Today’s Art (31st August 2013)

Well, I guess today’s drawings turned out fairly well, although I was feeling less inspired than usual and didn’t really try out that many new things (apart from attempting to draw creases in the character’s hoodie in “Neon Graffiti”- which isn’t really that noticeable because I had to do a lot more digital editing [including lowering the brightness quite a lot and increasing the contrast more than usual] than I expected to make the drawing even look vaguely good).

As usual, these two drawings are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Neon Graffiti" By C. A. Brown

“Neon Graffiti” By C. A. Brown

"Research Station Beta" By C. A. Brown

“Research Station Beta” By C. A. Brown

Think Of Your Chapters Like Scenes From A Film (Or A TV Show)

2013 Artwork Chapter Film Sketch

(Ok, I was originally going to publish another article today [about writing more risque types of stories], but I kind of had a whole bunch of self-censorship issues with it, so it’s been postponed indefinitely until I feel like publishing it. Sorry about this act of creative cowardice, but feel free to enjoy this article which I was originally going to publish on the 2nd September)

I should start by saying that this is only one way to approach the subject of writing chapters. There are other schools of thought about this subject and different things obviously work for different stories. However, this approach usually works fairly well for me, especially in episodic fiction (such as “Ambitus” ), fast-paced stories and/or in stories with fairly short chapters (eg: 500-1000 words per chapter).

Anyway, one way to write dramatic and compelling chapters is to think of them as being like scenes from a film or a (scripted) TV show. Just watch a few scenes from a film or a TV show and you can probably guess what I mean by this and why it can work so well in prose fiction too. But I thought that I’d expand on it, in case you missed anything. (Plus, let’s face it, two paragraphs is hardly long enough for an entire article.)

So, without any further ado, here are two of the most important ways that you can take inspiration from films and TV when it comes to writing chapters of your stories.

1) Time and pacing: Although there are some exceptions to this, most scenes in films and TV shows are usually only a couple of minutes long at the most. Whilst there are some practical reasons for this in films and TV shows (eg: fitting a whole story into a 45 minutes or 90 minutes or whatever), it ensures that the story keeps moving at a reasonable pace and that, there is usually only room for things that relevant to the plot and/or character development in each scene.

One obvious example of this are the “deleted scenes” on DVD boxsets of TV shows. Although these scenes are usually fairly good in their own right, they aren’t usually essential to the plot (although they may contain some extra characterisation) and, as such, there is no room for them in the 30-45 minutes which the show has for each episode.

Now, whilst some stories might have length restrictions, writers don’t have to worry about running time in the way that filmmakers do. After all, most people read at different speeds, so it can be difficult to say with any certainty that each chapter will take five minutes to read or whatever.

However, as I mentioned before, all of this still means that each chapter should only contain things which are relevant to the plot and/or character development.

Or, in the case of horror and comedy fiction, chapters can also occasionally contain things which either disturb or amuse the reader, even they aren’t strictly relevant to the plot or a source of characterisation. However, it isn’t a good idea to do this too often.

2) Location: For practical reasons, a scene of a film or a TV show often usually takes place in one location. Whilst you can cut between multiple locations in longer chapters (even so, stick to about two or three at the absolute most), if you’re writing stories with shorter chapters then it’s essential to make sure that each chapter only takes places in one location unless you have an extremely compelling artistic reason for including multiple settings in your chapter.

Only using one location in each chapter is also a fairly clear way to switch between locations in your story too. Switching between multiple locations too often without clearly signposting it can quickly become confusing for your readers. Although there are obviously other ways to signpost this (eg: just writing something like “Meanwhile in London/Brighton/Manchester/ Paris/Berlin” etc…..), starting a new chapter when you switch to a new location is certainly one of the most clear ways of doing this.

Likewise, quite a well-known way to keep two plot threads running pretty consistently is to alternate between them in each chapter (eg: all the odd-numbered chapters follow one plot thread and all the even-numbered chapters follow another plot thread). Writing shorter chapters which each take place in only one location is absolutely perfect for this kind of plot structure (which is why, for example, it it is often used in thriller novels.)

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Although this article was relatively short, and mostly focused on stories with shorter chapters, I hope that it was useful πŸ™‚

How To Draw A Paint Roller

For today’s instalment of my “How To Draw” series, I thought I’d show you how to draw a paint roller.

This one is kind of random, but I couldn’t think of anything to make a guide about and then I saw an advert for a DIY store on the TV, which included a paint roller. And, since it took me less than a minute to work out how to draw it, it seemed like a good subject for today’s drawing guide.

