Today’s Art (31st August 2016)

Well, although I’m still making limited palette paintings at the moment, I felt like doing something a bit different and decided to paint a landscape.

This painting required quite a bit more digital editing than usual after I scanned it though (essentially, the hills on the right-hand side of the painting originally looked more like a tsunami wave than anything else. So, I eventually ended up reducing their height digitally, since it seemed like it was in poor taste).

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

"Blue Moon Street" By C. A. Brown

“Blue Moon Street” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – August 2016

2016 Artwork Top Ten Articles August

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

All in all, although some of this month’s articles were kind of rushed, I quite like how many of them turned out. Surprisingly though, I ended up posting a lot more reviews here than usual this month.

Anyway, here are the lists:

Top Ten Articles For August 2016:

– “Four Classic Ways To Bring A Character Back From The Dead
– “How To Take Inspiration From Other Things (Without Plagiarising Them)
– “How To Deal With Unconscious Inspiration (Plus An Art Preview)
– “Three Things About Making Good Sequels That I Learnt From A Terrible Computer Game
– “Finding Your Main Inspirations – A Ramble
– “Four Tips For Making Art (That Looks Like The Awesome Type Of Art You’ve Just Found Online)
– “Four Ways To Make Horror Funny
– “Four More Quick Sources Of Inspiration For Webcomic Updates
– “Three Things To Do When You See Better Art Than You Can (Currently) Make
– “What’s So Great About Webcomics?

Honourable Mentions:

– “How To Use Art Instruction Books
– “How To Give Your Audience That “Instantly At Home” Feeling

Getting Inspired By Remembering Seeing Cool Things From A Distance- A Ramble

2016 Artwork Cool things from a distance article sketch

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk briefly about one interesting way to get inspired. I am, of course, talking about remembering (and researching) cool things that you perhaps only saw briefly, only knew a small amount about and/or have almost forgotten about.

Chances are, the things that will give you this type of inspiration will be things that fascinated you when you were younger. When we’re younger, there are usually all sorts of barriers between us and the cool things that fascinate us. Things cost too much, we don’t know where to look for things, we’re in the wrong social clique, we’re too young to buy certain things etc…

We’ll catch glimpses of fascinatingly cool things but, for one reason or another, won’t get to experience them fully. Since we only see these things from the outside, and have little information to work with, our imaginations often have to “fill in the gaps”.

So, when we revisit these things years later and look at them in more detail, they can be a surprisingly potent source of inspiration. Since we’re already “used” to daydreaming and thinking about them, they can be the perfect thing to prompt further daydreams and inspiration.

One personal example of this sort of thing is probably 1980s/90s American punk music (especially from California). When I was a kid in the late 1990s (and before I discovered heavy metal), this was the coolest genre of music in the world to me.

But, apart from a few CD singles by The Offspring, I didn’t own that much music in this genre. Whenever I visited my cousins, I’d always spend at least an hour listening to their collection of punk CDs.

It was this amazing genre of music, and I only had a limited knowledge of it at the time. I saw it from a distance. Of course, in the years since, I’ve listened to a lot more of it, I’ve discovered a few more bands and I have at least a few more punk CDs than I used to.

Yet, to me, 1990s California punk music will always be this cool genre of music that I can use to get into a “cool” mood. To get nostalgic about the 1990s. To daydream about a time, a historical place and an old version of a subculture that I’ll never fully experience. All of this stuff is, of course, a great source of inspiration for me.

Another personal example is probably gruesome horror movies from the 1980s. When I was a teenager, I was a massive horror fan but – thanks to this country’s stupid film censorship rules – actually seeing decent horror movies was a relatively rare occurrence.

Sure, I saw a few gruesome horror movies when I was a teenager (and was often disappointed that they were less gruesome than the second-hand splatterpunk horror novels I read regularly were). But, for every cool horror movie that I actually saw, I’d notice about ten more even cooler-looking horror movies in the shops that I didn’t look old enough to buy. The irony was that, once I’d was old enough to actually buy all of these movies, I’d moved away from the horror genre slightly.

