Today’s Art (31st January 2017)

Well, I’d originally planned to make a more minimalist sci-fi painting for today. But, soon after I started sketching, I ended up adding slightly more detail than I expected – even if this painting required quite a bit of digital editing after I scanned it.

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

"The Meteor" By C. A. Brown

“The Meteor” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – January 2017

2017 Artwork Top Ten Articles January

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

Although there were slightly more reviews than usual and although I was busy making quite a few comic updates for next month, there were actually some surprisingly complex and interesting (to write at least) articles posted here this month 🙂

Plus, I think that this is the first time in a while (or possibly even just the first time) where all ten articles in the main list are all list-based articles 🙂

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles For January 2017:

– “Three Ways To Deal With The Feeling Of Loss After Finishing A Highly Inspired Creative Project
– “Three Basic Tips For Adding Sub-Plots To Your “Newspaper Comic”-Style Webcomic
– “Three Quick Tips For Making Story Arcs For “Newspaper Comic”-Style Webcomics
– “Four Fiendish Tips For Writing Dark Comedy In Webcomics (Plus, A Comic Preview)
– “Three Quick Tips For Adding Funny Sci-Fi Comedy To Your Webcomic
– “Three Ways To Make Your Art Look More Like What You Actually Imagine It Will Look Like
– “Three Strange Tips For Improving Your Backgrounds If You Paint Or Draw From Imagination
– “Four Logical Reasons Why Other People Seem To Like Our “Failed” Paintings (Or Drawings)
– “Three Ways To Deal With The Creative Project Ideas That Refuse To Be Made (Yet Continue To Haunt You)
– “Three Practical Reasons Why Creativity-Based New Year’s Resolutions Are A Very Bad Idea (And What To Do Instead)

Honourable Mentions:

– “Making A Landscape Painting Using A Mouse And MS Paint 5.1 … Can It Be Done?
– “Salvaging A Painting With Digital Editing (Plus, An Art Preview)
– “Four Downsides To Making Webcomics That You Might Not Know About (If You Haven’t Started A Webcomic Yet)

Today’s Art (30th January 2017)

First of all, there’s actually an alternative version of today’s digitally-edited painting too, since I couldn’t decide which colour scheme I preferred (the original will be at the bottom of this post, but the alternative version can be seen by clicking the link above).

Anyway, today’s painting is a gothic punk painting that was inspired by, amongst other things, a song called “Last Train” By Ghost Dance, a band called The Birthday Massacre, ‘Tank Girl’ comics and an old computer game called “The Longest Journey”.

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

"Let The Dusk Fall" By C. A. Brown

“Let The Dusk Fall” By C. A. Brown

Finding The Right Format To Tell Your Stories – A Ramble

2017 Artwork Storytelling formats ramble

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about storytelling formats. Although I’m going to spend the next seven paragraphs talking about some of my own experiences with experimenting with different formats, this article will hopefully contain some information that might be useful to you.

Anyway, whilst making a couple of four-panel “newspaper comic”-style webcomic mini series that will appear here next month, I noticed something very interesting – I was actually making narrative comics. This originally started off as “just adding a sub-plot” to the first mini series, but the second mini series actually started to have a proper plot to it.

By using a format that is traditionally used for short self-contained jokes to tell a larger story, I was able to get around a lot of my own feelings about what the “right” format for telling longer stories in comic form “should” look like.

Because I was used to more traditional -style comic books, whenever I’d previously tried to make a comic that told a single story, I’d usually use A4-size pages and I’d plan it out in the way that you might expect. However, since the four-panel format I was recently using has more in common with the self-contained cartoons you see in newspapers, this meant that I had to take a slightly different approach to plotting out the story.

Although I had to include a re-cap of some of the basic points of the story in each comic, I found that telling a story in a format that is more traditionally used for short self-contained comics was significantly easier, faster and more intuitive to do than I expected. It forced me to make every panel matter, whilst also giving me room to take the story in all sorts of random directions.

Plus, it also changed the types of stories I could tell. Instead of having to meticulously plot out a traditional-style story, I could just come up with a slightly open-ended premise and just see what happened when I planned out the rest of the updates. This probably lead to less “focused” stories, but it seemed to be perfectly suited to the comedy genre (where humour matters more than traditional narrative).

The same kind of experimentation also helped me to write some prose fiction back in 2015, by telling a comedy story using a slightly obsolete non-linear storytelling method.

You can read the whole thing here, but I basically wrote a short story in the style of one of those old “Choose Your Own Adventure“/ “Fighting Fantasy” style books. And, because it was split up into lots of small chunks (and the whole thing is technically five very short gamebooks) and was slightly less “focused”, I had a whale of a time making it and – more importantly – actually finished it.