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

Introducing “Ambitus” – Episode Two: “Dexis Hold ‘Em”

"Ambitus Episode 2 Cover" By C. A. Brown

“Ambitus Episode 2 Cover” By C. A. Brown

Well, I am extremely proud to introduce episode two of β€œAmbitus” – β€œDexis Hold β€˜Em”.

In case anyone is new to it, “Ambitus” is a sci-fi comedy fiction series which I’m working on at the moment. The episodes will be about 10,000-15,000 words long (episode one was approximately 9800 words long) and they’re sequential, but mostly self-contained.

Following the events of episode one, Captain Jola has recieved a terse message from the admiralty demanding a meeting on a nearby space station.

Meanwhile Jill, Tellare, Misaki and Paul have landed on a mostly-abandoned and turbulent planet called Dexis Prime in search of supplies and a new ident chip for their transport craft before the military catches up with them again……

Anyway, I’ll post chapter one on the “Ambitus” blog in a few minutes. Other chapters will be posted daily at 22:30 GMT.

Today’s Art (30th August 2013)

WOW! I’m extremely proud of today’s drawings πŸ™‚ Both of them originally started off as my attempts at a couple of drawing excercises (drawing someone’s face when they are looking upwards and sketching a woman sitting down ) from a book called “The Fundamentals Of Drawing” By Barrington Barber that I bought ages ago.

I don’t know, I kind of want to learn how to draw in a slightly more “realistic” style at the moment – hence all these exercises and books.

However, when I was sketching both of them, I kind of thought “hmmm… this would look a lot cooler if….” and ended up changing the characters entirely, altering the characters’ poses slightly (eg: extending the character’s legs in “Quayside” etc..) and adding backgrounds etc….

Plus, you can probably guess what type of music I was listening to when I drew “Riding Through Hell” too…..

As usual, these two drawings are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence

"Riding Through Hell" By C. A. Brown

“Riding Through Hell” By C. A. Brown

"Quayside" By C. A. Brown

“Quayside” By C. A. Brown

Review: “The A-Team” (film)

Well, since I’m currently watching the second series of “The A-Team” on DVD, I was quite surprised to notice that they were showing the 2010 film adaptation on TV tonight (well, a few days ago, I usually tend to be several days ahead of what I post on here).

So, knowing a sychronicity when I see one, I decided to watch it – since I’d originally planned to see it at the cinema three years ago but I was too busy at the time. Anyway, it’s a film which is definitely worth watching, even if you haven’t seen the 1980s TV show.

“The A-Team” follows a team of four US Army rangers (John “Hannibal” Smith, Templeton “Faceman” Peck, B. A. Baracus and H. M. “Howling Mad” Murdock) who are serving in Iraq, following a series of very successful covert missions (the intro to the film shows one of their missions in Mexico and it is epic). Anyway, some of Saddam Hussein’s supporters have got hold of the printing plates which are needed to produce US Dollars. The army wants to hire a team of what are presumably private security contractors (working for a group called “Black Forest”) to get the plates back.

However, after some discussion and help from a CIA operative called Lynch, Hannibal’s superior officer (Morrison) gives them permission to recover the plates before the private contractors do. As such, they concoct an incredibly clever, daring and characteristically over-the-top plan to recover the plates and a shipping crate of counterfeit money. This goes well, but when they return to the base, there is a series of explosions which kill Morrison and destroy the counterfeit money. The plates also mysteriously go missing to.

As there is no longer any proof that the A-Team had orders to recover the plates, they are all sentenced to ten years in prison. Naturally, it isn’t long before they start hatching a plan to break out of prison, clear their names and find whoever has stolen the printing plates……

One of the first things I will say about this film is that there are obviously different actors playing the main characters (Liam Neeson, Quinton Jackson, Sharlto Copley and Bradley Cooper) and, if you’ve watched the TV series, this can be slightly disconcerting in the early parts of the film. During the first five minutes, I thought that I was watching a strange parallel universe version of the A-Team.

But I quickly got used to the actors being slightly different, since they portray their respective characters very well and, dare I say it, give them more depth than they had in the TV show ( B.A. Baracus especially). Plus, there’s a brief cameo by Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz after the credits too.

Another thing I will say about this film is that the plot of it is a lot more complex than an average episode of the TV show. It’s anything but formulaic and some parts of the film will catch you by surprise. This works really well and, despite all of the over-the-top stunts (which frequently bend the laws of physics), it lends the story a certain measure of realism.

Whilst “The A-Team” retains the sense of humour and ingenuity which made the TV series so great, it’s a lot grittier and slightly darker in tone than the TV series was. All this basically means is that, when it comes to combat, they act like ordinary action/thriller movie protagonists rather than people who intentionally shoot to miss all the time (but, at the same time, they have a much lower body count than, say, James Bond). Whilst some fans of the TV series might not like this, they’ve basically just brought the series up to date and made the characters a bit more realistic. And, although I’m sometimes wary about this kind of thing, they’ve done it surprisingly well.

