Random Experiments With Pencil Drawing

2015 Artwork Random Pencil Drawings article sketch

Well, although I’d planned to write a proper article for today, I was beset by a fiendish combination of both uninspiration and unenthusiasm. And, since I hadn’t really been sketching that much recently, I couldn’t really just compile another sketchbook post for today.

Then I noticed a set of sketching pencils that I’d got recently, which were sitting on top of a pile of books near my computer. Surprisingly, I’d never really tried doing proper pencil drawing before. So, I thought that I’d give it a go and make some random sketches.

One of the interesting things that I noticed when I tried to make “traditional” pencil drawings was that I tended to smudge the graphite quite a lot (I don’t know, I’ve seen this in art videos before and I guess that I wanted to try it out).

Personally, I’m still not sure whether I really prefer the “look” of pencil drawings when compared to my ink drawings. About the best way I can describe it is that, to me at least, it kind of looks like the difference between traditional art and digital art.

Most strangely at all, it requires totally different techniques to the ones I use for B&W ink drawing (seriously, traditional pencil drawing feels more like painting than drawing..). But I may (or may not) experiment more with pencil drawing in the future.

Anyway, here are the four pencil sketches that I made:

I don't know why, but drawing a realistic-looking sphere seems to be almost obligatory when you start drawing with graphite pencils for the first time LOL!

I don’t know why, but drawing a realistic-looking sphere seems to be almost obligatory when you start drawing with graphite pencils for the first time LOL!

This was yet another experiment with smudging and I quite like how it turned out - although the shading on the palm tree wasn't as realistic as I had hoped.

This was yet another experiment with smudging and I quite like how it turned out – although the shading on the palm tree wasn’t as realistic as I had hoped.

I wanted to experiment with drawing realistic lighting using smudged pencils and - although I'm quite proud of the lighting in this drawing - the skull is absolutely terribly-drawn!

I wanted to experiment with drawing realistic lighting using smudged pencils and – although I’m quite proud of the lighting in this drawing – the skull is absolutely terribly-drawn!

I think that I was trying to draw a landscape here. Anyway, whatever it was, I failed miserably at it LOL!

I think that I was trying to draw a landscape here. Anyway, whatever it was, I failed miserably at it LOL!

——-

Sorry for this rambling excuse for an article, but I hope that it was interesting 🙂 …And that I’ll think of an idea for a proper article for tomorrow.

Today’s Art (26th April 2015)

Well, I wasn’t really feeling that inspired when I made today’s painting – hence why it ended up being a fairly generic landscape. Sorry about this.

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

"Scale Beach" By C. A. Brown

“Scale Beach” By C. A. Brown

Some Sneaky Tricks For Speeding Up Your Comic – A Comic Page Dissection

2015 Artwork sneaky comics tricks article sketch

Before I begin, I should probably point out that – whilst this article will show you a few examples of tricks that you can use to make the art (especially the backgrounds) for your comics more quickly – these tricks can come at the expense of quality. In other words, some of these tricks may be seen as “bad practice”, “cheating” and/or “laziness”.

So, you probably shouldn’t see anything in this article as a “proper” educational guide of any kind – but, rather as an emergency resource to be used if you’re trying to keep to a tight schedule with your comic and you need to make a page fairly quickly (eg: in about an hour and a half).

Anyway, a while ago, I showed someone a copy of my horror/comedy comic that I posted here a few weeks ago. One of their first comments when looking at the art in it was something along the lines of “It’s very detailed“.

I was puzzled by this and explained that it wasn’t actually very detailed, but that I’d used a few tricks to give the illusion that the art in the comic was more detailed than it actually was (in order to make the comic quickly). And, yes, I know, I’m terrible at taking compliments.

Anyway, in case any of these tricks are useful to you, I thought that I’d dissect a page from my comic in order to show you a couple of these tricks. So, without any further ado, here’s page five of “Dead Sector”:

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

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

One of the first things that you will notice about this comic page is that there are a lot of “close up” pictures of the various characters. Not only does this emphasise the dialogue in each panel, but it can also allow you to make comic pages surprisingly quickly because all you have to draw is the character and the wall behind them.

As long as you include at least one detailed picture of all or most of the characters standing in a room together – so that your audience knows where everyone is – you can pretty much just fill the rest of the page with “close-up” pictures of your characters and let your audience’s imaginations “fill in the gaps”.

Just remember to vary the backgrounds and/or to include the occasional non- “close up” panel on your page, in order to make sure that it doesn’t look too boring.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] - Notice how all three characters only appear in one panel. And, yes, just showing someone's hair in the bottom corner of the panel technically counts as an "appearance". Likewise, notice how the backgrounds are different in at least some of the "close-up" panels.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] – Notice how all three characters only appear in one panel. And, yes, just showing someone’s hair in the bottom corner of the panel technically counts as an “appearance”. Likewise, notice how the backgrounds are different in at least some of the “close-up” panels.

Another slightly sneakier trick that I used to speed up making this comic page can be seen in the fifth panel. In this panel, there’s a large patterned wall in the background which – if I’d drawn it properly – would have taken me a surprisingly long time to draw.

