Today’s Art (30th November 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the fourth comic in my “Damania Revitalised” webcomic mini series. At the time of writing, I’m not sure how long this mini series will be (at a guess, probably 4-6 comics). But, it’s been a while since my last mini series, so I thought that I’d make a new one. You can catch up on previous comics in this mini series here: Comic One, Comic Two, Comic Three

Links to lots of other mini series featuring these characters can be found in the ‘2016’ and ‘2017’ segments of this page.

If anyone is puzzled about what “snakebite” is, it’s a beer/cider cocktail that is often incorrectly believed to be illegal to serve in pubs in the UK.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Revitalised - Tribute" by C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Revitalised – Tribute” by C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – November 2017

Well, it’s the end of the month and that means that it’s time for me to collect the usual list of links to my ten favourite articles about making comics and/or making art that I’ve posted here over the past month (plus a couple of honourable mentions too).

All in all, even though there were some good articles posted here this month, it probably wasn’t the best month ever in terms of overall quality. Due to uninspiration, being busy with the Christmas comic and being in a bit of a mood whilst preparing some of this month’s articles, there were more reviews, short articles, rambles and repetitve articles than usual. Hopefully, December’s articles will be better 🙂

Anyway, here are the lists. Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – November 2017:

– “Three Things That 1980s-2000s American & Canadian Punk Music Can Teach (Visual) Artists
– “Three Vague Tips For Making Early-Mid ’00s Style Artwork
– “Four Reasons Why Artists Use Limited Palettes
– “Two Things That Remaking Your Old Art Will Show You (Apart From Your Skill Level)”
– “Why “Modern Art” Paintings Aren’t As Easy As They Look – A Ramble
– “Three Ways To Rush A Comic Update Well
– “Three Reasons Why The Fictional “Worlds” In Art/Novels/Webcomics etc.. Often Seem To Be Slightly Old
– “Can Creative People Have Rare Works These Days? – A Ramble
– “Three Tips For Making Art Set In Late 1980s/ Early-Mid 1990s America
– “Three Tips For Finding “Hidden” Influences On Your Art Style

Honourable Mentions:

– “Three Creative Advantages Of Not Being Totally Up To Date With Current Culture
– “Three Reasons Why It’s A Good Idea To Keep (And Show Off) Copies Of Your Line Art

Today’s Art (29th November 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the third comic in my “Damania Revitalised” webcomic mini series. At the time of writing, I’m not sure how long this mini series will be (at a guess, probably 4-6 comics). But, it’s been a while since my last mini series, so I thought that I’d make a new one. You can catch up on previous comics in this mini series here: Comic One, Comic Two

Links to lots of other mini series featuring these characters can be found in the ‘2016’ and ‘2017’ segments of this page.

If you’re wondering about the second row of panels, it’s kind of a long-running (but occasionally forgotten) tradition with this comic series that, when Harvey is alone, the world looks like something from an old movie.

And, yes, this comic update was made when I was feeling somewhat tired which was partially the result of a marathon gaming session. But, unlike Rox’s marathon gaming session in the comic, no energy drinks were consumed during mine (seriously, I’ve never understood why they’re a “gamer” thing. I mean, they usually taste absolutely vile for starters...)

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Revitalised - Marathons" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Revitalised – Marathons” By C. A. Brown

Three Tips For Finding “Hidden” Influences On Your Art Style

Although I’ve written about “hidden” influences (eg: things that have influenced your art, that you’ve mostly forgotten about) before, I felt like returning to the subject again after discovering a new one. I am, of course, talking about an old computer game from Apogee called “Math Rescue” that I played during my childhood. It also contains what is probably one of the earliest examples of high-contrast art that I ever saw:

The Apogee logo. Many of the first games I ever played were from this company, who also invented shareware too.

Although the actual game doesn’t really look that much like this, the menu uses this really cool high-contrast style. One of their other games, called “Paganitzu”, uses a version of this style a lot more prominently too.

Of course, my art style when I saw these games for the first time consisted of the kind of blob-like stick figures that most people draw when they’re about six or seven. But, whilst making a digitally-edited painting (in my usual high-contrast style) that will appear here in January, I noticed that it reminded me a bit of this game. And, hey presto! I’d found a hidden influence:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 4th January.

So, how can you find hidden influences on your own art style? Here are a few tips:

1) It can happen by accident: Like in the example I’ve just given, one of the easiest ways to find hidden influences on your art style is simply to wait until one of them appears. Usually, this happens when you make a painting or a drawing and then suddenly think “Hey! This reminds me of…

Sometimes this sort of thing can happen when other people see your art too. This is especially true when you show your art to people who knew you when you were younger and probably remember the things you used to read/watch/play.

