Today’s Art (30th November 2016)

Well, my long-running occasional webcomic has returned for another mini series. If you want to catch up on the previous seven mini series, links to them can be found in the “2016” segment of this site’s comics index. Stay tuned for another comic at the same time tomorrow night 🙂

No prizes for guessing why this comic took me twice as long to make as usual (seriously, why did I think that looking for reference images was a good idea, when all of the rations in the second panel just ended up looking like generic boxes and cans, because I was busy reading the accompanying articles….).

And, yes, this comic also required a major dialogue change in the last panel, because the original dialogue was kind of crappy. If I remember to post a line art post after this mini series finishes, then you’ll get to see the original dialogue.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Regrown - Knowledge" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Regrown – Knowledge” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – November 2016

2016 Artwork Top Ten Articles November

Well, it’s the end of the month and this means that it’s time for me to give you a list of links to my ten favourite articles (with a few honourable mentions too) that I’ve posted here about making webcomics, making art and/or writing fiction over the past month.

Surprisingly, I actually wrote all of this month’s articles within the space of about fifteen days. Usually, it takes me a little under a month to write a month’s worth of articles, but I was feeling unusually motivated.

Although there were a few repetitious articles and short articles posted here this month, I feel that the quality – on the whole- has actually been reasonably good. In addition to this, there were also a surprising number of articles about making webcomics too.

Anyway, here are the lists. Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles For November 2016:

– “Four Ways To Get Motivated To Make Comics (And Stay Motivated!)
– “Three Basic Tips For Creating A “Realistic” Setting For Your Webcomic
– “Four Reasons Why Cyberpunk Art Is Really Fun To Make
– “Inspiration Is A Compromise- A Ramble
– “Finding A Main Cast For Your Long-Running Webcomic
– “Four Basic Ways To Find A Name For Your Webcomic Series
– “How Many Panels Should Your Webcomic Updates Have?
– “Three Basic Tricks For Adding More Varied Art To Your Webcomic
– “Why Gutter Colours In Comics Matter More Than You Might Think
– “One Quick Way To Banish Writer’s Block If You’re Making A Webcomic

Honourable Mentions:

– “Lettering In Webcomics – Handwritten Or Digital?
– “Four Reasons Why Self-Portraits Are Better Than ‘Selfies’
– “Three Cool Painting And/Or Drawing Techinques That I’ve Learnt Recently
– “One Way To Draw Backgrounds Through Rain-Covered Windows

Today’s Art (29th November 2016)

Well, my long-running occasional webcomic has returned for another mini series. If you want to catch up on the previous seven mini series, links to them can be found in the “2016” segment of this site’s comics index. Stay tuned for another comic at the same time tomorrow night 🙂

Fun fact: “burlesque” is the old word for “parody”/ “ridicule”. This always amuses me to no end whenever I read anything from the 19th century where people talk about “burlesquing” something.

And, yes, Rox still thinks that Harvey’s a goth. Even though he isn’t. Or is he?

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Regrown - Burlesques" By C, A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Regrown – Burlesques” By C, A. Brown

Three Ways To Find Ideas For Nostalgic Art

2016 Artwork Types of nostalgic art

Nostalgia can be a very powerful source of creative inspiration if you’re an artist. Although the past is forever gone and will never return, making artwork based on either realistic or stylised versions of the past can be a good way to explore it once again. It’s not exactly time travel, but at least you’ll get a cool-looking painting or drawing to keep and to show off afterwards.

So, I thought that I’d give you a few tips about how to make nostalgic art. Although I’ll be focusing on 1990s and 2000s nostalgia, these points can be applied to any other type of nostalgia.

1) Memories, old photos and items: These are the most obvious ways to come up with ideas nostalgic art. Either use your own memories for inspiration or you can make paintings that are directly based on either your old photos or on items that you own from the time period in question. Although these sound like similar ways to get inspired, they will produce two radically different types of artwork.

Memory is a notoriously unreliable thing, so your memory artwork probably won’t be “100 % accurate”. However, you can use this to your advantage – by making your paintings or drawings a lot more stylised and expressive than you would be able to do if you were using a photo or a physical object. In addition to this, it’s important to remember that art isn’t photography – so no-one will expect your art to be “100% accurate”.

