Today’s Art (30th June 2016)

Well, at the time of making this painting, I was still in the mood for using a limited palette and I was also fascinated by Brutalist architecture too.

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

"Catwalk Eight" By C. A. Brown

“Catwalk Eight” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – June 2016

2016 Artwork Top Ten Articles June

Well, it’s the end of the month and this means that it’s time for me to give you my usual list of links to ten of my favourite articles about making art, making comics and/or writing fiction that I’ve posted here over the past month. As usual, I’ll also include a couple of honourable mentions too.

All in all, this has been a rather strange month on here. I was feeling uninspired a lot more than usual when I wrote this month’s articles, so I often ended up writing about all sorts of random topics (eg: fountain pens, Brutalist architecture, Sherlock Holmes, Teeline Shorthand etc…). Still, I’d hardly say that this was the worst month on here in terms of articles.

Anyway, without any further ado, here are the lists:

Top Ten Articles – June 2016:

– “Four Very Basic Tips For Writing Sherlock Holmes Parody Stories
– “One Subtle Way To Give Your Characters More Depth
– “Three Ways To Add Some “Special Features” To Your Webcomic (Plus an exclusive unfinished “Damania Returns” comic!)
– “Four Reasons To Make A Webcomic Mini Series
– “Four Quick Sources Of Inspiration For Daily Webcomic Updates
– “Three Things To Do When You’re Having A Bad Day With Your Webcomic
– “Five Very Quick Tips For Writing Sci-Fi Comedy
– “Three Ways To Spoiler-Proof Your Story Or Comic
– “Why You Shouldn’t Get Jealous Of The Ways That Other Artists Make Their Art
-“Why Do Webcomics Often Get Political ?

Honourable Mentions:

– “How To Create A Corkboard Effect In Your Art Using GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)
– “Adding Some Action To Your Art – A Ramble (With An Art Preview too)

Today’s Art (29th June 2016)

Well, today’s painting is a re-make of one of my older paintings (“Chainmail And Chainsaws”), since it’s been about a year since I last posted a re-make of it and, well, I wanted a quick and easy idea for a painting.

The previous versions of this painting were made in 2014 and in 2015. This version is slightly different, since it uses a limited palette (this is a technique that I only really started practicing since the second half of last year at the very least).

However, I ended up making some fairly significant digital edits to this painting after scanning it, because I hadn’t mixed the orange consistently. Basically, it originally looked like both duellists were covered in blood (rather than the glow from the sparks that their chainsaws were creating).

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

"Chainmail And Chainsaws (III)" By C. A. Brown

“Chainmail And Chainsaws (III)” By C. A. Brown

Are Left-Handed People More Creative? – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Left Handedness and creativity

One of the first things that I will say is that this is purely an opinion article, rather than a scientific study or anything like that.

If you’re looking for objective facts or detailed research, then it might be worth looking elsewhere. But, if you’re looking for rambling subjective thoughts, then you’ve come to the right place.

Anyway, I’ve read a few things in books and articles over the years which suggest that left-handed people (like myself) are more creative than right-handed people are.

This follows the (somewhat contested, and possibly totally disproved) theory that, with left-handed people, the right-hand sides of our brains are dominant. This supposedly means that we have more brainpower available when it comes to things like visual thinking etc… albeit at the cost of the side of our brains that deals with linguistics etc.. not being dominant.

Like anyone, I can only speak from my own experience here – since I’ll only use one brain during this lifetime and I won’t get to use any others. So, I can’t really compare. But, I usually tend to think in visual, verbal and physical (this is the only way I can describe it) ways in fairly equal measure. If anything, the verbal parts of my thoughts are probably slightly more prominent in day to day life than the visual or physical parts are.

Yet, nonetheless, back when I wrote a lot more fiction, I’d often think about writing in a very visual way. For example, I’d draw little sketches of the characters before starting a story. Plus, when it came to actually writing, it would be more like I was sometimes translating my visual thoughts into words. Then again, this is hardly unusual. I mean, if people lacked the ability to translate words into images, then literature wouldn’t exist. No-one would see the point in it.

