Today’s Art (31st January 2016)

Today’s painting is a bit of a strange one, since it was based on a dream that I had the night before I painted it. In the dream, I was looking through a window at a desolate, eerie, fog-covered “Silent Hill“-esque version of the school that I went to when I was a teenager. Anyway, since it was such a striking image, I thought that I’d try to paint it.

This is also the first time that I’ve really tried to paint fog before and, in the end, I cheated slightly and ended up using slightly more digital editing and effects than I’d normally use after scanning one of my paintings. Even so, I was able to learn the basics of painting/drawing fog.

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

"Through A Window In A Dream" By C. A. Brown

“Through A Window In A Dream” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – January 2016

2016 Artwork Top Ten Articles January

Well, it’s the end of the month and that means that it’s time for my usual list of my ten favourite articles about art, writing and/or comics that I’ve posted here this month. As usual, I’ll also include a few honourable mentions too.

All in all, even though I ended up posting more reviews here than usual this month, I’m quite proud of how many of my articles turned out 🙂

So, in no particular order, let’s get started.

Top Ten Articles For January 2016:

– “Three Geeky Ways To Get Artistic Inspiration (From Playing Computer Games)
– “Some Thoughts About Graphic Design (And An Exclusive Fan Art Painting)
– “Three Ways To Deal With Being Scared Or Disturbed By Your Own Horror Story
– “One Cool Art Composition Trick I Learnt Recently
– “How To Add A Story To Your Art Using Connections
– “Four Futuristic Tips For Making 1980s/1990s Style Cyberpunk Art
– “Telling A Story In Your Paintings or Drawings Using Backgrounds (With Examples)
– “Five Cowardly Ways To Censor Your Artwork
– “Four Sneaky Minimalist Art Tricks
– “How I Learnt To Persevere With “Difficult To Make” Works Of Art, By Playing Computer Games

Honourable Mentions:

– “What Does It Mean To Be A Painter? A Ramble
– “Some Thoughts About Making “Gritty” Comic Remakes
– “The Joy Of… Album Covers
– “When Your Imagination Contradicts You – A Ramble

Today’s Art (30th January 2016)

Well, I just suddenly had this idea for a painting and I just had to paint it. I can’t remember the last time I felt this inspired before making a painting. Anyway, I’m really proud of how it turned out 🙂

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

"Monsters In The Moonlight" By C. A. Brown

“Monsters In The Moonlight” By C. A. Brown

When Your Imagination Contradicts You – A Ramble

2016 Artwork When Your Imagination Contradicts you

One night a few months ago, I suddenly had a brilliantly cynical idea for a topical political cartoon (about a silly controversy involving a politician and the national anthem). It was one of those ideas that just suddenly came to me and it made me laugh whenever I thought about it. However, there was one slight problem.

The idea was for a cartoon in favour of the opposite political party to the group of parties that I mostly (but certainly not completely) agree with. It was a brilliantly cynical and witty idea for a political cartoon, but it was one that I disagreed with. And, yet, there it was in my imagination – making me laugh and demanding to be drawn.

In the end, I scribbled a sketch of it in my sketchbook and decided not to post it online or even to describe it in detail. Even so, I ended up drawing it – and also thoroughly enjoyed drawing it too. Even though it was basically in favour of a political party that I mostly disagree with.

And, well, this made me think about both my own imagination and imaginations in general. In particular, it made me think about the level of control that we have over our imaginations. After all, if I was in total control of my imagination, then this hilariously cynical idea for a political cartoon probably wouldn’t have appeared.

Since everyone’s imagination is different (and the world would be an extremely boring place if they weren’t), I can only really talk about my own imagination here. But, like blinking, my imagination seems to be both a voluntary and involuntary thing. This is probably true for other people too, but there’s really no way of telling.

I can take total control of my imagination if I need to use it for something (eg: if I’m having a long-running daydream, if I’m fantasising or if I’m coming up with specific ideas for comics, paintings etc..) but I can also just let it do it’s own thing (eg: when I make most of my paintings, I often have little to no idea what my final painting will look like when I start sketching).

