Today’s Art (30th September 2015)

Well, I was still in the mood for wild west-themed drawings and, although today’s drawing required more digital editing than usual and ended up being more surreal than I expected (and, yes, the obvious error in this drawing was intentional… well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), I still quite like how it turned out.

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

"That's Some Fancy Shootin' "  By C. A. Brown

“That’s Some Fancy Shootin’ ” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – September 2015

2015 Artwork Top Ten Articles September

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 personal top ten articles about writing, comics and/or art that I’ve written this month. As usual, I’ll also include a few honourable mentions too.

All in all, I’m quite proud of how this month’s articles have turned out. Yes, I wrote more reviews than usual, but – on the whole – I’ve been more inspired this month than I have been during a few other months this year.

Anyway, enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles For September 2015:

– “Rites Of Passage In Fiction
– “Six Basic Tips For Writing Reviews
– “Four Basic Tips For Writing “Shock Scenes” In Splatterpunk Horror Stories
– “Three Observations About Making Title Cards For Podcasts On Youtube
– “The Joy Of… Pixel Art
– “Can You Lose Your Narrative Voice?
– “Four Thoughts About Making Noir Comics, Fiction And Art
– “Three Tips For Creating Interesting Sci-Fi Weapons In Fiction And Comics
– “Five Basic Tips For Writing Fictional Speeches
– “Five Tips For Designing Futuristic Fashions

Honourable mentions:

– “Four Reasons Why Genre Fiction Is Better Than Literary Fiction
– “Has The Internet Made Art More Prudish?
– “Four Time Management Tips For Writing And Making Art
– “Three Things You Learn From Making Art Every Day (With Art Preview)

Today’s Art (29th September 2015)

Wow! I was finally feeling inspired again! Thanks to listening to this amazing piece of wild west-themed music and drinking a small glass of champagne (Don’t ask me why, but when I drank a pint of beer with dinner the day before, it took me nearly two hours to make a mediocre painting afterwards – due to alcohol-induced sluggishness of body and mind. But, one tiny glass of champagne with dinner before this drawing and suddenly I can draw great things quickly and enthusiastically ).

As for the title of this drawing, it was originally going to be humourous, but I left it unfinished because I couldn’t quite decide on a pun to use.

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

"They Called Him..." By C. A. Brown

“They Called Him…” By C. A. Brown

Three Reasons Why Comics And Novels Sometimes Leave Things “Offscreen”

2015 Artwork Offscreen article sketch

One of the great things about both comics and prose fiction is that, in Europe and America at least, there’s no censorship. Unlike films – which usually have to get the approval of a censorship board before they’re released – we thankfully allow our authors and comic writers their full right to freedom of expression.

Yet, at the same time, if you’ve read enough comics and novels – you’ll know that some of them use exactly the same kinds of tricks that film-makers do to get stuff past the censors. In other words, they sometimes leave things “offscreen” and imply that events have happened, without actually showing them.

For example, many TV shows will depict gruesome deaths by just showing blood spattering onto a wall or a window, without actually showing the gruesome death itself. Likewise, the classic literary example of this sort of thing is of a writer “closing the bedroom door” just before two characters spend a passionate night together

Anyway, since censorship isn’t really an issue for writers and comic creators, I thought that I’d look at three of the most obvious reasons why this sort of thing turns up in books and comics:

1) Realism: It’s a fact that, in real life, we’ll thankfully only hear about a lot more horrific or romantic events than we’ll ever actually directly see or experience. Thankfully, real life is a very uneventful thing.

I mean, unless you’re an extremely unlucky person – even if you only watch the news on TV once, then you’ll have heard about more horrific events second-hand than you’ll ever actually experience in your whole life.

Likewise, although you’ll probably have a few romantic encounters in your life, you’ll probably hear far more other people talking about their love lives (or about other people’s love lives).

So, although fictional characters’ lives should obviously be more dramatic than most people’s real lives are – it’s only realistic that they’re probably will hear about more things second-hand than they will actually see or experience.