Visually, this film is pretty spectacular and there are plenty of fairly dramatic high-budget special effects (which would be unthinkable for the original TV series). But there’s a fairly strong story to back them up and, although they’re obviously over-the-top, they’re innovative and just generally badass enough (eg: a scene involving a tank and two military drones) to really add something to the film.

Despite all these changes, “The A-Team” still remains true to the spirit of it’s source material and there are tons of small references to the original show too. If you’re a fan of the show, then this film is certainly worth watching. If you’ve never seen the show, but you like action/thriller films with interesting characters and a sense of humour, then it’s also worth watching this film. Although, looking on the internet, there apparently isn’t going to be a sequel 😦

If I had to give “The A-Team” a rating out of five, then it would probably get four and a half at the least.

How To Draw A Pencil Sharpener

Well, for today’s instalment of my “How To Draw” series, I thought that I’d show you how to draw a pencil sharpener.

Since I ended up drawing a different style of pencil sharpener to the type I usually use (which is one of those ones with a plastic box to catch the pencil shavings), I kind of had to draw it from memory – and part three of this guide ended up being slightly badly-drawn, sorry about this.

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

Today’s Art (29th August 2013)

Wow! I’m seriously proud of both of today’s drawings πŸ™‚

“7Am In Florida” was a totally random drawing which turned out very differently (I’m still not sure why it’s set in Florida, of all places) to how I originally expected and I’m still absolutely astonished by it.

“Daydreaming Moment” started off as a random sketch in my sketchbook, when I was experimenting with drawing noses in a slightly different way to how I normally do. Anyway, a random sketch of a nose quickly evolved into a random drawing of a face and it just kepy going from there….

As usual, these two drawings are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"7Am In Florida" By C. A. Brown

“7Am In Florida” By C. A. Brown

"Daydreaming Moment" By C. A. Brown

“Daydreaming Moment” By C. A. Brown

Six Tips For Learning How To Draw

2013 Artwork Learning To Draw Sketch

Well, since I’m currently in the process of upgrading my artistic skills, I thought I’d offer you a few short pieces of advice which might be useful if you’re either new to drawing or, like me, are looking to upgrade your artistic talents.

This will be more of a motivational article to point you in the right direction, rather than any particular advice about drawing techniques. But if you want to know how to draw various random things – then check out my “How To Draw” series.

I should also point out that this article is aimed at self-taught artists like myself or people who want to teach themselves. There’s nothing wrong with going to art classes or hiring a teacher if you feel that this would be a better way for you to learn how to draw.

1) Don’t stop learning: I mean it. The fact is that, this happens to everyone at some time or another. You think that you’ve learnt enough, you think that you’re doing fairly well. So, you stop learning. However, after a while, your work will inevitably start to reach a plateau and you’ll probably begin to wonder where the original “spark” of inspiration you had has got to. At it’s worst, when you haven’t been learning for quite a while, drawing might even start to feel more like a chore than the magical and fascinating activity that it should be.

The trick to avoiding this is simple, don’t stop learning. Keep practicing new techniques, keep reading instruction books/websites, keep watching tutorials etc…

2) Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: If you see a drawing or an illustration which you really like or admire, then a good (and extremely old) learning technique is to try to draw your own copy of it. Don’t trace it (this is cheating and you might not learn that much from it), just get a blank piece of paper, put the original drawing in front of you and try to draw a copy of it. It’s that simple.

Of course, this is a skill which takes a bit of practice to get right. But, if you’re a beginner, it can often be good to draw a simplified copy of whatever you’re copying (eg: leave out things like shading, smaller details etc…) so that you can just learn the essential parts of what you’re drawing. Plus, if you’re new to drawing, this might help you get past “artist’s block” as well as giving you some extra practice too. Once you’ve had a bit of practice, you could also try to copy a few photographs too.

After you’ve copied a few things, try drawing an original drawing which uses some of the same techniques which were used in the drawings you copied. You’d be surprised at how much of an effective learning technique this is when it comes to drawings.

3) Do your research:
Yes, you can work some things out on your own, but it can be a lot easier to read some books about how to draw too. The book which I would reccommend the most is one called “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” by Betty Edwards. Although, from what I’ve read so far, this book contains only contains some basic advice about drawing techniques (including an absolutely excellent section on how to draw people in profile), the main part of this book involves teaching you how to “see” the world in the way that artists do.

I seem to have picked up this skill intuitively over the past few years (and I had a few “Well…obviously!” moments when I was reading this book), but if you’re new to drawing, then this is a skill which is worth learning.

