Today’s Art (31st March 2015)

Yes, it is another bone-chilling instalment of “Dead Sector” – the short daily retro sci-fi zombie comic that is “so bad that it’s good”!

Surprisingly, although the art in this page was fairly simple, it took me a surprising amount of time to think of the dialogue for the third panel. And, long-time readers of my comics (from before I even started this blog) might even spot an in-joke in this panel too.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Dead Sector - Page 6" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Dead Sector – Page 6” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – March 2015

2015 Artwork Top Ten Articles March

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 ten favourite articles that I’ve written this month (plus a few honourable mentions too).

All in all, March has been a surprisingly good month for this blog and I’ve managed to write far better articles than I did last month (and very slightly fewer filler posts too!). Let’s hope that things keep going so well in April 🙂

Anyway, without any further ado and in no particular order, here are my top ten articles for March 2015. Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles For March 2015:

– “Four Basic Tips For Making Daily Comics
– “Four Ways To Make ‘Good’ Characters Interesting
– “Five Fun Gimmicks To Spice Up Your Next Comic, Webcomic Entry And/Or Art Series
– “What Is YOUR Version Of Your Favourite Genre?
– “The Joy Of… Horror Comics
– “More Thoughts On How Your Art Style Evolves
– “Two Simple Questions That Will Tell You How Much You Know About Making Art
– “Four Things To Do If Your Comic Is Dying
– “Making Art More Efficiently
– “Monsters Don’t Make Monster Stories Scary… Everything Else Does

Honourable Mentions:

– “How To Make Your Readers Feel Like They Belong
– “How To Make Your Audience Suspend Their Disbelief
– “There Are No Jump Scares In Horror Novels – A Ramble
– “What Is ‘Artistic Licence’ ? (And How To Use It)

Today’s Art (30th March 2015)

Shock! Horror! Unforeshadowed plot twist! Yes, what else could be but another page of my “so bad that it’s good” retro sci-fi zombie comic – “Dead Sector”.

Interestingly, this page pretty much wrote itself. That is, except for the last two panels, which took a surprising amount of time to think out. Stay tuned for another page tomorrow.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Dead Sector - Page 5" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Dead Sector – Page 5” By C. A. Brown

Another Look Inside My Sketchbooks

2015 Artwork sketchbooks March sketch 2

Well, once again, I wasn’t really in the right mood to write the article that I’d thought of writing for today (literally, I wrote about two paragraphs before giving up in frustation). But, rather than turn this into a depressing diary-style post, I thought that I’d share some more random doodles and failed drawings/paintings from my sketchbook with you today.

As usual, there will be the monthly “top ten articles” post tomorrow and I’m not sure if I’ll write a joke article or an ordinary article for 1st April. So, it may not be until the 2nd April that proper articles resume here. Sorry about this.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoy another look into the never seen before pages of my sketchbooks:

This was originally going to be a drawing called "Be All My Daydreams In Black And White", but I ended up abandoning it for some weird reason.

This was originally going to be a drawing called “Be All My Daydreams In Black And White”, but I ended up abandoning it for some weird reason.

This untitled drawing started out quite well, but my mind went completely blank when it came to thinking of an idea for the background.

This untitled drawing started out quite well, but my mind went completely blank when it came to thinking of an idea for the background.

This was another unfinished drawing. Again, I couldn't think of a good enough idea for the background if I remember rightly.

This was another unfinished drawing. Again, I couldn’t think of a good enough idea for the background if I remember rightly.

This was going to be a melodramatic painting/drawing of a medieval knight. But, for some weird reason, I ended up abandoning it.

This was going to be a melodramatic painting/drawing of a medieval knight. But, for some weird reason, I ended up abandoning it.

These were some random 3D shapes that I doodled in my sketchbook a couple of days ago when I was trying to think of an idea for a blog article.

These were some random 3D shapes that I doodled in my sketchbook a couple of days ago when I was trying to think of an idea for a blog article.

This was a random spaceship design that suddenly popped into my mind, probably when I was watching "Bablyon 5" on DVD recently.

This was a random spaceship design that suddenly popped into my mind, probably when I was watching “Bablyon 5” on DVD recently.

——–

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (29th March 2015)

Yay! Contrivance and melodrama! What else could it be, but the fourth page of my “so bad that it’s good” retro sci-fi zombie comic – “Dead Sector”.

