Today’s Art ( 17th April 2015)

Well, it’s the 17th April today and this means that it is the third anniversary of the day when I decided to make one piece of art every day and post it online. So, in keeping with tradition, I’ve re-made a new version of the first picture I drew when I got back into making art again.

For comparison, I’ll also include the versions of this picture from 2012, 2013 and 2014 in this post too.

As usual, all of the drawings/paintings in this post are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"The Important Question (IV)" By C.A. Brown

“The Important Question (IV)” By C.A. Brown

And here are the earlier versions of this picture from past years.

"The Important Question (III)" By C. A. Brown [2014]

“The Important Question (III)” By C. A. Brown [2014]

"The Important Question (II)" By C. A. Brown [2013]

“The Important Question (II)” By C. A. Brown [2013]

"The Important Question" By C. A. Brown [2012]

“The Important Question” By C. A. Brown [2012]

An Artistic Gimmick Isn’t Always Enough

2015 Artwork You need more than a gimmick sketch (censored)

A couple of months ago, I was watching an American news discussion show on Youtube called “The Young Turks“. Normally, they mostly talk about more “serious” stuff, but I was surprised to see an art-related story on their front page. So, I decided to take a look at it.

The video, which is Not Safe For Work (or for more prudish audiences), can be seen here [EDIT: Between the time I wrote this article and when it appeared on this site, the censors at Youtube have unfortunately placed this amusing video behind a content warning – so, you will need a Youtube account to watch it].

If you don’t feel like watching it, it’s about an artist who paints portraits of people… using a certain part of his body instead of a paintbrush. I’ll leave the details to your imagination.

My first reaction to this video (other than “tee hee, the censorship bar doesn’t always quite cover up everything“) was something along the lines of … “Wow! This guy is actually a fairly good painter“.

Seriously, the portrait shown in the Youtube video is actually a fairly decent portrait. Yes, it isn’t quite photo realistic, but it’s still slightly better than my own attempts at painting and drawing portraits (using more conventional art supplies, of course).

Anyway, most of the discussion in this video was about whether novelty artists are annoying or brilliant. It’s kind of an interesting discussion and certainly worth watching, but I thought that I’d give you some of my own thoughts about the subject.

Gimmicks can be an absolutely great way to drum up publicity and to set yourself apart from other artists, but they should never be used as a substitute for actual art.

In other words, if you can think of a strange enough gimmick that will still allow you to produce art that other people will like even if they don’t know about the gimmick, then kudos to you. You’ve been able to produce good art despite doing things differently and this confirms the fact that you are indeed a talented artist.

But, if the main attraction of your art is the gimmick itself, then this isn’t so great. Yes, your gimmick might be something shocking or “cool”, but if all it results in is the kind of art that someone could produce without any practice and/or training, then it’s nothing great. You’ve just done something strange and produced some rather unremarkable art.

You may have done a fun party trick, or something daring – but that’s all it is. A party trick. If anything, the “art” you have produced is nothing more than a quirky souvenier for anyone who watched you make it.

As I said earlier, the true test of an artistic gimmick shouldn’t be “how much publicity did it get ?“, but “can the thing that the artist made be appreciated by people who don’t know about the gimmick?“.

Now, before anyone thinks that I’m being snobbish or pretentious, there are good practical reasons for taking this approach to novelty art.

The first is that although people are likely to read about your gimmick before they see your art, it’s possible that they may see your art first – so it’s a good idea to make sure that your art is impressive enough to hold their interest until they read about your gimmick.

The second reason why it’s best to focus on the art itself rather than just on whatever gimmicky way you’re producing it, is because it will give your work lasting value.

If all of the emphasis is on the gimmick, then you’ll get your fifteen minutes of fame, but you’ll quickly fade into obscurity when the next artist decides to do something attention-grabbing. However, if your art is actually fairly good, then people might stick around to look at more of it, even after you’ve been pushed out of the media spotlight by someone else.

So, remember, you should only use gimmicks to support and enhance your art – not the other way around.

————

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting :)

Today’s Art (16th April 2015)

Well, when I was looking through the art folder on my computer for something, I stumbled across a few pages of my old “Somnium” comic from 2013 (I finished it just under a month before I started this blog) – and since I really liked the backgrounds and clothing designs in that chapter, I decided to make a painting based on it.