It’s fairly hard to describe, but it involves looking at things in purely visual terms (eg: drawing what your eyes actually see rather than what your mind says that you’re seeing). The book explains it a lot better than I probably have done. Still, even for basic drawing advice, “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” is worth buying, borrowing or finding in the library.

There are plenty of other books about drawing too and some are better than others. I haven’t read that many of them (probably only about three or four in total), but it’s worth looking at a few of them if you get the chance. Not to mention that there are loads of free drawing tutorials, references, videos etc… on the internet too.

Yes, some of the perspective/technique-based stuff might be a bit dull at first, but it’s important to learn at least the basics of it if you want to become a good artist.

4) Mess around, experiment and have fun: This isn’t really a piece of advice, but a way of testing whether or not you’re really interested in learning how to draw. Basically, if you’re constantly trying new things, if you start a drawing exercise and end up changing a lot of things just for the hell of it it, if you keep having ideas like “wouldn’t it be cool if I did this…” and if you genuinely enjoy and look forward to drawing things, then this is a very good sign that you’re still interested in learning how to draw.

However, if practicing your drawing feels like a chore or it feels like maths homework probably did when you were at school, then this is probably a sign that you either need to take a break from drawing for a while or practice something which is more fun.

Remember, you’re the one who decided that you wanted to learn how to draw. Unless, for some bizarre reason, someone is forcing you to learn how to draw, then there is no compulsion in it. If it isn’t working out for you, then leave it until you feel more enthusiastic again.

5) You don’t need fancy equipment: Yes, if you’re a professional, then you should probably have a drawing board, a vast array of different pencils, calligraphy pens, fancy erasers etc…. But, you can still draw extremely good drawings with ballpoint pens, inking pens, HB pencils (although I usually use an old 4H pencil I bought about three years ago) and ordinary colouring pencils which you can buy in any stationary shop (although some are better than others).

I’m hardly a professional artist, but most of my drawings are drawn with my old 4H pencil, a generic A4 or A5 sketch pad, a rollerball pen and/or an inking pen and a vast assortment of random colouring pencils. Although I usually digitally edit my drawings after I’ve scanned them, my drawing equipment is probably relatively basic.

Despite what some drawing guides might say, at the end of the day, all you really need is an ordinary pencil, an eraser, some paper and maybe a black pen. Seriously, it’s the ultimate form of low-budget creativity.

6) Practice and upload: Yes, I’ve mentioned this before. But practice is the most important way to learn how to draw. And, yes, you will have to practice a lot. Preferably every day.

Don’t expect to produce absolutely perfect drawings when you start drawing, but don’t let this put you off. Just be proud of the good drawings you produce (and put them to one side) and see the crappier drawings as part of the learning process. Even professional artists had to start somewhere.

One good technique to make sure that you keep practicing is to scan or photograph your drawings and upload them regularly to somewhere like DeviantART (and here’s a shameless plug for my DeviantART gallery – you can usually see my drawings on it for a while before they’re uploaded on here). There’s something satisfying about putting your drawings online and it’s worth it just for the first time that someone “favourites” or “likes” one of your drawings.

Don’t let the fear of negative opinions or comments put you off from uploading your art. If people don’t like your drawing, then they most likely won’t bother looking at it (although even good drawings can occasionally get low numbers of views too). And, if someone is pathetic enough to leave a totally negative troll comment (eg: “this drawing is terrible!” etc…) below your drawing, then either just ignore it, report it, hide the comment or write a (polite) reply.

However, if someone is offering you genuine constructive criticism, even if it’s well-hidden (eg: “the shading in your drawing is completely wrong”, “all your characters look virtually identical”, “there’s nothing happening in this drawing” etc…) then don’t get offended by it.

Instead, thank them for the advice and try to think about why they might have said that. Chances are, this will probably be the next area you should focus on practicing. But, if you think that they’re totally wrong, then thank them for the advice and politely decline to follow it (but explain why).

Plus, I’ll let you in on a secret which will make you feel amazing. After you’ve been practicing for at least a few months – go back and look at the first drawing which you truly felt proud of. Now compare it to the most recent drawing you’ve made which you really felt proud of. The first one will probably look fairly crappy by comparison.

See! In just a few months of regular practice, you’re already a lot better at drawing! Keep up the good work πŸ™‚

—–

Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚ Good luck πŸ™‚

How To Draw A Tiled Roof

For today’s instalment of my “How To Draw” series, I thought I’d show you how to draw a tiled roof.

These are surprisingly easy to draw and, if you want to make them look more realistic, then make sure that the edges of each tile are darker than the middle of each tile (although I forgot to do this when I was drawing the last part of this guide).

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.