However, when I switched from being a writer to being an artist – and had enough practice to become vaguely competent at it- it was extremely liberating. I didn’t have to construct an elaborate story to go with any of the visual thoughts that I had. I could just draw or paint the thoughts themselves and not bother with coming up with a story.

But, in many of the art videos that I’ve seen on Youtube – artists who are far better at art than I am and far more creative than I am can clearly be seen to be drawing or painting using their right hand. So, the idea that being left-handed instantly makes you more artistic or creative is absolutely absurd. If anything, practice makes you a better artist.

There’s also the theory that left-handed people are more creative because we’ve had to adapt to a world that is primarily designed for right-handed people. Supposedly, this means that we have to think about things more (which can stimulate creativity).

But, for me, adapting to right-handed stuff is just an ordinarily mundane part of everyday life. It’s not something that I really think about much. In fact, bizarrely, I’m actually better at using a computer mouse, playing pool and playing the guitar (what little I could play on it) right-handed than I am at doing any of these three things left-handed. These seem to be pretty much the only exceptions though, I’m better at doing everything else left-handed.

Whilst this slight degree of ambidexterity is a cool bonus, I’ve never really noticed that it’s had any effect on my level of creativity. Then again, I have no real basis for comparison.

In conclusion, although being left-handed is really cool and although I can’t even imagine living life as anything other than left-handed, it isn’t some magical thing that automatically makes us more creative than anyone else. There are brilliant left-handed writers, actors, musicians and artists out there and there are brilliant right-handed ones too. Creativity is something that seems to follow it’s own unknown rules.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (28th June 2016)

Well, this painting was kind of a strange one. Originally, I’d planned to make a “realistic” painting set in the 1990s but, when it came to drawing the background, I was still in a 1980s/90s sci-fi kind of mood, so it went in a slightly more imaginative direction. Although this painting required less digital editing than yesterday’s painting did, it still required slightly more than usual.

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

"Carriage Four" By C. A. Brown

“Carriage Four” By C. A. Brown

One Essential Thing That Will Stop You Being Uninspired When You Make Art Every Day (With Art Preview)

2016 Artwork Backup Ideas article sketch

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about something essential that all artists who produce art regularly should have. I’ve probably mentioned this subject before but, in the week before I originally wrote this article, I found myself relying on this essential thing once again. I am, of course, talking about backup ideas.

Backup ideas are, quite simply, types of art that you can pretty much make in your sleep. These are types of paintings or drawings that require very little actual inspiration – but which still look like they’re at least slightly inspired.

What each artist’s supply of backup ideas looks like will vary significantly from artist to artist. Your backup ideas will probably look very different to mine, but my backup ideas include things like cyberpunk cityscapes, landscape paintings, new versions of my old paintings, still life paintings, Sherlock Holmes, silhouette paintings, vintage fashion, sunsets, deserts, minimalist art and horror-themed art.

If I’m completely uninspired, or even slightly uninspired, then I can just use one of these ideas in order to come up with an idea for a painting. If it wasn’t for backup ideas, I probably wouldn’t be able to produce one painting a day. They are one of the things that stops me from throwing my arms in the air theatrically and saying “I’m uninspired!” and missing a day’s artwork.

So, how do you find these ideas? There are several ways. The first is simply to know yourself. If you know which subjects fascinate and inspire you, then these are often good things to use as backup ideas (as well as for when you’re actually feeling inspired) for the simple reason that you find them inherently interesting.

To other way to build up a supply of backup ideas is through experience and practice. Once you’ve made art regularly for a while, you’ll probably begin to get a sense of which types of art are “easier” to make (and/or more fun to make).

This might surprise you sometimes though. For example, before I got serious about practicing regularly, I always assumed that realisitic still life paintings were ridiculously difficult to make. However, after a fair amount of general art practice, I finally realised that they’re one of the easiest types of art to make – for the simple reason that you’re just copying the things in front of you. There’s very little inspiration required.

