Today’s Art (27th June 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the third instalment of “Damania Recovery” a (hopefully) six-part webcomic mini series, where Harvey gets to solve another case (albeit a traditional “cosy” mystery this time). If you’ve missed the previous parts, then they can be found here: Part One, Part Two.

If you want to see some of Harvey’s previous cases, then they can be found here, here and here. Links to many other comics featuring these characters can also be found here.

Because, well, a detective story isn’t a detective story if the suspect isn’t somewhere in this room!

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Recovery - Process" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Recovery – Process” By C. A. Brown

Two Basic Ways To Cover Up A Failed Painting (Or Drawing)

As strange as it might sound, there’s nothing “bad” or “wrong” about making a failed painting (or drawing). Quite the opposite, in fact.

Making a failed painting means that you’ve dared to experiment with something new. Making a failed painting means that you’ve boldly and valiantly kept up your art practice even when you were feeling “uninspired”. Making a failed painting means that you are wisely following your imagination, even when it is miles ahead of your current skill level.

Unlike some other types of failure, failing at making a painting or a drawing is an honourable and noble thing. And, like with learning any skill, failure is a vital part of the process. However, your audience might not know this – so, here are two very basic tips for how to disguise your failed paintings.

1) Distract your audience!: Here’s a reduced-size preview of the digitally-edited painting that I made the day before I wrote this article:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 10th August.

Believe it or not, this is technically a failed painting. I’d originally planned to experiment with a different type of perspective, and I messed it up. This is probably most noticeable if you look carefully at the woman on the left-hand side of the painting – not only is she extremely tall, but her arms are too long and her hips are in completely the wrong place. In terms of perspective, proportion and anatomy – this painting gets a solid “F”.

But, you might not have noticed this if I hadn’t pointed it out. Why? Well, because of all of the other stuff happening in the painting….

There’s an ominous-looking hand in the foreground holding an old phone that appears to be haunted. Above, rain pours down dramatically. The badly-drawn woman stares intently at a retro-futuristic internet kiosk. A mysterious punk guy lingers in the background, smoking something. The arch of a music festival arena towers over the scene, with the stage tantalisingly obscured. Finally, the position of the hand and the slight curves at the edges of the painting hint at the fact that the painting is from the perspective of someone who is fainting or dying from fright.

If your painting contains enough visual storytelling, mystery, intriguing details and/or other attention-grabbing things, then your audience are a lot less likely to notice the parts of the painting where you’ve completely and utterly failed.

It’s a bit like stage magic. Most stage magicians rely heavily on misdirection in order to trick the audience, and you can use it too to disguise failed paintings.

2) Image editing: If you are posting your art online, then you can always try to cover up your mistakes using image editing software. After all, even if you make traditional art, then you’ve still got to digitise it (with a scanner or a digital camera) before you post it online.

If you don’t have an image editing program, then you can legally download a free open-source one called “GIMP” (GNU Image Manipulation Program) here. Although there are too many sneaky ways to disguise failure with image editing programs to list here, I’ll mention two of the basic ones.

If you’ve messed up the colours in your painting or drawing, then most editing programs allow you to alter the colours. Look for the options titled “hue/saturation/lightness”, “RGB”, “colourise” etc.. and experiment with them on either the whole image or a selected part of the image.

Likewise, if you need to make small corrections look less noticeable, then look for feature called “pick colour”, “colour picker tool” etc… The icon for this feature usually looks like a pipette or a dropper in most programs.

What this feature does is that it allows you to click on any part of the image with the pipette, and the colour of your digital brush or digital pencil will change to the exact colour of the pixel that you clicked on. So, click on an area right next to the part of your picture that you want to correct.

What this means is that your corrections will be precisely the same colour as the surrounding area – this makes them a lot less noticeable. If you just use your editing program’s stock colours for corrections (or try to manually select the colour), then it’s probably going to be at least slightly different – and it will stand out from a mile away! So, use this tool when making small corrections!

