Today’s Art (30th November 2014)

Well, I was feeling uninspired when I made today’s painting – so, I eventually ended up making a rather stylised vintage sci-fi silhouette painting for today.

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

"Red Planet" By C. A. Brown

“Red Planet” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – November 2014

2014 Artwork Top Ten Articles November

Well, it’s the end of the month and that means that it’s time for me to compile a list of links to my favourite ten articles about art and/or writing (and maybe a few honourable mentions too) that have appeared here in November.

All in all, I’m quite proud of most of this month’s articles, so choosing the ten best ones might be more difficult than usual….

Anyway, without any further ado, here they are (in no particular order):

Top ten articles for November 2014:

– “How Gruesome Should Horror Art And Horror Comics Be?
– “The Joy Of… Banned Books
– “Five Ways To Make Quick Last-Minute Artwork
– “How To Add Some Trickery To Your Thriller, Detective And/Or Spy Story
– “Two Reasons Why Regular Webcomic Updates Are Useful When You’re Uninspired
– “The Uncanny – Or, My Conversations With An Artificial Intelligence
– “Should You Include Aliens In Your Sci-Fi Story?
– “How To Adapt Something That Doesn’t Really Have A Story
– “One Quick Question To Spark Your Creativity
– “The Joy Of… Self-Imposed Rules

Honourable Mentions:

– “Four Unusual Tips For Writing A Novel Very Quickly
– “Art And Dreams
– “The Joy Of… Alternate Histories
– “Should You Be The Voice Of Your Generation?

Today’s Art (29th November 2014)

Well, I was still in the mood for vintage-style art, so I made this digitally-edited painting set in roaring twenties Paris for today. If anyone is curious about how I managed to make a greyscale painting look like an old photo, I used a filter in an open-source image editing program called “GIMP“.

As a blog exclusive, I’ll also provide the original greyscale version of this picture too 🙂

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

"La Belle Chanteuse" By C. A. Brown

“La Belle Chanteuse” By C. A. Brown

And here’s the greyscale version:

"La Belle Chanteuse (Greyscale)" By C. A. Brown

“La Belle Chanteuse (Greyscale)” By C. A. Brown

Three Ways To Make Creativity Fun Again

2014 Artwork Creativity Fun Again Sketch

Well, at the time of writing, I seem to have fallen back into one of those moods where it feels like creating anything is a boring and laborious chore. It’s the kind of mood where I’ll start writing something for this blog and then abandon it after about two paragraphs after thinking “This is terrible… and I don’t know what to write next” and the kind of mood where I can only reluctantly paint mediocre pictures.

It’s a fact that, if you create things regularly and make writing, drawing and/or painting a part of your daily schedule – then it’s going to feel like a chore sometimes. This is unavoidable and it happens to us all from time to time.

But, of course, if you’re serious about writing and/or art, then you can’t let this get you down. In fact, I’d argue that one of the best signs that someone is serious about being a writer or an artist is that they keep creating stuff even on the days when they don’t feel particularly inspired or enthusiastic about it.

But, even so, creating things tends to go a lot better when it actually feels… you know… fun.

So, until I find a way out of yet another one of these moods, I thought that I’d offer you a few tips about how to make creativity fun again that have worked for me in the past – in case they’re useful to you. Yes, I’ve almost certainly mentioned all of these things before, but it’s worth reminding myself (and you) about them again.

1) Don’t censor yourself: Although I’ve already written about this topic on here too many times to remember, one of the major things that can make creativity feel like a chore is self-censorship.

If you’re throwing out all of the creative ideas that really fascinate you because you’re worried about what other people might think if you post your work online, then this is going to make you feel disillusioned and disenchanted fairly quickly.

So, one way to make creativity fun again is to make some private art and/or fiction about whatever the hell you want. It can be as bizarre, transgressive, subversive, shocking, explicit and/or pornographic as you want it to be – after all, you’re the only person who will be reading or looking at it. Don’t set yourself any limits, just start creating.

Although you won’t have anything to show for this because you’ll have to keep your work private, this exercise can be an absolutely brilliant way to remind you of how fun creativity can be when it’s at it’s best.

Not only that, the exhilarating sense of freedom that comes with creating something without worrying about what others will think of it may well carry over into some of your later work.

2) Fan art, fan fiction and caricature: Sometimes, it’s good to just take it easy and give your imagination a break – thinking of totally new ideas for stories and/or art on a regular basis can exhaust even the most creative person from time to time.

So, a good way to remind yourself about how fun creating things should be is to borrow someone else’s ideas and/or characters and make some fan fiction and/or fan art about it. Yes, you can’t sell any of your fan art and even posting it online is something of a grey area, but it can be an absolutely perfect way to give yourself a “break” whilst still keeping up your art and/or writing practice.