Yes, sometimes your art might remind other people of things that you’ve never actually seen/read/played. This is always weird when it happens, but it’s usually because both you and the thing in question share a common inspiration or because you’ve been inspired by something that was inspired by the other thing. Either way, it’s helped you find another influence on your art that you didn’t know about.

2) Nostalgia: Another good way to find hidden influences on your art style is to be nostalgic. Look back on the things that you really enjoyed when you were younger (but only remember vaguely) and, now that you’re older, you’ll probably begin to notice some slight similarities between them and your own art.

This obviously won’t work with everything, but it can be really surprising when it happens. After all, even though you may not have been an artist at the time when you first saw these things, they’ve probably had some influence on your imagination if they impressed you enough that you still vaguely remembered them years or decades later.

The important thing to remember here is to focus on personal nostalgia (eg: things you actually remember from the time) rather than the stylised “nostalgia” that appears in the mainstream media. If you grew up in the 90s, then you probably have a slight advantage here since 90s nostalgia is only just really starting to become mainstream these days (compared to, say, 1960s-80s nostalgia).

3) Take influence/inspiration often: The best way to recognise hidden influences is simply to know how to take influence/inspiration from things. If you try to improve your art by looking at the things that impress you and working out how and why they do this (and applying those lessons to your own art), then you’re going to have a much better understanding of how inspiration and influence works.

Once you know this, then spotting “hidden” influences becomes a lot easier, for the simple reason that you know what sort of things to look for.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (28th November 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the first comic in my “Damania Revitalised” webcomic mini series. At the time of writing, I’m not sure how long this mini series will be (at a guess, probably 4-6 comics). But, it’s been a while since my last mini series, so I thought that I’d make a new one. You can catch up on previous comics in this mini series here: Comic One

Links to lots of other mini series featuring these characters can be found in the ‘2016’ and ‘2017’ segments of this page.

And, yes, they’re both real books. Although, at the time of writing, I ended up reading an electronic version of “Pursuit Of The House- Boat” (it’s out of copyright and can legally be read for free here) and I’ve only read a couple of chapters from “Varney The Vampyre” ( although it’s also out of copyright, I ended up getting a print copy on account of it’s length though. Plus, although the copy I got attributes authorship to James Malcolm Rymer, some people believe it was written by Thomas Preskett Prest).

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Revitalised - Ahead" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Revitalised – Ahead” By C. A. Brown

Three Reasons Why The 1990s Was Such A Creative Decade

Well, after looking through my CD collection and realising that 1994 was an absolutely amazing year for American punk music, I thought that it was time to write yet another article about the 1990s. In particular, I’ll be looking at some of the reasons why the 1990s was such a creative decade.

Because, it was! Computer games back then tended to be eager to innovate and try new things. TV shows back then weren’t afraid to be quirky, strange etc.. for the first time. Even generic action movies often tended to have more imaginative and original storylines too (eg: “Speed”, “True Lies” etc…)

Yes, I’m not sure if I’ve talked about this before but, here are a few rose-tinted reasons why the 1990s was a more creative decade:

1) The world was less connected: Yes, the world wide web existed during the 1990s. But, it was a lot slower, more primitive and less widely used than it is today. In other words, the world was a lot less connected than it is today.

What does this have to do with creativity? Well, it meant that there was a lot more variation between creative works. These days, if we’re interested in creating something different, we can just look it up on the internet and learn everything about it. Back then, you’d have had to read books, look for videos etc.. and then use your imagination to extrapolate from whatever research material you could find. This probably led to more variation between creative works about the same subject.

In addition to this, the lack of connections meant that creative works tended to reflect their surroundings a bit more too. This is why, for example, Californian punk music from the 1990s (eg: Bad Religion, The Offspring, Green Day etc..) often tends to have a fairly distinctive worldview and attitude. Likewise, the 1990s was a golden age for sitcoms here in Britain, and the differences in humour, attitude, characters etc.. between British and American sitcoms from the time are surprisingly pronounced.

So, when the world was less connected, people had to use their imaginations more and there also tended to be a lot more variation between both individuals and locations.

2) People did more with less: Back in the 1990s, film budgets were slightly lower than they are today (plus, mid-budget films still existed!). Back in the 1990s, computer and video game technology was a lot more basic than it is now. Back in the 1990s, TV shows often had even lower budgets than many films do.

Now, you’d expect all of this to have a damaging effect on the levels of creativity in the world. But, it didn’t. Because creative people had less, they had to find ways to do more with it. They had to find clever ways to make things seem more spectacular or expensive than they actually were.

In other words, they had to focus on the things that don’t cost much. These include old-fashioned things like good storytelling, clever humour, good game design, imaginative ideas, unique art styles, emotional depth, good characterisation etc.. that mostly seem to have gone out of fashion in modern mass culture.