So, one way that I can feel inspired is by looking at the horror genre again. Reading about old horror movies, watching trailers for them and occasionally even watching the odd horror movie. The horror genre used to really fire my imagination when I was a teenager (since I didn’t see as many horror movies as I should have) and I can kind of rekindle that feeling when I want to get inspired.

Of course, the things that inspire you will be different from these two things. But, if you need inspiration, then it can be worth looking at the things that you could only look at “from the outside” when you were younger.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Finding The Right Pace To Make Art – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Pacing yourself article

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about finding the right pace to make art. Although I’ll be spending virtually all of this article talking about the pace that I make art at, everyone is different and different things work for different people.

So, everything I say in this article is just an example of one way to pace yourself whilst making art. It isn’t the way that you “should” make art.

Anyway, back when I started making art every day in 2012, I quickly got to a point where I’d make several small drawings per day. In fact, as recently as 2014, I was making about two to four small paintings per day. However, unless I’m making a webcomic, I usually only make one small painting per day these days.

So, why have I slowed down?

It’s all to do with pacing myself. I’ve found that the risk of being uninspired is slightly lower if I only make one painting per day. If I’m feeling even mildly inspired, then trying to just make one painting per day means that I’ll be looking forward to making the next painting even more. In other words, it’s a way of maintaining my enthusiasm for painting (rather than using it all up in a single marathon painting session).

If I make several paintings in a single day, then it can be harder to think of ideas for the next day’s paintings. If I have lots of ideas, then I’ll sometimes quickly sketch them out in my sketchbook, but I’ll try to only turn one (or very rarely two) of them into paintings per day. This means that I don’t have to worry about coming up with new ideas for several days. It’s a way of making inspiration last longer.

The other reason that I quite like making just one painting per day is because of the large “buffer” of art that I’ve built up from the days when I used to make art more regularly. Although I almost always manage to make one painting per day, having a large stock of pre-made paintings (that I can post online each day) takes some of the pressure out of making art and it allows me to keep going at a reasonable pace.

Even when I’m not feeling inspired, having a rule about only making one painting per day can also help me keep painting. First of all, it lowers my expectations slightly – since I don’t have to worry about producing multiple paintings. I just have to make one painting, and this is something I can do when I’m uninspired.

Likewise, when I’m feeling uninspired, having a “one painting per day” rule can also be a form of damage limitation. Since I take my “make art every day” rule fairly seriously, I’ll still produce art when I’m not inspired – although it usually isn’t very good. Since artistic uninspiration usually tends to pass after a few days, limiting the amount of art that I make during this time also reduces the number of crappy paintings that appear here.

Ironically though, I don’t have this rule when I’m making webcomics. Instead, I used a different rule – which is something along the lines of “don’t spend more than about a week or so on a webcomic“.

By following this rule, I can produce multiple comic updates per day (and build up my “buffer” of daily art/comics updates) but I’m able to stop before I feel too burnt out. This is why most of my webcomics that have appeared here this year have been released as shorter mini series (they can be seen here, here, here, here and here).

Of course, this is just what works for me. Everyone is different and different things work for different people. Still, it’s usually worth finding the pace that works best for you. However, the only way to learn what works for you is through trial, error and experimentation – so, it can sometimes take a while to get it right.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (28th August 2016)

Well, I’m still in the mood for limited palette painting. However, today’s painting was kind of rushed, since I also made a political cartoon (that I may or may not have posted earlier this year) during the same day that I made this painting.

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

"Empty Sector" By C. A. Brown

“Empty Sector” By C. A. Brown

Four Classic Ways To Bring A Character Back From The Dead

2016 Artwork Resurrecting characters article sketch

Although it cheapens the dramatic value of any deaths in your story or comic whenever you resurrect a character, there are sometimes good dramatic reasons for bringing back a character that your audience believed was dead. So, how do you do this?

Here are a few popular ways that writers, directors, comic makers etc… have brought their characters back from the dead. Needless to say, this article may contain SPOILERS for several things (including Sherlock Holmes, “Battlestar Galactica”, “Supernatural” and “The Blackwell Epiphany”)

1) It was all fake: The classic “realistic” way to bring back a dead character is to reveal that they actually faked their death. Provided you can think of a logical explanation for both how and why they did this, then this technique can work fairly well.