Finally, another good way to find backup ideas is through research. Look at as much art (old, new, digital, traditional, comics, art from other parts of the world etc…) as you can and, if you see an artistic technique that either looks cool or looks like it would be easy to recreate, then try it out. It might take a bit of practice, some careful observation and a few mistakes before you learn the technique in question. But, once you know how to use it, then it can become one of your backup ideas.

Not only that, you don’t just have to use one of these ideas at a time. In fact, you can make easier (and more creative) art by combining a few of them.

For example, on the day that I was making one of the daily paintings that will be posted here in early July, I was having a terrible day. It was one of those days where everything seemed to be going wrong. When I finally got round to making some art, I really wasn’t in the mood. But, it was near the end of the day and I had to make some art. So, what did I do?

I relied on two or three of my backup ideas in order to provide inspiration. I first decided to make a painting of Sherlock Holmes but, to keep things quick and easy, I decided to make the most minimslist silhouette of Sherlock Holmes that I could get away with.

In the end, I made a digitally-edited painting of Sherlock Holmes sitting in front of a window in a darkened room. It took me about twenty minutes at the most. It was quick and it was probably a bit lazy, but it meant that I actually made a painting on a day when I really couldn’t be bothered.

Here’s a small preview of what the painting looked like:

"221B (Preview)" By C. A. Brown

“221B (Preview)” By C. A. Brown

So, yes, a good supply of backup ideas is essential for any artist who makes art regularly.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (27th June 2016)

As you can probably see, this painting required an epic amount of digital editing and effects after I scanned it.

Basically, this was a painting I made quite a while back (since there’s usually quite a long delay between making a painting and posting it on here) of some roadworks that I saw on a roundabout near Havant.

Because it was at night, the angular steel fences, the headlights and the lights of the town in the distance looked exactly like something from a cross between “Blade Runner”, “Terminator” and several music videos by The Sisters Of Mercy.

In other words, they were somehow the coolest roadworks that I’ve ever seen.

And, although I originally tried to make a “serious” painting of this scene, it didn’t look that interesting – so, thanks to quite a bit of digital editing (using MS Paint, Paint Shop Pro 6 and GIMP multiple times), I turned it into something a bit closer to what was going through my imagination at the time.

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

"Havant Roadworks, In Imagination And Memory" By C. A. Brown

“Havant Roadworks, In Imagination And Memory” By C. A. Brown

Three Ways To Spoiler-Proof Your Story Or Comic

2016 Artwork Spoiler Proof Your Story Or Comic

First of all, it goes without saying, but this article will contain spoilers. More specifically, it will contain major spoilers for “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie, “Fight Club” and “Blade Runner”. But this isn’t quite as much of a big deal as it might sound.

The fact is that we live in a world where people are extremely wary of having other people give away key plot details from stories, films, TV shows etc… that they haven’t seen yet. And, yes, I can totally understand this. No-one likes having the ending ruined before they’ve even started reading or watching.

But, if you’re actually writing fiction or making comics, then how do you make them spoiler-proof? How do you make something which isn’t affected by spoilers? Here are three of the many possible ways that this can be done:

1) Curiosity: Back in 2009, I bought and read Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” purely because someone spoiled the ending for me. I’m glad that they did.

“And Then There Were None” was, quite frankly, one of the most unsettling and frightening horror novels – sorry, I mean, detective novels – that I’ve ever read. If you’ve never heard of this book before, I’ll give you roughly the same spoiler that I was given “It’s a murder mystery, where literally all of the characters are killed.

On the surface, this would seem to ruin the ending to the story. But, like I was, aren’t you curious about how a murder mystery story can end in this way. After all, if nothing else, shouldn’t the murderer and/or the detective survive? Who would be left to solve the crime? How, like in all good detective novels, would the events of the story be explained at the end?

Believe it or not, all of these questions are actually answered in a satisfactory way. But, you have to read “And Then There Were None” if you want to find those answers…

The thing is that if the plot twist at the end of your story or comic is so unusual, imaginative and/or innovative, then a spoiler won’t put people off of reading it. It’ll actually make them more curious about how it’s done. It’ll make them curious about how a writer was actually able to include a plot twist like this.