Sometimes taking total control of my imagination is the better option, but sometimes it isn’t. Both options are enjoyable in their own way.

Most of the time, I take a middle way and give my imagination a few ideas to work on before letting it do it’s own thing with those ideas. For example, when I make an art series – I’ll come up with the general theme of the series, but I often won’t know how long it will be or exactly what each painting in the series will look like until afterwards.

Even so, my imagination sometimes seems to come up with better ideas when I let it do it’s own thing. I mean, I’m certainly not the only person to have ever had sudden unexplained moments of artistic or literary inspiration. Ok, they don’t happen as often as I’d like them to, but they happen occasionally.

In a way, it can sometimes seem like my imagination is something slightly separate from, and much larger than me. It can be like a strange, ever-shifting parliament of thoughts, images, feelings and ideas. It can be like a wild, anarchistic stretch of mysterious unexplored territory. It can be something that constantly surprises me, in both good and bad ways.

If you take a totally “rational” approach to this subject, then it could be argued that the only reason why my imagination is larger than me is because I’ve been exposed to the products of so many other people’s imaginations. I’ve seen more films, seen more pictures, read more books, heard more opinions and listened to more songs than I can count. As such, this gigantic swirling mixture of images, words and ideas can easily end up producing things that I’d never have consciously thought of.

But, at the same time, the idea of my imagination being a separate-but-connected entity has both fascinated and frightened me in equal measure for quite a long time.

On the one hand, it’s kind of cool to have something that can occasionally give me gifts of great ideas and unexpected uplifting daydreams. On the other hand, having something that isn’t above suddenly “trolling” me occasionally (like with the political cartoon I mentioned earlier) can be either annoying or disturbing, depending on what my imagination does. Then again, the good parts of my imagination probably can’t exist without the bad ones and vice versa.

In conclusion, I guess that I don’t know if there’s really anything that you can do when your imagination contradicts you. After all, the same freedom that allows your imagination to come up with amazing moments of inspiration is exactly the same freedom that allows your imagination to “rebel” against you sometimes.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (29th January 2016)

Well, although I might move on to making other types of art, I was still in the mood for making a still life painting, so I ended up painting a (slightly smaller than the last time I painted one) stuffed anteater and a rather retro calendar that is probably from the 1980s.

Although I might have messed up the lighting/shading slightly in this painting, I’m quite proud of how it turned out.

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

"Baby Anteater And Retro Calendar" By C. A. Brown

“Baby Anteater And Retro Calendar” By C. A. Brown

Three Geeky Ways To Get Artistic Inspiration (From Playing Computer Games)

2016 Artwork Computer games and artistic inspiration sketch

As regular readers of this site probably know, I’ve been in slightly more of a gaming mood than usual over the past few days.

So, continuing with this theme, I thought that I’d take a look at the various ways that computer games (and videogames too, I guess) can be powerful inspirational tools for artists. I’m sure that I’ve probably written about this before, but I felt like revisiting the topic again.

Gaming can be a useful source of inspirational, regardless of which types of computer games that you play but, in my experience, some types of games tend to be more inspirational than others (eg: “point and click” adventure games, old first-person shooter [FPS] games with sprite-based graphics, old-school survival horror games etc..). Then again, these are just some of my favourite types of games – so your experience may vary.

Before I begin, I should probably give the obvious disclaimer that – unless you’re making non-commercial fan art and/or legally-protected parodies – then you shouldn’t directly copy anything that you see in a game or in a mod. There’s a huge difference between plagiarism and inspiration.

Anyway, let’s get started:

1) Mods: Although I don’t want to get into PCMR-style snobbery here, one of the advantages of computer games over console games is the fact that many computer games can be modified (modded) by their fans and these mods are often shared non-commercially on the internet. Not only can this extend the life of a game very significantly, but a good mod can take a familiar game in a direction that the game’s creators could never have thought of.

Yes, some genres tend to have a lot more mods than others (eg: classic 1990s FPS games often have more mods than anyone can ever hope to play, whereas “point and click” games have virtually no mods) but if a game’s popular enough and it’s been around long enough, then there’s a good chance that you can find mods for it on the internet.