Likewise, if you’re in the kind of mood where creating things feels like a chore – then it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re in a rather bitter and cynical mood in general. So, use this to your advantage and make some bitter and cynical caricatures of the people and things that annoy you. Be merciless.

As with the previous point on this list, it’s probably best not to show this work to anyone else if you feel uncomfortable about doing so, but it can be a brilliant form of stress relief nonetheless. And it can also be a great way to remind yourself of the power of art too.

3) Geek out about something: This technique is a little bit more indirect (and difficult to explain), but it can work wonders for you when you feel like writing and/or making art is nothing more than a boring self-imposed chore.

Anyway, go back and look at your favourite art again, re-read your favourite stories, play your favourite computer games, watch your favourite TV shows etc… basically, just immerse yourself in things that other people have created that you really like. Geek out about them, read online articles about them and daydream about them.

Then remember that you can also create things like this if you want to. After all, even though you might not have the same amount of experience as your favourite writers and/or artists, you are still a writer and/or artist yourself. And, if other artists can produce things which amaze you, then you can also produce things that amaze yourself.

As I said, this technique is a little bit indirect and difficult to explain, but it can be the perfect way to remind yourself about how great it is to be a writer and/or artist.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (28th November 2014)

Well, originally, I was going to paint a portrait of an old musician called Nelson Eddy (which is why the guy in this picture is singing the “Major General” song, because for some bizarre reason I absolutely love his version of this song), based on some old photos of him that I’d seen. But, the guy in this picture ended up looking nothing like Nelson Eddy when I’d finished it.

If anyone is wondering how I was able to make a greyscale watercolour painting look like an old photo, I used the “old photo” filter in an open-source image editing program called “GIMP“. Seriously, I love this filter 🙂 As a blog exclusive, I’ll also provide the original greyscale painting too.

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

"Major General" By C. A. Brown

“Major General” By C. A. Brown

And here’s the greyscale version:

"Major General (Greyscale)" By C. A. Brown

“Major General (Greyscale)” By C. A. Brown

Four Unusual Tips For Writing A Novel Very Quickly

WARNING - Writing a novel THIS quickly may melt your brain...

WARNING – Writing a novel THIS quickly may melt your brain…

We’ve all heard stories about authors writing at superhuman speed – Jack Kerouac apparently wrote “On The Road” in just three weeks and I think that Shaun Hutson once apparently wrote a World War Two novel in a single weekend or something like that (I can’t remember where I read about this though).

So, how do they do it?

Well, whilst I’ve never actually written a full-length novel at top speed, I’ve done the next best thing. Twice.

Back in 2009, I was fascinated by a competition called “The 3 Day Novel“. Since I’d missed the start date for it and was kind of impatient, I decided to have a bit of unofficial practice and I ended up producing two 19,000-21,000 word novellas (not at the same time obviously – the first one was in summer 2009 and the second one was in autmun 2009).

Although it actually took me about four days for one of my attempts, it gave me at least a small amount of insight into how to write at ultra-fast speeds.

As the name suggests, “The 3 Day Novel” is a competition where people try to write a “novel” in just three days. I’ve put “novel” in inverted commas because what most people (myself included) can produce in that amount of time is closer in length to a novella (eg: 14,000- 50,000 words) than a full-length novel. Still, writing something of this length in three days is quite an achievement.

Anyway, since “The 3 Day Novel” contest already has a ‘Survival Guide’ page on it’s site which gives you some basic advice about how to achieve this superhuman feat (eg: don’t edit when you’re writing, write in solitude etc…), I thought that I’d give you some more unusual tips about how to write a novel quickly…….

1)Begin well: On my first unofficial attempt at the “3 Day Novel” challenge, I was excited and ready to go. So, on the first day, I ended up writing something like 10,000 words in the space of about eight hours. This was, at the time, the longest thing that I’d ever written and I was amazed!

In fact, I thought that if I kept this up then I’d have a 30,000 word novella by the end of the challenge.

I didn’t.

On the other days, I was only able to produce about 5,000 words a day.

Anyway, why am I mentioning this? Well, the reason I’m mentioning it is because you need to take full advantage of the first day of your project.

This will be the day when you are at your most energetic and enthusiastic because you haven’t been worn out by writing an unnaturally large amount of fiction yet. So, don’t take it easy on the first day.

Don’t ease yourself into your project gently. Use that first burst of curiosity and enthusiasm to your advantage and throw yourself into your project whilst you still have the energy to do so.