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art ( 26th June 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the second instalment of “Damania Recovery” a (hopefully) six-part webcomic mini series, where Harvey gets to solve another case (albeit a traditional “cosy” mystery this time). You can catch up on part one by clicking here.

If you want to see some of Harvey’s previous cases, then they can be found here, here and here. Links to many other comics featuring these characters can also be found here.

And, yes, I’m sure that no-one could have predicted that this would happen!

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Recovery - Late" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Recovery – Late” By C. A. Brown

Two Basic Ways To Learn New Artistic Techniques

2017-artwork-learning-new-art-techniques

Well, for today, I thought that I’d write about art learning. This is mostly because I wanted to make one of my upcoming digitally-edited paintings look like something from the 1980s and ended up learning a new image editing technique in the process. Here’s a reduced-size preview of the painting:

 The full-size painting will be posted here on the 9th August.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 9th August.

So, how can you learn new artistic techniques? Here are the two most basic ways.

1) RTFM: Ever since I first heard this acronym in an episode of “Warehouse 13”, it’s been one of my favourite acronyms. It’s a more emphatic way of saying “read the manual” and it’s surprisingly good advice if you want to learn new artistic techniques. These days, there’s no shortage of free art tutorials and image editing tutorials online. Use them!

In fact, this was how I learnt how to create a ‘scan line’ effect in the preview picture that I showed you earlier. Yes, I still don’t fully understand how to use layers but I don’t need to learn everything about them to use this effect. All I had to do was to follow the steps in the tutorial as best as I could, and then use my pre-existing editing skills afterwards.

Contrary to what you might think (or what I used to think ages ago), looking at tutorials isn’t “cheating”. The thing to remember with tutorials is that they should be used as a springboard for your own artistic experimentation. In other words, a good art tutorial will show you the basics of what to do – but it’s up to you to mess around with it and see what you can do with it.

For example, when I was adding the ‘scan line’ effect to my painting, I probably didn’t follow the steps in the guide exactly. I was fairly close, but I probably didn’t do everything precisely correctly. After I’d finished, the painting still didn’t look exactly right, so I added some of the techniques that I already knew to it (for example, I altered the hue of one of the layers in order to give the picture a blue glow rather than a white glow).

Remember, tutorials are just starting points. You’re still supposed to experiment.

2) Observation: Of course, if you see a really cool drawing, comic page, painting, photo etc… there might not be a specific tutorial online for the exact technique you want to learn. So, you’re just going to have to learn the old-fashioned way.

Learning how to learn art techniques from observation alone is almost a skill in it’s own right. So, here’s how to do it.

The first thing to remember is that whilst a photo, drawing, comic panel or painting might look three-dimensional, it’s actually a two-dimensional image. It’s something that is displayed on a two-dimensional computer screen and/or sheet of paper. This sounds obvious, but not remembering this can be one of the largest obstacles to learning from sight alone.

Many cool-looking art techniques are just optical illusions that make a 2D image look more 3D. So, thinking of the image as a 2D image (trace a few pictures if this helps you get used to thinking about images like this, but don’t get too used to tracing) will make it a lot easier for you to work out how an artist did something.

Likewise, learning the basic rules of perspective (like one-point perspective) can sometimes help you to work out how an artist did something.

Likewise, unless you are colourblind, another skill that is worth learning is how to discern exact colours at a glance (and, yes, most colours in photos are at least subtly different to what you might think they are). You can learn the basics of how to do this by messing around with even the most basic image editing programs. This can be useful when it comes to working out things like colour schemes and/or how an artist has used highlights in a painting.

Once you think that you’ve worked out how an artist did something, try to do it yourself. Even if you’re sure that you know how to do it, then trying out the new technique once or twice in a sketchbook will help you to remember how to do it.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art ( 25th June 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the first instalment of “Damania Recovery” a (hopefully) six-part webcomic mini series, where Harvey gets to solve another case (albeit a traditional “cosy” mystery this time).

