I started thinking about blending genres again when I was making a digitally-edited painting that will appear here in mid-late June. Here’s a reduced size preview of it:
This painting basically grew out of the fact that I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to make an “ordinary” 1980s style painting or a 1980s/90s-style cyberpunk painting. In the end, the painting ended up being a blend of both things. So, I thought that I’d talk about how you can blend genres like this.
1) Use parts of both: The easiest and most obvious way to blend different genres of art is simply to take elements from each and put them into the same painting or drawing. For example, if you’re making a sci-fi western painting, then the easiest way to do this is just to draw some cowboys and then to draw a spaceship or two in the background.
Yes, this approach certainly has it’s limits (eg: it can look weird if it’s done badly) and it’s best done in a slightly subtle way but it’s one of the easiest ways to blend two different genres of art together.
For example, in the art preview I showed you earlier, the man in the foreground is a cyberpunk character (with a trenchcoat, a gadget and cybernetic sunglasses) whereas the woman in the mid-ground is a more 1980s-style character (who is wearing a garish “so bad that it’s good” vintage ’80s outfit). Yet, the background is a much more subtle blend of the two genres.
2) See what they have in common: A more imaginative way to blend two genres of art is to see what visual features the two genres have in common with each other.
For example, both Baroque and Renaissance art use a very realistic style (even if the lighting and the subject matter is slightly different). Likewise, both art nouveau and Japanese Ukiyo-e art use a realistic, but minimalist style. Likewise, heavy metal art and fantasy art often share a focus on both realism and stylisation. Any of these six genres of art could be blended together relatively easily, because they have a lot in common.
Generally, most genres of art will have at least something in common with each other. It just requires a bit of thought and careful study to find what these things are.
For example, the art preview I showed you earlier includes bright colours against a gloomier background. This contrast between light and dark is a hallmark of the 1980s/1990s, but it’s also similar the main lighting technique that cyberpunk art uses. Likewise, both the 1980s and the cyberpunk genre were times when neon signs were popular etc…
Likewise, my decisions about which colour schemes to use in this painting were heavily inspired by the use of colours in a set of non-cyberpunk 1980s sci-fi themed levels for “Doom II” called “Ancient Aliens“, which showed me how multiple complementary colour schemes can be used in the same piece of art.
3) Look for things that have already done it: Generally, if you can think of two genres to blend, then there’s a good chance that someone else has done it first.
Whilst you shouldn’t directly copy any pre-existing works, you can look for general visual features (that aren’t highly-specific enough to be copyrightable) and general techniques, that you can use in new and creative ways. If you’re unsure where the line between plagiarism and legitimate inspiration lies, then read this article for more clarification.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