In other words, see your first day as the day when you can give yourself a giant head-start that will be useful a day or two later when you’re at the point when you can still see words even when you close your eyes.

2) Genre and plot structure: If you are going to pull off the gruelling feat of writing a novel in a shockingly short amount of time, then not only do you need to be enthusiastic (if not obsessed) about it but you also need a plot structure which keeps the risk of getting writer’s block to an absolute minimum.

In order to get enthusiastic about your story, it needs to be in one of your absolute favourite genres. It has to be in a genre that you absolutely love.

Because you’ll be writing at a superhuman speed, you’ll need motivation and the best motivation you can get is to be doing something that you love. So, don’t even attempt to write a novel quickly unless it’s in a genre that you genuinely love.

Secondly, you want to keep your story fairly open-ended in order to keep the risk of both writer’s block and of “writing yourself into a corner” to a minimum.

Whilst I’ve already written another article this subject , your story needs to be something that you can easily “make up as you go along” and it also needs to be the type of story where, if you get stuck, you can just throw something completely random into your story without confusing your readers.

For example, if you’re writing a horror story – then it would be better to write a story about a mysterious monster that attacks unsuspecting people at random (eg: whenever you get writer’s block) or a story about a haunted house where all manner of strange and bizarre things can happen (again, whenever you get writer’s block) than it would be to write an intricately-plotted story with detailed plot twists.

3) Sugar and Caffeine are your friends: Normally, I don’t really like energy drinks. Most of them taste pretty horrible and I don’t really like the whole frat-like culture that surrounds them.

But, if you’re writing a novel at superhuman speed (and it’s safe for you to drink energy drinks), then they’re a much more efficient way to stay awake and motivated than getting up (and away from your computer) and making a cup of coffee.

So, before you start your marathon writing session, make sure that you have some energy drinks handy. But, for obvious safety reasons, just make sure that you don’t drink too many of them though (I think that the general rule is that you should only drink about one can of energy drink per day.)

4) Obsession: If you devote a huge amount of time to doing nothing but writing a novel, then you’re probably going to start to think about it almost all of the time – even when you’re not writing.

On the few occasions that you meet other people during your writing binge, you’re going to want to talk about nothing other than the novel that you’re working on.

Although this might make you fear that you’re losing your mind, it’s actually a good sign. It means that you’re devoting almost all of your mental energy to your novel. As long as you don’t keep it up for more than a few days and you find a way to relax afterwards, then a total and all-consuming obsession about your novel is a good thing.

After all, who would even attempt to write a novel in a ridiculously short amount of time if they weren’t obsessed about it?


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂 Again, be sure to check out the “Survival Guide” on the “3 Day Novel” website for some more practical advice.

Today’s Art (27th November 2014)

Today’s painting is based on one of the later parts of a rather long dream I had a few weeks ago.

Whilst I won’t write an account of the entire dream here, the last part of it was set in this bizarre dystopic sci-fi factory/spaceship/prison, where you could tell someone’s social status by looking at what colour dress they were wearing (eg: someone in a blue dress was a wealthy scholar etc..).

This was also one of the few dreams I’ve had where I was actually a character in the dream (I was one of the lowly people wearing green in the background of this painting) rather than just a neutral observer or a carbon copy of my waking self.

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

"Dreamt Dystopia" By C. A. Brown

“Dreamt Dystopia” By C. A. Brown

Some Very Basic Tips For Realistic Lighting In Paintings (And a “Never-Seen-Before” Painting Too)

2014 Artwork Realistic lighting failed painting article sketch

Well, I made a cheesy sci-fi/horror painting called “Horde” recently and I completely messed up the lighting in it. So, I thought that I’d quickly dissect it here and see if we can learn anything from it.

I’m not sure whether I’ll also post it on here tomorrow in my daily art post or if I’ll replace it with something else (I’ll probably do the latter of these two things).

But, nonetheless, it provides a few good examples of how NOT to paint and/or draw realistic lighting. It also doesn’t include any shadows either, which allows us to focus on just looking at basic lighting in this article.

So, let’s take a look at it:

"Horde" By C. A. Brown

“Horde” By C. A. Brown

As a general rule, when you’re painting something – you should imagine rays of light coming out of the light sources in your picture (eg: in this picture, it would be the two guns) in every direction and not stopping until they hit something solid.

The side of anything that one of these light rays hits should be lighter than the side of it that it doesn’t. Yes, things often cast shadows too – but, again, since this is a fairly basic guide, I won’t be covering how to paint realistic shadows here.