If you want to see some of Harvey’s previous cases, then they can be found here, here and here. Links to many other comics featuring these characters can also be found here.

And, yes, like the previous one, this mini series is actually set in the present day. I don’t know, I was tempted to make yet another time travel comic, but I thought it would be funnier to set it in modern times.

And, yes, Rox is using an old phone from the early 2000s – because they’re better!

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Recovery - Manor" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Recovery – Manor” By C. A. Brown

Mini Review: “VeryHard” ( WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2017-artwork-veryhard-doom-wad-review

Before I begin, I should probably point out that this will be more of a “first impressions” article than a full review of “VeryHard“. I’ll explain more later in the article, but I felt like this was important to point out first.

As usual, I played (some of) this WAD using the “ZDoom” source port. Interestingly, this WAD actually requires version 2.8.1 of “ZDoom” – which, by delightful coincidence, is fairly similar to the version (a slightly old experimental version that was obviously a precursor to version 2.8.1) that I use.

Anyway, let’s take a quick look at “VeryHard”:

screenshot_doom_20161021_125138

“VeryHard” is a set of seven “Doom II” levels. As the name suggests, these levels are meant to be evilly, fiendishly, diabolically difficult.

This is a WAD for people like myself who find borderline-unfair levels to be somewhere between absolutely hilarious and brilliantly fun. If you’re a new “Doom II” player, don’t even think about playing these levels. But, if you enjoy WADs like “Stardate 20X6“, “XXXI Cybersky“, “Swim With The Whales” or “Infernal Fortress” then you might enjoy this one.

From my experiences with this WAD, level one is actually beatable but level two appears to be (probably) impossible – not because of the quantity of monsters, but because an essential key seems to be nowhere to be found. Hence why this is a “first impressions” review, rather than a full review.

So, let’s start with level one. This level begins outside a giant underground train station and, once you are trapped in the station, the monsters start pouring towards you:

So far, so easy.....

So far, so easy…..

Of course, you’ll soon find yourself in a larger room that is filled with more monsters and several small kiosk-like rooms, which contain buttons that you need to press. Sounds pretty easy, right?

Oh, I forgot, these rooms are filled with Arch-viles..... and you'll need a blue key for one of the switches.

Oh, I forgot, these rooms are filled with Arch-viles….. and you’ll need a blue key for one of the switches.

Once you’ve managed to run, dodge and fight your way through this room and press the required switch, it’s time to get the blue key. This key is at the end of another corridor that contains, you guessed it, three arch-viles and virtually no cover!

Oh, hey there :)

Oh, hey there 🙂

When you’ve managed to press the button and hide behind the pillar, you might notice that – between cautious pot shots at the arch-viles – the pillar is descending. Once it’s descended fully, you’ll be able to grab the blue key.

The only problem is, of course, you won’t have any cover left. Likewise, the corridor takes more than three seconds to run away from. And, as any “Doom II” player will tell you, three seconds is about the amount of time it takes for an arch-vile to incinerate you.

So, after dying and restarting more times than you can remember, you’ll end up waiting for that one lucky moment when the arch-viles are too distracted by the monsters from the room you left earlier (and vice versa with the monsters) to bother attacking you.

But, when you’ve sneaked out of the corridor, you’ll be faced with a choice. You can either go back to the room with the blue switch the way you came from, or you can take advantage of a newly-opened shortcut near the station entrance….

 ...Which is also filled with monsters.

…Which is also filled with monsters.

After a lot of trial and error, plus some clever strategy, you’ll finally use the blue key on the blue switch and open a gate behind the room. Wow, what an exciting level! What? It isn’t over yet? That was only…. the easy introductory segment?

Oh yes! *Grins evilly* We haven't even STARTED the difficult part of the level yet!

Oh yes! *Grins evilly* We haven’t even STARTED the difficult part of the level yet!

Yes, the rest of the level is significantly more difficult. It’s a little bit reminiscent of the train station level from “Painkiller“, but with literal armies of revenants, tens of arch-viles and more than five times your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C(yberdemon).

