Today’s Art (31st August 2015)

As you may have noticed, today’s painting is slightly more bizarre (and creepy) than usual, this is because it’s based on part of a dream I had the night before I painted it.

It’d take too long to write down an account of the entire dream here – but it was certainly a strange one. All of the parts of it (including the one depicted here) that I expected to be creepy turned out to be not that frightening.

For example, the ominous void in the background (which I was led to by a group of masked villagers) was located in a building with “Don’t Enter The Void” scrawled on the door in blood [or red paint, it was hard to tell]. But, when I entered the void it actually just led to a rather posh corridor with some beautiful trees in it.

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

"Don't Enter The Void (A Dream)" By C. A. Brown

“Don’t Enter The Void (A Dream)” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – August 2015

2015 Artwork Top Ten Articles August

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 the ten best articles about art and/or writing I’ve posted here over the last month (with a few honourable mentions too).

All in all, this has been a surprisingly good month and the quality of my articles this month was – on the whole – a lot better than last month’s were. Hopefully September’s articles will be just as good.

Anyway, in no particular order, here are the lists:

Top Ten Articles For August 2015:

– “Four Tips For Writing An Interesting Zombie Story
– “Skeleton Storytelling – Can It Be Used In Comics And Prose Fiction?
– “When NOT To Use Dialogue In Comics
– “Comics And Hidden Influences
– “Four Reasons Why The Horror Genre Contains So Much Dark Comedy
– “Three Basic Tips For Writing Paranormal Detective Stories
– “Three Tips For Creating Good Characters If You Aren’t A Social Person
– “The Joy Of…. Bangsian Fantasy Stories
– “How To Give Your Art A Consistent Aesthetic
– “Good Horror Stories Are Mystery Stories

Honourable Mentions:

– “Ordinary Vs Extraordinary Settings In Horror Fiction
– “Why You Should Make Your Characters Fans of Something
– “Returning To The Horror Genre – A Ramble
– “Two Basic Tips For Drawing or Painting Your Dreams

Today’s Art (30th August 2015)

Well, I was going to make another B&W film noir drawing but, for some reason this picture ended up turning into a “Roaring Twenties”-themed watercolour painting with a limited colour palette (mostly grey, black and good old Hollywood orange and blue).

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

" Just Like Dillinger" By C. A. Brown

” Just Like Dillinger” By C. A. Brown

Should You Digitally Edit Your Art?

2015 Artwork Should you digitally edit article sketch

If you’re posting traditionally-made artwork on the internet, then you’re going to have to scan or photograph it. Although I’ll start by talking about my own experiences with digital editing, there will be some advice later in this article that might be useful to you.

Anyway, one of the problems I found with scanning my art is that it would often look kind of “flat” or “faded” directly after I scanned it. Kind of like this:

One of my paintings shortly after it has been scanned. This image has been digitally cropped to remove the rest of my sketchbook page

One of my paintings shortly after it has been scanned. This image has been digitally cropped to remove the rest of my sketchbook page

Sometime in either 2010 or 2012, I finally realised that a good solution to this probably was to digitally lower the brightness levels in the image and heavily increase the contrast levels.

This can be done in pretty much any image editing program (even in freeware programs like GIMP or in old software, like the late 1990s version of Paint Shop Pro that I usually use) and it is what gives my paintings their characteristic “vivid” look. Like this:

"Casino Macabre" By C. A. Brown

“Casino Macabre” By C. A. Brown

Likewise, I’ll often use MS Paint to edit out small mistakes that I’ve made in the original painting – or to fill in areas that haven’t been painted properly.

So, in a basic sense, I digitally edit virtually every piece of art that I make. But, I’ve often had fairly mixed views when it comes to doing more than this. Sometimes I’ll enthusiastically use all sorts of digital effects in my paintings to enhance them, or to rescue what would have otherwise been a terrible painting. Recently, I’ve done this in a few of my pictures – like this one:

"1992" By C. A. Brown

“1992” By C. A. Brown

But, other times, I will consider doing anything other than the basic digital editing I mentioned earlier to be “cheating”. It really seems to be something that goes in and out of fashion for me. But, should you do it in your own paintings?

The first thing to remember with digital editing is that you should only do it if you feel that it will make your painting look better. Wanting to try out a new feature you’ve discovered in the image editing program you use isn’t really a good enough reason for digitally editing your picture. So, you should only use digital effects when they will actually improve your picture as a whole.

The second thing to remember is that you shouldn’t rely too heavily on digital editing and effects. Yes, you can correct mistakes in your pictures digitally and you can do all sorts of other cool stuff in image editing programs. But, if you do this too much- then you won’t really improve as an artist.

You won’t strive to make your paintings look as good as possible when you actually paint them, you won’t really learn how to cover up mistakes traditionally and you might not even practice things like colour mixing as much as you should. Why? Because you can do all of this stuff afterwards on the computer. So, you should always try to make a good traditional painting before you decide whether to edit it digitally or not.

Finally, if you are planning on actually selling originals of any of your artwork, then you shouldn’t do any digital editing at all.