2) Complexity: Generally speaking, certain things are more difficult to write and/or draw well than other things. Sex and death may well be the two things that fuel all forms of creativity, but both things can be surprisingly difficult to describe or depict in a compelling or realistic way.

So, if a writer knows that they’re laughably bad at writing about one of these things, it’s often better to just imply that it’s happened than it is to write a clumsily-written scene that will make your audience either laugh or cringe.

The same thing is true for art too. It’s a fact that some things are easier to draw than others – scenes involving, say, gruesome violence, require an artist to know how to realistically draw people in a variety of different positions (eg: swinging an axe, firing a gun etc…). Plus, for example, an artist also has to know the right amount of blood to add to the violent scene (and, yes, less is often more when it comes to including blood in comics and artwork).

In other words, if you don’t have the abilities to do the scene in question justice, then it’s often better to just leave most of it “offscreen”.

3) Imagination: Generally speaking, if you don’t show something in a story or a comic, then your audience’s imaginations will have to “fill the gap”. There’s a good chance that your audience’s imaginations will come up with far more graphic images than the ones you were probably thinking of when you were writing your novel or comic.

In other words, sometimes leaving things “offscreen” can be a way to make them more horrific or erotic. After all, if you just hint that – say- two extremely attractive characters spent a passionate night together, then your audience is going to have to imagine what it looked like. Chances are, they’re probably going to embellish it a bit because, well, it’s a fun thing to imagine.

Likewise, if you leave some of the most horrific parts of your horror story to your audience’s imaginations, then they’re probably going to assume that – since it looks like it was too shocking for you to write about- that it’s probably about ten times worse than what you actually imagined. And, since it’s hard not to imagine horrific things after they’ve been vaguely described to you, your audience’s minds are probably going to be filled with far more horrific images than you could ever create yourself.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art ( 28th September 2015)

Well, although today’s painting started out well, I couldn’t quite think of a good idea for the background – so, in the end, I ended up going for a fairly minimalist design (which still, surprisingly, required more digital editing than usual).

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

"Mountain" By C. A. Brown

“Mountain” By C. A. Brown

NEVER SEEN BEFORE! More Failed Paintings And A Page From My Sketchbooks

2015 Artwork sketchbooks September 2 sketch

Well, I was running slightly late when it came to writing today’s article, and, well, I was in too much of a stressed/panicked mood to write a proper article (I don’t know, I really don’t react well to time shortages of any kind).

So, instead, here are two failed fan art paintings and a random page from my sketchbook (with some of my abandoned plans for a sequel to my “Diabolical Sigil” comic). Sorry about this, but hopefully, I’ll write a proper article or review for tomorrow.

This was a (miserably failed) attempt at making a fan art paitning of the "Dopefish" character from an old computer game called "Commander Keen IV". Since the Dopefish turns up as an easter egg in lots of other games, I wanted to see if I could paint him in my own art style. Unfortunately, I can't...

This was a (miserably failed) attempt at making a fan art paitning of the “Dopefish” character from an old computer game called “Commander Keen IV”. Since the Dopefish turns up as an easter egg in lots of other games, I wanted to see if I could paint him in my own art style. Unfortunately, I can’t…

This drawing was originally going to be the basis for a gothic "Dracula"-themed painting. Unfortunately, I quickly realised that I couldn't draw Drcalua holding his cloak in the traditional movie-style way. So, I ended up abandoning this picture a while after I started it.

This drawing was originally going to be the basis for a gothic “Dracula”-themed painting. Unfortunately, I quickly realised that I couldn’t draw Drcalua holding his cloak in the traditional movie-style way. So, I ended up abandoning this picture a while after I started it.

A while after I'd finished making my "Diabolical Sigil" comic (posted here in late July/early August), I'd planned to make another comic featuring the same characters. This comic would have been in the style of a 1920s/30s "Wordless Novel". As for the characters, Roz  would be a communist agitator, Harvey would be a Gendarme, Derek would be an office clerk and Rox would be a film noir-style "femme fatale" character.