I wasn't exaggerating about the revenants, there must be at least 200 of them in this part of the level.

I wasn’t exaggerating about the revenants, there must be at least 200 of them in this part of the level.

Yes, luckily there's an invulnerability sphere hidden somewhere vaugely near here. You DID remember to find it, right?

Yes, luckily there’s an invulnerability sphere hidden somewhere vaugely near here. You DID remember to find it, right?

Yes, even this deadly close-quarters duel with a cyberdemon at the very end of the level is beatable if you are sneaky about it. You actually have to use the chaingun to ... wait a minute, you should probably work this out for yourself

Yes, even this deadly close-quarters duel with a cyberdemon at the very end of the level is beatable if you are sneaky about it. You actually have to use the chaingun to … wait a minute, you should probably work this out for yourself

Interestingly, this part of the level is also beatable. But, you’ll need a lot of determination, a willingness to experiment with different strategies, a habit of saving very often, a good knowledge of the “rules” of “Doom II” and perhaps a bit of luck too.

All in all, the first level is an absolute blast. It’s just about fair, despite looking extremely unfair at first glance. It’s an example of modern “slaughtermap” level design at it’s finest.

This level contains so many areas where good strategy and fast reflexes are more important than whatever weapons you happen to be carrying at any one time. Despite the often claustrophobic locations and the generic standard textures, it’s an utterly epic level that will have you quite literally cheering with joy when you finally manage to beat it.

The second level, on the other hand, isn’t so sophisticated. Sure, you’ll get to hear the soul-shaking sound of 10-20 cyberdemons roaring simultaneously. Sure, you’ll get to use the BFG a lot. You’ll even get to crowdsurf over six different armies of Hell Knights and Barons…

 Woo hoo!! This is awesome!

Woo hoo!! This is awesome!

And, yes, these sorts of epic things happen too. BUT....

And, yes, these sorts of epic things happen too. BUT….

.. In order to progress past the starting area of level two, you need to find a red skull key. Despite repeated replays of this area, using different strategies and lots of careful searching, I still haven’t been able to find this skull key. It might be there somewhere, but I certainly haven’t found it. In fact, it even eventually made me abandon this WAD out of pure frustration.

All in all, I’ve only played maybe just under a quarter of this WAD and, yet, the first level is absolutely spectacular. Yes, it certainly isn’t for everyone. But if ludicrously “unfair” levels make you laugh, or if you want a real challenge, then the first level of this WAD is absolutely perfect! It’s just a shame about the second level though.

If I had to give what I’d played so far a score out of five, it would get five for the first level and two for the second.

Review: “Doctor Who – World Enough And Time” (TV Show Episode)

Well, it’s time to review the eleventh episode in the new series of “Doctor Who”. Again, although I’m not sure how many of the new episodes I’ll end up reviewing or how long it will take me to review them. But, I’ll try to review as many as I can.

So, that said, let’s take a look at “World Enough And Time”. Needless to say, this review will contain SPOILERS.

The episode begins on an icy world, where the Doctor climbs out of the TARDIS and begins to regenerate. Then, we flash back in time to a giant spaceship that is hovering beside a black hole. The bridge of the spaceship is deserted. The TARDIS arrives… and Missy steps out, before introducing herself as “Doctor Who”.

And, yes, Bill and Nardole are her companions. Seriously, this would make an awesome spin-off series!

Of course, it quickly becomes clear that the Doctor is watching remotely and that it is some kind of training exercise for Missy. However, the exercise is soon interrupted by a message from a mysterious blue man who claims that humans have been detected onboard. He quickly bursts onto the bridge and brandishes a gun, frantically asking the three which one of them is human.

If he can detect that humans are there, then surely he’d be able to scan everyone and work out who is human fairly quickly.

