Today’s Art (31st December 2015)

Well, this is the next painting in my 1980s/90s style cyberpunk art series and I’m quite proud of how this painting turned out, even if it required slightly more digital editing than usual.

Interestingly, this painting was originally going to be a re-make of an old drawing of mine from December 2014 (and, wow, that picture looks really badly-drawn by my current standards LOL!) but, then I decided to make something new instead.

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

"Market Row" By C. A. Brown

“Market Row” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – December 2015

2015 Artwork Top Ten Articles December

Well, it’s the end of the month… and it’s the end of the year. So, as usual, I thought that I’d provide you with a list of links to my ten favourite articles about writing, comics and art that I’ve posted on here over the past month. I’ll also include a couple of honourable mentions below my “top ten” list too.

All in all, even though I was artistically uninspired in quite a few of this month’s daily art posts, I’m quite proud of many of the articles I posted here in December. Although, saying that, there was something of a dip in quality near the end of the month.

Anyway, here’s the list 🙂

Top Ten Articles For December 2015:

– “My Thoughts About Colouring Books For Adults (And 14 Lineart Pictures To Colour)
– “The Joy Of… “Mary Sue” Characters
– “The Nature Of Inspiration
– “Three Basic Tips For Writing Christmas-Themed Horror Stories
– “Three Basic Tips For Writing Short Stories Based On Longer Stories
– “Fiction And Art As A Record
– “Three Thoughts About Telling Stories in Genres You Don’t Know
– “The Joy Of… Cynicism (As A Source Of Inspiration)
– “Four Ways To Avoid Making Constant “Improvements” To Your Art Or Your Story
– “Three Thoughts About Making Spiritual Successors

Honourable Mentions:

– “Why Artistic Regrets Are Stupid
– “How To Make Up For The Lack Of Interactive Exploration In Comics And Prose Fiction

Today’s Art (30th December 2015)

Well, I’m still in the mood for making 1980s/1990s style cyberpunk/sci-fi paintings and I was also in the mood for making a badass action movie/ martial arts movie-style painting (and to experiment with a slightly different type of composition) and this is the result 🙂

I’m really proud of how this painting turned out, although the motion effects on the dagger that the woman in the foreground is holding are kind of badly-drawn though. And, yes, this part of the painting is a reference to bizarre 1980s/1990s British film censorship (like the example that is shown on this [slightly NSFW] site about film censorship)

I also used an online translation site for the Japanese text in the background, so I can’t vouch for it’s accuracy.

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

"And The Duellists Fought" By C. A. Brown

“And The Duellists Fought” By C. A. Brown

The Joy Of… Pseudonyms

2015 Artwork The joy of pseudonyms article sketch

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about pseudonyms and why they’re awesome. In case you’ve somehow never heard of a pseudonym before, it just refers to a pen name that a writer, journalist or comic creator uses on their published works instead of their real name.

There are many reasons why writers use pseudonyms. Sometimes, it is purely to protect their privacy. Sometimes it is because they’re writing in a different genre and don’t want to confuse their audience. Sometimes, it’s for an unusual reason (like how J.K. Rowling wrote under the name of Robert Galbraith in order to see if people bought her books based purely on merit or on the basis of fame). Sometimes, a single pseudonym allows multiple writers to work on the same project.

There are lots of other reasons why writers use pseudonyms, but I thought that I’d give you a few reasons why they’re such amazing things.

The first reason is that an obvious pseudonym can make a story seem a lot more edgy and interesting. After all, if something is put out anonymously, it contains a frisson of mystery. A pseudonymous work seems like something that is so subversive/ interesting/ edgy that even the writer wants to remain hidden. Of course, this isn’t actually the case – but an obvious pseudonym can certainly give this impression.

Or, to use an artistic example, do you think that anyone would be quite as interested in Banksy‘s satirical graffiti if he actually revealed his name? Ok, there are probably some fairly good legal reasons why he has to remain anonymous but, those aside, his work would probably be less interesting and less impactful if we all knew who he was.

