Today’s Art (31st January 2015)

Well, I’ve decided to go back to making paintings with simple – and slightly unrealistic – colour schemes for a while. And, after watching a nature documentary, I felt like attempting to paint/draw a puffer fish.

But, well, I was kind of tired and uninspired in a state of creative ennui when I made this picture, so it ended up being kind of rushed and badly drawn radically minimalist.

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

"Puffer Fish" By C. A. Brown

“Puffer Fish” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles (January 2015)

2015 Artwork Top Ten Articles January

Well, it’s the end of the month and that means that it’s time for me to give you a list of links to my personal top ten articles from this blog over the past month (plus a few honourable mentions too).

All in all, this has been a reasonably good month – although I think that my articles were probably slightly better near the beginning of this month than they were at the end. Still, let’s hope that things improve in February 🙂

Anyway, in no particular order, here’s this month’s top ten articles & honourable mentions 🙂

Top Ten Articles For January 2015:

– “What Is Your ‘Lazy’ Artform?
– “Copyright And Realism In Stories And Art
– “The Stories And Articles That Never Were! (Deleted Scenes)
– “Five Lessons About Creativity And Life That I’ve Learnt From Playing ‘Doom’
– “Four Basic Tips For Making Good Fan Art
– “Four Things To Do If You Feel That Your Art Style Has Stagnated
– “Four Ways To Deal With Writer’s Block When You’ve Got A Deadline
– ” An Artist’s Impression Of Our Imaginations
– “Four Things That Are More Important Than ‘Talent’ Or A Lifetime Of Practice
– “A Geeky Way To Beat Writer’s Block (Plus An Exclusive Drawing)

Honourable Mentions:

– “How To Make Art Every Day – Five Simple Tips
– “In Defence Of ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ Characters (And How To Write Them Well)
– “Spark Your Imagination With Stand-Up Comedy

Today’s Art (30th January 2015)

Well, I’m still taking a short break from making slightly surreal art to make a painting of my five favourite stand-up comics. I don’t know, this painting was kind of inspired by today’s article.

Although I’d planned to turn this idea into a short fan art series, I just thought something along the lines “sod it, I’ll paint one picture instead“.

Since this is fan art, today’s painting will NOT be released under a Creative Commons licence of any kind.

"Fan Art - Great Stand-Up Comics" By C. A. Brown

“Fan Art – Great Stand-Up Comics” By C. A. Brown

Spark Your Imagination With Stand-Up Comedy

2015  Artwork Stand up comedy inspiration sketch

Even though this is an article about one way to beat writer’s block and/or artist’s block, I’m going to have to start by talking about nothing but stand-up comedy. As usual, there’s a good reason for this.

Although my experience with performing stand-up comedy is extremely limited, I certainly think that it’s one of the best types of comedy out there. Ok, some stand-up comics are a lot funnier than others and you’ll probably have to watch quite a bit of it before you learn which types of stand-up comedy works for you.

For example, I like comics such as Eddie Izzard and Bethany Black and I also certainly have a soft spot for unremittingly cynical American comics like Bill Hicks, Margaret Cho and George Carlin too.

On the other hand, you might prefer the mild-mannered and inoffensive comedic stylings of someone like Michael McIntryre (even though, in my opinion, he’s much better as a chat show host than he is as a stand-up comic). Different types of comedy work for different people.

Nonetheless, it’s important to find a type of stand-up comedy that “works” for you. Why? Because watching good stand-up comedy can be one of the best ways to get inspired again if you have writer’s block or artist’s block. Seriously, it’s one of the best types of “muse” that you can find.

You see, one of the wonderful things about stand-up comedy is that it forces you to use your imagination when you’re watching it.

After all, you’re doing nothing but watching a single person stand on a stage and talk about things – it’s up to you to imagine what they’re talking about. And, well, this is a great workout for the more visual parts of your imagination. Seriously, it’s like reading a novel on steroids.

Well, not literally....

Well, not literally….

Not only that, good stand-up comedy relies on imaginative descriptions in order to be funny. So, watching stand-up comedy can help you to learn how to describe things in a fresh, interesting and amusing way.

A good stand-up comic can make an ordinary thing sound hilarious with just a couple of words of description and – well – this is a skill that writers should certainly learn.

Another reason why stand-up comedy is such a great source of creative inspiration for artists and writers is because it forces us to see the world from a different perspective.

The secret to good stand-up comedy isn’t just well-written jokes, it’s the comic’s own personality and worldview. Usually, stand-up comics exaggerate their perspective on the world for comedic effect, but we still get a glimpse into someone else’s psyche.

And, well, this can be especially inspirational because it makes us think about how we see the world. It makes us compare our own perspective on the world to the stand-up comic’s perspective and, by doing this, we can learn more about ourselves.

This, of course, also means that we learn how to make our writing more unique and how to add more of our own personality to the things that we make.