I guess that what I’m trying to say here is that if “traditional” storytelling formats aren’t really working for you, then it might be worth experimenting with different things. We often have very fixed ideas about what a story “should” look like and, if you aren’t really suited to working in these formats, then trying to do this might hinder the progress of any stories that you try to tell.

Despite what some people might say, it is possible to tell interesting stories using formats that aren’t “traditionally” used for proper storytelling. Yes, you might have to plan the story in a different way, or you might have to tell it in a different way – but, if more “traditional” storytelling formats don’t work out for you, then it might be worth looking at the type of formats that you work best in and finding a way to adapt them.

Learning what does and doesn’t work for you can take a bit of experience and experimentation but, when you know this, then you’ll find choosing the right format to tell your stories considerably easier.

For example, the one common theme in the examples that I listed earlier is that I tend to work best when I am making things that are split into small, and often, self-contained pieces. This is something that I have learnt through numerous failed attempts to make more “unified” longer projects, and numerous successful attempts at projects that were split into pieces that I could complete within a relatively short amount of time.

So, yes, finding the right format to tell your stories in is something that you learn through experience and experimentation. But, don’t be afraid to try unusual things if they happen to fit in with the type of planning/working style that is best suited to you.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Editorial Cartoon: “Dangerous People”

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Editorial Cartoon - Dangerous People" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Editorial Cartoon – Dangerous People” By C. A. Brown

Although I often try to avoid politics (let alone international politics) on this blog, I just had to make a political cartoon about recent political events in America. Although this cartoon won’t exactly change the world, it was one of those moments where (if slightly belatedly) I felt strongly compelled to express a moral opinion about current affairs.

The fact that Trump could so casually cause chaos and fear for many families in America, that he could be so callous towards courageous Iraqi interpreters who have helped American troops (at great personal risk), that he bizarrely believes that Syrian refugees somehow pose a security threat [eg: They’ve been forced to flee from violent religious extremists. They probably hate both violence and the extremists even more than everyone else does!] etc.. is deeply chilling, regardless of who you may be. Trump’s preference for ruling by decree executive order and his willingness to ban people based purely on their place of birth is worrying for everyone, regardless of nationality or political views.

Likewise, in the UK, this decree executive order led to a situation where one of our most respected Olympic athletes, Sir Mo Farah, worried whether he’d be able to see his family living in the US. Where a member of parliament feared that he’d be unable to visit family members studying in the US. And where a vet from Glasgow was stranded in an airport in Costa Rica due to not being allowed a transit visa via the US. How any President could be deranged enough to think that these respectable Britons pose any kind of “security risk” is completely beyond me.

There was a lot of fanfare and press attention about the fact that Trump had moved the bust of Churchill back into the Oval Office. But, after this order, it seems clear that Trump has no sense of history. I mean, despite Churchill’s imperial past and conservative opinions, he was most famous for opposing things like extreme nationalism, undemocratic rule by decree etc…

Likewise, Trump’s order also means that the author/illustrator of one of the truly great graphic novels that I’ve read (“Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi) could also potentially be banned from the US. Why any country would deny entry to such a talented writer/artist is completely beyond me. Hell, one of the things that reading this comic taught me was that – even in despotic countries with strict, fanatical governments – most people who live there are just ordinary people. Ordinary people who like to have fun, to listen to music, to fall in love and to dream. It’s a graphic novel that Trump and his cabinet would do well to read.

In Trump’s own words, all of this is extremely. Sad.

Today’s Art (29th January 2017)

Well, I’m still in the mood for making cyberpunk art, although I felt like giving today’s painting more of a “film noir” kind of look. And, like with yesterday’s painting, I messed up the colours in the original once again – so, I had to digitally change them to something significantly less realistic, but more dramatic/ stylised.

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

"And The Mysterious Man" By C. A. Brown

“And The Mysterious Man” By C. A. Brown

Four Fiendish Tips For Writing Dark Comedy In Webcomics (Plus, A Comic Preview)

2017 Artwork Dark Comedy In Webcomics article sketch

Well, at the time of writing, I’m busy making a follow-up to the sci-fi comedy webcomic mini series that will appear here in early-mid February.

Anyway, when starting this new mini series (which will appear here in mid-late February and will be about time travel and the middle ages) I suddenly realised that it would probably contain a lot more dark comedy than I had expected.