Why? Because, if you’re selling your work online, then the only thing that your customers will be able to see when they are judging whether to buy your painting is the digital image of it you’ve posted online. This means that any digital adjustments you make to it are inherently misleading and/or fraudulent.

At the very least, if you do any digital editing on an image of a picture you’re planning on selling the original of, then you should clearly and openly declare this fact to your buyers. You should tell them exactly what you’ve done and, if possible, provide an unedited picture too. This is so that they know exactly what they are buying and won’t feel like they’ve been ripped off or fobbed off with lower-quality goods.

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Anyway, I hope this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (29th August 2015)

Well, I was still in the mood for making film noir-style artwork and I’m quite proud of how this drawing turned out, even if it required a fair amount of digital editing after I scanned it.

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

"Pistols And Cocktails" By C. A.Brown

“Pistols And Cocktails” By C. A.Brown

How My Art Improved After I Remembered Something I Watched Last Year

2015 Artwork Learning from Shoo Rayner video article sketch

Sometime last year, I watched this absolutely fascinating Youtube video by a professional illustrator and artist called Shoo Rayner. The video is about wooden artist’s mannequins and about how you can use them to both draw more realistic proportions and to work out how to draw people standing in a whole range of positions.

Since I had a couple of these mannequins from a long time ago (I’m not sure why but, when I was a kid, I asked my parents to buy two of them), I managed to locate them again and I used them for a couple of paintings.

The problem with these old paintings was that they looked, well, kind of wooden – like this one:

"Zombie Manor" By C. A. Brown [2014]

“Zombie Manor” By C. A. Brown [2014]

After a while, I just couldn’t be bothered to copy these mannequins any more and ended up abandoning them. But, a few weeks before I wrote this post, I suddenly realised that I wanted to try to draw people standing in poses that I hadn’t really drawn before. But, I couldn’t be bothered to find my artist’s mannequins again, so I followed one of the other pieces of advice I remembered from the Shoo Rayner video.

In other words, before I drew my pictures, I made a light pencil sketch of the mannequin from memory. Instead of fussing around with an actual mannequin, I was able to work much more quickly by testing out different poses using a “virtual” mannequin that existed only on the page and looked a bit like this:

I've drawn this example using ink for the sake of clarity, but you should only draw it lightly in pencil.

I’ve drawn this example using ink for the sake of clarity, but you should only draw it lightly in pencil.

Although, as Shoo Rayner points out in his video, this technique requires a bit of practice and some experience with using artist’s mannequins – I’ve found that this technique is well worth using for a couple of reasons.

One of the main advantages of using this technique that I found is that because literally everything is drawn from my imagination and memory, my paintings tended to look a lot less “wooden” as a result.

Since I wasn’t directly copying a literal wooden mannequin, I could add a bit more spontanaity and variation to my pictures which helped the poses in my final paintings and drawings to look a bit more “natural” (whilst still looking realistic). Kind of like this:

"Castle Crypt" By C. A. Brown

“Castle Crypt” By C. A. Brown

"1992" By C. A. Brown

“1992” By C. A. Brown

"Somewhere In A Room" By C. A.Brown

“Somewhere In A Room” By C. A.Brown

Another advantage of using pencil drawings of mannequins (rather than actual mannequins) to plan your paintings is that you can add more variation. An artist’s mannequin is a fixed height and size – as such, everyone you draw by copying the mannequin will have roughly the same proportions as the mannequin does. This means that everyone in your paintings will look kind of the same.

By making sure that the mannequin only exists in your imagination and on the page, you can alter all sorts of things about it – whilst still making your paintings look realistic.

Again, Shoo Rayner goes into more detail about how to use this technique in his video and it’s well worth watching. But, it’s also important to remember that – no matter how much drawing or painting experience you’ve had – you can and should still learn new things from time to time.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (28th August 2015)

Well, I’d originally made a different painting for today but it was so badly-drawn that it unintentionally ended up looking kind of creepy. So, instead, I eventually made this vaguely ominous-looking film noir style drawing (which was very slightly inspired by this series of “let’s play” videos I’ve been watching on Youtube). I’m quite proud of how it turned out, although I’m not sure if this will end up turning into a short art series or not.

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

"House On The Field" By C. A. Brown

“House On The Field” By C. A. Brown

Even MORE “Never Seen Before” Failed Paintings From My Sketchbooks :)

2015 Artwork sketchbooks August sketch 2

Well, when it came to writing today’s article – I was slightly tired and I also couldn’t think of a good enough idea. So, instead, I thought that I’d show off a few more “never seen before” failed paintings (and a doodle) from my sketchbooks. Hopefully, I’ll write a proper article or review for tomorrow.

None of these paintings actually reached the “adding paint” stage, so they’re bascially just drawings in various stages of completion. Anyway, enjoy 🙂

This was a horror painting - in the style of an Iron Maiden album cover - that I'd planned to make. But, a while after I started it, I realised that it looked, well, kind of crappy. So, I ended up abandoning it.

This was a horror painting – in the style of an Iron Maiden album cover – that I’d planned to make. But, a while after I started it, I realised that it looked, well, kind of crappy. So, I ended up abandoning it.