However, if you take a closer look at the fifth panel, you’ll notice that the background consists of nothing but a grid and a few random scribbles. Here’s a close-up of it:

It's just a grid and a few scribbles....

It’s just a grid and a few scribbles….

So, how did I get away with this? Why don’t most readers notice this unless I point it out?

Simple. In the third and fourth panel, I included a much more detailed and well-drawn version of this background. What this means is that the audience has a good idea of what the background looks like before they see the fifth panel.

So, when the audience look at the fifth panel and see something that looks vaguely similar to the backgrounds that they’ve just seen, then their imaginations will just “fill in the gaps”. See what I mean:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] - Notice how the detailed backgrounds in the third and fourth panel give the impression that the background of the fifth panel is more detailed than it actually is.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] – Notice how the detailed backgrounds in the third and fourth panel give the impression that the background of the fifth panel is more detailed than it actually is.

Finally, there’s something else that I should mention about the backgrounds in this comic page – only four of the seven panels on this page actually have a proper background. Yes, I’ve managed to avoid drawing backgrounds for just under half of the panels on this page.

How did I do this? Simple, instead of drawing a detailed background, I just painted the background area solid black in these panels.

Not only does a solid black background emphasise the dialogue in these comic panels (since it contrasts with the white background used in the speech bubbles) but, because there is something in the background (eg: paint or ink), your audience is less likely to notice the fact that you’ve avoided adding a detailed background.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] - Notice how only four of the panels on this page actually have detailed backgrounds.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] – Notice how only four of the panels on this page actually have detailed backgrounds.

So, yes, you’d be surprised at how quickly you can make a comic page if you’re willing to be a little bit sneaky…..

———–

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (25th April 2015)

Well, I couldn’t think of any good ideas for memory paintings, so I decided to try to paint a random 1990s punk guy. Unfortunately, this didn’t really turn out that well and this painting ended up looking kind of generic.

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

"All Night" By C. A. Brown

“All Night” By C. A. Brown

Creating The Illusion Of A Larger Setting

2015 Artwork Illusion Of A Larger setting sketch

Although this is an article about both making comics and writing fiction (particularly short fiction), I’m going to have to start by talking about the history of computer game design for a while. Trust me, there’s a valid reason for this and it will be relevant to what I’m talking about.

Although many modern computer games with 3D graphics can contain giant worlds that the player can explore fully, this wasn’t always the case.

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, there were much stricter limitations on how much 3D scenery a computer could display at a given time – for the simple reason that computers of the time didn’t have the processing power and/or memory to handle extremely large, complex and highly detailed 3D areas.

Likewise, before DVDs became a popular storage medium, games usually had to be small enough to fit on 1-4 CDs (or floppy disks in the really old days) and on most people’s hard drives at the time. This also meant that trying to fit a fully-explorable 3D setting that was several square miles in size into a game wasn’t always exactly practical.

But, if you’ve played old 3D games, then you’ll know that they didn’t all take place in tiny windowless rooms. There were a whole host of clever tricks that 1990s game developers used to give the illusion that the setting of a 3D game was much larger than it actually was.

But, in this article, we’ll only be focusing on one of these techniques that can also be useful for writers and comic makers too.

So, what is this technique? Well, game developers would briefly show the player glimpses of other parts of the game’s location – without actually allowing the player to explore these locations.

For example, in the introductory cinematic to a game, you might see a giant city – even though the game itself only takes place in a small part of that city. Because the audience has actually seen the entire city, they’re therefore less likely to question why they only get to explore a tiny part of it.

Likewise, an old game may include mountains or buildings in the distance, which you can’t reach because there’s a wall in the way or something like that. A good example of this can be seen in ID Software’s 1993 classic “Doom“:

As you can see in this screenshot from "Doom", the mountains are actually nothing more than a static photograph, rather than an explorable 3D area.

As you can see in this screenshot from “Doom”, the mountains are actually nothing more than a static photograph, rather than an explorable 3D area.

But, how is any of this stuff relevant to writers and comic makers?

Well, if you need to write a short story or make a comic, you won’t always have that much room to include lots of different settings. But, at the same time, you also might not want your audience to think that your entire story just takes place in a couple of small areas. So, what do you do?

If you’re writing a short story, then you can add a few brief descriptions of the area surrounding the setting of your story to the earlier parts of your story (for example, you could show your main character arriving at the building where the story takes place). Or you could have one of your characters briefly talk about another location that isn’t actually shown in the story.

There are hundreds of other ways to do this too, but the general idea is that you either mention or describe somewhere else fairly briefly in order to remind your audience that your story takes place within a larger world.

Even with longer stories, you might not want to include too many different settings, for the simple reaosn that this could break up the flow of the story. So, these techniques might also be useful here too.

If you’re making a comic, then it is very simple to do this. You can either start your comic with a large panoramic drawing of the setting, before “zooming in” to a smaller part of it. Or, if you don’t feel like doing this, then you can just show other parts of the setting briefly through windows, television screens, dialogue etc….

