Today’s Art (22nd February 2019)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the third comic in “Damania Reconstituted”, a new webcomic mini series (you can find lots of other comics here too). You can catch up on previous comics in this mini series here: Comic One, Comic Two,

Although this will be another four-comic mini series for time reasons, I was determined that there will be some comics here this month 🙂 And, yes, this actually happened to me a few weeks before I made this comic (although I was able to remedy it by just re-playing “Doom II” and, my personal favourite, “The Plutonia Experiment” from “Final Doom”).

And, as for the second panel, Rox uses a ZDoom-style source port (with death text). Even though she still prefers the original DOS version, the idea of being able to jump in “Doom” is as awesome as it is deeply heretical.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Reconstituted – Replay” By C. A. Brown

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Three Reasons Why Books Are Better Than Film And TV

Although I’m sure that I’ve written these types of articles before, I felt like writing another one.

This was mostly because, ever since I got back into reading regularly a few months ago, I’ve sometimes found myself missing all of the films and TV shows that I used to watch back when I didn’t read regularly (but don’t really have time for these days, due to reading books).

So, I thought that I’d list three of the many reasons why books are better than film and TV.

1) More freedom: One of the great things about novels is that they have more creative freedom than films and TV shows do. In other words, they’re usually only written by one person, they only use words and they don’t have to pass a censor before they are published. This lends novels a sense of individuality and creativity that films and TV shows can often lack.

Only having one author means that a novel isn’t really “designed by committee” in the way that many TV shows and films are. In other words, a novel is usually the creative vision of one person – they get to shape the story’s world, how the reader “sees” the world etc… in a way that isn’t really practical in film and television. Likewise, because novels don’t cost millions to make, there’s less of a need to appeal to the most mainstream audience possible for financial reasons (which, for example, can lead to films becoming more generic).

Plus, since novels only use words, they aren’t constrained by the practical problems that films/TV shows have. In other words, if a writer wants to write about somewhere spectacular or something spectacular, they can just write about it. They don’t have to build elaborate sets or worry about the special effects budget. As such, there’s a sense that literally anything can happen in a novel. That even the most “low budget” of novels can do things that even mid-budget films or TV shows could only dream of.

Not only that, unlike film and television, novels don’t have to pass a censor. For example, although film/TV censorship in the UK is less strict than it used to be, the censors have been known to enforce bizarre or over-protective rules in the past (eg: they pretty much banned the depiction of various martial arts weapons in films between about 1979-1999).

Likewise, many US TV shows sometimes have to follow absurdly strict censorship rules (eg: even in a “gritty” TV show like “24”, the main character cannot utter any profanity stronger than “damn”).

But, thanks to both the Lady Chatterley trial in the UK and the American first amendment, readers and writers do not have to suffer any of these patronising restrictions. In other words, books are one of the few artforms that respects both the author and the audience enough to let them make up their own mind about everything – free from the controlling influence of a censor.

2) It’s like a boxset, but better: One interesting thing I noticed about the ancient Egypt-themed novel I’m reading at the moment (“Nefertiti” by Michelle Moran) is that, even though it started rather slowly, it eventually started to remind me of when I’d watched a DVD boxset of HBO’s “Rome” TV series about five years ago. It had the same vivid historical immersion, depth and gripping drama.

But, I don’t have to read it in fixed one-hour instalments. The story moves as fast as I can read it. I have the freedom to allow my imagination to work out what all of the interesting locations look like. I can quite literally see what the main character is thinking and feeling. The characters are characters, rather than famous actors. I don’t have to sit through an annoying unskippable copyright warning every time I open the book. I can experience the author’s unique narrative voice. I could probably go on for a while….

I also suddenly realised that one of the reasons why I watched so many DVD boxsets during the 3-4 years that I didn’t read regularly was because they offered an experience that is a little bit like reading a book. However, it comes with all sorts of limitations that books don’t have. So, yes, books are like boxsets – but better. Plus, of course, even second-hand, books are often cheaper than DVD boxsets too 🙂

3) They stand the test of time: One of the cool things I noticed when I got back into reading regularly is that I could occasionally read books (like “The Maltese Falcon) that were written when film was still a developing medium and television was a lot less popular. And the stories are just as vivid as a modern novel. Now, compare this to, say, a grainy old B&W film that could only use whatever limited effects etc.. were available at the time.