2) Quality: If your story or comic relies entirely on dramatic plot twists to keep the story going, then it’ll be a lot of fun to read. Once. And that’s only if you haven’t read spoilers beforehand.

However, if the quality of your writing, the quality of your characterisation, the quality of your artwork and/or the quality of your ideas are good enough, then spoilers aren’t so much of a big deal. Why? Because although people might already know how your story or comic ends, there’s a lot of other stuff there to keep people interested.

To use a good cinematic example of this, just take a look at “Fight Club” (the film, not the Chuck Palahniuk novel that it’s based on – which has a slightly different, and extremely confusing, ending).

This is one of the more famous films from the 1990s and it has certainly left it’s mark on popular culture. If the whole point of the film was just the plot twist at the end (eg: Tyler Durden is actually the main character’s alter ego), then it would have been forgotten a couple of years after it was released.

But, of course, the plot twist is just the icing on the cake. The film has retained it’s popularity because of everything else in the film -such as quotable dialogue (eg: “The first rule of fight club…”), the film’s subversive attitude, the film’s clever cinematic tricks and the film’s strange cast of characters.

This is also the reason why film, comic and TV adaptations of classic stories like Sherlock Holmes are still so popular. Even though everyone already knows how these stories end, people still watch them because they’re curious about how the writer, artist, director and/or actors will interpret a familiar story.

3) Ambiguity: One of the best ways to make your story or comic spoiler-proof is to make your plot twists very slightly ambiguous. In other words, leave them slightly open to interpretation.

You’ve got to be careful with this approach because, if you make your plot twists too ambiguous, then it’ll just confuse your readers. But, if you make them slightly ambiguous – then spoilers won’t be an issue.

Why? Because there are different ways of interpreting what happened. Not only will this make your audience debate parts of your story for years, but it also means that if someone who has never read your story or comic happens to read one of these discussions, then they’ll be exposed to several possible interpretations. The only way that they’ll be able to make up their own mind is to actually read your story…..

Another good cinematic example of this kind of plot twist can be found in both the 2007 final cut and the 1992 director’s cut of Ridley Scott’ “Blade Runner” (but not in the original 1982 version of the film).

These versions of the film alter the ending slightly to hint that the main character (Deckard) might unknowingly be one of the synthetic humans (“Replicants”) who he has been hunting throughout the film. However, this is done in a rather subtle and ambiguous way.

In the final scene, Deckard and Rachel (a replicant who he has fallen in love with) leave Decakard’s apartment together. However, Deckard notices that someone has left an origami unicorn on the hallway floor.

This implies that Gaff (another detective, who also has a passion for origami), has been there earlier and has let Rachel survive. That part of the ending isn’t particularly ambiguous.

The ambiguity comes from what the unicorn itself actually means. There are at least three possible interpretations.

1)In the original 1982 version of the film, it’s mentioned that Rachel is a prototype replicant who has an indefinite lifespan (“ordinary” replicants only live for four years), so the unicorn could be a reference to the fact that she’s special/ unusual and that Gaff has made an exception because of this fact. However, any mention of this fact is omitted from both the 1992 and 2007 versions of the film.

2)The second, more popular, interpretation stems from the fact that Deckard dreams about a unicorn earlier in the film. This interpretation hinges on the fact that replicants have artificially-implanted memories. If Deckard was a replicant, Gaff would have known that Deckard’s “programming” included dreams about unicorns. As such, the unicorn could be a sign that Gaff knows that Deckard is a replicant.

3)Another interpretation is, of course, that Deckard could have told Gaff about his dream during one of their hover-car journeys together, and Gaff was just playing a practical joke on him by leaving a unicorn in the hallway.

