Three Fascinating “Time Travel”-Based Art Exercises


Unfortunately, apart from following the normal passage of time, travelling through time is something that is impossible in real terms. Yes, according to Einstein’s theories, if you travelled vast distances every day for several decades, you would be a miniscule fraction of a second ahead of anyone else. But proper movie-style time travel doesn’t exist.

Still, if you are an artist, then there are at least a few thought provoking time-based art exercises that you can do in order to see how time affects the art that you make.

1) Work out the earliest date your art could be made: Although I think I mentioned something vaguely similar in a previous article, this is a really fascinating exercise.

This version of it was inspired by an online discussion I read somewhere about a modern fan-made modification (for the classic computer game “Doom”) called ‘Brutal Doom’. Basically, the creator of the mod had worked out that the earliest time that computer hardware could support his mod was sometime in either 2002 or 2003.

Yes, “Brutal Doom” didn’t exist back then. But, the idea that people in the early 2000s theoretically could have been playing “Brutal Doom” is an absolutely fascinating one.

Naturally, this made me wonder if artists can do anything similar. And, yes, we can!

Take a look at the materials you use to make art. Take a look at the common subject matter of your art. Take a look at the things that inspired your art style. Now work out which years all of these things came from. This should give you an approximate time when someone like you could have made the art that you make.

For example, my art could have been made in the late 1990s. The traditional materials that I use (eg: waterproof ink [albeit in rollerball pen form] and watercolour pencils), existed in the 20th century. My favourite digital image editing program (“Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6”) is from 1999. Likewise, although the version of MS Paint I use is from 2007, I tend to use basic features that probably also existed in previous versions of the program.

Likewise, most of my artistic inspirations come from the 20th century. Even some of my more modern inspirations (like this set of levels for “Doom II”) are often heavily inspired by things from the 1980s and 1990s. The very earliest beginnings of my art style were also inspired by animated TV shows from the 1990s like “Pepper Ann”, “South Park” and “Pokemon” that I watched (or, in the case of “South Park”, really wanted to watch) during my childhood.

So, yes, the earliest time that someone could have produced art very similar to my own is probably sometime in the late 1990s. The idea that my art could have existed back then absolutely fascinates me.

2) Remakes: Yes, as I’ve mentioned countless times before, remaking your old art can be a way to see how much you’ve improved. But, in addition to this, it can also be useful when seeing how the passage of time affects your own art. And when it comes to predicting what your art might look like if it had been made in the past or future.

For example, here’s a small chart showing two versions of the same painting that were made (but not posted here) pretty much exactly a year apart from each other:

Click to see a larger version of this picture. The full-size version of the second painting won't be posted here until the 1st September though.

Click to see a larger version of this picture. The full-size version of the second painting won’t be posted here until the 1st September though.

Doing this yourself and comparing the two pictures will show you how your influences and art style have changed over the past year. This can, of course, make you think about how some of your current artwork might have looked if you had made it a year or two earlier.

Since you’ll be able to notice and categorise the technical differences in the art you made in the past and the art you make today, seeing a comparison of two versions of the same picture from different times will help you to imagine what other pieces of your current artwork would have looked like if you’d made them in the past.

3) Predicting the future:
One easy way to predict what your art might look like in the future is to look at the types of art that really inspire you, but which are way above your current skill level. If you keep practicing, then there’s a good chance that your art might eventually end up looking a bit like a combination of these things.

Yes, developments to your art style can be unpredictable (after all, you don’t know what else might inspire you in the future). But, taking a careful look at what the things that inspire you have in common with each other can be a great way to see how your art might change in the near or distant future.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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