes has to pause for a second to work out what exactly is going on. This approach to narrative is designed to make the reader feel like they’ve been dropped into a strange and dangerous place. If the story was a bit more logical or straightforward, or if the comic explained some of the symbolism a bit more, then this effect would be lost.

Finally, a lot of the art in the comic deliberately looks slightly “unfinished” too (eg: with visible sketching etc..). Not only does this reflect the fact that the main character is an artist but, in a stroke of genius, this “unfinished” art style is also combined with some rather slick-looking digital artwork. This visually-jarring blend of art styles helps to heighten the disturbing atmosphere of the comic surprisingly well.

This is a detail from “Silent Hill: Paint It Black” (2005) which shows how the artist has blended an “unfinished” sketch-like style (eg: the man’s hands and trousers) with more advanced digital effects (eg: the lights in the background)

Yes, the comic could have probably heightened this effect even more by using a more unique style of lettering than the “standard” type of lettering that appears in virtually every print comic. But, this small concession to readability actually sort of works since it focuses the reader’s attention on the events of the story. Even so, a more erratic and/or scrawled style of lettering would have also worked really well.

But, yes, sometimes making a comic “reader unfriendly” can actually work. However, it requires a lot of careful thought in order to get right. Not only do you have to take the context of your comic’s story into account, but you also have to make sure that you have a good reason for every reader-unfriendly thing you include in your comic.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (18th August 2018)

Well, I’m still in the mood for making digitally-edited paintings set in abandoned shopping centres. Interestingly, I actually had the idea for this painting much earlier in the series (since it’s kind of an obvious one), but didn’t get round to making it until now for some reason.

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

“The Solitary Zombie” By C. A. Brown

Eccentric Humour And Storytelling Must Still Include Logic- A Ramble

Well, since I’m still preparing this month’s webcomic mini series at the time of writing, I thought that I’d talk briefly about eccentric storytelling and eccentric humour.

This is mostly because the mini series will consist of large single-panel monochrome comic updates (since I was busy with other stuff at the time of making it). This more limited format means that the humour in my comic has become somewhat more eccentric as a result. Here’s a detail from one of the upcoming updates.

The complete comic update will be posted here on the 22nd August.

Whilst eccentric humour or storytelling might seem like a free for all at first, it is important to remember that it still must contain some kind of logic. Yes, the logic can be a little bit strange – but the audience still needs to be able to discern that there’s a reason, system or pattern behind what is happening.

One of the easiest ways to do this is simply to understand your characters. If you know how your characters think, or even just your character’s personality traits, then you can extrapolate from this in order to come up with eccentric humour and plot elements that either have a consistent logic behind them or have a reason that makes sense on a narrative level (even if might seem strange or silly at first glance).

Several good examples of this can be found in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” stories. Although Sherlock Holmes will often do somewhat strange things, there is almost always some kind of reason for it. Even if it’s just that he’s stressed out because he hasn’t got a case, or that he wants to improve his scientific knowledge (which will help in future cases), Doyle virtually always shows that Holmes’ more strange behaviour happens for a reason.

Likewise, even if a story is thoroughly surreal, then there still has to be some kind of underlying logic, system or reason behind what is happening. In other words, there still has to be an actual story that makes sense on some level.

Even if the underlying logic in your story is more like dream logic (eg: based on symbolism etc…), then it still needs to include actual logic. It can’t just be completely random. There has to be some way for the audience to, theoretically at least, understand what is going on. Likewise, if there’s a possibility of the story being confusing, then there needs to be some other element to keep the audience’s attention (eg: humour, mystery, horror etc..)

A good example of this would probably be a Satoshi Kon film called “Paprika“. Even if you don’t understand literally everything about the story of this surreal sci-fi film, it’s still a very fascinating and memorable film because is also filled with lots of visually-complex animation, creepy horror etc..

So, yes, if you are going to use eccentric humour or tell a somewhat surreal story, then there must be some kind of logical reason behind the stranger parts of your story. Or, failing this, there must be something else to keep the audience interested.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