Finally, and most importantly, stand-up comedy is a great remedy for writer’s block and artist’s block for the simple reason that it makes us happy. It makes us laugh.

Although creative blocks can sometimes appear due to a genuine lack of new ideas, they often tend to appear as a result of our emotions. After all, whilst it’s a popular misconception that artists and writers create their best stuff when they’re in a melancholic and miserable mood – this isn’t usually the case. In fact, these kinds of moods can make you completely lose interest in creating things.

So, one of the first things to do when you feel uninspired is to look at your own emotions. I can almost guarantee that they probably won’t be good ones. And, well, watching stand-up comedy can be one way to (at least temporarily) solve this problem.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Mini-Review: “Coming For You” (New Single By The Offspring)

2015 Artwork coming for you mini review sketch

When I read about this on the internet a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t quite believe it. The Offspring would be debuting a new single on the 31st January. So, naturally, when this glorious day came, I ended up scouring Youtube for it.

After all, this is where new Offspring songs usually appear first – I have fond memories of watching grainy concert footage of “Hammerhead” and “Half-Truism” in 2008 on Youtube and of watching the eventually-unreleased alternate live version of “Days Gone By” (called “You Will Find A Way”) on Youtube in 2009.

I remember the sheer nostalgic joy of seeing the first live concert footage of “The Future Is Now” on Youtube in early 2012 and I remember laughing my ass off when “Cruisin’ California (Bumpin’ In My Trunk)” was released on Youtube a few months later.

Ususually, this has the slightly underground feeling of listening to a bootleg CD. But, obviously The Offspring know that their fans tend to do this, so they actually put a high quality version of their new single – “Coming For You” – on both their website and obviously on Youtube too .

[Edit: The video no longer seems to be unlisted on Youtube, so I’ve linked to it – it can still also currently be seen as an embedded video on their site too. Plus, since I posted the original version of this review a couple of hours ago, they’ve also now started selling “Coming For You” as a digital download too. Unfortunately, this seems to be the only commercial release of this song, so if you’re like me and you prefer buying music on CD, then you’re probably best waiting for their next album.]

But, is “Coming For You” any good?

One of the surprising things about this song is how much the intro to it reminded me of “Conspiracy Of One”-era Offspring, it’s a slow drum-heavy and bass-heavy intro that sounds a little bit like a heavier version of the intro to “Special Delivery” from that album. Dexter’s vocals near the beginning are also slightly slower than usual too, which is slightly rare for an Offspring song.

The chorus to the song is fairly “bouncy”, “jagged” and “catchy” – this is about the best way I can describe it. It rhymes, but it sounds a bit different to what you might expect after listening to the beginning of the song.

Plus, the chorus contains the wonderfully bizarre line “a sold-out, blow-out Donkey Kong“. Obviously, Dexter Holland was desperately searching for a rhyme when he wrote this song. The vocal style in the chorus of this song also reminded me of a slightly lighter version of Dexter’s vocal style on the “Splinter” album too.

But, hey, it’s an Offspring song, the lyrics don’t always have to make total sense. What matters most is how the song as a whole sounds and, overall, this is a fairly “classic” Offspring song that also sounds very slightly modern.

Although I would have liked to see more of the return to the Offspring’s early-mid 1990s sound that we got to hear near the end of their “Days Go By” album, this song seems to be more of a return to their early-mid 2000s sound.

All in all “Coming For You” isn’t the best Offspring song that I’ve ever heard, but it’s far from the worst either. The first singles that the Offspring release are rarely indicative of their upcoming albums as a whole – just look at “Cruisin’ California (Bumpin’ In My Trunk)” from their last album for a good example of this.

As I said earlier, it sounds like The Offspring are going back to something very slightly similar to how they sounded when they made “Conspiracy Of One”, or possibly “Splinter” – and this can’t be a bad thing 🙂

If I had to give this song a rating out of five, it would probably just about get a four.

Today’s Art (29th January 2015)

Well, I’ve taken a short break from making paintings with surreal colour combinations in order to make a drawing that is loosely based on a dream I had a few weeks ago.

Ok, originally, this was going to be another painting with surreal colours, but it didn’t look that good – so I ended up doing a lot of digital editing after I scanned it.

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

"Underwater Dream Palace" By C. A. Brown

“Underwater Dream Palace” By C. A. Brown

Six Random Doodles From My Sketchbook

2015 Artwork six random sketches article sketch

When I’m not feeling very artistically inspired, I sometimes try to get my creative juices flowing by doodling randomly in my sketchbook.

This is a great way to get inspired because you will probably have fairly low expectations of what you’re going to produce – after all, you’re just doodling out of boredom and/or for fun than trying to produce “ART“.

Still, since I both can’t think of a proper idea for an article today and because I want to show off some of my better doodles, I thought that I’d show you six of them.