For comparison, I’ll also include a page of this comic for comparison too.

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

"City Of Sand" By C. A. Brown

“City Of Sand” By C. A. Brown

And here’s a page from my old “Somnium” comic:

"Somnium - Page 133" By C. A. Brown [10th March 2013]

“Somnium – Page 133″ By C. A. Brown [10th March 2013]

Don’t Make Your Characters Too Good At What They Do

2015 Artwork Don't make your characters too good sketch

Even though this is an article about writing and character design, I’m going to have to spend most of it talking about TV shows. This is mainly because the best example of what I want to talk about here can be found in a particular TV show.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I finished watching the final season of a TV show called “Stargate: Atlantis“. But, this isn’t a review of it (after all, I’ve already posted way more reviews than usual this month), the reason that I’m mentioning it is because of what it can teach us about writing. Or, rather, what one small recurring flaw in an otherwise flawless show can teach us about writing good characters.

In case you’ve never even heard of “Stargate: Atlantis” before, it revolves around a team of soldiers and scientists who live in an island city on another planet in a distant galaxy. They usually end up either exploring the galaxy, fighting villains and/or solving various problems in each episode. It’s a really fun sci-fi show that doesn’t always take itself too seriously. But, again, this isn’t a review of it.

Anyway, if you watch enough episodes of it, you’ll probably start to notice one slight flaw with the characters – they’re slightly too good at what they do. Whenever anything malfunctions, the scientist characters can usually work out a solution in a matter of hours or minutes (when it would probably actually take months or years…) and, regardless of whatever dangerous situation they find themselves in, the military characters can usually fight their way out of it fairly easily.

Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the things that makes the show such a joy to watch (compared to a lot of other, more depressing, TV shows). But, at the same time, it can also ruin any sense of drama or suspense in various scenes.

After all, if you know that the characters will be able to do something impossible without even breaking a sweat, then you don’t really feel that they’re really in any danger.

But, at the same time, there are plenty of other TV shows that feature characters who are extremely skilled at one thing or another and this problem never really seems to affect these shows.

For example, if you watch “Sherlock” then you know that Sherlock is going to solve whatever mystery he encounters, by using his extreme intellect. Likewise, if you watch “Hustle“, then you know that the main characters will almost always succeed at tricking their target- because they’re all excellent con artists.

So, what’s so different about “Stargate: Atlantis” and what can we learn from it?

Well, I think that it has to do with pacing and frequency. It’s perfectly ok to show highly skilled characters doing “impossible” things occasionally, but when it happens repeatedly in a relatively short space of time, then this ruins any sense of drama that can come from this. Why? Because your audience is less surprised by it every time that it happens.

It’s kind of like the old rule about using profanity in fiction. If you include just a few four-letter words in your story, then it will have a lot more of a dramatic impact – for the simple reason that it’s something “out of the ordinary”. But, if literally every other word in your story begins with the letter “F”, then your audience will quickly get bored of it. The same thing applies when it comes to showing your characters doing “impossible” things.

Likewise, it’s usually a good idea to make sure that you show your characters failing at least occasionally. And I mean really failing, not just failing at one thing and then just quickly solving the problem another way. Why? Because this can be one of the best ways to add some suspense to later parts of your story.

After all, if you’ve established the fact that your character won’t always succeed, then your audience will be genuinely curious and/or anxious about whether your character will succeed at solving the next problem that he or she encounters. But if your audience knows in advance that your characters will always succeed, then there’s no suspense whatsoever.

So, remember, don’t make your characters too good at whatever they do.

——–

Anyway, I hope that this was useful :)

Today’s Art (15th April 2015)

Well, for today’s drawing, I thought that I’d practice drawing realistic lighting yet again (using a rather unrealistic glowing ball as the light source) and I’m quite proud of how this drawing turned out :)

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

"Glow" By C. A. Brown

“Glow” By C. A. Brown

Review: “Bloody Graveyard” (WAD for “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZ Doom”)

2015 Artwork Bloody Graveyard review sketch

Well, since I still seem to be in a “Doom” kind of mood at the moment- I thought that I’d take a quick look at a one-level WAD I discovered a couple of months ago called “Bloody Graveyard“.