Although I’m not really very good at making mods, I’ve certainly played more than my fair share of mods (mostly for “Doom II”, but occasionally for games like “Duke Nukem 3D”, “Left4Dead2” etc… too) over the years and they can be a surprisingly powerful way to get inspired.

Not only do mods remind you that “ordinary” people can do astonishingly creative things, but they also make you think “if I could mod a game, what would it look like?“. In other words, they get you to think about “ordinary” things in new and imaginative ways. They get you to think about how you can add your own creative ideas to well-established ideas and themes.

Again, you shouldn’t directly copy anything that you see in a game. But, once you’ve thought of a great idea for a mod, then make a piece of art that gets this idea across without actually including any copyrighted content from the game that inspired you. For example, here’s a digitally-edited painting of mine, based on an idea for a “Doom II” mod that I had:

"FPS 1994 - Pyro War" By C. A. Brown

“FPS 1994 – Pyro War” By C. A. Brown

Likewise, here’s a drawing that I made when I wondered what a “Resident Evil”-style zombie survival horror game would look like if it had a 1980s cyberpunk setting:

"Dead Sector" By C. A. Brown

“Dead Sector” By C. A. Brown

2) Thinking three-dimensionally: Last autumn, I read a really fascinating BBC article which talked about all of the benefits of playing computer and video games. Anyway, one of the things that the article mentioned was that games can help you to think three-dimensionally.

Although I already knew about this from experience, knowing how to think in three-dimensions is an essential technical skill for any artist.

But, more than that, it also helps you to think of ideas for drawings and paintings too. Because you think of the settings and characters in your artwork in a holistic three-dimensional way, it’s easier to come up with dramatic settings, intriguing compositions and interesting backstories for your artwork than it is if you just think about making two-dimensional images.

If you think three-dimensionally, then you’re more likely to see your drawings and paintings as snapshots of a three-dimensional scene or part of a larger story. This can help you to create some absolutely amazing artwork.

As well as being exposed to a lot of three-dimensional objects (that are presented on a two-dimensional screen), playing computer games can also be a potent source of creative inspiration because they immerse you in an interactive three-dimensional world. This tends to work best in “point and click” adventure games (even ones with 2D graphics), but it can also work well with FPS games too.

When the almost-omniscient experience of being immersed in interactive fictional worlds becomes familar to you, it’s a lot easier to think about your paintings and drawings in this way.

"Stratopolis" By C. A. Brown

“Stratopolis” By C. A. Brown

For example, when I was making this painting, I tried (and failed) to include realistic reflections in the rain-soaked courtyard in the distance. Because I thought about the setting of the painting as a whole (as if it was part of a computer game), I was able to remember to include details like this fairly quickly.

3) Mindlessness: I’ve probably mentioned this before, but playing a familiar (but unpredictable and challenging) computer game can be an almost meditative experience. You can just kind of zone out slightly and focus on playing the game for the sake of playing the game.

This works best with incredibly challenging old-style FPS games played on the higher difficulty settings (eg: since you have no hope of winning, you can just focus on playing), but it can also work very well with modern “casual” games too (such as hidden object games or fast-paced puzzle games like “Peggle” or “Luxor”).

One of the main sources of artist’s block can be trying too hard. If you just sit around frantically racking your brains for a good idea for your next painting or drawing, then there’s a good chance that you won’t come up with one. You’ll probably just feel frustrated and miserable.

So, zoning out and playing computer games for a while can be both a great way to distract yourself from this frustrated mood (giving your mind room to work on creative ideas in the background) and a good way to get into a “productively bored” state of mind which is very conducive to daydreaming. And, when it comes to getting inspired, it’s always a good idea to start daydreaming.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (28th January 2016)

Well, I’m still in the mood for still life painting – but I thought that I’d try something a bit more challenging for today’s painting. So, I ended up painting this small statue of a tortoise (and some polished stones).

All in all, I quite like how this painting turned out, although I messed up the background and the composition slightly.

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

"Tortoise Statue And Stones" By C. A. Brown

“Tortoise Statue And Stones” By C. A. Brown