It’s also easier to use this technique if the other characters don’t actually see your “dead” character’s body. However, thanks to this technique being used so often, the lack of a body is usually a giveaway that a particular character will be brought back to life later.

The classic example of this technique in action is, of course, at the beginning of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Return Of Sherlock Holmes”. At the end of “The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes”, Watson learns from a note that Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Moriarty fall to their deaths above the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. In “The Return Of Sherlock Holmes”, it’s revealed that Holmes actually flung Moriarty to his death, but then faked his own death to avoid reprisals from Moriarty’s henchmen.

However, this wasn’t the first time that Sherlock Holmes re-appeared after his “death”. Which brings us on to….

2) Prequels and flashbacks: This is another “realistic” way to bring a character back. It’s also a way of bringing a character back, without actually bringing them back. All you have to do is to tell a new story that is set before the character’s death, or to include scenes where other characters have new memories of times that they spent with the “dead” character when they were still alive.

The classic example of this is, of course, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound Of The Baskervilles”. Although it was written several years after “The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes” was written and a while before “The Return Of Sherlock Holmes” was written, this novel is set several years before Holmes’ “death” on the Reichenbach Falls. This allowed Conan Doyle to write about Holmes again, without having to bring him back.

3) Science: If you’re writing a sci-fi story, then there are plenty of ways that you can bring your characters back to life. You can make clones of them (which gives you the chance to change a few things about the character’s personality), you can find alternate versions of them in parallel universes or you can simply bring them back to life using futuristic technology.

The important thing to remember here is that your characters should be changed somewhat by this experience. In other words, if you want it to retain it’s dramatic value, then it needs to be used as a tool for further character development.

A classic example of this can be found in the modern version of “Battlestar Galactica”. In the early seasons of the show, a character called Boomer learns that she is actually a Cylon agent (a group of humanoid robots who are trying to eliminate humanity).

Her programming causes her to try to kill the captain – although she is arrested for this, she is later shot by one of the crew members in retaliation. Being a Cylon, the contents of her mind are downloaded to a new body on board a Cylon “resurrection ship” and, thanks to her experiences, she gradually begins to sympathise more with the Cylons.

Another classic example would, of course, be “Doctor Who”. In this long-running TV series, The Doctor (thanks to his alien biology) has the ability to resurrect himself a certain number of times. This works well in the context of the show since this ability is only really used when the makers of the show want to replace the actor who plays The Doctor with another actor. Since The Doctor’s personality and appearance change after every resurrection, this ensures that his “death” still has a serious impact on the show every time it happens.

Likewise, the classic sci-fi sitcom “Red Dwarf” begins with virtually all of the characters being killed in a reactor accident. Whilst one of the main characters ( Dave Lister) survives because he was in stasis at the time, another one of the main cast ( Arnold Rimmer) is brought back to life as a sentient hologram.

4) Magic, ghosts and/or zombies: This one is fairly self-explanatory, and it can work well in both the fantasy and horror genres. The thing to remember here is that, like in the sci-fi genre, resurrecting a character should be used as an opportunity for character development (except, of course, if your character is resurrected as a zombie).

Many, many examples of this kind of thing can be found in an excellent horror-themed TV show called “Supernatural”. Both of the main characters die and return to life at least once (due to angels and/or demons bringing them back). Likewise, in one season of the show, another important character called Bobby dies. This is, of course, followed by a long sub-plot about his ghost trying to contact the other main characters and about his experiences as a ghost (and, later, his experiences in the afterlife).

One interesting twist on this idea can be found in a stunningly dramatic computer game called “The Blackwell Epiphany”. This is the final game in a series of detective/horror/puzzle games set in the present day, where you play as a psychic medium (Rosa) who is accompanied by a ghost from the 1930s (called Joey). They meet other ghosts, investigate their deaths and help them to cross over into the afterlife.

At the end of the game, Joey is resurrected (albeit at the cost of Rosa’s life). He goes from being a ghost to being an actual person again. The final scenes of the game focus on Joey’s reactions to being alive again and about how he still remembers being a ghost, but prefers being alive. It’s a wonderfully bittersweet moment and it contains a lot of character development.