The third reason why pseudonyms are awesome is because they help to protect free expression. Whilst it’s pretty obvious how pseudonyms protect free expression in countries with no free speech laws, I’d also argue that they help to protect free expression even in countries that have some form of free speech laws on the books (eg: everything from the gold standard of the American 1st Amendment to some of the more vaguely-worded EU laws and hazy “traditions” that theoretically give us free speech in the UK).

Likewise, pseudonyms have allowed LGBT writers to speak candidly about their thoughts and experiences without fear of prejudice. Pseudonyms can also allow journalists or online writers to expose abuses of power or dodgy official activity in relative safety. In an ideal world, no-one would need to use pseudonyms, but we hardly live in an ideal world.

Finally, using a pseudonym could possibly be a way to make writing feel new and exciting again, in the same way that many actors use glamourous-sounding stage names.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (29th December 2015)

Well, it still seems like I’m in the mood for making 1980s/90s style cyberpunk paintings at the moment – so, I’m not sure if this will turn into an art series or not. And, yes, that’s the robot from yesterday’s painting in the background of this painting.

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

"The Abandoned Centre" By C. A. Brown

“The Abandoned Centre” By C. A. Brown

Three Thoughts About Making Spiritual Successors

2015 Artwork Spiritual successors article sketch

One of the annoying things about great stories, comics etc… is that there often isn’t quite enough of them. With great things, quality often comes at the expense of quality. So, what can fans of these great stories and comics do?

Well, if you’re a writer and/or an artist, one of the things that you can always do is to create a spiritual successor to these great stories and/or comics.

If you’ve never heard of a “spiritual successor” before, it refers to an original work that evokes something else without being a direct copy of it or a direct sequel to it. Technically speaking, it’s a type of fan fiction – but it’s vastly different from what usually passes for “fan fiction” on the internet.

A good computer game-based example of a spiritual successor that I heard of quite a while back is a thoroughly creepy-looking horror game called “Allison Road” which was shown off on Youtube this summer – you can see the preview footage of it here [WARNING- Contains gory/disturbing scenes]. This game has been widely considered to be a spiritual successor to the famous cancelled Silent Hill “P.T” horror game.

From the footage I’ve seen, both games use a first-person perspective and are set within very realistic haunted houses. However, “P.T” is set in America and “Allison Road” is set in Britain. Both games have different backstories and different unnamed protagonists. Both games are set in different houses that are haunted by different ghosts. And, yet, the footage of “Allison Road” is still fairly reminiscent of “P.T”. It’s a spiritual successor.

So, how do you make a spiritual successor to something? Here are a few basic thoughts about the subject.

1) Copyright: It’s important to have a good understanding of all relevant copyright laws before you make a spiritual successor to something. Although I have a basic understanding of copyright law, I’m not a legal expert – so, do your research here.

Although the details of copyright laws vary from country to country, one general principle in many copyright laws is that ideas themselves are not usually covered by copyright. However, the way that those ideas are expressed is covered by copyright.

What this means is that whilst a spiritual successor to something can contain the same ideas, themes, concepts, emotional tone etc… as something else, it can’t contain any of the same characters or other specific details like that.

For example, if the inspiration for your spiritual sequel uses an entirely fictional setting, then you can’t use that setting in your sequel. You can use the basic idea behind that setting (eg: a medieval fantasy world, a desert planet, an overcrowded futuristic city, an old haunted house etc..) but your setting needs look at least slightly different, it needs to be called something different and all of the small details need to be different.

The details of your spiritual successor can be slightly similar to the thing that inspired it, but they must also be distinctive enough to meet the legal standards for originality wherever you are publishing your spiritual successor.

2) Your Own Spin: After you’ve worked out what the underlying themes, ideas etc.. are of the thing that you want to make a spiritual successor to, you need to think of a way of giving these things your own personal “spin”.

In other words, you need to filter these things through your own imagination and create something new based on these themes and ideas that actually means something to you.