A while after I’d finished making my “Diabolical Sigil” comic (posted here in late July/early August), I’d planned to make another comic featuring the same characters. This comic would have been in the style of a 1920s/30s “Wordless Novel”. As for the characters, Roz would be a communist agitator, Harvey would be a Gendarme, Derek would be an office clerk and Rox would be a film noir-style “femme fatale” character.

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Sorry for the short blog post today, but hopefully I’ll write a proper article or review for tomorrow 🙂

Some Very Basic Tips For Creating Fictional Currencies

2015 Artwork Creating Fictional Currencies Article

Well, let’s talk about money today. No, on second thoughts, “money” is too much of a limited term – let’s talk about currency. Yes, as I’ll discuss later, the two things are subtly different from each other. More to the point, let’s talk about how we can come up with interesting fictional currencies for use in comics, stories etc….

The easiest way to create a fictional currency for your story or comic is to just base your currency on a real one. I mean, I’m sure that you’ve probably seen at least one of two sci-fi movies, stories or comics where the currency is just referred to as “credits”. These credits usually happen to function in a very similar way to pounds, dollars, euros etc…

If you can come up with a realistic-sounding name for your fictional currency, then you can pretty much copy any form of real life currency. After all, most modern currencies have fairly similar mechanics – for example, they use a base-ten system (eg: 100 pennies in a pound, 100 cents in a dollar, 100 cents in a euro etc…) because it’s easier to calculate things using this system (eg: compared to, say, pre-decimalisation British currency, which used a base-twelve system, where there were 240 pennies in a pound). So, yes, real currencies often have a lot in common with each other.

There’s nothing wrong with copying real currencies in all but name – especially if you want your story or comic to be “realistic” or if currency isn’t a major part of your story. Not only that, doing something like this also a way of including currency in your story without having to explain it to your audience – since pretty much everyone is familiar with how real currencies work.

But, there are much more imaginative ways to come up with fictional currencies than this though…..

Although the word “currency” is often used interchangeably with “money”, these days, a currency is basically any system that people use to transfer value to each other. This means that anything used as a currency must have some kind of value to the vast majority of people who use it.

Many modern currencies have moved away from this slightly (and more futuristic currencies, like Bitcoins, have moved away from it even more), but if you look at the history of most modern currencies you’ll see that they were originally used as a stand-in for something with inherent value.

For example, until relatively recently, banknotes in the UK had have [Edit: I can’t believe I got this wrong!] a phrase like “I promise to pay the bearer the sum of (?) pounds” on them. This was something of a hangover from the days where paper money could, theoretically, be redeemed for an equivalent number of pounds of gold.

Technically speaking, gold was the currency. Gold was the valuable thing involved in all transactions. The paper money was just a stand-in for it.

So, if you want to create an interesting fictional currency – then you have to work out what is valued in the “world” of your story.

To give you one example, a while back, I heard about a sci-fi movie called “In Time” which is based on the idea of time itself being used as a form of currency. This is an absolutely brilliant idea because, let’s face it, time is the most valuable thing in the entire world. Everything we do, we can only do because we still have time left. We all only have a limited amount of time in this world, so time is a valuable thing.

To give you another example, in Chris Carter’s brilliant – and short lived- dystopic sci-fi TV series “Harsh Realm“, bullets were used as a form of currency. Since a lot of the story takes place in a lawless wasteland, traditional currency systems would be totally useless. However, the more bullets you have, the more chance you have of fighting off bandits, hunting for food etc… So, bullets have a practical survival value in this setting which makes them perfect as a form of currency.

Finally, the classic example of something other than money being used as currency is how cigarettes are traditionally used as currency in prisons.