In case this was confusing, here’s a version of my picture with the imaginary “light rays” (shown in white and light blue) added to it:

Light rays, shown in white and blue, emerging from both light sources and stopping when they hit something solid.

Light rays, shown in white and blue, emerging from both light sources and stopping when they hit something solid.

The first mistake that you’ll probably notice is the fact that the bottom half of the archway in the background is completely covered in darkness. Initially, I did this to save time but – as we all know, light doesn’t work this way.

If there is a bright light in the middle of a painting (eg: the muzzle flash of a futuristic hand-held shotgun) and nothing gets in it’s way, then it should light up everything above and below it.

 THIS area should NOT be dark!

THIS area should NOT be dark!

This is especially incongruous, since I’ve also made sure that the edges of the archway in the background at the bottom of the picture have been lit properly. Seriously, if there’s one thing worse than badly-painted lighting, it’s inconsistent lighting. Don’t make this mistake!

The second major mistake that you might not notice is the fact that the far edge of character’s right arm isn’t lighter than the rest of the picture. It’s right next to a light source, and yet only the middle part of it is lit up.

If you think about the “rays of light” that I mentioned earlier, it should be obvious that this area should be lighter. Again, here’s the part of the picture that I’m talking about:

This area should be lighter than it is.

This area should be lighter than it is.

There are, of course, lots of other smaller mistakes with the lighting in this picture that I could talk about. But, to be honest, I don’t really have time to do so at the moment – so I’ll leave it up to you to see how many you can spot.


Sorry for such a short and basic article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

Art And Dreams

...Don't you just hate it when this happens.

…Don’t you just hate it when this happens.

When it comes to sources of artistic inspiration, we can often overlook our dreams. After all, we don’t always remember our dreams and most people aren’t interested in hearing about them (for some bizarre reason I’ve never quite understood). But, if you are an artist, your dreams can be an absolute goldmine.

Even though I’ve already written an article about writing and dreams, I’ve recently realised that dreams are actually much more useful to artists than they are to writers.

Why? Because although the average dream might have a nonsensical “story” of some kind or another, the parts of dreams that we really remember are the things that we see.

Whether it’s a strange new location made out of a hodge-podge of familiar locations, a nightmarish creature, a surreal image or even just the general atmosphere of the dream – our dreams are absolutely crammed with fascinating images that we can put down onto paper or canvas.

Not only is this a quick (if somewhat unpredictable and unreliable) way of coming up with interesting and surreal ideas for paintings, but it also allows us to tell other people about our dreams in a way that won’t bore or confuse them.

Of course, the really interesting thing about dream paintings is that they rarely look exactly like the dreams that they’re based on. This might just be a reflection of my own artistic skills, but I think that it’s more due to the fact that you’re adapting something from one format to another entirely from memory (since you can’t exactly film your dreams). Not only that, you’ll probably have to change the composition of your painting in order to make it look more visually appealing too.

But, another satisfying thing about making art based on your dreams is that you will end up with a drawing or a painting that is almost like a souvenier. It’s almost like you have ventured into the unknown wilderness of your own subconscious mind and have actually brought something tangible back into the real world.

The reason why I’m writing about all of this stuff is because, a few weeks ago, I had a series of really fascinating dreams over the space of about two nights. If you’re the kind of person who falls asleep when you hear other people talk about their dreams, then you might want to skip the next two paragraphs.

This series of dreams included things like a visiting a cinema from hell and solving a gory Agatha-Christie style murder mystery in a creepy deserted house in France (the victim was someone called “Miqquebard” and the culprit was a man with a beard, if I remember rightly).

They also involved things like visiting a swanky party (and briefly meeting Suzanne Vega and Barack Obama there), trying to escape from a fortified council estate (whilst filming a documentary – there was also a brief cameo appearance by Aleks Krotoski in this dream too) and visiting a dystopic sci-fi factory/prison/spaceship.

When I woke up, I frantically wrote these dreams down and filled about eight A5 sketchbook pages with descriptions of them (as well as small sketches of the most important parts of the dreams) and I didn’t really think that much of it until a while later when it came to doing my daily art practice. I was feeling uninspired and I couldn’t think of a single decent idea of my own, so I reached for my dream accounts and painted this:

"Cinema Diabolique" By C. A. Brown

“Cinema Diabolique” By C. A. Brown

I also painted this other dream painting that will probably be posted on here tomorrow evening (along with a description of the dream). Although the full version of it is probably on DeviantART by now, here’s a preview of part of it:

"Dreamt Dystopia [PREVIEW]" By C. A. Brown

“Dreamt Dystopia [PREVIEW]” By C. A. Brown

So, yes, never underestimate your own dreams when you’re short of artistic ideas…


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