This was going to be a painting of a gothic librarian. But, well, I couldn't think of a good enough idea for the background.

This was going to be a painting of a gothic librarian. But, well, I couldn’t think of a good enough idea for the background.

This was a random ink and coloured pencil sketch I made to test out a really cool art technique I saw on the back cover of Bad Religion's "All Ages" album.

This was a random ink and coloured pencil sketch I made to test out a really cool art technique I saw on the back cover of Bad Religion’s “All Ages” album.

This is a larger version of the wild west sketch from my last sketchbook post. Bascially, I tried to turn THAT little sketch into a larger painting, but it didn't turn out very well. And this is what it looked like.

This is a larger version of the wild west sketch from my last sketchbook post. Bascially, I tried to turn THAT little sketch into a larger painting, but it didn’t turn out very well. And this is what it looked like.

This was going to be a painting of someone taking a photo with their phone, but I couldn't think of a good enough idea for the background and eventually ended up abandoning this picture.

This was going to be a painting of someone taking a photo with their phone, but I couldn’t think of a good enough idea for the background and eventually ended up abandoning this picture.

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Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse into my sketchbooks. Hopefully, I’ll write a proper article or review for tomorrow 🙂

Today’s Art (27th August 2015)

Well, today’s painting was inspired by a documentary I watched a few months ago about animal mummification in Ancient Egypt. Anyway, one of the surprising things I learnt from this documentary was that they mummified a surprising range of animals (including crocodiles) and that the mummies were often stored in large underground catacombs. Anyway, the documentary made me wonder if there was a catacomb for crocodile mummies and what it would look like if it existed….

Although I quite like how this painting turned out, the original watercolour painting didn’t really look “ancient” enough, so I ended up using quite a few digital effects on the final version of the picture.

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

"Catacomb Of The Crocodiles" By C. A. Brown

“Catacomb Of The Crocodiles” By C. A. Brown

Three Tips For Creating Good Characters If You Aren’t A Social Person

2015 Artwork Creating good characters if you aren't social sketch

Unfortunately, when it comes to creating characters – extroverted people who flourish in social situations tend to have a lot more social experience which can be useful when it comes to writing realistic dialogue and characters.

But what about the rest of us? What if you’re someone who isn’t exactly at their best in the presence of other people? What if you’re someone who is only truly at ease in solitude or in a fairly limited range of social situations?

How do we write good characters? Here are a few tips that might come in handy?

1) Use your experience: If you’re the kind of interesting, introspective person who doesn’t flourish in social situations, then this doesn’t mean that you don’t have any life experiences to draw on when it comes to creating characters. You do, it’s just slightly different.

Because, chances are, you’ve probably experienced and/or endured your fair share of social situations. After all, how would you know that you don’t flourish in the vast majority of social situations if you haven’t experienced these situations before?

But, unlike the kind of people who flourish in these kinds of situations – you have a different perspective on them. Unlike people who “fit in” almost everywhere, you get to see everything from the outside.

Even if you’ve got so good at the all-consuming and soul-destroyingly exhausting task of appearing to be more social/extroverted than you actually are that it’s almost second-nature to you, then this will still give you a very different perspective to the one you would have if you were someone who felt totally natural and/or at ease in these situations.

Not only does this mean that you have an instant advantage when it comes to writing realistic “outsider”, “rebel”, “eccentric” etc… characters, but it also means that you’re more likely to see “ordinary” people and situations in a slightly different way.

You’re probably more likely to notice the weird, superficial, awkward and/or annoying parts of social situations that most people take for granted. And, if you add these observations to your story or comic, then you can give your work a unique perspective that more extroverted writers are probably going to miss. Likewise, this also means that it’s a lot easier to create cynically satirical characters too.

2) Composites: If you’re the kind of cool person who prefers solitude to social situations, then there’s a good chance that you’ve had to fill this solitude with something.

In other words, whilst some people spend a lot of their time checking social media and making small talk – you’ve spent a lot of your time in different ways. You’ve probably spent a lot of time reading stuff, watching stuff, playing games etc….

Well, this experience can be an absolute goldmine when it comes to thinking of interesting characters. Why? Because you’ve been exposed to a far greater range of fictional characters and you can draw on this experience to create new and interesting characters of your own.

Whilst you obviously shouldn’t directly copy other people’s characters, there’s no rule against creating new and original characters that are at least partially a composite of several other interesting characters that you have seen.

Whilst you shouldn’t copy any of the superficial elements of these characters (eg: their names, appearances etc…), you can borrow more subtle things – like their personality, their worldview etc…. as well as adding a lot of your own imagination too, of course.

3) Focus on other things: Whilst characters are one of the most important parts of any story, they aren’t the be all and end all. If you aren’t that good at writing or thinking of characters, then there are plenty of other things that you can focus on that will still make your story interesting.

You can come up with clever storylines, you can use a really interesting narrative voice, you can come up with really interesting fictional locations, you can include lots of humour etc…

Although badly-written characters might put some people off of your story, there are plenty of other things that you can focus on instead to compensate for this.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