So, look for something that you characters find valuable and base your fictional currency on that.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Mini Review: “Doctor Who – The Witch’s Familiar” (TV Show Episode)

2015 Artwork Doctor Who  Witch's Familiar review sketch

Although I still don’t know if this will become a regular thing again, I thought that I’d quickly share some of my rambling thoughts about today’s episode of “Doctor Who” called “The Witch’s Familiar”.

Before I go any further, I should warn you that this review will contain MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS.

“The Witch’s Familiar” picks up where “The Magician’s Apprentice” left off. As you may have guessed, both Missy and Clara have survived and not only does Missy explain why, but she also finally explains how she survived the ending of the previous series too. Still, now that they’re alive, they decide to sneak back into the Dalek base to save The Doctor. Meanwhile, of course, The Doctor is both trying to escape the base and to understand why Davros called for him.

One of the first things that I will say about this episode is that it’s a much more slow-paced episode than last week’s episode. A lot of the episode is taken up with dialogue and clever schemes, with relatively little action when compared to the previous episode. In other words, if the previous episode contained all of the “style”, this episode contains all of the “substance”.

Still, this episode introduces some rather interesting new concepts – such as the disgusting fate that awaits Daleks after they “die”. Since Daleks apparently cannot die, they are dumped into a large sewer when they begin to decay, but they remain alive as they turn into a kind of sentient slime. As well as being a really cool background detail, this also forms a central part of the episode’s plot in a couple of rather clever ways too. We also get to learn more about how the Daleks work and why The Doctor now wears a cool-looking pair of shades.

And, yes, this episode is mostly about a battle of minds between The Doctor and Davros. Large portions of the episode are taken up with a philosophical discussion between The Doctor and Davros about compassion, mercy, morality and war. Although these parts of the episode can get a little confusing if you aren’t paying attention, they give this episode a sense of depth that the previous episode didn’t quite have.

Seriously, I cannot praise the dialogue in this episode enough – there are so many memorable lines here. This includes everything from Davros emotionally asking the Doctor if he thinks that he is a good man, to Missy proudly declaring that “the bitch is back” when confronted by a Dalek. The writing here is absolutely excellent.

But, although this episode seems to hint at actual character development happening for The Doctor, Missy, Davros etc.. everything sort of returns to the status quo at the end of the episode. Davros (mostly) returns to being a villain, Missy returns to being a villain too and the Doctor actually goes back in time to show mercy to the young Davros (presumably for both moral reasons and to avoid a time paradox too).

Personally, I’d have hoped for more complex character development in this episode, but the hints of it that actually happen are still fairly compelling.

Like with the previous episode, Missy is still a really fascinating character. Although, from the very beginning of this episode onwards, she becomes a bit more “villainous” again, the chemistry between her and Clara is absolutely brilliant.

Ok, it mostly consists of Missy putting Clara in danger for a variety of reasons, but it’s mostly presented in a darkly comedic way rather than a malevolent way. But, unusually, Missy almost always (sort of) has a vaguely benevolent reason for doing it. This looks like actual character development on Missy’s part.

Well, until the end of the episode when Missy suddenly and inexplicably tries to trick the Doctor into killing Clara. Given the sheer amount of character development that has happened to Missy in both this episode and the previous one, it was kind of a shame that she just suddenly went back to being evil again seemingly for no real reason.

All in all, this is a much “deeper” and slower episode than the previous one was and, although there’s a lot of really fascinating character development here – most of it ends up being undone by the end of the episode, which is kind of disappointing. Nonetheless, it’s still a fairly good episode of the show and it compliments the previous episode really well.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would also get a four.

Today’s Art (26th September 2015)

Well, I’d actually made a different painting for today – but it really didn’t turn out very well, so I decided to make another one and this painting is the result.

Although I was aiming to make yet another 1980s sci-fi movie poster style painting, this one ended up looking more like the cover of an old sci-fi novel. Still, I’m quite proud of how it turned out (even if it required more digital editing than usual after I scanned it).

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

"City Boulevard" By C. A. Brown

“City Boulevard” By C. A. Brown