Well, this page ended up being slightly more “serious” than I expected. Still, stick around for a slightly more amusing page tomorrow (well, it’ll be amusing if you’ve got the same dark and twisted sense of humour as I do).

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Dead Sector - Page 4" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Dead Sector – Page 4” By C. A. Brown

Does Accuracy Or Self- Expression Matter More In Drawings?

2015 Artwork Self expression or accuracy article sketch

Although this article will start with what will probably sound like pretentious art criticism, there’s a reason for this – which I hope will become obvious later in the article – and I’m not just doing it to be snobbish, critical or pretentious just for the sake of it. Honest.

Anyway, I was randomly looking at stuff on the internet a few weeks ago, when I happened to stumble across this fascinating (and slightly NSFW) article by Tracey Emin about drawing.

Although I’ve often been kind of cynical about Tracey Emin’s conceptual art – because it’s conceptual art – I still absolutely love how she was able to make art “cool” again back in the 1990s.

So, to see examples of one of the coolest artists in British history working in one of the art forms that I do sounded like an interesting idea.

I’d seen a few Tracey Emin drawings on the internet before, but I was still kind of curious about her drawing style- so I read the article and looked at the drawings in it. And I have to admit that I only really liked half of them.

In the last three drawings in the article I linked to earlier, Emin draws in a fairly similar style to Egon Schiele (a really cool artist from the 1910s, who would have probably made a drawing like Emin’s “Suffer Love II” himself if he could have got away with it back then) and these are technically accurate – but economical – drawings of the human body.

Emin is obviously a hell of a lot better at figure drawing than I am. Plus, she’s able to convey a lot of meaning using a relatively small amount of lines – again, a skill that I deeply respect and am trying to develop myself.

But I really didn’t like the first three drawings in the article (“More Caves, More Tombs”, “Ripped Up” and “Fish Woman”). To be brutally honest, I thought that they were barely comprehensible scribbles that look like they were made by a child. But, when you read the text below each one – you can see that there was obviously a hell of a lot of emotional meaning behind each of these drawings – far more than there is behind most of my own drawings.

These three drawings were obviously a powerful form of self-expression for Emin. But, without the explanatory text underneath them and her famous name beside them – you probably wouldn’t know this. You wouldn’t know the meaning of these works of art – in fact, with a couple of them, you probably couldn’t even make an accurate guess about it. I could understand this if Emin wanted to keep the meaning of these drawings private, but she obviously doesn’t.

And, well, this made me think about self-expression, accuracy and meaning in art.

There’s no denying that art is one of the most powerful forms of self-expression out there. One cathartic emotional drawing is worth ten hastily scribbled diary pages, one deeply personal drawing can show more about yourself than an hour of deeply intimate conversation can. One angry political cartoon can express far more rage than a two-hour speech can. Art is one of the purest and most powerful forms of self-expression in the world.

But, all of that expression is lost if the meaning of your art isn’t immediately obvious (or easily guessable) to the complete strangers who will see your work if you choose to publish it online or in a gallery.

Your audience will not have had the same experiences as you and they may not even have the same opinions you do – so, they are not likely to understand your art unless they can work out it’s meaning just from looking at it.

No, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make deeply personal art that only you can understand. In fact, what would be the point of being an artist if you didn’t do this every once in a while? But, if you’re going to show it to other people, then you have to understand that they probably won’t understand it.

So, at the very least, you have to make sure that your art looks good enough to be appreciated on a purely visual level – so that they don’t leave feeling completely empty-handed. If you do this, then you can publish all of the cathartic and emotional art that you like and people will still like it.

In fact, if your cathartic “self-expression” art looks good enough on a visual level – then people might even put a lot of effort into guessing what it means. Why? Because they actually like it and want to learn more about it.

But, if your cathartic art doesn’t look good enough to be appreciated on a purely visual level, then you’re probably best keeping it safely inside your diary.

———-

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (28th March 2015)

Well, I am very proud to present the third page of my “so bad that it’s good” retro sci-fi zombie comic, “Dead Sector”.