To give you an example, here’s a painting of mine that is based on my memories of punk nights in a bar called “The Angel” [NSFW] in the late 2000s. I’ve probably got a few of the background details wrong, but this painting is a much more expressive record of my memories than a simple photo would be.

"Days Of The Angel" By C. A. Brown

“Days Of The Angel” By C. A. Brown

If you’re drawing or painting from your old photos or from a physical object, then your artwork will probably look a lot more detailed and “realistic”. Even so, you should probably still use some artistic licence in order to make your picture look a bit more interesting.

For example, in this painting of some cute plastic frogs I’ve owned since the late 1990s and an old DVD, I decided to blur the DVD cover (both in order to avoid distracting the audience from the foreground, and for copyright reasons) and I also added a solid black background so that the bright orange frogs would stand out against it.

"1990s Frogs And More DVDs" By C. A. Brown

“1990s Frogs And More DVDs” By C. A. Brown

2) Fan art: One simple way to create interesting nostalgic art is to make fan art based on TV shows, movies, videogames etc.. from the time period in question. One advantage of this is that it is relatively easy to find reference material (either from looking at the original thing, or doing an image search online). In addition to this, it is also more likely to be something that other people will remember too.

Even if it isn’t something that is widely known, then it’ll probably be something that someone will remember – like this fan art/parody (the show’s logo contains a lot of dangerously exposed wiring, it seemed like too obvious of a thing not to make a joke about) picture that I made a year or two ago of an old TV show from the 1990s called “Bugs“:

"Fan Art - Bugs - Cool Show, Deadly Logo" By C. A. Brown

“Fan Art – Bugs – Cool Show, Deadly Logo” By C. A. Brown

However, although fan art is usually tolerated by most large media companies (and, in the EU and US, the right to make parodies is protected by law), you will be somewhat limited in what you can do with your fan art. In other words, you can’t sell your fan art or claim that it’s entirely your own work.

Not only that, fan art can often lack the personal quality that nostalgic art based on memories etc… can have.

3) Stylised composites: This is one of my favourite ways of making nostalgic art, although it certainly has it’s downsides. Basically, you make a new painting or drawing that is heavily inspired (but not a direct copy of) by a number of things from a particular period in history. Personally, the 1990s is my favourite decade when it comes to this type of art.

Although you’ll end up with something new, exciting and crammed with nostalgia, this type of artwork usually requires a lot of prior research. Whilst this could just include image searches for fashions from a particular decade, or research into technology, film etc… you’ll have to look at a lot of things and then create a composite of original things that are inspired by (but not a direct copy of) a mixture of all of these things.

If you’re making artwork that revolves around an unrealistic genre of fiction, then look at examples of films, games etc.. from that time period for inspiration. However, unlike fan art, you should only use generic, uncopyrightable elements from these things (for example, 1980s/1990s sci-fi would include a lot of neon lighting, rainy weather, leather trenchcoats, mega cities etc…..)

In addition to this, you’ve also got to remember not to cram too many nostalgic things into just one painting. Yes, this can work in some stylised paintings, but if you’re trying to make a “realistic” painting, then less is often more. Still, there’s something to be said for pastiche-style paintings, like this one I made quite a few months ago:

"All Kinds Of Awesome" By C. A. Brown

“All Kinds Of Awesome” By C. A. Brown

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (28th November 2016)

Well, my long-running occasional webcomic has returned for another mini series. If you want to catch up on the previous seven mini series, links to them can be found in the “2016” segment of this site’s comics index. Stay tuned for another comic at the same time tomorrow night 🙂

Interestingly, this comic should have been part of the previous mini series. A couple of hours after I’d finished that series, I was still in the mood for thinking of comic ideas, even though I needed a break from actually making comics.

So, I scribbled down the idea for this comic and it ended up languishing in my sketchbook until I started this mini series. It was also originally going to be the first comic in this mini series, but I thought that another comic would be a better start for the series.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Regrown - Installation" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Regrown – Installation” By C. A. Brown

Three Basic Tips For Creating A “Realistic” Setting For Your Webcomic

2016 Artwork Interesting webcomic setting article sketch

Chances are, if you’re planning to start a webcomic, then you’ve already worked out where it will be set. In fact, the setting is probably one of the first things that people think of (after the characters, of course) when they’re coming up with an idea for a webcomic series.