Because film-makers couldn’t dazzle the audience with multi-million dollar CGI effects and game makers couldn’t use photo-realistic 3D graphics, they had to focus on other ways to keep the audience interested. In other words, they actually had to use imagination and creativity.

3) Culture: I can only speak for British (and maybe American) cultural history here, but there were so many creativity-friendly cultural differences in the 1990s compared to today.

The first is that, relatively speaking, the 1990s was a happier age. The cold war had ended and 9/11 hadn’t happened yet. The future seemed bright and optimistic. Of course, what this meant is that if anyone wanted to make anything thrilling, scary, dramatic, rebellious etc… then they couldn’t just look at the newspaper to get ideas. They actually had to think and to use their imaginations a bit more.

Likewise, the 1990s – in Britain especially- was a much more liberal decade in the traditional sense of the world. This was a decade where hedonism was celebrated, where being “edgy”, “controversial” and/or “rebellious” was cool etc… This was a decade where punk music was in the charts and where even a few manufactured pop groups tried to have some kind of a punk-like attitude (eg: The Spice Girls). This was a decade where LGBT-themed drama started appearing on television (eg: “Queer as Folk” in the UK and “Ellen” in the US). This was a decade where free speech and rebelling against the establishment mattered much more than it seems to today.

In a more general sense, culture at the time also tended to be more eager to reinvent things. Films like “Scream” and TV shows like “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” wanted to look at the horror genre from different perspectives. Established genres were re-imagined in interesting ways (eg: “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman” turns the superhero genre into a light-hearted romantic comedy, and it’s really great 🙂 But, it’d never be made in this modern age of “ultra-serious” superhero movies. ).

Although it probably wasn’t perfect, the culture of the 1990s just seems to have been far more creativity-orientated than modern culture is.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (27th November 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the first comic in my “Damania Revitalised” webcomic mini series. At the time of writing, I’m not sure how long this mini series will be (at a guess, probably 4-6 comics). But, it’s been a while since my last mini series, so I thought that I’d make a new one.

Links to lots of other mini series featuring these characters can be found in the ‘2016’ and ‘2017’ segments of this page.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE ] "Damania Revitalised - Timeless" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE ] “Damania Revitalised – Timeless” By C. A. Brown

Review: “Dark Shadows” (Film)

First of all, a bit of background. “Dark Shadows” was an American horror-themed soap opera that ran for a ridiculous number of episodes during the 1960s and 70s. I don’t think that it ever got a UK broadcast, and only a fraction of the total number of episodes seem to be available on DVD here. But, from the episodes I have seen, it’s brilliant. It’s low budget, cheesy and “so bad that it’s good”.

It’s a slice of classic black & white gothic vampire melodrama, complete with creaking sets and slightly wooden acting. Needless to say, it was only a matter of time before Tim Burton ended up making a film adaptation and this is what I’ll be reviewing today.

Needless to say, this review may contain some mild SPOILERS.

Although I was vaguely interested in this film when it came out in 2012 (to the point that I bought a DVD of the original 1960s “Dark Shadows” TV series), I only actually got round to watching it on DVD earlier this year. But, is it any good? Let’s take a look:

The box art looks awesome for starters 🙂

“Dark Shadows” begins in the 18th century with the wealthy Collins family moving from Liverpool to the north-western United States in order to set up a fishing buisiness. This business thrives and soon a small town called Collinsport grows. With their newfound wealth, the Collinses decide to build a giant gothic mansion called Collingswood. Because, why not?

But, when the Collinses’ son Barnabas spurns his former lover Angelique in order to betroth himself to his true love Josette, Angelique decides to exact revenge. Unbeknownst to Barnabas, she is a powerful sorceress – and she places a malevolent curse upon poor Barnabas. After his parents die in a freak seahorse-related accident, his beloved Josette finds herself mysteriously compelled to walk to the treacherous cliffs of Widow’s Peak.

Rushing to save her, Barnabas is too late and – in anguish- throws himself off of the cliff too. But, after dashing himself upon the cruel rocks below, he realises that he is unharmed. Not only that, he has become a vampyre – cursed to live forever and drink the blood of the living for sustenence.

Of course, it isn’t long before Angelique whips up an angry mob who, with torches and pitchforks in hand, decide to bury Barnabus alive in an iron coffin:

I guess that you could say that the vampire genre was something of an underground thing back then…

Two hundred years later, in the year 1972, a young woman called Veronica Winters is travelling to Collinsport in order to work as a governess for the remnants of the Collins family, who are still living in the crumbling Collingswood mansion. Whilst all of this is going on, a nearby construction crew happens to find a mysterious coffin buried underground and decides to open it….

And, yes, this is only the first few minutes of the film. Although the plot of “Dark Shadows” isn’t quite as convoluted as what I’ve seen of the TV show, I should probably point out that this film really isn’t about storytelling. Yes, this film has a perfectly acceptable story – but it isn’t really what this film is about.