Anyway, I’m quite proud of the art in this page, even if it ended up containing less humour than I had hoped. Stay tuned for another page tomorrow.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Dead Sector - Page 3" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Dead Sector – Page 3” By C. A. Brown

Settings And Contrasts In Stories And Comics

2015 Artwork Settings contrast article sketch

When it comes to writing interesting stories and/or making interesting comics, one thing that can often be overlooked is the contrast between the different settings in your story.

You’d be surprised at how much more interesting, dramatic, fascinating, memorable and/or atmospheric a story can be if there is a large enough amount of contrast between the various locations within it.

When I’m talking about contrast, I’m not talking about just making sure that all of your settings look different from each other (although this can work, especially in comics), I’m talking about all sorts of other things too.

I’m talking about things like the atmosphere of a particular setting, the history/ culture of it, the attitudes of the people who spend a lot of time there etc… I’m sure you get the idea.

There are several reasons why making sure that there’s a large amount of contrast between the settings in your story is a good idea. The first is that it it adds a lot more variety to your story and, well, having a large amount of variety in your story is one of the easiest ways to stop your readers from getting bored.

But, the most important reason to keep a decent amount of contrast between the settings in your story is because it can be used for emphasis. What do I mean by this? Well, things tend to stand out a lot more when they’re next to something totally different. For example, a small green LED light might not be that noticeable in the middle of a bright LED display, but it will probably be a lot more noticeable if it’s in the middle of a dark room.

So, if you want to emphasise the fact that one of your settings is a good place, a bad place, a strange place, a boring place etc… then one of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is to include another setting which is pretty much the complete opposite of your original setting.

In case you’re puzzled by all of this, I thought that I’d give you a few examples of what I’m talking about. One good example of a series of novels with a high amount of contrast between the settings in them are Clive Barker’s “Abarat” novels.

Although it’s been a few years since I read these novels, they mostly take place on a mysterious group of twenty-five islands, each of which represents one hour of the day (including a mysterious twenty-fifth hour).

Needless to say, each of these islands is startlingly different from the others and this means that, not only are the islands that you do get to see really interesting – you’re also a lot more curious about the islands that you don’t get to see. Why? Because you know that they will be totally different from the islands that you’ve already seen.

A good televised example of this can also be found in an old TV series from the 1990s called “Babylon 5” . This is a show that is set aboard a neutral space station where diplomats from various planets can meet to talk. Trust me, it’s a lot more interesting than I’ve made it sound.

Anyway, as the show goes on, it’s quite interesting to see that – despite whatever terrible things happen on other planets – the space station is almost always a safe haven for democracy, freedom, understanding etc….

But, if it wasn’t for terrible things happening on other planets, then the space station would probably be something of a boring choice of setting for a sci-fi show. But, because there’s such a huge contrast between the station and various other parts of the universe, it’s a far more interesting location than it should be.

Of course, this technique only really works with longer stories and comics. However, there’s no rule stating that you can’t use it in shorter stories and comics too – although obviously you’ll probably have to scale everything down slightly (eg: you could write a story about an interesting pub in the middle of a boring city centre etc…).

———

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art ( 27th March 2015)

Yes, it’s the second page of my “so bad that it’s good” retro sci-fi zombie comic. Stay tuned for the next page tomrorrow.

…Anyway, today’s comic page is a good example of why I don’t write romance comics. Things like this always tend to happen in them.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Dead Sector - Page 2" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Dead Sector – Page 2” By C. A. Brown

(Oh, and if anyone is wondering why the characters in the second panel of this page look suspiciously like two characters from some of my really old comics from 2010-13, it’s purely coincidental and totally not because I was too lazy to come up with new character designs for this comic…)

Four Things To Do If Your Comic Is Dying

2015 Artwork Dying comic resurrection article sketch

Well, since I seem to be back into making comics again, I thought that it might be a good idea to talk briefly about one problem that can sometimes strike when you’re making comics. I am, of course, talking about the times when your comic starts out well – but then starts to falter.

You know, the times when you suddenly can’t think of good ideas for it, the times when it goes from being something really cool to being an annoying chore and the times when you’ve just finished a page of it and your first thought is “oh god, this is terrible!“.

And, don’t worry, I’m not talking about the “so bad that it’s good” short comic that I’m currently posting here (seriously, that comic was amazingly fun to work on 🙂 ).