But, in the event that you’re not sure what the setting of your webcomic should look like, I thought that I’d offer a few tips (learnt by making some of the comics in the “2016” section of this page) that will help you to come up with an interesting and/or practical “realistic” setting for your webcomic.

Anyway, let’s get started:

1) Base it on a real place: Note here that I didn’t say “set it in a real place“.

Although there probably aren’t any rules about setting your webcomic in a real town or city (however, using real shops etc.. is a bit of a complicated issue though. Generally, it’s a good idea to either change the name or cover up part of it), it generally requires a lot of research and it can also place some limitations on the kind of stories you can tell, the kind of jokes you can include etc…

So, set your webcomic in a fictional location that is heavily inspired by real locations – but which also gives you the flexibility to include “unrealistic” locations if the comic demands it.

This is the approach that I’ve taken to many of the “exterior” scenes in the modern incarnation of my occasional “Damania” webcomic mini series. Although the comic itself isn’t set in Aberystwyth, many of the locations have been loosely-inspired by parts of that wonderful town. Here’s a picture of some of the Aberystwth-inspired locations from past comics.

If you haven't been to the town, these will probably just look like generic locations. If you've spent some time there, you might recognise a few places.....

If you haven’t been to the town, these will probably just look like generic locations. If you’ve spent some time there, you might recognise a few places…..

But, since the comic isn’t explicitly set in Aberystwyth, I can also include a plethora of “unrealistic” locations too – like a paintball range, a very Portsmouth-like market, a laser tag arena (in one of December’s comics) etc…

So, if you’re going to use a real town or city, then only use it for inspiration.

2) Keep it simple: Although my webcomic includes a few outdoor locations, many of the comics take place in various rooms on the same floor of the characters’ block of flats.

Whilst there are a few recurring background objects, what this mostly means is that I can include plain backgrounds and just change the background colour depending on which characters are in the room. Here’s a chart to show you what I mean:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] The corridor also doesn't appear often because it's a corridor.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] The corridor also doesn’t appear often because it’s a corridor.

Making webcomics to any kind of deadline can sometimes be a more demanding task than many people think. Not to mention that there is nothing more monotonous than re-drawing the same highly-detailed background over and over again. This is a mistake that I made in my very first finished webcomic (in 2010) and it’s one I’ve been sure to avoid since then…

So, keeping the level of background detail as low as you can is a good way to save time and prevent boredom. However, your art will look slightly less impressive though – but this isn’t as much of an issue as you might think….

In fact, if you look at a lot of syndicated daily newspaper cartoons, you’ll see that many of them include as little background detail as the artist can get away with. This is mostly for time reasons, but it’s also a testament to the fact that the emphasis of a good comic update should be on the writing and the humour. If these things are good enough, then the audience won’t really notice or care about the lack of a detailed background.

3) Generic settings: One of the easiest ways to come up with a setting for your webcomic is to set it in a generic town or city. This allows you a lot of creative flexibility, but it can also run the risk of making your setting look … well… generic.

However, if you keep at it for a while, then you’ll probably eventually come up with a few interesting recurring settings that will help to give your webcomic a bit more individuality.

Even if it is just somewhere like a cafe or a pub that your characters visit regularly, you’ll probably still end up coming up with distinctive recurring locations even if you start out just using a generic town or city as a setting.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (27th November 2016)

Well, my long-running occasional webcomic has returned for another mini series. If you want to catch up on the previous seven mini series, links to them can be found in the “2016” segment of this site’s comics index. Stay tuned for another comic at the same time tomorrow night 🙂

Surprisingly, this comic actually takes place a day after the events of the final comic from the previous mini series.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Regrown - ...Of The Same Coin"

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Regrown – …Of The Same Coin”

Why Fan Art Matters – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Why fan art matters

Well, although I don’t really make that much fan art myself and often prefer to just be inspired by something (rather than re-create it), I thought that I’d talk about why fan art is such an important genre of art.

One of the things that always surprises me when I look at artists’ galleries on the internet is how much fan art both well-known and lesser-known artists make. For quite a while, I used to secretly think that this was because these artists “lacked imagination” or something foolish like that.

But, although fan art isn’t exactly “original art”, it contains more originality and imagination than you might think. The first reason for this is that although all of the characters and settings used in fan art have been made by someone else, there are still a lot of creative decisions that go into how to represent these things in a new and interesting way.