In the unlikely event that you don’t know the difference between “regular” comedy and dark comedy, dark comedy refers to humour about more macabre subjects. It’s the sort of thing that walks a fine line between hilarious and horrifying. If done right, it can be one of the funniest types of comedy in existence!

So, for today, I thought that I’d give you a few quick tips for adding dark comedy to your webcomic:

1) Implication: Like how horrifying things are often scarier in horror movies if they aren’t seen, horrific events in dark comedy comics are often significantly funnier when shown through implication. In other words, show a few of the after-effects of any horrific event, rather than the horrific event itself.

Although there are occasionally exceptions to this rule, not actually showing a horrific event in your dark comedy comic slightly lessens the “horrific” aspects of this event (in the opposite way to how this works in the horror genre) and also places more emphasis on your characters’ reactions, suspicions etc.. which are an essential part of turning a horrific scene into a hilarious scene.

Likewise, one easy way to add dark comedy to your comic is to make it abundantly obvious that a character has done something evil (eg: through background details, strong hints, questions from other characters etc…), but to have the character feign innocence.

2) Character reactions: One of the main differences between horror and dark comedy is to do with how the characters react to “tragic” or “horrific” subjects.

In horror, the characters will often react with.. well.. horror. In dark comedy, they will often react in all sorts of hilariously inappropriate ways. Like in this preview of a scene from the time travel-themed webcomic mini series I mentioned earlier:

Here's a preview of the comic mini series that will appear here in mid-late February.

Here’s a preview of the comic mini series that will appear here in mid-late February.

Usually, this involves a character treating a “serious” subject in a slightly less serious way. For example, the comic preview above includes a horrific situation (eg: a medieval execution), but it is transformed into dark comedy because the characters are chatting about it casually. Plus, of course, there’s also the ironic fact that the man who is about to be executed is actually the castle’s executioner.

If you show your characters reacting to “serious” events or terrible situations in a less than serious way, then this can often add dark comedy to your comic.

3) Villainy!: This might just be a British thing, but there is nothing funnier than a character who not only acts like a complete and utter bastard, but who does this in a gleeful (and mildly surreptitious) way. However, it is important to note that these characters are only usually funny when they rely on Machiavellian cunning, duplicity and/or utter stupidity in order to achieve their nefarious goals.

Seriously, there are numerous examples of this type of “anti-hero” character in classic 1980s/90s British sitcoms. The two best examples are probably the one and only “Blackadder” (especially in series two) or possibly Alan B’Stard from “The New Statesman“.

Whether these characters succeed or fail in their plots and scenes doesn’t really matter that much, although it is often funnier if they succeed because it subverts the whole “the good guys always win” trope which is more common in traditional ‘serious’ stories.

4) Unforeseen consequences: This is one of those things that can easily turn into actual horror if you aren’t careful, but showing an action having horrible unforeseen consequences is a classic trope used in dark comedy.

The trick here is to make the unforeseen consequences at least slightly obvious to the reader before they happen, whilst slightly exaggerating the fact that the characters are unaware of this. This lessens the “shock value” for the reader, whilst also allowing you to place more emphasis on your characters (hilariously inappropriate) reactions to the unforeseen consequences.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (28th January 2017)

Well, I was still in the mood for making cyberpunk art although- due to messing up the colours in the original painting – I had to change them digitally (after scanning the original painting and doing the usual digital editing). As such, this picture probably has more of a “classic sci-fi” look than a “cyberpunk” look.

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

"Terminal" By C. A. Brown

“Terminal” By C. A. Brown

Three Things To Think About If You Worry That Your Art, Comics, Fiction Etc.. Aren’t “Original” Enough

2017 Originality and inspiration article sketch

First of all, this isn’t an article about plagiarism or fan art/fan fiction. If your story, comic etc.. is a direct copy of something else and/or directly based on another published work (and isn’t a parody of it), then this is not the article for you.

It is an article for people who want to make their own imaginative things that are sometimes heavily inspired by other things, and are worried that their work isn’t “original” or “imaginative” enough. This is an article for people who worry that their own imagination isn’t developed enough because they tend to be inspired by other things.

Likewise, I am not a copyright scholar, so none of this should be seen as formal legal advice of any kind.

Plus, I won’t be talking about the distinction between inspiration and plagiarism much (because I’ve sort of mentioned it before). For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that whatever you’ve made has been inspired in a legitimate way (eg: based on generic elements, themes etc… from something else, rather than copying highly-specific exact details).