No, this is a film that is all about witty dialogue, gothic atmosphere, dark humour and aesthetic flair. It’s more style than substance and, yet, it works so well. Seriously, my comment about style and substance wasn’t a criticism. This film has style!

My god! What sorcery is this!

Yes, this explosion is pink, and it looks AMAZING!

Yay! WHY don’t horror movies include buildings like this any more?

Seriously, in visual terms, this film is a work of art! I love almost everything about this film – from the intricately old-fashioned set design to the wonderfully gloomy lighting style that is used in many scenes.

Then there’s the brilliant costume design, which is kind of a blend of timeless gothic fashion and 70s fashion (which still seems to show some influence from the 1960s, which would be realistic in a rural community during the early 1970s).

And there’s also a hint of 1980s-style film noir too 🙂

But, the main charm of this film comes from the humour, the eccentric characters and the atmosphere. Most of the funniest lines from the film involve Barnabas being bewildered by the bizarre future of the 1970s and there are almost too many hilarious lines to list.

Throughout the film, Johnny Depp speaks in a hilariously old-fashioned way and this is an absolute joy to listen to. In addition to lots of brilliantly funny dialogue, there’s also a decent amount of both dark humour, character-based humour and slapstick humour too.

There has, unfortunately, been a steady decrease in the quality of American coffins though.

In addition to this, the film absolutely revels in the gothic elements of it’s story. There are crumbling mansions, secret passages, old crypts and all sorts of other wonderful stuff that the film itself seems to geek out about as much as the audience (probably) does. This film is awesome! And it knows it!

And, just for the hell of it, Alice Cooper even makes an appearance too. No, this isn’t a spoiler – his name is literally in the opening credits!

All in all, this film is fun! Yes, it isn’t particularly scary and the story isn’t really that spectacular. But, this isn’t a serious drama. It’s a piece of art! It’s a knowingly melodramatic dark comedy film crammed with hilarious dialogue. It’s a film about a group of eccentric characters who live in a creepy old mansion. It’s an affectionate parody of a cheesy old soap opera and an ode to old horror movies. And, surprisingly, it really works.

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

Remember, It’s Ok To Fail At Making Art Sometimes

Although this is a motivational article, I’m going to have to start by talking about a failed painting of mine. But, don’t worry, there’s lots of uplifting motivational stuff in the rest of the article. And, yes, I’ve almost certainly said all of this stuff before, but it’s worth repeating every now and then.

Anyway, the day before I wrote this article, I made the first daily painting that I’ll be posting here in January. Due to being uninspired and being in a slight rush, it looked more like something from 2015/16 than anything I’d make these days. In other words, it was a painting that I considered to be a “failure”. Here’s a reduced-size preview of it:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 1st January.

But, why have I mentioned this? Well, it’s to show you that it’s ok to fail at making art sometimes. It happens to every artist. Every artist has uninspired days, rushed days or any other type of day that results in low-quality artwork. If you see an artist who never seems to fail, then all this means is that they aren’t showing you the failed paintings that they’ve made.

If you fail at making a piece of art, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad artist or that you aren’t a “real” artist or anything like that. In fact, if you keep making art despite the occasional failure or uninspired day, then this probably means that you are a better and more real artist than someone who gives up on art after failing at it. Remember, all artists (even the really good ones) fail every now and then.

What failure means is that you tried. It means that, despite not feeling inspired or knowing exactly how to do something, you still tried. It means that you still have the motivation to make art. It means that making art still matters to you. It means that you want to make better art. In other words, it means that you are an artist. If you weren’t an artist, you probably wouldn’t even bother to try making a piece of art if failure seemed possible.

Failure is also, of course, a great learning tool. If you decide to try something new and you fail at it, then you can see where and how you went wrong. If you need to rebuild your confidence by making a few pieces of art that you can make before you return to the thing you failed at, then this is fine. The important thing is to keep trying and to keep experimenting, since you’ll get it right eventually.

Failure also exists to make the inspired times seem even more inspired and to make the good paintings seem even more satisfying to make by comparison. In other words, you can’t have good paintings without the occasional failed one. So, it’s ok to fail every now and then.

Likewise, if you keep making art despite the occasional failure, then even your failures will get better. When it comes to something as subjective as art, failure is a very relative term. For example, the “failed” painting that I showed you earlier in this article looks terrible by my current standards. But, if I’d made it in 2012-14, then I’d have been extremely impressed by it. I’d probably even consider it one of my “best works”.

So, if you keep going despite the occasional failure, then you’ll get to the point where even your current failures look better than the “good” artwork that you made a few years ago.

Yes, making a failed painting or drawing can be incredibly annoying or dispiriting when it happens. But, it’s ok to fail sometimes. It means that you’re an artist.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