Today’s Art (28th February 2014)

Well, I made one watercolour pencil painting and one ordinary drawing for today. Since I kind of had a serious case of artist’s block, both pictures ended up being fairly random.

As usual, both of these pictures are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Pirates At Sunset" By C. A. Brown

“Pirates At Sunset” By C. A. Brown

I ended up painting/drawing “Pirates At Sunset” after taking a break and playing “Pirate Doom” for a while when I couldn’t think of anything to draw or paint. I’m really proud of how this painting turned out (especially the shadows in it – it almost looks 3D 🙂 ), even if it does look slightly stylised and cheesy.

"1996" By C. A. Brown

“1996” By C. A. Brown

Well, I was originally going to paint a copy of this old Degas painting. But, when I started sketching and inking it, it turned out absolutely terribly. So, I abandoned this idea and, a while later, I ended up drawing “1996” instead.

Best Of The Blog (1st-28th February 2014)

2014 Artwork Best Of The Blog 28th February sketch

Well, it’s the end of another month, so I thought that I’d make another handy list of links to all of the articles about writing, creativity, art etc.. that I’ve written since the last “Best Of The Blog” post.

And, yes, I know that the title is something of a misnomer (since the articles I wrote in the middle of this month weren’t as good as the ones I wrote at the beginning and end of this month). But, still, you might find something interesting.

– “Three Ways To Feel Proud Of Your Work
– “Picking Up A ‘Creative Accent’ And Finding Your Narrative Voice
– “Feeling Uninspired? Find Your Creative Roots
– “Three Reasons Why You Should Use Your Initials When Signing Your Work
– “Four Basic Tips For Writing Cyberpunk Fiction
– “Try Creating Things The Old-Fashioned Way
– “Three Basic Tips For Making Something ‘So Bad That It’s Good’
– “Out Of Ideas? Find A New Twist On An Old Idea
– “Four Very Basic Tips For Bringing A Classic Story Up To Date
– “Is ‘Fanservice’ A Good Or A Bad Thing In Comics?
– “The Best Free Resource For Artists
– ” Failure Can Be A Sign That You’re Improving
– “A Quick Alternative To Masking Fluid For Small Patterns In Watercolour Pencil Paintings
– “You Know You’re An Artist When…
– “Fiction As A Holiday
– “How To Turn Youtube Procrastination Into Artistic Talent (With An Example)
– “My Thoughts On The New BBFC Guidelines
– ” Six Ways To Feel Like A Creative Genius
– ” Three Basic Tips For Writing Convincing Villains
-“Forget The Conventional ‘Success’ Narrative

Today Art (27th Febrary 2014)

Well, both of today’s watercolour pencil paintings were kind of random and they didn’t end up being as interesting as I hoped they would be.

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

"Fractal Zone" By C. A. Brown

“Fractal Zone” By C. A. Brown

The background in “Fractal Zone” was originally going to be a lot more detailed but, I was feeling kind of uninspired at the time – so I ended up making the background a lot more simple. This acturally worked out surprisingly well, especially since watercolours aren’t really suited to adding colour to highly detailed backgrounds.

"Off The Map" By C. A. Brown

“Off The Map” By C. A. Brown

Off The Map” was kind of random and, despite spending longer than I expected adjusting the brightness/contrast levels in this scanned version, the original painting still looks better than this digital version.

Three Ways To Feel Proud Of Your Work

2014 Artwork Feeling proud Of Yourself Sketch

Well, the night before I wrote this article, I wasn’t feeling very productive. Eventually, after a lot of effort, I produced two mediocre pictures (one A4-sized picture and one A5-size picture) and an unfinished story. No articles, no drawing guides – just two mediocre pictures and an unfinished story. Needless to say, I wasn’t in a great mood.

At the beginning of the night, I’d planned to produce something great, to produce something which would astonish and amaze everyone and cement my place as a significant person in the history of the world. I planned to do something new and amazing and innovative which would still be talked about even two or three decades later.

That’s a pretty tall order, right? No wonder I felt too intimidated and disappointed to really produce anything. Worst of all, by failing to do the impossible task that I’d set myself, I didn’t feel particularly proud of myself and my confidence in myself as an artist and a writer plunged to new depths.

So, what’s the point of this depressing story? Well, as regular readers will know, this is usually the preface to a guide to how to get out of these kinds of moods (well, until the next one strikes. But, hey, if it didn’t then I’d probably run out of articles to write).

So, here are three tips to help you feel proud and confident about your creative work which might come in handy if you are starting to feel like a disappointment to yourself. I’ve almost certainly written about some of this stuff before but, sod it, it’s worth saying again.