So, yes, if you’re going to use “magic” to resurrect your characters, then you need to include character development too.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (27th August 2016)

Well, I was still in the mood for limited palette painting and, since I’d been watching some concert footage on Youtube shortly before making this painting, it ended up being a metal-themed painting.

However, this painting required a lot of digital editing after I scanned it, not to mention that I messed up the shading somewhat too (since with the watercolour pencils I use, mixing red and blue can create a muddy grey colour instead of purple. However, by the time I’ve tweaked the brightness/contrast levels in the picture, the red can sometimes end up being a lot more prominent than it should be).

"And Metal" By C. A. Brown

“And Metal” By C. A. Brown

How To Take Inspiration From Other Things (Without Plagiarising Them)

2016 Artwork How To Be Inspired Properly

Although I wrote about how to deal with being inspired unconsciously a few days ago, I thought that I’d revisit the subject from a slightly different angle today. In other words, I’ll be talking about the right way to deliberately take artistic inspiration from other things.

Taking inspiration from other things is something that literally all artists do. Whilst there’s no such thing as a truly “original” work of art, it’s generally accepted that a work can be considered “original” if it doesn’t wholly and directly copy something else. However, it can still be inspired by other things. In fact, if you ever meet an artist who claims to produce entirely “original” works of art without any inspirations, then they’re lying.

But, before I go any further, I should probably point out that there is a difference between inspiration and plagiarism. Simply copying another work of art verbatim is usually considered to be plagiarism and it is not inspiration.

Whilst there are a few specific situations where this type of verbatim copying can be justified (either by law or by accepted common practice) – in many situations, it is considered unethical at best and criminal at worst.

So, if “taking inspiration” doesn’t just mean copying someone else’s art wholesale, what does it mean?

It means looking at what general things (eg: artistic techniques, lighting, colour schemes, themes, atmosphere etc…) make a particular work of art, photography etc… great and then trying to create a totally new work of art that contains those general elements. It means copying general elements, rather than specific details.

It means taking a step back and analysing the things that inspire you, until you can find the non-specific elements that make them so great. It means making an original picture which is significantly different from the thing that inspired you, but is also vaguely reminiscent of it.

To give you an example, one of my long-standing inspirations is the movie “Blade Runner“. Although I have made a few parody cartoons that are directly based on this film, I’ve made many more original works of science fiction art that have been at least partially inspired by this film. So, how did I get inspired by “Blade Runner” without copying it directly.

I looked at the general elements of the film. These include things like neon-lit streets, crowded futuristic cities, rainy weather, detectives, the night, 1940s-style fashion, flying cars, Aztec/Maya style architecture, giant angular buildings, old buildings, bulky technology, omnipresent advertising etc…

Once I’d worked out what all of these general elements were, I was able to create original works of art that include these elements, without including any specific details from “Blade Runner”. These works of art are reminiscent of “Blade Runner”, without actually copying any specific thing from the film.

In fact, whilst I’m on the subject of “Blade Runner”, it’s important to note that this film isn’t exactly “original”. Like all creative works, it also has it’s own inspirations. Leaving aside the fact that it’s meant to be an adaptation of a novel, the visual style of “Blade Runner” is heavily inspired by many old American “film noir” movies from the 1940s and 50s, it’s inspired by several contemporary cities in Asia etc…

And yet it is still (quite rightly) considered to be a ground-breaking and “original” film. So, yes, everyone takes inspiration from somewhere. It is an integral part of being creative.

But, the best way to ensure that you produce orginal inspired works is simply to take inspiration from several different things. Again, you shouldn’t directly copy specific details but, the more sources of inspiration you have for a particular work of art, the more distinctive and “original” that piece of art will look.

Using multiple sources of inspiration also means that you are able to make connections between seemingly “different” things. This means that your art will also be a lot more imaginative too, since you’ll have to work out interesting ways to combine your inspirations.

Although it can take a while to learn how to take inspiration the proper way, it is well worth learning. It’s something that every artist needs to know how to do properly and it’s something that will probably quickly become second-nature to you.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