So, is Rachel special? Is Deckard a replicant? Is Gaff a master prankster? Well, you’ll just have to watch the film and make up your own mind.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

(PS: Deckard isn’t a replicant! Seriously, just read Philip K.Dick’s original novel. It spells that fact out pretty clearly. Ooops! I should have probably added a spoiler warning about that too…)

Today’s Art (26th June 2016)

Well, today’s (heavily) digitally-edited painting was something of a failure. Basically, I’d been feeling extremely uninspired so, in the end, I tried to make a quick still life painting of some of the random stuff on a cluttered corner of my desk. But, the final painting didn’t look that great, hence why I added all of the digital effects etc… after I’d scanned it.

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

"Ephemera Abstraction" By C. A. Brown

“Ephemera Abstraction” By C. A. Brown

Some More Thoughts About Using “Old” Genres In New Fiction, Comics etc.. – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Old Genres And New Stories article sketch

I’ve probably mentioned this subject before, but I thought that I’d talk about time-specific genres of fiction, comics, games etc… today and how they can be used in imaginative ways.

Although the major genres of fiction (eg: horror, comedy, tragedy, romance etc…) are pretty much timeless, there are usually sub-genres that become popular for a few years, before either fading into obscurity or becoming a ordinary part of the whole genre.

To use an example that I’ve given before (I can’t remember exactly when), splatterpunk horror fiction isn’t really a thing any more – for the simple reason that the splatterpunk genre allowed “mainstream” horror fiction to become more gruesome. There aren’t many “splatterpunk” novels written today, because a story that would have been considered “splatterpunk fiction” in the 1980s or 1990s is now just considered “horror fiction”.

The same thing is true, to a lesser extent, with the cyberpunk genre and mainstream science fiction. Even so, something that is clearly within one of these old sub-genres is inextricably linked to the time when that genre was popular – even if it’s made years or decades later.

This happens for several reasons – the first is that new sub-genres tend to reflect the attitudes and the zeitgeist of the time that they were created. The second reason is that, when people create new things in these “old” sub-genres, they tend to be inspired by things that were originally made when these sub-genres were still new.

What this means is that, if you make something if one of these old sub-genres, it will have the rather peculiar quality of seeming both new and old at the same time. For example, there’s something strangely uncanny about seeing a B&W “film noir”-style film where all of the characters use mobile phones.

But, one of the potential problems with taking this approach is that your story or comic can seem somewhat contrived – although this can be both a good and a bad thing.

For example, quite a while ago, I read an extract from a modern 1980s-style cyberpunk description of someone surfing the internet in the present day. It sounds really cool until you realise that, for the most part, it’s just a fancy description of something slightly mundane. But it still sounds really cool and, for a split second, it makes you think about the internet in a very slightly different way.

When done well, telling a new story in an old genre can make us see the world around us in a slightly different way. It’s kind of a similar thing to when I saw “Avatar” at the cinema quite a few years ago. This film is a modern 1990s-style ecological sci-fi/ fantasy movie (I mean, the genre and atmosphere of the film is quite 1990s-like, even if it uses modern CGI graphics). It seemed a bit random and slightly contrived when I was actually watching it but, the instant I stepped out of the cinema, the world around me seemed a lot more lush, green and verdant than it usually did.

Once the audience gets over the slightly contrived nature of telling a modern story through the lens of an “old” genre, then it can shape the way that they view the world in all sorts of subtle ways. Of course, this effect is only temporary – but it can still do something that more “realistic” stories can’t do.

Not only that, there’s also something to be said for “contrivance” itself. It’s imaginative. These days, stories are respected more if they’re “realistic” and, although modern realism might be interesting in a few decades’ time, it’s still kind of “ordinary”. In my opinion, the whole point of fiction is that it should be something more than real life. It should be something that takes the audience to interesting places, shows them things from a unique perspective and gives them the building blocks to tell similar stories inside their own imaginations.

Doing the slightly “contrived” thing of telling a story, even a realistic one, in an old genre puts a little bit of distance between the story and the reader. It proudly declares the story to be a work of imaginative fiction and it invites the reader to actually use their own imagination too.

Not to mention that there’s just something incredibly cool about seeing old genres brought back to life. If you’re a fan of an old genre (eg: cyberpunk, splatterpunk, Lovecraftian horror etc..) then there’s just something awesome about seeing new things appear in it.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