Today’s Art (30th June 2014)

Well, I was still kind of in the mood for doing something different when I made today’s painting. So, I thought that I’d try to make a “traditional” watercolour pencil painting without using ink. Although this turned out fairly well, it didn’t really look quite as good as I’d hoped it would.

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

"The Old Path" By C. A. Brown

“The Old Path” By C. A. Brown

Best Of The Blog (1st June – 29th June 2014)

2014 Artwork Best Of The Blog 30th June Sketch

Well, it’s the end of the month and that means it’s time for another “Best Of The Blog” post πŸ™‚

To my new readers, this is a monthly feature where I give you a list of links to all of the articles (excluding reviews and art posts) that I’ve written over the past month.

All in all, this has been a surprisingly good month and I’m really proud of most of the articles I’ve written for this month. Stay tuned for more next month πŸ™‚

Anyway, enjoy πŸ™‚

– “Three Ways To Avoid ‘Spectacle Fatigue’ In Your Stories And Comics
– “People Look For Answers In Fiction. Give Them Some.
– “Three Tips For Inventing Fictional Sports
– “Why Do I Use A Creative Commons Licence?
– “The Pros And Cons Of Making An Autobiographical Webcomic
– “Approach Your Art With Curiosity (Plus An Exclusive Animation Too)
– “Look Backwards For Inspiration
– “How To Turn Photos Into Fake Pixel Art Using MS Paint
– “The Gates Of The Imagination
– “Five Ways To Make Zombies Scarier
– “Seven Signs That You Might Be An Artist (Comic)
– “What Are The Limitations Of Your Art Style?
– “Making ‘Accidental Comics’
– “Four Reasons NOT To Start A Webcomic
– “Four Subversive Ways To Get Teenagers To Read More Books
– “Feeling Blocked? What Are You Censoring?
– “Three Ways To Combine Sci-Fi And Fantasy (With Examples)
– “On Making Unusual Things Ordinary In Your Stories…
– “Six Reasons Why Books Are Better Than TV Or Film
– “Don’t Be Afraid To Change Your Creative Ambitions
– “Three Ways Writers And Artists Can Use The Power Of New Things
– “Three More Ways To Keep Your Art Fresh (With Examples)
– “Why Simple Word Processors Are Awesome
– “Why You Shouldn’t Try To Be The Next [Insert Famous Writer Here]
– “Two Interesting Questions That Sci-Fi And Fantasy Writers Should Ask Themseleves

Today’s Art (29th June 2014)

Unfortunately, today’s painting didn’t really turn out very well 😦 It was, as you might have guessed, inspired by seeing two teaspoons in the sink and thinking “hmm… that looks like a good subject for a painting“.

The perspective in this picture probably isn’t exactly right and, despite spending about twice as long as usual adjusting the brightness/contrast levels of the picture after I scanned it, it still ended up looking drab and faded. Still, it was interesting to try something slightly different to my usual kinds of painting.

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

"Two Spoons" By C. A. Brown

“Two Spoons” By C. A. Brown

Three Ways To Avoid “Spectacle Fatigue” In Your Stories And Comics

2014 Artwork Spectacle Fatigue Sketch

I can’t remember where I first saw or heard this term, but I thought that I’d talk about “spectacle fatigue” today. All it really means is when your audience becomes bored or less impressed with spectacularly dramatic scenes in a comic, movie, game or novel.

I’m sure that you’ve probably experienced this yourself when watching one of those mega-budget special effects tech demo movies that Hollywood likes to churn out these days. When you start watching the film, you think “wow! That looks cool!” and, by the end of the film, the flashy multi-million dollar special effects just seem kind of “ordinary” and slightly boring.

Although there’s much more of a risk of spectacle fatigue in visual-based storytelling mediums (like comics and movies), spectacle fatigue can happen in any form of storytelling.

So, I thought that I’d provide a few tips to help you avoid causing spectacle fatigue in your own comics or stories. So that, when you add something dramatic and/or visually stunning, it will actually be dramatic or visually stunning.

1) Pacing: This one should be pretty obvious, but you should treat your “spectacular” scenes in the same way that good writers treat fanservice and profanity. In other words, less is often more. One well-placed four-letter word or risque scene can have far more dramatic impact than a hundred carelessly-placed ones. The same is true for “spectacular” scenes too.

It’s all about contrast really – in this case, the contrast between the “ordinary” and the “spectacular”. Every time you add a spectacular scene, you make the gap between “spectacular” and “ordinary” slightly smaller. So, if you have a spectacular scene on literally every other page, then it’s quickly going to become “ordinary” and it won’t impress your audience as much.

So, make sure that you leave a reasonable gap between your “spectacular” scenes so that they they don’t become “ordinary”.

2) Don’t rely on spectacle alone: This is a mistake which mega-budget Hollywood movies make all of the time – because they have a large SFX budget, they think that they can keep their audience interested by just throwing flashy special effects at them on a regular basis.

