A while before I started writing this article, I discovered a really cool type of art that I’d never really paid attention to before. I was nostalgically looking for things about old 1990s video games on Google, when a VHS cover for a cheesy action and/or horror movie from the 1980s caught my eye on Google Images.
After a couple of quick searches, I was in artist’s heaven. Seriously, only heavy metal album covers, vintage American horror comic covers and 1980s/90s splatterpunk horror novel covers come close to the sheer level of artistic awesomeness that can be found on low-budget horror and action VHS tape covers from the 1980s.
Naturally, I found it… inspirational. Here’s a preview of part of one of my upcoming paintings:
This type of art was, in that moment “the coolest thing that I’ve ever seen“. It was the kind of art I wanted to make, and I was able to make something vaguely similar. But, how? Well, this brings me on to the first point on my list:
1) Know your own sensibilities: Generally, if you actually want to emulate a type of art that you’ve found online then there’s a good chance that it fits into your own artistic sensibilities. These are the kinds of things that you find aesthetically pleasing.
In my case, this includes art that has a large amount of contrast between light and darkness (often with a gloomy background). It includes art with bold colour schemes. It includes melodramatically/hilariously grotesque art. It includes stylised art. It includes things that look like they’re from the 1980s and 1990s etc……
If you know a lot about your own artistic sensibilities, then you’ll be able to work out why you want to make a particular type of art that you’ve just seen.
Not only that, even if you don’t have the same level of technical skill as the artists you admire, you’ll still be able to produce your own version of that particular type of art by focusing on the themes and visual elements that interest you. It may not look identical to the type of art that you’ve found, but it’ll be similar in spirit.
2) Look at the colours: When you’ve found a new type of art that really interests you, look carefully at the colours in it. Does the art use a wide range of “realistic” colours? Does it only include a couple of colours? Is there are lot of contrast between the light and dark areas of the image?
This may seem like a strange thing to look at, but once you’ve worked out how these artists use colours, you can make your own art look a bit like theirs by handling colours in the same way.
Likewise, once you’ve worked out the general “rules” for how a particular type of art uses colours, you can also put your own unique “spin” on it. For example, in the preview image that I showed you earlier, I ignored the “realistic” colour schemes used in a lot of old VHS colours in favour of a limited palette orange/blue colour scheme. Although the colours are different, my painting still looks a bit like an old VHS cover since I included a lot of contrast between light and darkness.
3) Look at the composition: Another reason why my painting looks a bit like an old VHS cover was because I used a similar composition to the old VHS covers I’d seen online. If you don’t know what composition is, it refers to how a painting is laid out. It refers to where things are placed in a painting or drawing.
Once you learn what the compositions of several pieces of art (in the genre you’ve discovered) look like, you can follow the same “rules” when making art of your own.
For example, the compositions in old horror movie VHS covers tend to be fairly striking. They feature things like zombies reaching towards the audience, creatures emerging from things, melodramatic scenes of violence, amusing captions etc… So, if you wanted to re-create something in this genre, then you’d want to use a similar composition.
Likewise, the composition in old action movie VHS covers often tend to feature the main characters posing dramatically whilst firing and/or brandishing guns. So, you’ll probably want to include something similar if you decide to make this type of art.
4) Use your own style: I know that this might sound counter-intuitive, but it’s often a good idea to try to use your own art style as much as possible when trying to make things in new genres. Yes, it might be tempting to copy all of the style used in the art that you’ve seen, but you’ll probably be a lot more confident if you (mostly) use your own style. Not only that, it will also make your art look a bit more unique too.
However, that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t copy the artwork you’ve found in order to learn new techniques. If you can add a few elements from the art that you like to your own style, then not only will your art look more like the thing in question, but it’ll also still look unique too. Plus, it’s a great way to learn and evolve as an artist too.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