Thanks to the fact that I seem to be much further ahead with my art than I am with these articles, I’m actually talking about the melodramatic alternate history sci-fi comic that will probably follow it a few days afterwards.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a preview of part of it:

Ronald Reagan on Trial! British spellings! Historical inaccuracies! Yes, this is one of the better parts of the comic so far....

Ronald Reagan on Trial! British spellings! Historical inaccuracies! Yes, this is one of the better parts of the comic so far….

At the time of writing this article, I don’t think that this new comic is quite as good as “Dead Sector”. Of course, you will probably get to be the judge of that for yourself. But, I digress – this is supposed to be an article to help you out if you end up in a similar situation.

So, without any further ado, here are a few things you can do if you feel that your comic is dying…

1) Know thyself! : One of the best ways to prevent yourself from even starting a dying comic in the first place is to pay very close attention to your emotions before you start making your comic.

When you’re about to work on a comic that will probably turn out well, you’ll probably mostly feel confident, eager, excited, inspired and/or calm. The excitement of working on a project that you really love will probably outweigh any worries that you might feel.

When you’re about to work on a comic that might not turn out so well, there’s a good chance that you’ll be feeling something a little bit different from this. You’ll feel uncertain, you’ll feel nervous, you’ll feel slightly overwhelmed and you might feel worried. The feeling that you “should” make a comic and anxieties about making a comic will probably outweigh any good emotions you are feeling about your comic.

In other words, starting a good comic will make you feel like you’re doing something really cool and starting a not-so-good comic will feel more like you’re uncertainly launching yourself into something slightly frightening.

These emotional differences are fairly subtle, but if you’ve been making comics for quite a while, then you’ll probably know what each of them feels like. Of course, remembering to actually pay attention to them is a different subject altogether.

2) Focus on the art or writing: A general rule with comics is that the writing is always more important than the art. But, if you’re in the middle of a dying comic that you need to resurrect, then look at which part of the comic you are doing best at – and focus on this.

In other words, if you’ve got terrible writer’s block, then pour your energy into making more art-based pages. If you don’t have enough time or energy to make good art, then just make bad art and make sure that the writing is even better than usual to compensate for this.

Not only does this help you to keep up enthusiasm for your own comic, but it also benefits your audience too. Why? Because good writing can distract from bad art and good art can distract from bad writing, but if you end up with both your art and writing being kind of crappy (like in one or two pages of my next comic), then your audience probably won’t really like this.

3) Put it out of it’s misery: Ending a comic abruptly, prematurely and/or in a contrived way is one of the worst ways to end a comic. But it is still a hundred times better than leaving a comic unfinished. It is still a hundred times better than leaving your readers in the lurch and not letting them see a conclusion to your comic.

In other words, a badly-written ending or a bad ending is better than no ending at all. And, yes, some people might claim that it’s best to leave a great comic unfinished – so that the readers can come to their own conclusions. And, there might be merit to this argument. But, well, although unfinished things can be intriguing – they can also be incredibly frustrating too.

Plus, although this is mainly for the benefit of your audience, it can be useful to you too. Why? Because leaving a comic unfinished – especially one that you’ve poured a lot of time and energy into – can be a rather terrible experience emotionally. In fact, it can seriously shake your confidence in your comic-making abilities if you aren’t careful.

Hell, one of the main reasons that I didn’t post any comics here in 2014 was because, in spring that year, I was working on a comic that I ended up leaving unfinished (and unpublished) for various reasons after about 20-22 pages.

I poured a lot of time and energy into making it and it failed. This, of course, made me quite wary about making comics again until relatively recently. If you don’t believe me, here’s a page from my unfinished comic:

Alas, it was never meant to be...

Alas, it was never meant to be…

4) Don’t take a break: When you’re in the middle of a dying comic, your natural instinct might be to take a break from it. Don’t do this! Why? Because, unless you have a superhuman strength of will, you’re probably not going to want to pick it back up again. You’re probably going to quietly find ways not to return to it.

So, if you can, just keep going. It might be annoying, it might be miserable, it might be stressful – but it’s pretty much your only real shot at actually finishing your comic.

There are plenty of ways to steel yourself for the task ahead and you’re going to have to find whatever works for you personally, but one of the things that works for me is to listen to some suitably badass and melodramatic music – like this cover version of the “Doom” theme or this viking-themed song by Ensiferum.

But, whatever you do, keep going! Don’t stop! You may never start again.

———-

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