This might work for some people, but it’s quite telling that most of these mega-budget movies don’t have a cult following in the way that many lower-budget TV shows do.

The reason for this is because lower-budget TV shows have to rely on more than just spectacular scenes to keep people interested. They need to use things like good characterisation, interesting writing, humour and a compelling story to keep people interested.

The same holds true for comics and fiction too – yes, you can get away with adding lots of action and explosions to your story if it’s backed up by a fascinating story, good writing and interesting characters. This way, even if your audience becomes bored with all of the constant action in your story, then there’s still plenty of other stuff there to keep them reading.

3) Emotions: This is probably the best way to avoid “spectacle fatigue” in your story or comic. Basically, in order for a spectacular scene to really impress your audience, there needs to be some emotion behind it.

Your dramatic scene either has to make the audience feel something directly (eg: if one of their favourite characters dies heroically) or it needs to make the characters in your story feel something (eg: one of your characters’ dreams comes true in a spectacular way and they start weeping with joy).

Yes, you can possibly get away with one or two “emotionless” spectacles in your story. But if you want your dramatic scenes to be consistently dramatic, then you need to make sure that they evoke emotions in someone, even if that someone is just one of your characters.


Sorry for another short and basic article, but I hope it was useful πŸ™‚

People Look For Answers In Fiction. Give Them Some.

2014 Artwork Answers And Fiction Sketch

Well, I was watching an episode of “Stargate SG-1” recently, when I suddenly realised something quite interesting about storytelling which I thought that I’d share with you today, in case it’s useful.

In case you’ve never heard of “Stargate SG-1” before, it’s an American sci-fi show from the late 1990s and the 2000s about a top secret military team who use a wormhole-generating piece of alien technology (called a “Stargate”) to travel to a whole variety of different planets. It’s a really fun show.

Anyway, I was watching an episode from season two (called “The Fifth Race”) which involves one of the main characters (O’Neill) accidentally finding an alien device that downloads copious amounts of extremely advanced knowledge into his brain.

What makes this episode of “Stargate SG-1” so compelling is that, whilst most of the knowledge O’Neill suddenly gains is mathematical/technological, it’s also implied that he learns things like the meaning of life too.

For some reason, this made the episode even more dramatic and fascinating than usual. Of course, the episode doesn’t tell us what the meaning of life is – but it reminds us that nobody truly knows what it is (although there are obviously a lot of theories) and it tantalises us with the idea that there’s actually a definitive answer to this question.

And, well, this made me think about the role of questions and answers in stories. Although fiction is obviously fictional, it can tap into our desire for answers to a whole range of profound and currently unanswerable questions (eg: What is the meaning of life? What happens to our consciousnesses after death? Are we alone in the universe? etc…)

Many years ago, most people looked to religions for answers to some of these profoundly timeless questions (and many people still do). But, of course, every religion has at least slightly different answers to these big questions and even religious people might not always quite believe their religion’s “official” answers to these unanswerable questions.

So, where does fiction come into this?

Well, if there’s one thing that’s slightly better than not knowing the answer to an unanswerable question, it’s knowing a well-constructed fake answer to that question. And fiction can provide these fake answers to people.

For example, we haven’t found any evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life and it’s very much possible that we’re completely alone in the universe. But, science fiction is one of the most popular genres of fiction because it shows us the possibility that there might be aliens out there and gives us an idea of what they might look like.

If we ask ourselves “are we alone in the universe?”, science fiction stories can provide us with a whole variety of interesting possible answers to this question. Yes, they’re all fake answers – but the fact that the story contains an answer, even if it isn’t true, is what makes it so fascinating.

So, how is any of this useful to us?

Well, one way of making your story or comic more interesting is to include some of these big questions in it and to either offer your own ideas about what the answers are or come up with a really interesting fake answer.

If you can tap into your audience’s curiosity about these unanswerable questions (even in a very subtle way), then this is going to be something that will not only give your story more of an emotional impact, but it will also make your readers more interested in your story too.


Sorry that this article was so short, but I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Today’s Art (27th June 2014)

Sorry that today’s painting ended up being slightly unimaginative (I don’t know, I wasn’t really feeling that inspired), but the background of it ended up being a lot more detailed than I’d originally planned πŸ™‚

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

"Resort Balcony" By C.A.Brown

“Resort Balcony” By C.A.Brown

Three Tips For Inventing Fictional Sports

Ok, as soon as I mentioned chainsaw duelling, I KNEW that I HAD to draw it....

Ok, as soon as I mentioned chainsaw duelling, I KNEW that I HAD to draw it….

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I was watching a repeat of an old episode of “Robot Wars” from the 1990s. In fact, I think I also saw that episode when I was a kid – since I remembered one of the robots in it (the almighty Cassius – who did this amazingly memorable back flip in one of the other episodes of the show). Anyway, it suddenly occurred to me about halfway through the episode that I was actually watching sport…. and enjoying it!

