How My Art Improved After I Remembered Something I Watched Last Year

2015 Artwork Learning from Shoo Rayner video article sketch

Sometime last year, I watched this absolutely fascinating Youtube video by a professional illustrator and artist called Shoo Rayner. The video is about wooden artist’s mannequins and about how you can use them to both draw more realistic proportions and to work out how to draw people standing in a whole range of positions.

Since I had a couple of these mannequins from a long time ago (I’m not sure why but, when I was a kid, I asked my parents to buy two of them), I managed to locate them again and I used them for a couple of paintings.

The problem with these old paintings was that they looked, well, kind of wooden – like this one:

"Zombie Manor" By C. A. Brown [2014]

“Zombie Manor” By C. A. Brown [2014]

After a while, I just couldn’t be bothered to copy these mannequins any more and ended up abandoning them. But, a few weeks before I wrote this post, I suddenly realised that I wanted to try to draw people standing in poses that I hadn’t really drawn before. But, I couldn’t be bothered to find my artist’s mannequins again, so I followed one of the other pieces of advice I remembered from the Shoo Rayner video.

In other words, before I drew my pictures, I made a light pencil sketch of the mannequin from memory. Instead of fussing around with an actual mannequin, I was able to work much more quickly by testing out different poses using a “virtual” mannequin that existed only on the page and looked a bit like this:

I've drawn this example using ink for the sake of clarity, but you should only draw it lightly in pencil.

I’ve drawn this example using ink for the sake of clarity, but you should only draw it lightly in pencil.

Although, as Shoo Rayner points out in his video, this technique requires a bit of practice and some experience with using artist’s mannequins – I’ve found that this technique is well worth using for a couple of reasons.

One of the main advantages of using this technique that I found is that because literally everything is drawn from my imagination and memory, my paintings tended to look a lot less “wooden” as a result.

Since I wasn’t directly copying a literal wooden mannequin, I could add a bit more spontanaity and variation to my pictures which helped the poses in my final paintings and drawings to look a bit more “natural” (whilst still looking realistic). Kind of like this:

"Castle Crypt" By C. A. Brown

“Castle Crypt” By C. A. Brown

"1992" By C. A. Brown

“1992” By C. A. Brown

"Somewhere In A Room" By C. A.Brown

“Somewhere In A Room” By C. A.Brown

Another advantage of using pencil drawings of mannequins (rather than actual mannequins) to plan your paintings is that you can add more variation. An artist’s mannequin is a fixed height and size – as such, everyone you draw by copying the mannequin will have roughly the same proportions as the mannequin does. This means that everyone in your paintings will look kind of the same.

By making sure that the mannequin only exists in your imagination and on the page, you can alter all sorts of things about it – whilst still making your paintings look realistic.

Again, Shoo Rayner goes into more detail about how to use this technique in his video and it’s well worth watching. But, it’s also important to remember that – no matter how much drawing or painting experience you’ve had – you can and should still learn new things from time to time.

———

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting :)

Today’s Art (28th August 2015)

Well, I’d originally made a different painting for today but it was so badly-drawn that it unintentionally ended up looking kind of creepy. So, instead, I eventually made this vaguely ominous-looking film noir style drawing (which was very slightly inspired by this series of “let’s play” videos I’ve been watching on Youtube). I’m quite proud of how it turned out, although I’m not sure if this will end up turning into a short art series or not.

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

"House On The Field" By C. A. Brown

“House On The Field” By C. A. Brown

Even MORE “Never Seen Before” Failed Paintings From My Sketchbooks :)

2015 Artwork sketchbooks August sketch 2

Well, when it came to writing today’s article – I was slightly tired and I also couldn’t think of a good enough idea. So, instead, I thought that I’d show off a few more “never seen before” failed paintings (and a doodle) from my sketchbooks. Hopefully, I’ll write a proper article or review for tomorrow.

None of these paintings actually reached the “adding paint” stage, so they’re bascially just drawings in various stages of completion. Anyway, enjoy :)

This was a horror painting - in the style of an Iron Maiden album cover - that I'd planned to make. But, a while after I started it, I realised that it looked, well, kind of crappy. So, I ended up abandoning it.

This was a horror painting – in the style of an Iron Maiden album cover – that I’d planned to make. But, a while after I started it, I realised that it looked, well, kind of crappy. So, I ended up abandoning it.

This was going to be a painting of a gothic librarian. But, well, I couldn't think of a good enough idea for the background.