So, what should you do if you worry that your art, comics, stories etc.. aren’t “original” enough? Here are a few tips:

1) Look closely at your inspirations: If you are worried that your imaginative creative works “aren’t imaginative enough”, then take a close look at the things that inspired you. I can almost guarantee that these things were also heavily inspired by other things too. It’s a universal truth that even “highly original” works are usually heavily inspired by other things, they just contain an unusual mixture or combination of influences.

For example, one of the largest influences on a comedic cyberpunk webcomic mini series that I’ll be posting here in early-mid February is the movie “Blade Runner” (to the point that it even includes a parody of one scene from the film – but, more on that later…)

“Blade Runner” is a groundbreaking film that has had a huge influence on the science fiction genre in general. However, groundbreaking as it was, it isn’t even close to “original” in the strictest sense of the word.

It’s heavily inspired by old film noir movies, it’s inspired by 1980s Japan/South Korea, it’s vaguely similar to old “Judge Dredd” comics from the 1970s/1980s in some general ways, some of it’s most unique interior locations are just slightly altered versions of real buildings, it’s explicitly based on a novel by Philip K. Dick etc… Strictly speaking, it isn’t “original” in the slightest, but it was able to become an “original” film by combining a range of influences in a unique and imaginative way.

If you look at anything that inspires you, you’ll probably find something similar to this. Imagination, “originality” and creative inspiration come from finding things that inspire us and then finding new and distinctive ways to use general elements (eg: elements that aren’t highly-specific enough to be copyrighted) from these things in our own work. It’s an inherent part of the creative process.

So, finding what inspired the things that inspired the things that you’ve made might help to assuage some of your worries about “originality”.

2) Comedy and parody: First of all, if you’re making something in the comedy genre, then you shouldn’t worry too much about “originality”. Although I am not an expert on the legal aspects of this, you have very little to worry about if your work is a general parody of something (or even a direct parody, featuring exact characters, settings etc.. from the thing you are parodying).

Many countries, either through law or tradition, make large allowances for parodies of of other things. The precise definition of a “parody” might vary from place to place, but the importance of allowing people to make parodies is widely recognised.

Even vaguely decent parodies can often contain more originality than you might think – for the simple reason that they will often parody multiple things at the same time. In order to do this, they will often come up with an entirely new cast of characters, a new setting, a new story etc.. even if these things are heavily inspired by something else.

For example, even though my upcoming cyberpunk webcomic features a parody of a dramatic scene from “Blade Runner” – the characters and backstory are somewhat different, even if the scene itself is clearly a comedic version of a scene from that film (with a very slightly different twist on the themes from “Blade Runner”).

So, yes, even parodies are often more “original” than you might think.

3) Find more influences: The more inspirations something has, the more “original” it will look. If you’re worrying that your story, comic etc.. isn’t “original” enough, then this might be a sign that you need to find more influences and more things that inspire you.

For example, I’d been wanting to make a sci-fi comic in the cyberpunk genre for a long time. After discarding the idea of making a “serious” comic (since I seem to be better at comedy than serious storytelling these days), I still couldn’t work out how to make a comedic cyberpunk comic until I started looking at more things in the cyberpunk genre (eg: computer games like “Deus Ex” and “System Shock” – both of which, ironically, were heavily inspired by the works of William Gibson amongst other people).

In the end, my upcoming cyberpunk comedy webcomic series included a range of pre-existing sci-fi influences like “Blade Runner”, “Neuromancer“, “Star Trek”, “Sliders“, “Back To The Future” and “Transmetropolitan“, but also a couple of additional cyberpunk influences like the games I mentioned. Without those additional influences, and the additional knowledge about the genre that came with them, I wouldn’t have been able to make this comic series without seriously worrying about the story being a “rip-off” of the few cyberpunk things I’d seen beforehand.

So, worries that your work isn’t “original” usually just means that you need to find more things to get inspired by.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

COMING SOON: Five Short Stories Set In The 1990s

2017-artwork-1990s-stories-announcement

Woo hoo! Although it will be no surprise to anyone who has read the “Short Stories” page, I am pleased to announce that, at the beginning of February, there will be a series of daily short stories posted here at 9:30pm GMT each evening.

This was more of an experimental project and it only lasted for five stories before the whole thing ran out of steam. Although I’d originally planned to set these stories during different parts of the 1990s and in both Britain and America, virtually all of the stories take place in mid-late 1990s Britain.

These stories mostly revolve around (vaguely) mundane life and it was something of an experiment with writing mildly more “realistic” fiction. From this, I learnt that my strengths lie in more imaginative types of fiction (eg: the series of cyberpunk stories I wrote for Christmas last year). Still, I’ll post the stories since at least a couple of them turned out reasonably well.