I’m someone who finds football (that’s “soccer”, for my American readers) interminably dull. I’m someone who never so much as wants to see a rugby field again, let alone watch an entire match. I’m too young to be interested in cricket, let alone to enjoy it. Motor racing can sometimes be vaguely interesting, but I wish that they’d just shorten it to a highlight reel of the dramatic parts.

So, yes, I’m not a sports fan. But, there I was, watching a futuristic and (relatively speaking) modern sport on the TV and I loved it. And this made me think “someone had to have invented Robot Wars. I wonder how you invent a sport?”

And since, amongst other things, this is a blog about writing – I thought about how to invent fictional sports (like Quidditch in J.K.Rowling’s “Harry Potter” novels) and I’ve come up with a few tips which might come in handy:

1) Make It Very Simple Or Very Complicated: This might sound like a strange piece of advice for inventing fictional sports, but it might be useful.

If you make your sport as simple as possible (eg: a game where two players have to throw rocks at a wall until they break the wall), then you can focus a lot more on the emotions of the players and the action, since you don’t have to spend very long explaining the rules of the game to your readers. Not only that, because the game is fairly simple, it’s easier to imagine and this will probably immerse your readers further into your story.

Conversely, if you make your fictional sport ludicrously complicated, then this gives you a lot more creative freedom. Because there are so many rules in your fictional sport, you can effectively just make it up as you go along and, if you do this well, then your readers probably won’t notice. However, you’ve probably got to be careful with this approach, since doing this is basically “cheating”.

2) Spectacle: One of the advantages of fictional sports (and obviously, to a much lesser extent, invented sports) is that safety and practicality is less of an issue. As such, there’s a lot more room for drama, spectacle and violence.

I mean, even with a real invented sport like “Robot Wars” – there are obviously safety rules. But, since the competitors are remote-controlled robots, we get to enjoy Roman-style gladiatorial combat without any of the bloodshed or lawsuits.

Not only that, since it’s a sport that has been invented for TV, rather than one that has evolved organically over the years – there’s a lot more dramatic stuff in there – like flamethrowers, spikes and all sorts of cool dystopic sci-fi stuff.

Likewise, if you’re coming up with a fictional sport for a story or a comic, then the only limits are your imagination. So, if you want to show your characters duelling with chainsaws or jousting on motorbikes, then go for it. Yes, it will be “unrealistic”, but – well – if people want realism, then there are plenty of real sports on TV for people to watch.

3) Rip Off A Real Sport: As the old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it”. Real sports attract huge audiences for a reason – I’m not quite sure what this reason is, but there’s obviously something there that people enjoy watching.

So, don’t be afraid to take a traditional sport, change enough about it to make it appear new – and then put it in your story or your comic. After all, no-one holds the copyright on football, basketball, cricket, tennis etc….

If this seems a bit crass or a bit too much like “cheating” to you, then why not try doing it with an old sport that no-one plays any more? For example, as I said earlier, “Robot Wars” is obviously inspired by all kinds of deadly old Roman and Medieval contact sports which we’ve thankfully abandoned over the years.

Seriously, you’d be surprised how many old sports there are around the world that no-one (or hardly anyone) plays any more that can be easily found with enough research. Just be slightly careful with this though, since some old sports (like Ōllamaliztli) also had ritual/spiritual significance when they were originally played.


Sorry that this article was so basic, but I hope it was interesting πŸ™‚

Editorial Cartoon: “Britain, THIS Is Why We Cannot Have Nice Things”

"Britain, THIS Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things" By C. A. Brown

“Britain, THIS Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” By C. A. Brown

Although I try to keep politics out of this blog most of the time, I make an exception when it comes to the subject of free speech and censorship for the simple reason that official censorship damages creativity and can have a chilling effect on the kinds of things that writers, artists, film-makers etc.. can create.

Anyway, I read this article on Melonfarmers [ slightly NSFW] earlier and I’m currently watching a Youtube video that explains the situation too.

Basically, a UK-based political commentary show called “The UK Column” on Youtube (and I don’t know whether it’s a left or right wing show and I don’t care, free speech is free speech) has been censored by The Authority For Television On Demand (eg: they started to demand licence fees and that the channel submitted to their regulation) because ATVOD claims that the Youtube channel is “Television like” or something like that.

Supposedly we have “free speech” in Britain. But we really don’t! When the government starts meddling in political discussion on the internet, then we might as well abandon all pretence of being a democracy!

Luckily written articles and editorial cartoons are out of ATVOD’s reach for the time being, but it’s probably just a matter of time given how no-one in authority in the UK seems to really give a damn about free speech.

Today’s Art (26th June 2014)

Well, I felt like trying out making fashion illustrations for today.

Although this is a good way to practice drawing realistically-proportioned body shapes (and I’ve suddenly realised how terrible I am at drawing legs), about halfway through making this picture I suddenly thought “This picture just looks really… well… lifeless and boring” – so, I ended up turning it into a comic.

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

"Not Quite Fashion" By C. A. Brown

“Not Quite Fashion” By C. A. Brown