Anyway, enjoy 🙂

(This is a tiny picture of a pyramid that I drew in November 2014. From the crumb in the middle of the picture, I was probably eating a chocolate bar at the time)

(This is a tiny picture of a pyramid that I drew in November 2014. From the crumb in the middle of the picture, I was probably eating a chocolate bar at the time)

(This is a fairly surreal and vaguely Clive Barker-like sketch that I made in November 2014.)

(This is a fairly surreal and vaguely Clive Barker-like sketch that I made in November 2014.)

(I was feeling uninspired after playing computer games for a while. So, I decided to pass the time by making a random sketch based on mid-2000s FPS games)

(I was feeling uninspired after playing computer games for a while. So, I decided to pass the time by making a random sketch based on mid-2000s FPS games)

(This was a random doodle I made in order to practice drawing umbrellas in a realistic way. Alas, I failed miserably at this... although I was able to cover most of my mistakes).

(This was a random doodle I made in order to practice drawing umbrellas in a realistic way. Alas, I failed miserably at this… although I was able to cover most of my mistakes).

(This doodle started off as a random scribble which.. for some reason.. turned into a zombie rattlesnake.)

(This doodle started off as a random scribble which.. for some reason.. turned into a zombie rattlesnake.)

(This is a random gothic cityscape. Seriously, I can almost draw these in my sleep. And, if I remember rightly, I was quite tired when I drew this).

(This is a random gothic cityscape. Seriously, I can almost draw these in my sleep. And, if I remember rightly, I was quite tired when I drew this).

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂 Hopefully, I’ll write a proper article tomorrow.

Showing The Passage Of Time In Stories And Comics

2015  Artwork Stories time passage dream sketch

Although this is an article about how to show the passage of time in stories and comics, I’m going to have to start by talking about my dreams (of all things) for a while.

Trust me, there’s a valid reason for this – although if you’re the kind of person who is bored by hearing about other people’s dreams, then you might want to skip the next few paragraphs.

Anyway, the day before I wrote this article, I had two of the most spectacular dreams that I’ve ever had. The first dream seemed to last for three months and it revolved around me going to live in a strange secret underwater city.

The second dream only seemed to last for three days and the only way that I can really describe it is that it involved me living in a strange parallel universe which was somehow both better and worse than this universe.

Of course, in actual terms, each of these dreams lasted for less than three hours (I know this because I woke up in between each of them – and because REM sleep phases are only something like twenty minutes long). But, in retrospect, I can understand how my dreams created the illusion of lasting for longer than three hours or just twenty minutes.

Basically, my dreams just did what most films and TV shows do and only “showed” me a few interesting moments from a much longer chain of events. They just showed me the “exciting” moments from a much longer series of events and let my imagination fill in what happened between these moments.

And, well, this made me think about storytelling and time.

You see, one of the great things about both comics and prose fiction is that, unlike film, they don’t take place in real time. You can describe two centuries in a few sentences (or a couple of comic panels) and you can spend twenty pages showing what happened within a single minute. In general, you are in complete control of how fast time passes in your story.

This is both a great thing and a terrible thing. On the one hand, it means that you can show everything in far more detail than a film ever can – but on the other hand, it also means that you have to be a lot more conscious about the passage of time in your story because, if it goes too slowly, then it will bore people and if it goes too quickly, then it will confuse people.

So, what do you do?

Well, if you’ve read enough books and/or comics, then you’ll have probably have already picked up an instinctive understanding of what does and doesn’t work when it comes to showing the passage of time in your story.

But, if you haven’t, then it’s important to remember that you should only show time in a “slow” way when something genuinely interesting is happening. The more boring parts of your story should be skipped over as quickly as possible or, if they’re not important to the story itself, left out of your story entirely.

I mean, if a new chapter of your story begins a day after the previous one, then most people are going to assume that nothing interesting happened between these two chapters. Their imaginations are going to “fill in the gaps” and imagine that your characters just went about their ordinary everyday lives in between the events of these chapters.

But, at the same time, try to make sure that the “gaps” between the interesting moments you show in your story aren’t too long. Whilst it’s ok to skip several years or months a couple of times in your story, if you do it in literally every chapter, then it might get kind of confusing after a while unless your story is exceptionally well-written.

Finally, and this probably should be fairly obvious, it’s always a good idea to signpost when your novel has “jumped ahead” in time. Usually, you can do this in a fairly subtle way – either through background details (if you’re writing a comic) or through a brief description like “later that afternoon…” or whatever.

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

Today’s Art (27th January 2015)

Well, originally, I’d planned to draw a black & white picture of Amanda Palmer, but the drawing quickly went in a much more 1980s/90s gothic cyberpunk direction instead. This picture also gave me a chance to try out a new art technique too, hence the weird colours in it.

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

"Late Show" By C. A. Brown

“Late Show” By C. A. Brown