This was going to be a painting of a gothic librarian. But, well, I couldn’t think of a good enough idea for the background.

This was a random ink and coloured pencil sketch I made to test out a really cool art technique I saw on the back cover of Bad Religion's "All Ages" album.

This was a random ink and coloured pencil sketch I made to test out a really cool art technique I saw on the back cover of Bad Religion’s “All Ages” album.

This is a larger version of the wild west sketch from my last sketchbook post. Bascially, I tried to turn THAT little sketch into a larger painting, but it didn't turn out very well. And this is what it looked like.

This is a larger version of the wild west sketch from my last sketchbook post. Bascially, I tried to turn THAT little sketch into a larger painting, but it didn’t turn out very well. And this is what it looked like.

This was going to be a painting of someone taking a photo with their phone, but I couldn't think of a good enough idea for the background and eventually ended up abandoning this picture.

This was going to be a painting of someone taking a photo with their phone, but I couldn’t think of a good enough idea for the background and eventually ended up abandoning this picture.

———-

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse into my sketchbooks. Hopefully, I’ll write a proper article or review for tomorrow :)

Today’s Art (27th August 2015)

Well, today’s painting was inspired by a documentary I watched a few months ago about animal mummification in Ancient Egypt. Anyway, one of the surprising things I learnt from this documentary was that they mummified a surprising range of animals (including crocodiles) and that the mummies were often stored in large underground catacombs. Anyway, the documentary made me wonder if there was a catacomb for crocodile mummies and what it would look like if it existed….

Although I quite like how this painting turned out, the original watercolour painting didn’t really look “ancient” enough, so I ended up using quite a few digital effects on the final version of the picture.

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

"Catacomb Of The Crocodiles" By C. A. Brown

“Catacomb Of The Crocodiles” By C. A. Brown

Three Tips For Creating Good Characters If You Aren’t A Social Person

2015 Artwork Creating good characters if you aren't social sketch

Unfortunately, when it comes to creating characters – extroverted people who flourish in social situations tend to have a lot more social experience which can be useful when it comes to writing realistic dialogue and characters.

But what about the rest of us? What if you’re someone who isn’t exactly at their best in the presence of other people? What if you’re someone who is only truly at ease in solitude or in a fairly limited range of social situations?

How do we write good characters? Here are a few tips that might come in handy?

1) Use your experience: If you’re the kind of interesting, introspective person who doesn’t flourish in social situations, then this doesn’t mean that you don’t have any life experiences to draw on when it comes to creating characters. You do, it’s just slightly different.

Because, chances are, you’ve probably experienced and/or endured your fair share of social situations. After all, how would you know that you don’t flourish in the vast majority of social situations if you haven’t experienced these situations before?

But, unlike the kind of people who flourish in these kinds of situations – you have a different perspective on them. Unlike people who “fit in” almost everywhere, you get to see everything from the outside.

Even if you’ve got so good at the all-consuming and soul-destroyingly exhausting task of appearing to be more social/extroverted than you actually are that it’s almost second-nature to you, then this will still give you a very different perspective to the one you would have if you were someone who felt totally natural and/or at ease in these situations.

Not only does this mean that you have an instant advantage when it comes to writing realistic “outsider”, “rebel”, “eccentric” etc… characters, but it also means that you’re more likely to see “ordinary” people and situations in a slightly different way.

You’re probably more likely to notice the weird, superficial, awkward and/or annoying parts of social situations that most people take for granted. And, if you add these observations to your story or comic, then you can give your work a unique perspective that more extroverted writers are probably going to miss. Likewise, this also means that it’s a lot easier to create cynically satirical characters too.

2) Composites: If you’re the kind of cool person who prefers solitude to social situations, then there’s a good chance that you’ve had to fill this solitude with something.

In other words, whilst some people spend a lot of their time checking social media and making small talk – you’ve spent a lot of your time in different ways. You’ve probably spent a lot of time reading stuff, watching stuff, playing games etc….

Well, this experience can be an absolute goldmine when it comes to thinking of interesting characters. Why? Because you’ve been exposed to a far greater range of fictional characters and you can draw on this experience to create new and interesting characters of your own.

Whilst you obviously shouldn’t directly copy other people’s characters, there’s no rule against creating new and original characters that are at least partially a composite of several other interesting characters that you have seen.