Plus, when I’ve bought old second-hand copies of horror novels that were printed during the 1970s/80s, they’re still just as readable today as they were when they were first published.

On the other hand, if I found an old VHS tape that was from the 1980s, I’d have nothing to play it on (so, I’d have to see if it was available on DVD) and, even if my VCR still worked, then the tape would have degraded over time. Whereas, an old book is still just as readable now as it was when it was first printed. And it’s kind of cool to enjoy something that was entertaining people 30-40 years ago and not only still exists but still functions perfectly too!

In other words, books have a timelessness about them that film and television really don’t have. They have more of a sense of history. They run on very reliable technology (eg: paper) that can easily withstand years of use or disuse. Plus, of course, the underlying “mechanics” of books (eg: letters, words, sentences etc..) have remained relatively unchanged for years – compared to the constant changes in technology surrounding film, TV etc…

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (21st February 2019)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the second comic in “Damania Reconstituted”, a new webcomic mini series (you can find lots of other comics here too). You can catch up on previous comics in this mini series here: Comic One,

Although this will be another four-comic mini series for time reasons, I was determined that there will be some comics here this month 🙂 And, yes, this comic was an experiment with using digital backgrounds (eg: a photo of a forest I took last March) and surprisingly, it turned out better than I’d expected.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Reconstituted – Woods” By C. A. Brown

Review: “Osiris” (WAD for “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”)

Well, since I’m still reading the next book I’ll be reviewing (“Nefertiti” By Michelle Moran), I thought that I’d review another “Doom II” WAD. After all, it’s been a few weeks since the last one. And, since I was in an “ancient Egypt” kind of mood, I decided to check out a rather cool WAD from 1996 called “Osiris“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. However, interestingly, the WAD also comes with an installer program – so it will probably work with the original DOS/Win 95 versions of “Doom II”. I’m not sure if it’ll work with the original Win 95 version of “Final Doom”, but – if you use a source port – it is compatible with the “Final Doom” IWADs.

So, let’s take a look at “Osiris”:

“Osiris” is an eight-level WAD that includes new sounds, textures, skyboxes, sprites, music and a new weapon. One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is… wow! For a WAD made twenty-three years ago, it is as impressive as a more modern WAD. Not only that, it was also inspired by the movie “Stargate” too – which just makes it even cooler 🙂

Woo hoo! Seriously, I love Stargate-themed WADs 🙂

And there are even “Stargate” computers too 🙂

Where do I even begin with this WAD? The level design is ’90s level design at it’s very best. All of the levels are wonderfully non-linear and there’s a really cool mixture between tense claustrophobic levels, epic levels set in multiple locations, the occasional switch-puzzle based level, an arena battle or two – and at least one level which has a vaguely “loop”-like structure (eg: you end up near the beginning at the end of the level). Plus, one other cool thing about the level design is that the beginning of each level looks like the end of the previous level.

There are also lots of cool little flourishes and tricks. For example, there’s one area where you stand on an unstable floor and it collapses. Ok, it’s just a one-way lift. But, the speed of it and the accompanying sound effects really make it seem like the floor has suddenly collapsed. Plus, all of the new textures mean that many of the levels look absolutely spectacular too 🙂

Yay! Ancient Egypt 🙂

And THIS is like something from Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave” album too 🙂

Which brings me on to the sound design. Normally, I don’t talk about the sounds and music until later in a review, but the sound design in this WAD really blew me away. Not only do all of the weapons sound ten times as thunderous, but there are also more intense monster sounds, lots of cool sound effects, even some voice acting in the background (eg: an ominous voice) and some truly excellent music – which is a brilliantly fitting mixture of “Ancient Egypt”-style music and 1980s/90s-style rock music 🙂

In terms of the monsters, there are some really awesome sprite replacements. The best ones are probably the fact that the imps have been replaced by Anubis-like creatures and, even better, the pinky demons have been replaced by hooded scythe-wielding zombies with glowing eyes:

Seriously, this guy needs to appear on a heavy metal album cover 🙂

It’s bark is worse than it’s bite, I think.

My only criticism of the monsters, and this might have been because of the source port I was using, is that there’s a really hilarious glitch. Basically, if you gib either the zombieman or the shotgun zombie, then ammo drops will keep spawning from their bodies in a vaguely fountain-like fashion.