For example, you need to come up with new characters that make more sense to you, you need to come up with a setting that fits into your ideas of what a cool sci-fi/fantasy/thriller/horror etc… setting looks like, you need to use real settings that you’re actually familiar with (eg: if you like a series of American film noir movies, but you live in London – then set your spiritual sequel to these movies in London). etc… I’m sure you get the idea.

Even though your story or comic is heavily inspired by something else, it still needs to have it’s own distinctive “personality”. It still needs to be something more than just a slightly altered copy of the thing that inspired you.

3) Make it cooler:
This goes without saying, but the goal of every sequel (even a spiritual sequel) is to be better than the original. In other words, you need to think of a way to improve something that is so great that it inspired you to make a spiritual sequel to it. So, yes, making a good spiritual successor probably isn’t an easy thing to do.

Still, even if these improvements are fairly subtle things (eg: if someone wrote a spiritual sequel to “Fifty Shades Of Grey”, but with realistic characterisation) or if they’re merely a different perspective on the same themes, issues, concepts etc… that were present in the thing that inspired you, these improvements still need to be there.

So, try to make your spiritual sequel even cooler than the thing that inspired you.

——————

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

R.I. P Lemmy Kilmister (1945-2015)

"Lemmy Tribute" By C. A. Brown

“Lemmy Tribute” By C. A. Brown

Although it’s been a few years since I last really listened to Motorhead, they were one of the first three bands – alongside Iron Maiden and Judas Priest – that really got me into the heavy metal genre when I was a teenager.

They were loud, fast and just badass in every possible way. There are at least a couple of parts of my teenage life that I can’t remember without an accompanying soundtrack by Motorhead.

When I read the news about Lemmy’s death earlier today, it didn’t quite feel real. It still doesn’t. There was something about him that just seemed immortal. He was a fearless larger-than-life character who, like all great people, realised that life was meant to be enjoyed. He’s the kind of person who, even though I never actually met him or even saw him perform live, can never really be forgotten. There was only one Lemmy Kilmister and there can be only one Lemmy Kilmister.

Although he clearly wasn’t immortal, it still seems like he is for so many reasons. Many of his best songs contain lines about staring death defiantly in the eyes, and he lived to the grand old age of seventy (which is probably something like 700 in classic rockstar years).

He seemed like kind of guy who lived every day like it was his last and did many enjoyable things (that modern killjoys whinge about endlessly) for many decades, and yet he was mostly perfectly fine until his last moments.

Although he unfortunately couldn’t cheat death, it’s strangely hard to feel sad about his death for the simple reason that – if life is a game – then he won it. The sheer awesomeness of his life and his music kind of meant that he did cheat death.

It’s easier to feel happy about the awesome music he made, the badass life that he led and the sheer uniqueness of who he was than it is to feel sad about his death. His death is shocking, but it doesn’t feel tragic for the simple reason that he left his imprint on the world in a way that few people do. He became an idea, a symbol, a legend. And legends never die.

Anyway, I hope he found meaning in his life – he certainly found joy and awesomeness in his life. And I hope that he’s having one hell of a party in heaven, or in valhalla – or that he reincarnates as someone even more awesome. \m/

Three Ways To Recapture The Magic Of Making Art

2015 Artwork Recapture the magic of making art article sketch

If you were looking this site earlier this month, you probably saw that some of my daily paintings were less inspired than usual (and, yes, there’s currently about a 2-4 week gap between when I make art and when I write each day’s article).

Don’t get me wrong, I used all sorts of clever tricks to disguise the fact that I was feeling uninspired (like using plain black backgrounds, painting landscapes occasionally etc…) but – even if it didn’t show – I still felt extremely uninspired.

But, rather than feeling like I didn’t have any ideas, this was a much worse type of uninspiration. It was the kind of uninspiration where making art just felt like a boring chore. It felt ordinary. It didn’t feel special, cool or creative. I didn’t feel like I was “really” an artist. To use a very vague-sounding phase, making art had “lost it’s magic”.