Whilst you shouldn’t copy any of the superficial elements of these characters (eg: their names, appearances etc…), you can borrow more subtle things – like their personality, their worldview etc…. as well as adding a lot of your own imagination too, of course.

3) Focus on other things: Whilst characters are one of the most important parts of any story, they aren’t the be all and end all. If you aren’t that good at writing or thinking of characters, then there are plenty of other things that you can focus on that will still make your story interesting.

You can come up with clever storylines, you can use a really interesting narrative voice, you can come up with really interesting fictional locations, you can include lots of humour etc…

Although badly-written characters might put some people off of your story, there are plenty of other things that you can focus on instead to compensate for this.

——-

Anyway, I hope that this was useful :)

Today’s Art (26th August 2015)

Well, I was kind of in the mood for a 1980s-style painting today and, although this painting ended up requiring a lot more digital editing than usual after I scanned it (mainly because I messed up the colour scheme for most of the background and ended up heavily adjusting the RGB levels on this digital version of the picture), I quite like how it turned out.

As a blog exclusive, I’ll also provide the “work in progress” lineart for this painting here too.

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

"VHS 1988" By C. A. Brown

“VHS 1988” By C. A. Brown

And here’s the “work in progress” lineart:

"VHS 1988 (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“VHS 1988 (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

The Joy Of…. Bangsian Fantasy Stories

2015 Artwork Joy Of Bangsian Fantasy Article sketch

Surprisingly, I didn’t even know what “Bangsian Fantasy” was until I was about seventeen and happened to read a second-hand copy of an old horror/fantasy/thriller novel called “Inferno” by Larry Niven And Jerry Pournell.

This is a novel from the 1970s that is based on Dante’s “Inferno”. It follows a guy who dies and ends up exploring all of the various circles of hell. Although I can’t remember all of the plot details, it’s an absolutely fascinating and vividly descriptive novel which I can still remember more about than I can with most of the other novels I read when I was seventeen.

Although “Inferno” is an old novel that is heavily based on Christian mythology ( eg: I should probably warn you that one part of the story contains somewhat outdated/old fashioned attitudes towards LGBT people, if I remember rightly), it’s basically just a story about a guy who ends up exploring a strange and horrific world. More importantly, it’s also a Bangsian fantasy novel.

So, what is Bangsian fantasy?

In short, a Bangsian fantasy story is any story that is set in an afterlife of some kind or another. It’s a story that takes place after the main character has died.

This genre is absolutely fascinating for the simple reason that no-one really knows what awaits us after death. They’re stories about something that literally everyone will eventually experience and, yet, apart from possibly a few people who have had near death experiences, no-one knows for certain what (if anything) happens afterwards.

So, these stories already come with a pre-made mystery attached to them. After all, “what happens to us after death?” is one of the oldest questions known to humanity. Seriously, it’s up there with “what is the meaning of life?“. Bangsian fantasy stories promise us an interesting, if totally fictional, answer to this old mystery.

Another cool thing about Bangsian fantasy stories are that they are also often one of the most imaginative types of stories out there.

After all, everyone is familiar with at least a few traditional myths, beliefs and legends about the afterlife. So, Bangsian fantasy authors either have to find innovative ways to make these old myths interesting again or they have to come up with a totally new theory about what awaits us after death.

What this means is that these types of stories can often be completely unpredictable. They can contain really fascinating fictional worlds that don’t even have to have a vague basis in reality, because they’re not set in our reality.

Yet another cool thing about Bangsian fantasy novels is that they can also feature famous people from history who have died many years ago. Not only can this allow authors to create interesting meetings between famous people who lived in vastly different times, but it also makes us think “what if these people still exist somewhere?“.

This question can be used in both horror stories (eg: when it involves historical villains like Hitler, Stalin, Jack The Ripper etc…), and in fun/ funny/inspirational stories (eg: when it involves people like Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens etc…).

The idea that famous people still live on through more than just their historical reputation is a universally fascinating one. It can be seen in things like theories that Elvis is somehow still alive or – as I heard of recently – the bizarre conspiracy theory that the famous American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is actually Bill Hicks in disguise.

Anyway, Bangisan fantasy allows us to explore these emotions and themes in a way that doesn’t lead to us following bizarre conspiracy theories.

So, yes, Bangsian fantasy is an absolutely fascinating genre and it is well worth exploring if you can find any examples of it. It doesn’t really seem to be a hugely popular genre, but you can sometimes find Bangisan fantasy-like storylines in some TV shows and computer games.

——–

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting :)