Today’s Art (28th February 2015)

Today’s painting is a hard-hitting comment about the decline in cool space exploration- based science fiction TV shows in recent years.

Seriously, there were loads of really cool space-based sci-fi shows in the 90s, and many of them continued into the 00s (and a few new ones, like “Firefly”, “Battlestar Galactica” and “Stargate Atlantis” even began in the 00s). Seriously, there are too many to list.

But where are the new space-based sci-fi shows these days, huh?

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

"Sci-Fi Shows Were Better In The 90s" By C. A. Brown

“Sci-Fi Shows Were Better In The 90s” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – February 2015

2015 Artwork Top Ten Articles February

Well, it’s the end of the month and this means that it’s time for me to give you a list of links to my ten favourite articles about art and/or writing published here over the past month (with maybe an honourable mention or two too).

As regular readers of this blog have probably noticed, this month hasn’t exactly been the most inspired or creative month of my life (and I hope that things start getting better again next month).

But, saying this, there were still a few gems on here amongst all of the reviews and sketchbook posts that you may have missed. So, without any further ado (and in no particular order), let’s get started:

Top Ten Articles For February 2015:

– “Five Types Of Writer’s Block (And How To Deal With Them)
– “Five Quick Ways To Find Character Names
– “Three More Things To Do After You’ve Drawn A Terrible Picture
– “How You Write Or Make Art Is Also Part Of Your Unique ‘Style’
– “Two Very Basic Tips For Making An E-Book Cover (With Examples)
– “ Creating Good Filler Content For Your Webcomic, Blog, Fiction Series etc..
– ” One Quick Way To Get Back Into Making Comics
– ” Psychological Horror Or Traditional Horror – Which Is Scarier?
– “Four Very Basic Tips For Drawing And Painting Realistic Water
– “Three Ways To Make Art Matter To You Again

Honourable Mentions:

– “Why Censorship Is Bad For Our Imaginations
– “Painting The Past – A Ramble

Today’s Art (27th February 2015)

One of the great things about TV shows in the 90s was that they really pioneered the whole “nerdy main characters” thing. Whether it’s Willow from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, Daniel Jackson and Samantha Carter from “Stargate SG-1”, pretty much the entire crews of both the Enterprise and Voyager, Scully from “The X-Files” or Roz from “Bugs”, the 90s was really the first decade where nerds saved the world on TV.

And, well, today’s painting is kind of a random homage to this fact. Plus, it gave me a good chance to practice painting realistic lighting too 🙂

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

"90s Nerds Save The World" By C. A. Brown

“90s Nerds Save The World” By C. A. Brown

The ART Of Procrastination

2015 Artwork Art of Procrastination sketch

As an artform, doodling is often overlooked. After all, it’s a fun way to pass the time when you’re feeling bored and/or uninspired. Not to mention that it’s also an absolutely great tool for practicing your art too.

So, since I’ve been less inspired and enthusiastic than usual over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been doodling a lot more than usual… and some of my doodles have been a lot more elaborate than usual too.

And, well, I thought that I’d show off a couple of my best doodles today – along with another chance to see the doodle that I actually turned into a work of art a few days ago.

The interesting thing about doodles is that everyone has their own unique “style” when it comes to doodling. Some people doodle random lines, some people doodle random geometric shapes and, like me, some people’s doodles can end up being a little bit more surreal and artistic.

So, without any further ado, here are my three best doodles from the past couple of days. As usual, you can click on each of these pictures to see a larger version of them.

Yes, this little doodle actually turned into a vaguely "Commander Keen"-esque landscape. Does anyone else remember the old "Commander Keen" games?

Yes, this little doodle actually turned into a vaguely “Commander Keen”-esque landscape. Does anyone else remember the old “Commander Keen” games?

THIS was what I doodled when I was trying to think of an idea for a proper article for today. If you look at the top corner of this picture, you can see a line of text I ended up deleting from the title graphic for yesterday's article about censorship.

THIS was what I doodled when I was trying to think of an idea for a proper article for today. If you look at the top corner of this picture, you can see a line of text I ended up deleting from the title graphic for yesterday’s article about censorship.

("Temple" by C. A. Brown) This was probably my most elaborate sketchbook doodle and I ended up digitally editing it and making it look more artistic.

(“Temple” by C. A. Brown)
This was probably my most elaborate sketchbook doodle and I ended up digitally editing it and making it look more artistic.

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Anyway, I hope that this was fun 🙂

Today’s Art (26th February 2015)

Well, for my next 1990s-themed painting, I thought that I’d paint something based on video rental stores (does anyone remember those? More to the point, does anyone remember the larger-than-usual cases that rental and ex-rental VHS tapes used to come in ?). Unfortunately, the background in this painting ended up being kind of boring though.

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

"Video Rental" By C. A. Brown

“Video Rental” By C. A. Brown

Why Censorship Is Bad For Our Imaginations

And it's rated "12A" in the UK for 'bleeped strong language'. Thank heavents that these idiots only censor films....

And it’s rated “12A” in the UK for ‘bleeped strong language’. Thank heavens that these idiots only censor films….

Although this is an article about writing and art, I’m going to have to start by rambling about film censorship for quite a bit – for the simple reason that this is probably one of the most prominent and well-documented types of censorship in the world. So, there are a lot more examples to draw on. Plus, I’m something of a film censorship geek too.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was kind of bored and I ended up reading lots of online articles about the bizarre world of American film censorship.

Apparently, in America, most major studios aim to produce as many films as possible that have a “PG-13” certificate, since these films make the most money.

This isn’t really too surprising and the same thing happens in the UK, to a lesser degree, with “12A”-rated films. This can sometimes lead to more violent American “PG-13” films (like “The Hunger Games”) being censored here in order to get a “12A” cinema rating.

Anyway, the reason why I’m talking about this stuff is because – according to everything that I’ve read online (and from some of the modern American movies that I’ve seen) – the “PG-13” rating in America is absolutely ruining the quality of film-making over there.

Why? Because, in order for a film to get this rating- it has to be at least slightly unrealistic.

When I say “unrealistic”, I’m not talking about whether a film is set somewhere interestingly imaginative or whether it’s set in the drearily dull real world (that we watch movies and TV shows to escape from), I’m talking about how reality itself is depicted.

Only a bizarrely distorted version of reality is allowed to be shown in popular American “PG-13” films.

Allow me to explain. American “PG-13” films can be as violent as they want to be – as long as the violence is eerily bloodless and slightly cool-looking.

American “PG-13” films can’t show naked people, despite the fact that we all see ourselves naked whenever we take a shower (and it really shouldn’t be anything shocking).

American “PG-13” films can only usually show straight people falling in love with each other, which is also blatantly unrealistic (as millions of couples across the world [and *gasp* in America too] can attest).

Most amusingly of all, anyone saying the word “f**k” is always an outstandingly melodramatic moment in American “PG-13” films, because film-makers are only usually allowed to use the word once in the entire film. So, it’s almost always used for childish shock value rather than (more realistically) as an ordinary part of modern informal speech.

So, yes, American film censorship creates a bizarrely unrealistic portrayal of reality – where nobody has any blood, no-one is ever naked, only straight people exist and everyone is surprisingly polite almost all of the time.

Although I’ve singled out the American film censors, I’d argue that all forms of censorship do this to some level or another.

Censorship is, at it’s core, an attempt by those in authority to control reality itself. To control which aspects of reality creative people can show in their works and what reality itself looks like in the public imagination.

Censorship tries to subtly define which aspects of reality “should” and “shouldn’t” be thought about, or even how certain aspects of reality “should” be thought about. Yes, it’s a form of thought control. Thankfully, it’s a fairly ineffective one these days, but it’s still thought control nonetheless.

Now, you might argue that this should be great for people’s imaginations. After all, if people can’t just lazily look at things that the censors dislike, then they’ll have to imagine them for themselves. And, although there is some merit to this argument – I’d argue that censorship is still bad for our imaginations.

Why? Because our imaginations don’t exist in a vacuum. Because the things that we watch, the things that we read and the games that we play all add something to our imaginations. They subtly shape the kinds of stories that we tell and the kind of art that we make.

If you don’t believe me, then take a look at something you’ve made and ask yourself if it was inspired by anything else in any way. I can almost guarantee that the answer to that question will be “yes”.

The inspiration may have been subtle or it might have even been negative (eg: trying to make sure that your vampire romance story is nothing like “Twilight”) etc…, but it will be there.

When you think about it this way, censorship is terrible for our imaginations because it limits what we can be inspired by and it limits what we think is “appropriate” to tell stories about and make art about.

It limits how realistic or unrealistic our imaginations can be, it limits the emotions that we can evoke in our audiences and it limits the kind of characters we can create.

So, yes, censorship is the enemy of imagination.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (25th February 2015)

(The full picture can be seen at the end of this post.)

(The full picture can be seen at the end of this post.)

Well, I’ve decided to go back to making 1990s-themed art and, for today, I’d originally planned to make a homage to the album that the first “cool” music that I ever heard came from. I am, of course, talking about “Americana” By The Offspring.

Whilst I’d originally just planned to paint something random in the style of Frank Kozik’s wonderfully distinctive cover and booklet art for the album. I suddenly realised that all of the album art contains a lot of social satire about American society.

But, not being an American, I thought that it’d be interesting to do the same with my own country (after all, we were probably the ones who invented punk music in the first place…).

So, since I was in a 1990s mood, I decided to make a cynical “Americana”-style album cover about 1990s Britain (and, yes, I know that my portrayal of Tony Blair is slightly anachronistic – since, believe it or not – he was actually something of a peacemaker in the 90s [eg: Northern Ireland etc..]. But, given everything he’s done since then, it just didn’t seem right to portray him in this way).

This picture is a bit more surreal and cynical than my usual paintings, so consider yourself warned…

Since this is a parody/pastiche of Frank Kozik’s awesome artwork, this painting will NOT be released under a Creative Commons licence of any kind.

"1990s Britannia (With Apologies To Frank Kozik)" By C. A. Brown

“1990s Britannia (With Apologies To Frank Kozik)” By C. A. Brown

Painting The Past – A Ramble

2015 Artwork 90s Nostalgia article sketch

As regular readers of this blog have probably noticed, I’ve been working on my second attempt at making an art series based on the 1990s.

When I tried this for the first time in January, I couldn’t quite work out how to do this magnificent decade justice in my art – so I ended up making a series of fan art cartoon based on TV shows and computer games from the 90s, like this one about “Doom“:

"Fan Art- Doom" By C. A. Brown

“Fan Art- Doom” By C. A. Brown

Even so, the 1990s is one of my favourite decades in cultural terms. But, although I was around during the 1990s, my age was only a single-digit figure for most of the decade.

So, when it came to working out how to make art based on this decade – I had to get most of my information second-hand by looking at things that were made in the 1990s or by reading about the decade. Yes, I’ve made one or two paintings that are based on childhood nostalgia from the 1990s, but most of them are based on things I that never experienced firsthand. Like this:

"Trendy 90s Cafe" By C. A. Brown

“Trendy 90s Cafe” By C. A. Brown

Even so, it’s amazing how much stuff I do remember about the 90s without even realising it. Quite recently, I’d thought about abandoning my 1990s painting series because I’d run out of ideas (hence why there was a random abstract drawing posted here yesterday evening, rather than the “James Bond”-style picture I’d planned to make).

But, a day later, I read this Guardian article about five things from the 1990s that the writer of the article really missed.

The thing was, not only did I also remember everything on that list, I could also think of a lot of other things that should have been on that list – like VHS tapes, floppy disks (especially when filled with shareware), CD singles, disposable cameras, Pogs, Encarta (for younger readers, Encarta was kind of like Wikipedia – but on a CD), video rentals, Windows 95, the millennium bug, 56k modems, saturday morning cartoons etc…

And this made me realise that nostalgia mostly comes across through subtle details that are easy to forget about unless someone else reminds you of them. So, if you are making art based on a decade that you actually remember – it might be worth looking around online for articles like this one to jog your memory.

But, at the same time, I’d argue that paintings of the past don’t have to be as accurate or “realistic” as possible. Most of the time, it’s ok to make stylised paintings based on previous decades and it’s ok to exaggerate small everyday details of the time period that you are painting to emphasise that your picture is set in the past.

Yes, this will probably make your art look less “serious”, but it’ll evoke a lot more nostalgia in your audience.

Of course, there are obvious exceptions to this rule (eg: when depicting terrible periods in history – eg: world wars etc..) but for most decades in history, let your imagination go wild and don’t be afraid to exaggerate slightly.

Even so, one thing that I’ve noticed when I started making paintings based on a decade that I actually remember is that they didn’t really end up being anywhere near as exaggerated or stylised as my paintings based on other decades have been.

I guess that having at least a few actual memories of a decade means that I subconsciously end up making my art look slightly more realistic, as a way of exploring a time in history that I didn’t get to experience as an adult.

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Sorry for writing a ramble, but I hope that it was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (24th February 2015)

Sorry that today’s picture is a lot more… abstract than usual. Although I’d planned to make another 1990s-themed painting, but this didn’t work out that well (and I ended up abandoning it after drawing the lineart).

So, I eventually ended up doodling in my sketchbook and eventually, I decided to scan my random doodle and turn it into something more “artistic” by editing it digitally.

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

"Temple" By C. A. Brown

“Temple” By C. A. Brown

Five Types Of Writer’s Block (And How To Deal With Them)

2015 Artwork Types of writer's block sketch

Yes, I’ve still got writer’s block. But, instead of making yet another sketchbook-based filler post, I thought that I’d try to make sure that today’s uninspired filler article was a little bit more imaginative.

And, well, what better to talk about than writer’s block itself? You see, writer’s block isn’t just one thing – there are lots of different types of writer’s block out there and it can be useful to know which one you’re dealing with if you want to find a way to get around it.

So, I thought that I’d give you a list of some of the different types of writer’s block that I’ve encountered over the years and offer a few tips about how to deal with them. This isn’t a complete list, but I hope that it is useful nonetheless.

Anyway, let’s get started…

1) Unenthusiasm: This is the type of writer’s block that I experienced shortly before I wrote this article and, as the name suggests, it means that you have absolutely no enthusiasm for writing whatsoever.
It’s the kind of writer’s block which makes writing feel like a dreary, arduous chore that must be avoided at all costs.

Generally, this type of writer’s block happens because of emotional reasons. If you’re in a miserable mood of any kind, then it can be hard to muster up enthusiasm for anything – let alone writing.

So, one of the ways to deal with this type of writer’s block is to find a way to feel better and, with any luck, your enthusiasm for writing will return.

Another way to deal with this type of writer’s block is to get creative and come up with an idea for something that feels like it will be easy or fun to write. In other words, go for the laziest type of writing that you can get away with. Yes, you probably won’t write anything great – but at least you’ll write something.

Finally, another way of dealing with this type of writer’s block is to just listen to some suitably badass music (like this song), grit your teeth and force yourself to write.

2) No Ideas: This is probably the most common type of writer’s block and it happens when you can’t think of any good ideas for what to write. Luckily, there are literally hundreds of ways that you can deal with this particular type of writer’s block.

You can do something fun and aimless until an idea pops into your mind, you can recycle/re -write some of your earlier work, you can spend a while daydreaming, you can try to write something totally different to what you normally write, you can write about writer’s block itself, you can light scented candles, you can look at writing prompts etc…

Seriously, there is no shortage of advice out there when it comes to dealing with this particular type of writer’s block.

3) Self-criticism: This is probably one of the nastier types of writer’s block because, although you can still write stuff, you end up abandoning it fairly quickly because you think that it “isn’t good enough”. And, after a couple of failed attempts at writing something, it can be very easy to start losing confidence in your abilities as a writer.

Ironically, one of the best ways of dealing with this kind of writer’s block is to set yourself a deadline and try to meet it. When you’ve got to write something within a certain time period, then you’ll be a lot more focused on actually meeting the deadline than you will be on whether your writing is “good enough” or not.

A slightly more gentle way of getting round this type of writer’s block is to write something that you know you can write well. In other words, write something that is “easy” for you to write well in order to reassure yourself that you can still write.

4) Self-censorship: if you’re constantly worried about what people will think of your writing, then it can be very easy to fall into a pattern of writing bland, emotionless and inoffensive stuff. After a while, you will probably end up getting bored by your own writing and this will manifest itself as writer’s block.

The best way to deal with this type of writer’s block is to remind yourself of why you started writing in the first place by writing something for your own personal enjoyment. Write something that you would never dare to show anyone else in a million years. Make it as weird, shocking, subversive, pornographic, cynical and/or introspective as you want.

Trust me, you’ll have a hell of a lot of fun doing this – and, best of all, it will also rekindle your passion for writing. And, well, some of that enthusiasm may carry over into your “bland” writing for a while at least.

5) Idolatry: No, I’m not talking about worshipping ornate golden statues of Ba’al or badly-made paper mache effigies of the elder god Cthulhu or anything like that.

I’m talking about comparing yourself to your favourite famous writers and feeling inadequate. This is the kind of writer’s block which can happen when you think “I’ll never be as good as my favourite writer!

There are quite a few ways to deal with this type of writer’s block. One way to deal with it is to look around online for any badly-written things by your favourite writer to remind yourself that they weren’t always talented. You see, even the best writers started out by writing terrible stuff and they gradually got better at writing by practicing a lot.

You can also let your own writing style be slightly inspired by their writing style. Don’t try to copy your favourite writer’s style exactly (because you will just end up producing second-rate fan fiction), but take a close look at what makes their writing so great and see if you can find a way to incorporate this into your own unique style.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