So, whilst this may just be an overreaction to an ordinary period of uninspiration, I thought that I’d try to think of any ideas for re-gaining that “magical” feeling that I get when I’m inspired.

I’m sure that I’ve probably mentioned most of this stuff before, but I thought that I’d share these thoughts with you.

1) Still life paintings: The only “uninspired” painting that I posted here this month that I’m seriously proud of is a still life painting that I made of a cute little stuffed tortoise that I got as a birthday present earlier this year. Here’s what it looks like:

"Adorable Tortoise And Aniseed Ball" By C. A. Brown

“Adorable Tortoise And Aniseed Ball” By C. A. Brown

At the time, I didn’t know what to paint and I eventually thought “sod it, I’ll just copy something from real life and use a lot of artistic licence“. It was an uninspired and lazy artistic decision, but the painting was still a lot of fun to make and I ended up producing something that I was really proud of. Best of all, I actually felt like an artist that day.

Why? Well, making still life paintings can be a great way to recapture the “magic” of making art because you’ve literally created your own version of something that actually exists.

You’ve demonstrated to yourself that you have the ability to record the things that you see onto paper or canvas. But, not only do you have the ability to record things, you also have the opportunity to make them look better than they actually are.

In other words, making still life paintings or drawings can be a great way to make art feel “magical” again, because it reminds you of the sheer level of creative power (eg: being able to make things look better than they actually are) that comes with being an artist.

2) Parodies and fan art: The first painting that I posted here this month was a parody cartoon based on “24: Live Another Day“. Although this cartoon wasn’t that great in artistic terms, it was still a hell of a lot of fun to make. Best of all, I actually felt inspired before I made it. Here’s what it looked like:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "24: Live Another Day Parody" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “24: Live Another Day Parody” By C. A. Brown

There are a couple of reasons why making parodies and/or making fan art can be a great way to remind yourself of how magical making art can feel.

The first one is that, with parodies, you’ll usually end up starting with an idea. Whether you notice something silly in something you’ve been watching or whether you try to think of something funny involving the thing that you’ve been watching, all parodies have to start with an idea.

What this means is that you get to have the experience of turning your idea into an actual thing. This experience of turning ideas into things can be a powerful way of reminding yourself of how magical making art can be.

The second reason is that, if you’re making fan art, you have to engage with the characters that you’re drawing or painting. You have to interpret them in your own way. In other words, rather than just being a member of the audience, you’re part of the thing that you’re making fan art about. You’re having a conversation with the thing that you’re making fan art about.

In other words, you’re an unofficial part of a creative idea that is much larger than you are. Yes, you’re an unofficial part of someone else’s idea, but this experience can still make you feel like you’re part of an artistic community, which can revitalise your interest in art.

If “fan art” seems like it’s slightly below you or if you’re excessively worried about copyright, then try making a few studies of classic works of art instead. The effect is basically the same but, it feels more prestigious and – if the thing you’re studying is suitably old enough (do your research here, since copyright limits vary from country to country) – then you can even theoretically sell your studies, provided you clearly label them as modern copies that you made (otherwise they could be considered to be forgeries).

3) Read comics:
This one is fairly self-explanatory, and it doesn’t always work, but one way to remind yourself of what a magical thing art can be is to read comics. Seeing art come alive as part of a story can remind you of how powerful art can be.

Often if you’re making “ordinary” drawings or paintings, it can be easy to feel like they don’t matter. After all, you’re just drawing or painting pictures of random landscapes, locations and people. So, seeing art being used as part of a story can be a good way of reminding yourself of how useful and amazing art can be.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (27th December 2015)

Wow! Although today’s painting required a lot more digital editing than usual, I really like how it turned out 🙂 It also gave me a chance to experiment with using a slightly different perspective too (although I messed this up very slightly).

If you want to see (a slightly edited version of) the “work in progress” line art for this painting, then it can be seen by clicking here.

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

"These Awesome Relics" By C. A. Brown

“These Awesome Relics” By C. A. Brown