1) Don’t set your standards too high (then surprise yourself): This is probably the true meaning behind the old quote that it is “better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven”. It’s better for your self-esteem to do extremely well when measured by low standards than to do extremely badly by high standards.

Yes, this sounds extremely paradoxical – I mean, shouldn’t you strive for greatness? Shouldn’t you only feel proud of yourself only if you’re better than the best of of the best?

Well, the first step towards being the best of the best is to feel like you’re the best. And an easy shortcut to feeling like you’re the best is to set very low standards for yourself and then to either meet them or exceed them. Not only that, because you won’t be under a huge amount of pressure, you can relax a bit and try new things.

Going back to my earlier example of wanting to produce something that “would astonish and amaze everyone and cement my place as a significant person in the history of the world” in a single night. This is a ridiculously high standard and it’s pretty much a recipe for disappointment.

Now, if I’d just stuck to the first standard that I’d set myself when I got into producing art regularly a couple of years ago, then I probably wouldn’t have felt like a failure.

Why? Because my very first standard was “I will draw one A6-sized picture per day”. Now, looking at the A4-sized and A5-sized pictures I produced that night, it’s pretty clear that not only have I met my old standard, but I’ve exceeded it.

If I’d just looked at it that way, then I probably wouldn’t have felt like a failure. In fact, I’d have probably felt extremely proud of myself.

Who knows? This might work for you too.

2) Watch motivational talks on Youtube: You have to be careful with this one, since it can be very easy to feel like a failure in comparison to the speakers or, even worse, to feel insanely jealous of these lucky and/or successful people. If you start to feel like this, then stop watching. It won’t do you any good.

But, sometimes, watching things like TED Talks can somehow make you feel proud of yourself. I don’t know why but, sometimes, the emotions and attitude of the speakers can rub off on you slightly. Sometimes just watching someone talk about a paradoxically clever plan that they’ve come up with or talking about how it’s possible to be a success can make you feel more intelligent or more successful.

And, when you feel intelligent and successful, then you’re a lot more likely to be in the right frame of mind to produce something that you can be proud of.

But, as I said, if watching videos of ridiculously successful people starts to make you feel depressed or like a failure, then don’t watch them. Seriously, it’ll do more harm than good if you keep watching. Or, at the very least, switch to a video by someone who sounds less smug.

3) Borrow something (but be smart about it): This is a bit of a short-term fix for the times when you don’t feel proud of yourself, but it can work. If you can’t create anything of your own that you can feel proud of, then copy something someone else has made that other people feel proud of.

But, you have to be smart about this. Unfortunately or fortunately, copyright laws exist. Yes, many countries and companies either explicitly allow or at least tolerate things like non-profit fan art or non-profit fan fiction based on things which are currently copyrighted. But, this can be kind of a grey area and – of course – you can’t really sell or “own” anything you make and whatever you make will probably only appeal to people who are fans of the thing you’ve created.

However, if you’re smart enough to copy something that is no longer in copyright – then you can “own” whatever you’ve made and stand by it proudly. Yes, you should still acknowledge your source in case anyone accuses you of forgery. But, if your copy is good enough for you to worry about accusations of forgery, then your work is good enough to feel proud of anyway.

Not only that, things which are out of copyright and which people still know about are usually things which a lot of people like (or at least respect). There are probably millions of stories, paintings, drawings etc.. which are out of copyright but long since forgotten because no-one liked them enough to remember them.

So, making your own version of an out-of-copyright picture or story (especially if you look on somewhere like Wikipedia or Project Gutenburg for something to copy) will probably ensure that you’ll copy something that people will recognise and like.

And, yes, if you do this too often then you might start to feel like your original work isn’t that good in comparison to the things you’re copying (and this is why I try not to copy old paintings every day). So, it’s probably best to only do this occasionally – but it’s still a good quick way of making something that you can feel proud of.


Sorry that this article is so brief, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (26th February 2014)

Well, I kind of had artist’s block a while before I produced today’s watercolour pencil paintings. So, eventually, I decided to make two pictures based on the two most common themes in every story and work of art throughout history.

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

"Thanatos" By C. A. Brown

“Thanatos” By C. A. Brown

Thanatos” is probably one of the most melodramatic paintings that I’ve made and, surprisingly, it just kind of evolved randomly as soon as I started sketching. I’m really proud of this picture, although the pose in it is probably somewhat cliched though.

