Today’s Art (30th September 2014)

Well, I started randomly sketching and, before I knew it, I suddenly found that I had a picture of a vampire cheerleader character in a retro 1990s American adventure game of some kind.

Since this picture will probably have already been on DeviantART for a while, I’ll provide the original lineart for it here as a blog exclusive.

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

"90s Vampire Cheerleader" By C. A. Brown

“90s Vampire Cheerleader” By C. A. Brown

And here’s the original lineart:

"90s Vampire Cheerleader (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“90s Vampire Cheerleader (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

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Top Ten Articles – September 2014

2014 Artwork Top Ten Articles September

As I mentioned briefly last month, I’ve decided to replace my monthly “Best Of The Blog” posts with a list of links to my personal top ten articles from the previous month (and possibly few honourable mentions too).

I’ve decided to switch to this format for a number of reasons, but the main one is because I tend to write my articles fairly far in advance and, in July, I discovered WordPress has a limit on the number of posts you can schedule in advance. So, taking a whole month’s worth of articles out of my “drafts” folder and getting fucntional links for all of them would be unfeasably time-consuming.

All in all, this probably hasn’t been my best month in terms of articles – mostly due to the hot weather at the time I was writing them and because of other random stresses too. But, saying that, there have been some reasonably good articles this month.

Anyway, enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles For September 2014:

– “How To Add Personality To Your Art
– “Three More Ways To Be Creative Before The Apocalypse
– “Five Cool Little Things About Being An Artist
– “Three Things To Do When You Don’t Have Any Stories To Tell
– “Writing Dystopic Comedy
– “Three Things To Do After You’ve Drawn A Terrible Picture
– “Storytelling As ‘Revenge’
– “Three Ways To Recycle Something You’ve Already Posted Online
– “Should You Write Long Or Short Non-Fiction Articles?
– “How To Write Rhyming Poetry

Honourable Mentions:

– “Art And Gender Expression
– “Three Open- Source Drawings Styles For Beginners
– “Art, Writing And Rebellion

Today’s Art ( 29th September 2014)

Well, I’m still experimenting with drawing/painting people in a wide variety of poses and today’s painting turned out fairly well, although it required a fair amount of digital editing after I scanned it.

Not only that, the background also wasn’t quite as imaginative as I had hoped it would be when I started sketching this picture.

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

"Cocktails" By C. A. Brown

“Cocktails” By C. A. Brown

Five Cool Little Things About Being An Artist

2014 Artwork cool things artist sketch

Well, since I can’t think of any good advice to give today, I thought that I’d come up with a list of cool little “everyday” things about being an artist – either to give you some ideas or to help you feel inspired if you’ve been listening to people who tell you that being an artist isn’t a worthwhile path through life.

1)You can make your e-mails more interesting: If you produce art fairly regularly and you’ve got a digital camera or a scanner, then you can make your daily e-mails a lot more memorable and/or interesting by including some of your art when it’s appropriate to do so.

This works best if the e-mail program and/or website that you use allows you to insert images directly into the e-mail, since people are probably slightly less likely to look at your stuff if they have to click on an attachment in order to do so.

Plus, if you attach your work to an e-mail and forget to mention it, then they might not even notice that there’s an attachment. So, if you can insert images into your e-mails directly (and the file size isn’t too large) – then do this.

2) You can impress people when you’re bored: Generally speaking, quite a few people instinctively doodle on notebooks, post-it notes, newspapers, leaflets etc… when they have to pay attention to something, since doodling improves both our attention and our memories of things.

But, if you’ve been making art for a while and you’ve done enough practice that drawing feels almost instinctive to you, then your doodles are going to be a lot more impressive than the random shapes and squiggles that most people tend to draw when they’re doodling.

What this means is that if someone looks over your shoulder or if someone notices that you’re doodling, then they’re less likely to be annoyed by it. Hell, they might even be impressed by it.

3) Personalised Gifts: If you can make art reasonably well, you can make gifts for people. Not only will this mean that you won’t have to rush around to buy last-minute birthday or Christmas presents and/or cards for people, it also means that the people you’re giving art to will have a completely unique and/or personalised gift too.

A piece of art is the kind of gift that is very memorable and can be displayed and enjoyed for years.

Not only that, if you’re the kind of starving artist that most of us probably are, it’s also a fairly inexpensive way of making high-quality gifts for people too. The only real expenses are your time, any art supplies that you use and possibly a frame of some kind.

4) Free website graphics: If you’re not an artist, then finding graphics for your website can be expensive and/or time-consuming.

You can either just use random things you find online (and risk copyright problems), you can spend hours searching for the right Creative Commons-licenced picture, you can commission some graphics from an artist or you can splash out and buy royalty-free stock images.

Of course, if you can actually create art yourself (and you have some way to get it onto your computer), then you really don’t have to worry about any of this…..

5) You see things slightly differently: I’d never really thought about this too much until I read an absolutely excellent book last year called “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” by Betty Edwards, but artists have a different way of looking at the world – we tend to notice things like shapes, composition, lighting etc.. a lot more than most people do.