Quickly, the Doctor emerges from the TARDIS and tells him to put the gun down. But, he points to a screen that shows a lift ascending and points out that “they” only come for humans (although this makes me wonder why he’s so scared of them if they aren’t interested in him). The Doctor tries to reason with him, but…

How heartless!

Suddenly, the lift doors open and mysterious masked men advance towards Bill’s body. Thinking quickly, the Doctor implants a message in Bill’s subconscious mind before they can carry her away to be “repaired”. Needless to say, it is up to Missy, The Doctor, Nardole and the armed man to find Bill. Whilst all of this is going on, Bill wakes up in a creepy old hospital….

Hmm… “28 Light Years Later”?

One of the first things that I will say about this episode is… WOW! There’s so much stuff to say about this episode! It’s an astonishingly good horror episode, it’s a brilliant piece of drama and it is an amazing piece of science fiction. Plus, this episode is a good example of how to start a two-part episode properly.

In other words, the episode is filled with all sorts of intriguing mysteries and shocking (but not entirely explained) plot twists that will keep you completely and utterly gripped, whilst also really wanting to see the next episode. Yes, this episode is the set up to what I presume is the series finale but what a set-up it is!

The horror elements of this episode are genuinely creepy and they mostly revolve around the mysterious hospital that Bill finds herself in.

For example, not only does this place look downright terrifying, but it is filled with masked men who occasionally scream robotically in agony or beg for death. The creepy nurse who runs the hospital responds to this by quite literally just pressing the mute button.

Seriously, this episode could almost be an actual horror movie in some parts!

Seriously, this has got to be the creepiest episode of “Doctor Who” that I’ve seen for quite a while. Not to mention that it has a real “Silent Hill” vibe to it too!

Hmmm… is this Alchemilla Hospital, by any chance?

The science fiction elements of this episode are also amazingly good too. Since the spaceship is near a black hole, time passes at a different speed in different parts of this ship and this element ends up becoming a central part of the plot. Unlike the “science fantasy” of some episodes of “Doctor Who”, this one actually tries to be a work of “hard” science fiction.

Likewise, the episode also takes a lot of influence from classic dystopian sci-fi too – with the run-down hospital and the grimy city surrounding it resembling something from a dystopian sci-fi film.

Seriously, if those buildings were a little taller and there were a few neon lights, this could almost pass for a scene from “Blade Runner”!

Not only that, the episode also explains some of the motivations behind the existence of the creepy hospital, which actually makes it even scarier (since the people living there are in such a dire situation that they’re forced to resort to horrific medical experiments in order to prolong their lives).

As for the story of the episode, it is brilliant on so many levels. Not only does this episode begin to explain a part of the show’s mythology but there are other shocking reveals too, such as the fact that Missy and The Master actually meet each other (and it is left at least mildly ambiguous whether they are different people or the same person at different points in their life).

And, yes, that isn’t even the most shocking thing about this scene!

But, shocking plot twists aside, the “ordinary” storytelling in this episode is really good too, with a very good mixture of witty dialogue, suspenseful horror and intriguing science fiction. Although the pacing of this episode is deliberately slow (perhaps to mirror the fact that time moves at a different speed), it never once gets dull or boring in any way.

The set design and special effects in this episode are, in a word, sublime. Some parts of the episode look like a cross between “Silent Hill” and “Blade Runner“. The lighting design is absolutely spectacular too, with clever placement of blue, red and orange lighting in some parts of the episode. Likewise, the level of special effects in this episode is easily on par with a mid-high budget Hollywood movie. This episode is cinematic!

Seriously, this is one of the coolest-looking spaceship bridges I’ve ever seen!

And this location looks like both something from “Silent Hill” AND something from “Blade Runner” 🙂

And the lighting in this lift is AMAZING 🙂

All in all, this episode is astonishingly good in so many ways. Not only that, it will also leave you eager to watch next week’s episode too. It succeeds as a horror episode and as a science fiction episode too. Despite the occasional misstep along the way, it really seems like this series of “Doctor Who” is just getting better and better in so many ways.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five.