"Eros" By C. A. Brown

“Eros” By C. A. Brown

Eros” was originally going to be a painting of a single nude character but, a while after I started sketching it, I suddenly thought that it would be a lot better to paint an amorous couple in a hotel room somewhere.

I’m quite proud of this picture, although it required a hell of a lot of digital editing after I scanned it in order to make it look even vaguely good.

Picking Up A “Creative Accent” (And Finding Your Narrative Voice)

2014 Artwork Creative Accent Sketch

I’m sure I’m not the only person who does this, but I sometimes find that, when I’m talking to people with different accents to mine, I can sometimes start to unconsciously pick up a slight amount of their accent.

There had probably been a lot of research about the neurology and/or psychology behind this whole thing and I guess that it probably has something to do with imitative learning, mirror neurons or something like that.

But, most interestingly of all, I’ve noticed that I do this with writing too.

If I’m reading something narrated in a very distinctive way and I try to write anything (even just something like an e-mail) a while later, I’ll sometimes start unconsciously using something at least vaguely similar to the writing style that I’ve just read.

The last time that I noticed this was a while ago when, after writing yesterday’s article – I tried to write some horror fiction. Although I failed miserably at this and got a rather serious case of writer’s block after just seven paragraphs, one of the interesting things I noticed was that I was using a much more “literary” narrative voice than I normally do.

This was probably because I was reading a literary novel (but not a horror novel) about half an hour before I tried to write anything. Since this isn’t the type of novel that I normally read, I guess that I must have picked up something of an “accent” from it – since my writing ended up sounding very slightly more poetic and descriptive than it normally does.

To give you an example, here’s one of the least macabre parts of my unfinished horror story: “She blinked. Now it looked like a squashed face, a screaming face. A squashed face that howled with the accumulated pain of a thousand rusty medieval torture chambers. A squashed face that told of the rack, the iron maiden and the boot. “

Yes, this doesn’t sound anything like the literary novel I’ve just read (and it still contains a large amount of my own narrative voice, as well as a reference to my favourite metal band too) but it’s certainly different to how I would have written that paragraph had I not read a literary novel beforehand.

Anyway, why am I telling you all of this stuff?

The main reason why I’m talking about this is because I’m guessing that a similar thing has probably happened to you. In fact, if you’re a writer, then it almost certainly has at some point or another.

If it hasn’t, then I’m guessing that you’re new to writing and are probably asking questions like “how do I find my own narrative voice”?

Picking up “accents” from things that you’ve read is the main way that writers develop their own unique narrative voices. Yes, this might sound slightly counter-intuitive since, how can a narrative voice be “yours” if you’ve borrowed it from someone else?

Well, if you’ve just borrowed one narrative voice then, yes, it isn’t yours. It belongs to whichever author you’ve borrowed it from and, at best, you will probably only be able to produce a weak imitation of it.

However, if you’ve read quite a few different stories by different people and you’ve picked up a little bit of an “accent” from each one – then you will end up with a mixture which is totally, completely and uniquely yours.

So, if you want to find your own narrative voice, then you need to start reading. You need to start reading things by lots of different authors and, if their narrative voices interest you enough, then you’ll probably find yourself wanting to sound a bit like them. Once this happens, you’ll have added another narrative voice to the mixture of voices which will eventually become your own unique narrative voice.

And, because you’re probably more likely to “pick up an accent” from other narrative voices that you like, your narrative voice will end up reflecting your own personality and preferences after a while.

Yes, this is a long process and it requires both a lot of reading and a lot of writing, but it is pretty much the only way that you will find your own narrative voice.

Not only that, your narrative voice will still keep developing as you read and write even more – so, don’t think that once you’ve found your narrative voice that it won’t keep growing, changing and getting better.


I’ve probably said everything in this article before, but I still hope that it was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (25th February 2014)

Well, I’m quite proud of both of today’s watercolour pencil paintings and one of them is also a parody of a 19th century painting too.

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

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

“Somewhere In A Room” By C. A. Brown

I’m really proud of “Somewhere In A Room” and I felt like painting a slightly gothic and mildly surreal 1990s-themed picture. Although the woman in this painting isn’t wearing a red dress, the title is a reference to this amazing Suzanne Vega song.

"The Psychoanalytic Royalist" By C. A. Brown

“The Psychoanalytic Royalist” By C. A. Brown

The Psychoanalytic Royalist” is a parody of John Everett Millais’s “The Proscribed Royalist, 1651“. Originally, this painting it was just going to be an ordinary copy but I decided to turn it into a parody as soon as I realised that the hole in the tree was shaped suspiciously like a …well, you can probably guess…