What this generally means is that, if you ever see a beautiful view, an interesting building or anything like that, your first thought will probably be “how do I paint this?” and you’ll automatically start drawing on your artistic knowledge and analysing what you’re seeing in a way that most people don’t do. I don’t know why, but this is really cool and it reminds me a lot of the “deduction” scenes in the BBC’s “Sherlock” series.

Yes, no-one else will know that you’re thinking in this way. But it can be a very good way of impressing yourself though.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (28th September 2014)

Well, originally I was going to paint a 1980s/1990s-style scene of a tourist exploring either a Venice-like city or a seaside resort in Cornwall. But, since I really can’t paint bright pictures, the weather in it soon became a lot..gloomier. I also ended up digitally editing this picture a lot more than usual after I’d scanned it too.

Since this painting will have probably been posted on DeviantART a few days ago, I’ll provide the original lineart for it as a blog exclusive.

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

"Scattered Showers" By C. A. Brown

“Scattered Showers” By C. A. Brown

And here’s the lineart:

"Scattered Showers (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Scattered Showers (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

Writing Dystopic Comedy

2014 Artwork Dystopic Comedy article sketch

Although I’ve written about dystopic fiction before, I thought that I’d talk about one of my favourite genres of comedy today. I am, of course, talking about dystopic comedy – although dystopic comedy often has a lot in common with dark comedy there are a few important differences.

In a dark comedy, a lot of the humour comes from the grim events of the story and the irreverent and/or ironic way that they’re portrayed. However, in a dystopic comedy, the main source of the humour is the world of the story itself. Yes, you heard me correctly – the setting is the thing that makes the audience laugh.

The setting of a dystopic comedy is so hilariously crappy, run-down and/or dysfunctional that it can’t help but be funny. Perhaps it’s nothing more than an unusual perspective on our own world, like in animated shows such as “Beavis and Butt-Head“. Perhaps it’s set in a ludicrously bizarre and bureaucratic fantasy world, such as in many of Terry Pratchett’s novels.

Perhaps it’s a satirical caricature of our own world, like in the BBC’s brilliantly cynical “Monkey Dust” animated series or in a brilliant Warren Ellis’ novel called “Crooked Little Vein”.

Or perhaps it’s even an actual dystopic future, like in Warren Ellis’ “Transmetropolitan” comics, in a TV show like “Red Dwarf” or in a hilarious computer game from the 1990s called “Normality“.

Whatever it is, the main source of the comedy in a dystopic comedy is the setting of the story. And, as I said before, this is one of my favourite forms of comedy for so many reasons. Plus, it’s a type of comedy that works well in both visual mediums (like comics) and in prose fiction too.

I think that one of the reasons why it’s such a great form of comedy is because it’s usually at least slightly subtle – most of the humour is literally hidden in the background.

What this means is that your story or comic will have a lot more re-readability because people will notice new things every time that they read your story. Not only that, it also means that you can also include a non-comedy story in the foreground too if you really want to.

Not only that, a unique setting is often one of the most memorable things about a story, comic, TV show, videogame etc… And, since the settings in dystopic comedy stories are, by their very nature, unusual and often hilariously crappy (in a good way) they’re likely to stand out from all of the “ordinary” stories out there.

So, how do you make this type of comedy?

If you’re writing a prose dystopic comedy story, then you can add a lot of comedy by just including small descriptions of the settings or things, showing how your characters react to the settings, showing things malfunctioning in hilarious ways and/or showing small things that happen because of the settings. It’s that simple. Sort of.

The only possible difficulty is coming up with tens or hundreds of funny little ideas – although if you have a cynical enough perspective on the world to love dystopic comedy, then this probably shouldn’t be too much of a problem for you. But, if it is, then just try parodying various things.

For example, here’s a description from my short-lived “Ambitus” sci-fi/comedy series from last year, which is something of a “Star Trek” parody: “Two full-body scans later, Jola had found himself in the cramped and dusty secondary bridge with all of his bridge staff. The atmospherics were playing up and the techs who had been assigned to fix it were just about visible through the porthole by the obsolete navigation console. They were wrestling with what looked distinctly like a giant frozen Bucolian squid.

If you’re making a comic, then it’s just a case of coming up with lots of funny little background details and/or making everything look slightly run-down and grungy. Not only that, you can also do all of the things which you can do in dystopic comedy prose fiction too. Again, it’s that simple.

For example, here’s a page from the very first (badly-written) webcomic I ever posted online back in 2010. Although the art in it is nowhere near as good as my current art, this page will give you a good example of how you can use the setting for comedic effect:

[Click for larger image] "Yametry Run - Episode 16" By C. A. Brown

[Click for larger image]
“Yametry Run – Episode 16” By C. A. Brown

So, yes, although dystopic comedy almost requires a slightly cynical perspective on the world – it’s relatively easy to write and/or draw and it is both fun and memorable to read.

——————-

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Review: “Doctor Who – The Caretaker” (TV Show Episode)

(For my non-British readers, "EastEnders" is an annoying show on the BBC where people spend 30 minutes doing almost nothing but arguing with each other.)