A piece of fan art is kind of like a cover version of a famous song. A good cover version will not only be as good as the original song, but it’ll also make enough changes in order to set itself apart from the original. Yes, it isn’t a “new” song, but it’s a creatively different version of a pre-existing song. For example, Jimi Hendrix didn’t write “All Along The Watchtower”, but his famous cover version of the song is almost a totally different song to Bob Dylan’s original.

Fan art is pretty much the same thing. An artist can represent familiar characters using a totally different art style, they can give mundane scenes from a film an interesting colour scheme, they can make fun of things, they can render unrealistic things in a realistic way (or vice versa) etc…

In addition to this, fan art is also a way for artists to participate in our surrounding culture. This is something that is integral to making art and it’s something that has been a part of human creativity ever since the first cave people picked up sticks and started scrawling pictures of their hunting expeditions on the walls of their caves. This is something that also goes back to the time of Shakespeare – given that many of his plays were either new versions of pre-existing stories and/or based on historical events.

By making art based on contemporary popular culture, artists are able to make a statement about the surrounding culture. They’re able to show their approval or disapproval for the popular stories we all watch, read, play or listen to. They’re able to give their own perspective on our surrounding culture (eg: by making art that shows what a popular film would be like if a few things were different, by parodying things that are taken too seriously etc…). Fan art is a way for artists to interact directly with our culture.

This instinct is as old as humanity itself. One of the reasons why fan art is often seen as a “lesser” form of art is probably to do with the relatively recent invention of copyright rules.

Back in the really old days, no-one really “owned” stories, plays, songs etc… Everyone was free to interpret and re-interpret them in their own unique way. But, with the invention of the printing press and other such things, individual people can technically have monopolies on important parts of our culture… Even after they’ve died!

Of course, fan art is something of an interesting grey area (in practice, if not in theory) when it comes to copyright.

Provided that your fan art isn’t obscene or offered for commercial sale, then you probably don’t have to worry about getting an ominous knock on the door. Most major media companies tolerate respectful fan art for the simple reasons that fan art can serve as free advertising and because attacking their most dedicated fans is bad for business. Likewise, mocking or disrespectful fan art is sometimes protected by copyright exemptions in some parts of the world (eg: the EU and the US) that protect people’s right to make parodies.

But, because of the principles of modern copyright law, fan art is often seen as a lesser form of art. Even though it is just a modern extension of a creative tradition that is older than the written word.

In addition to this, fan art is an interesting form of art because it forces artists to focus on the process of making art. When you’re making an “original” painting or drawing, you have to think of a “new” idea (that is probably inspired by, but different to, something else). This can sometimes take a lot of additional thought, which can sometimes mean that the actual painting or drawing can be something of an afterthought.

By basing your art on something that has already been created, you are free to focus all of your attention on the actual art itself. Not only can this be extremely relaxing, but it can also lead to higher-quality art too. It’s kind of like making a still life painting – yes, you still have to use artistic licence (and make creative decisions) but the quality is often a lot higher since you have something pre-made that you can base your artwork on.

Of course, there are lots of other reasons why fan art matters, but these were just a few of them.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (26th November 2016)

Well, I was still in the mood for making limited palette sci-fi art when I made today’s painting. But, due to a lot of mistakes (mostly with the original palette), this painting ended up requiring a ridiculous amount of digital editing after I scanned it.

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

"Data Cascade" By C. A. Brown

“Data Cascade” By C. A. Brown

Review: “eXistenZ” (Film)

2016 Artwork Existenz review

Well, it’s been ages since I last reviewed a film, so I thought that I’d re-watch an interesting cyberpunk movie that I haven’t seen in years. I am, of course, talking about David Cronenburg’s “eXistenZ“.

I remember seeing this film on TV when I was about fourteen or fifteen and being absolutely amazed by it. Sometime later, I got a second-hand copy of it on DVD but never got round to rewatching it until shortly before writing this article.

I should probably point out that the UK DVD edition of this film that I’ve got actually automatically loads your internet browser and displays an advert for the Sega Dreamcast when you put it in a computer. Although this was annoying (since it wiped out my previous browsing session), it was also an amusing piece of retro nostalgia too.

This review will also contain MAJOR SPOILERS…..

Anyway, onto the film….