Well, at least I’m not going to be running out of ammo any time soon…

One interesting thing about this WAD is how it achieves it’s difficulty. Although experienced players will find this WAD to be mildly-moderately challenging at most, one innovative trick is that many of the levels are filled with hit-scanning monsters. Whilst this does lead to some rather cheap moments (eg: monsters sniping you from a distance), it really helps to ramp up the drama and suspense of many of the game’s battles.

Plus, there are a lot of chaingun zombies too – which also adds to the difficulty as well 🙂

In terms of the weapons, they’re fairly interesting. Although the fist, chaingun and plasma rifle get some rather interesting-looking sprite replacements, the rocket launcher is replaced by a flamethrower. This is a weapon that can actually be used at close range, although the trajectory of the shots means that it doesn’t always work as well at longer ranges (which helps to balance it slightly).

In the words of Rammstein, feuer frei!

All in all, this is a really impressive WAD 🙂 Not only is it thrillingly fun, but it also gets the “ancient Egypt” atmosphere absolutely right. In other words, it feels as gloriously dramatic and stylised as not only the original “Stargate” film, but also other ancient Egypt themed FPS games like “Killing Time“, “Serious Sam: The First Encounter” and “Exhumed” too 🙂 The level design is splendid and both the sound and sprite replacements are really cool too. As I said before, this is as impressive as a good modern WAD and it was made in 1996. Seriously, this is awesome 🙂

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a very solid five 🙂

Today’s Art (20th February 2019)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the first comic in “Damania Reconstituted”, a new webcomic mini series (you can find lots of other comics here too). Although this will be another four-comic mini series for time reasons, I was determined that there will be some comics here this month 🙂

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Reconstituted – 2017” By C. A. Brown

Two Quick Tips For Adding Symbolism To Realistic Photo-Based Art

Well, although most of my recent photo-based paintings don’t really include that much in the way of hidden depths (since I often don’t have time to include them), I dabbled with adding some to one of my upcoming paintings.

This was mostly because I was going through a bit of an “Ancient Egypt” phase at the time and because, when I made a previous painting of this area, I was reading Robert Sheckley’s “Alien Harvest” at the time. Here’s a chart showing all of the references and the original source photo:

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE.

So, how can you add some hidden symbolism to your realistic photo-based art? Here are a couple of quick tips.

1) Look for what is already there: Simply put, the best symbolism in realistic art will simply just place emphasis on things that are originally there. In other words, your choice of what to paint matters a lot.

The best way to find the right image is simply to think about the themes/symbolism you want to include and, whilst in the mood for making a painting based on this stuff, look at your photos until something jumps out at you.

For example, I originally hadn’t planned to add any ancient Egypt symbolism to this painting but, when looking through my photos for one to paint (after reading part of an ancient Egypt-themed novel), I noticed that one of them had a pyramid-shaped arch in it… and then I noticed that a tree in the background looked like an ankh.

So, once you’ve noticed something vaguely related to the themes/symbolism you want to include, then just subtly emphasise it slightly in your finished painting. For example, the ankh-shaped tree in the painting is slightly larger/thicker than the tree in the original photo.

2) Know where to use artistic licence: If you have to change something in order to add some symbolism to your painting, then try to make sure that the change looks at least vaguely realistic. In other words, go for “subtly evokes…” rather than “obviously states…”.

The thing to remember is that, as much as you want to add symbolism to your painting, it still has to work well as a realistic painting. In other words, your changes shouldn’t be too obviously noticeable at first glance and/or should just look like “ordinary” artistic licence to someone who isn’t looking for symbolism.

For example, when I decided to add some “ancient Egypt” symbolism to my painting of the pharmacy, I shortened the name on the sign to just “Pharmacy”. In part, this was because I had a smaller space to work with, because I wanted the sign to look striking and because I didn’t want to include branding etc.. in my paintings (since this gives them more of a general/timeless quality).

But, at the same time, I realised that the word “pharmacy” shares four letters with the word “pharaoh”. So, I deliberately made the first four letters of the word slightly more noticeable, whilst also writing the letter “M” in such a way that it looked a little bit like the letter “A” at a glance. So, the sign almost reads “Phara- cy” at first glance. This is the kind of thing I mean when I talk about using artistic licence in subtle ways. The sign still tells the viewer that they’re looking at a pharmacy, but it is also a sneaky ancient Egypt reference too.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