(For my non-British readers, “EastEnders” is an annoying show on the BBC where people spend 30 minutes doing almost nothing but arguing with each other.)

Since I’ve just finished watching the latest episode of “Doctor Who”, I thought that I’d write a review of it. As I seem to say every week, I’m not sure how many episodes of this series I’ll get round to reviewing (or even how promptly I’ll be able to review them) but I’ll try to look at as many as possible.

Before I go any further, I should also point out that this review will contain SPOILERS. You have been warned.

“The Caretaker” begins with a fast-paced montage of scenes from various adventures The Doctor and Clara have had, intercut with scenes from Clara’s everyday life as a schoolteacher and of her relationship with Danny.

Although this montage starts with what looks like a dramatic cliffhanger (where the Doctor and Clara are about to be eaten by sand pirhanas on a desert planet), it is unfortunately completely unrelated to the rest of the episode and is just used as one of many examples of how busy Clara’s life is.

Anyway, when Clara meets up with the Doctor later, he tells her that they aren’t going anywhere tonight because he has to go on an undercover mission somewhere alone. Although Clara is annoyed by this, she doesn’t question him too much about it and gets on with her everyday life.

However, when she arrives at school with Danny the following day, the headteacher interrupts the staff meeting to introduce the school’s new temporary caretaker.

And, as you may have guessed, the caretaker is none other than The Doctor (who is wearing a different coat, to disguise himself). Clara is peeved by this and tries to ask him what he’s doing sneaking around the school but he doesn’t really give away too many details.

So, life carries on as normal – albeit with the occasional annoying interruption to Clara’s life by The Doctor.

Meanwhile, on the streets nearby – a policeman catches two pupils from Clara’s school playing truant and sends them back to school. However, before the policeman can continue his patrol, he hears something from inside the abandoned building that the kids had been standing outside. So, he goes inside to investigate – and is promptly vapourised by an evil robot.

It quickly becomes obvious that the Doctor has gone undercover at the school in order to send the robot back to the distant future by luring it to the school at night and setting off a series of time mines that he’s placed at strategic locations around the school. However, before he can do this, Danny accidentally finds some of the mines and removes them.

This leads to a dramatic confrontation between the robot and The Doctor (as well as Clara and Danny). Although the Doctor manages to re-activate one of the remaining mines, it’s doesn’t work quite well enough and it only sends the robot three days into the future…..

One of the first things I will say about this episode is that it felt like everything was the wrong way around – the dramatic parts with the robot felt almost like a sub-plot and the parts about Clara and Danny’s relationship felt like they were the main plot of the episode.

If this was a “normal” TV drama series, I probably wouldn’t mind this – but it’s “Doctor Who”. It’s one of the few new sci-fi shows on TV these days (and pretty much the only British one) so, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to expect it to be primarily a sci-fi show rather than a soap opera or a romantic comedy.

Seriously, if it wasn’t for the tacked-on scenes with the robot and the cool-looking montage at the beginning, then this episode could have easily just been an episode of any other “ordinary” modern drama series.

So, yes, this is another argument-based character-based episode. But, not only do we have to sit through the Doctor and Clara bickering with each other, we now also get to see The Doctor arguing with Danny too. Wonderful!

Not only that, there are also at least a few dramatic conversations between Clara and Danny about their relationship too. Again, this fine for a soap opera or a “serious” sci-fi show like “Battlestar Galactica”, but it’s not really ok for a more light-hearted show like “Doctor Who”.

Yes, all of this annoying stuff is balanced out with some comedy – but, even so, the episode felt a bit too “serious” and “realistic” for an episode of “Doctor Who”.

In addition to this, the special effects in some (but not all) of the scenes featuring the robot weren’t great either. Ok, they weren’t exactly “bad”, but there were at least a couple of parts of the episode where the special effects reminded me more of an episode of “Red Dwarf” from the 1990s than an episode of “Doctor Who” from the 2010s. And not in a good way….

Whilst I’m a huge “Red Dwarf” fan and I don’t really care about special effects in TV shows or movies if the story is good enough, the story of this episode wasn’t really good enough to distract me from a couple of clunky special effects scenes. Seriously, if you actually notice a special effect, then that’s usually a sign of bad writing and/or bad acting.

All in all, this was a fairly mediocre episode of “Doctor Who”. Whilst it wasn’t quite as bad as “Listen“, it’s nothing spectacular either and – as I said earlier – was more of a “soap opera” episode than anything else.

The chemistry between the main characters hasn’t really been as good in this series of “Doctor Who” as it has in previous series of the show and, whilst I don’t mind this if there’s a suitably interesting storyline and lots of cool sci-fi stuff to distract me from it, there wasn’t really enough of this in this week’s episode.

Still, the preview of the next episode at the end of “The Caretaker” showed The Doctor and a group of astronauts fighting alien spider creatures on a moon somewhere, so it looks like the series might get back to normal next week.

But, if I had to give “The Caretaker” a rating out of five, then it would get three at the most.