“eXistenZ” begins with a famous game designer called Allegra Gellar (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) giving a public demonstration of her latest virtual reality game (called, unsurprisingly “eXistenZ”).

The game itself is housed inside some kind of organic “game pod” that the players access via an umbilical cord that is connected to a port in their spinal columns. Well, it’s a David Cronenburg film, what do you expect?

About halfway through the demonstration, a deranged member of the audience pulls out a strange-looking gun and shouts “Death to the demoness Allegra Gellar!” before shooting her in the shoulder. In the chaos that follows, Allegra ends up fleeing the demonstration with Ted Pikul, a security guard (played by Jude Law). They hide out in the surrounding countryside, and Allegra begins to wonder if her game pod was damaged during the shooting.

Of course, the only way to check that the game is still working properly is for Allegra and Ted to enter the virtual world of “eXistenZ”….

One of the first things that I will say about this film is that it both is and isn’t a perfect example of late 1990s cyberpunk cinema. Although the film revolves around a virtual reality world, there’s relatively little “Matrix”-like futurism here.

Not only is all of the technology (even the mobile phones) made out of genetically-engineered bio-matter but, unlike virtually everything in the cyberpunk genre, the film takes place entirely in a rural setting. There aren’t any rain-soaked, neon-lit mega cities here. For some reason that is never fully explained, all of the computer engineers and high-tech low-lives live in the countryside. It’s a surprisingly innovative and unique take on the cyberpunk genre.

Being a David Cronenburg film, the biological technology is used as a brilliant source of both body horror and/or sexual symbolism. Most of this symbolism went completely over my head when I saw the film for the first time, but I noticed it in virtually all of the bio pod scenes when I re-watched the film.

Although this is a film about technology (and how it can affect our thoughts, our free will etc..) the scenes set in virtual reality have more of a “realistic” dream-like quality to them. People act in strange ways, the settings are an uncanny combination of real and surreal, and there are other strange changes too.

Some of this surrealism is kept fairly subtle, like the fact that Allegra is pretty much perfectly ok a few minutes after receiving a fairly serious gunshot wound to the shoulder near the beginning of the film. Of course, this might just be the usual cinematic convention of near-invincible main characters, but the fact that the injury is relatively bloodless and doesn’t even seem to be that painful could be a hint that the film starts within the world of the game. A question which is left tantalisingly open at the end of the film….

The whole point of this film is that the characters can never quite tell whether they’re playing the game or are in real life, so this “realistic” dream-like quality works really well. In fact, one of the things I love about this film is the fact that it’s one of the few films that explores the concept of an “unreliable reality“.

One thing that surprised me when I re-watched this film is that the editing was a lot faster than I remembered. This film was made in the good old days when films actually had editors that prevented them from becoming bloated three-hour things. God, I miss those days! Even so, the editing can seem a little bit too quick at some points in the film – almost as if more revealing pieces of dialogue have been removed from the film.

This brings me on to the subject of characterisation – there’s a lot less of it in this film than I remember. Yes, some of this is probably to do with the fact that the characters’ behaviour is occasionally directly controlled by the game’s programming, but the characterisation seemed slightly more superficial than I remembered.

This is also possibly a reflection of the fact that the characters think that they’re playing a game, where the normal rules of reality don’t apply. For example, in one scene late into the movie, Allegra guns down another character in cold blood because he annoyed her (by suggesting that she defect to a rival tech company). Ted is, quite naturally, shocked by this – only for Allegra to nonchalantly comment that it’s just a game. Then, in a chilling twist, Ted wonders whether they’re still in the game or not.

Even so, the best character in this film by far has to be Allegra Gellar. She’s nerdily hedonistic, slightly obsessive and also a total badass at the same time. Seriously, although her dialogue and personality seem a little bit stylised at times, she’s refreshingly different from many other sci-fi protagonists. Ted, of course, is her slightly nervous and naive sidekick.

All in all, this film is both better and worse than I remember. Yes, it can be a bit fast, intentionally confusing and superficial at times but – on the other hand – it also contains a lot more philosophical depth, symbolism and innovation than you might expect from a Hollywood sci-fi film. Plus, it’s very 1990s too – which is always a good thing 🙂

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half. It isn’t quite as good as “Blade Runner”, but it’s still a very innovative, unique and intelligent sci-fi film.