The thing to remember is to give your audience a brief glimpse of other parts of your story or comic’s setting and to let their imaginations work out the rest of the details.

————

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (24th April 2015)

Well, I decided to make another painting based on one of my memories (I’m not sure if this will turn into an art series or not). Anyway, this painting is based on the time when I first discovered splatterpunk horror fiction (which was the main thing that got me interested in writing at the time).

Anyway, I was about thriteen or fourteen, when I visited Stafford one weekend. And, whilst walking around the indoor market next to the shopping centre, I found a second-hand book stall. And, on that stall, I found an old paperback copy of Shaun Hutson’s “Assassin” and it was the coolest book I’d ever read and I was a splatterpunk fan from that day onwards.

I probably got a few details in this painting wrong, because it was quite a long time ago – but I guess that it turned out reasonably well.

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

"My First Splatterpunk Novel" By C. A. Brown

“My First Splatterpunk Novel” By C. A. Brown

Review: “Doom Retro 1.6.5” (Source Port for “Doom”/”Doom II”/”Final Doom”)

Ok, this source port ALSO contains mouse support - in addition to the traditional keyboard-only controls of my youth.

Ok, this source port ALSO contains mouse support – in addition to the traditional keyboard-only controls of my youth.

In case you’re new to the wonderful world of 1990s retro gaming, I should probably explain what a “source port” is. In short, a source port is a program that allows older games (whose source code has been released by the developers) to run on more modern computers – usually with various modifications and improvements.

As source ports for “Doom” go, I’m usually more of a “GZ Doom” kind of person. However, a couple of months ago, I heard of another source port that I thought that I’d check out – I am, of course, talking about “Doom Retro“.

[NOTE: When writing this review, I used version 1.6.5 of this source port, although I think that at least one new version of it has been released since then. ]

Even so, let’s take a look at “Doom Retro”:

doom retro  title screen

As the name suggests, “Doom Retro” is a source port which tries to keep the old “Doom” games as close to their original form as possible. In other words, there is no jumping, no y-axis aiming, only six save slots and all the things you would expect from a more “traditional” version of “Doom”.

In fact, even the map screen looks exactly like it does in the original version of the game:

But WHICH door is the blue door? *Sigh* I miss GZ Doom...

But WHICH door is the blue door? *Sigh* I miss GZ Doom…

Even the options menu has been pared down to something close to it’s original form (compared to the 20+ options you will find in a source port like “GZ Doom”):

On the plus side, I don't have to spend ages wondering what "anistropic filtering" is...

On the plus side, I don’t have to spend ages wondering what “anistropic filtering” is…

The most amusing thing about this options menu is that you can set the level of graphic detail in the game to “low”, which makes the game resemble the blurry low-resolution version of it that was released on the SNES in the 1990s:

Yay! Pixels!

Yay! Pixels!

One of the more interesting things about “Doom Retro” is the default keyboard layout. It contains both a more modern layout (where you use the WSAD keys for movement and the mouse for turning and shooting) as well as the traditional keyboard-only “Doom” controls, so that you can switch between the two whilst you’re playing. Literally, both layouts are mapped onto the keyboard at the same time.

Out of a sense of nostalgia, I decided to use keyboard-only controls and… wow… I’d forgotten how much more difficult “Doom” was when you have to move using the arrow keys.

Seriously, I thought that I was a lot better at “Doom” now than when I was a teenager due to sheer practice alone, but I think at least part of it is due to the fact that most modern source ports allow you to use far more responsive modern FPS controls (as well as jumping, y-axis aiming etc..).

Of course, back then, my teenage self thought that using anything other than the arrow keys for FPS games was tantamount to sacrelige. But, well, that’s the foolishness of youth for you.

But, even though “Doom Retro” tries to re-create the traditional “Doom” experience, there are a few new touches too. Although some of these are minor graphical improvements (eg: rippling water textures etc..), the most notable change is that some of the monsters have differently-coloured blood (eg: cacodemons have blue blood and both Hell Knights and Barons of Hell have green blood) and the game now contains slightly more realistic blood spatter effects.

Blue blood? How aristocratic!

Blue blood? How aristocratic!

This has been done in quite a few source ports and mods for “Doom”, so it’s nothing new. But, nonetheless, it still works really well and it adds slightly more atmosphere to an absolutely great game.

The only major flaw with “Doom Retro” is that, because it tries to be very “traditional”, there are apparently limitations on the kinds of WADs that it will play. From what I can gather, it will mostly only play WADs that don’t change too much about the original game.

And, as someone who likes “Doom” WADs that contain lots of new weapons and monsters – this seemed like quite a serious flaw to me, and it’s one of the main reasons why I’m not switching away from using “GZ Doom” any time soon.

All in all, if you want to relive the classic “Doom” games of your youth, then you can’t go wrong with “Retro Doom”. Playing with the old keyboard controls can make the game surprisingly, and enjoyably, challenging – but the lack of support for many mod-heavy WADs means that this source port is nothing more than an enjoyable nostalgic curiosity. Nonetheless, it does what it says on the tin, and I can’t fault it for that.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, then it would get three and a half at the very least.