As with all of my WAD reviews, I should point out that I used the “GZ Doom” source port whilst playing “Bloody Graveyard”, although it will probably work well on other modern source ports too.

It's a graveyard, with oceans of blood... pretty self-explanatory really.

It’s a graveyard, with oceans of blood… pretty self-explanatory really.

“Bloody Graveyard” was released around Halloween last year and, as you might expect, it’s an horror-themed level that takes place in a gigantic graveyard filled with monsters. It also features a small weapon modification and one or two new monsters too. But, is it any good?

In a word, yes. Although it’s certainly not the most complex “Doom” level that I’ve ever played, it’s large enough to require a fair amount of exploration, whilst also being just about small enough that you won’t really get lost whilst navigating it.

Like with any WAD that features large arena-like areas, expect to face a significant quantity of monsters whilst playing “Bloody Graveyard”. However, unlike traditional “slaughter maps“, the number of monsters in this level is relatively small.

In other words, things like THIS are the exception rather than the rule..

In other words, things like THIS are the exception rather than the rule..

Yes, there is the occasional horde of monsters, but they appear at well-placed strategic points throughout the level rather than in almost every part of it. Most of the time, the monsters are just spread out fairly evenly throughout the level.

What this means is that this level feels a lot more like playing a “traditional” Doom level than playing a typical “slaughter map”. Whilst I quite enjoy the much more cerebral and strategic style of gameplay you usually find in “slaughter maps”, it was still kind of fun to play a slightly more mindless and toned-down version of it.

Plus, there are ONLY two or three cyberdemons in the ENTIRE level! What madness is this?

Plus, there are ONLY two or three cyberdemons in the ENTIRE level! What madness is this?

As for the weapons in this level, the only change that I really noticed was that the plasma gun fires bright blue projectiles rather than dark blue ones.

Although this is a rather tiny change, it makes the gun look slightly cooler. Plus, it really stands out against the gloomy red and blue colour scheme of the level too:

It's stylish AND deadly...

It’s stylish AND deadly…

The music in “Bloody Graveyard” is, as you would expect, wonderfully gothic and atmospheric. About the best way to describe it is that it possibly sounds a little bit like the introduction to “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus.

Another interestingly creepy touch in “Bloody Graveyard” is the text that appears on the screen whenever you die. Yes, this WAD actually has custom death text – it’s surprisingly creepy… and mildly depressing:

Woe! Misery! Gloom! Despair!

Woe! Misery! Gloom! Despair!

Finally, I should probably talk about the new monsters in this WAD. Although you’ll spend most of the level fighting the traditional “Doom” monsters, once you’ve found the blue skull key – you will have to press a switch that will summon a level boss called the “Skelly King”.

He’s basically a much larger version of the “revenant” monster and he’s also a surprisingly tough level boss. Not only can he summon hordes of tiny revenants, he also has a variety of other powerful attacks too. The most impressive of which is probably this one, which I just had to make an animated GIF of:

Yes, he's just launched a swarm of lost souls....

Yes, he’s just launched a swarm of lost souls….

However, and I don’t know if this was just a glitch in the game or whether it was intentional. But, about halfway through my battle with the “Skelly King”, he just ended up standing on a raised platform in the middle of one part of the level and didn’t really do anything.

I’m not complaining (because it meant that I actually had a vague chance of defeating him), but I’m not sure if this was a glitch in the game or not.

All in all, “Bloody Graveyard” is an extremely fun WAD that is well worth checking out if you like gothic and/or horror-related stuff.

Plus, if you’re relatively new to playing “Doom” WADs and you want a fairly gentle introduction to the “slaughter map” sub-genre of “Doom” WADs, then you can’t go wrong with this one.

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

Today’s Art (14th April 2015)

Well, today’s drawing is based on a photo of an old shipyard (?) near HMS Warrior in Portsmouth that my parents took when they went there a couple of months ago. Since I was in a slightly gloomy mood when I was drawing it, I decided to use a bit of artistic licence and make the drawing a bit more gothic than the original photo was.

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

"Old Boats" By C. A. Brown

“Old Boats” By C. A. Brown