Today’s Art (31st December 2017)

Happy New Year everyone 🙂 As regular readers know, I make these comics ridiculously far in advance and this one was made in early March. After all of the political upheavals of 2016, I found the idea of being optimistic about new years had lost some of it’s charm. So, this cartoon ended up being a bit on the cynical side.

Many more comics featuring these characters can be found in the ‘2016’ and ‘2017’ segments of this page. Likewise, here’s the ‘Work In Progress’ line art for today’s comic.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Happy New Year 2018" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Happy New Year 2018” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – December 2017

Well, it’s the end of the month (and the year). So, I thought that I’d do my usual thing of compiling a list of links to the ten best articles about making art, making comics and/or writing fiction that I’ve posted here over the past month. As usual, I’ll include a couple of honourable mentions too.

All in all, this month has been something of a variable one in terms of the quality of my articles. It was probably a better month than the previous one, although it’s still probably not quite the best one that I ever had.

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – December 2017:

– “Two More Ways To Disguise “Talking Head” Webcomic Updates
– “Three Things To Do When You See A Better Webcomic (Than Yours)
– “Three Sneaky Ways To Show Off In Your Art
– “Four Reasons Why Some Creative Works Become Better With Time
-“How To Deal With Self-Critical Uninspiration – A Ramble
– “Some Thoughts About Indirect Influences – A Ramble
– “The “30-50% Black Paint” Rule (And How To Use It)
– “Remember – Inspiration Isn’t Always Instant
– “Three Ways To Make Art In A Genre You Find Difficult”
– “Two Ways To Know Which Comic Update Ideas To Use

Honourable mentions:

– “Implication In The Horror Genre – A Ramble
– “Why It’s Important To Be Open To Artistic Influence – A Ramble

Implication In The Horror Genre – A Ramble

Well, I hadn’t planned to write about the horror genre but, the night before I wrote this article, I had a disturbing nightmare that made me think about this genre.

Although I won’t describe the nightmare in too much detail (since, amongst other things, I hope to have forgotten the exact details of it by the time this article goes out), it was a dream where nothing disgusting, disturbing or repulsive was directly shown to me. Yet, I still woke up in a very freaked out mood.

This, naturally, made me think about the role of implication in the horror genre. It’s a well-known fact that the audience’s imaginations will always conjure up worse horrors than anything that a writer or film-maker can directly show. But, I thought that I’d look at why this happens and why it sometimes doesn’t.

Simply put, implying a horrific event in a horror movie, novel or comic reduces it to the level of an idea.

If that idea, in and of itself, is especially disturbing, grotesque, unusual and/or horrific, then the implication of it will be too. This is why, for example, a horror movie like “The Human Centipede” can generate controversy, shock and notoriety despite containing very little gory detail. Yet, something like a zombie movie barely raises an eyebrow because.. well.. everyone knows what the “idea” behind a zombie movie is.

By reducing something to an idea, it becomes especially disturbing for the simple reason that ideas demand to be interpreted in unique ways. There’s a reason why, for example, copyright law doesn’t protect ideas. If ideas could be copyrighted, most creative works wouldn’t exist. Two people’s imaginations can do radically different things with the same basic idea.

So, by giving the audience an idea, an author or director forces the audience to interpret it in their own way. It forces the audience to actually think about the subject in question. This also means that the horror lingers for much longer because it’s easier to start thinking about something than it is to stop thinking about something.

The author or director is also important for another reason too. In short, the audience expects horror writers and horror directors to be brave and fearless souls who have the courage to imagine a plethora of disturbing events in order to turn them into something that will shock and scare the audience. So, if even the director or the writer start shying away from directly showing something, then it has to be especially disturbing…

Likewise, the most disturbing scenes in horror movies and/or novels are the ones where you find yourself thinking “Oh my god! Someone actually had to think of that!”. If an idea is horrific or disturbing enough to elicit this kind of reaction, then the audience is going to react in this way regardless of the level of visual or descriptive detail.

The “Saw” films are a great cinematic example of this type of horror, where the characters are frequently placed in impossible “catch-22” situations which always result in death or injury for someone. But, as the final episode of season four of the BBC’s “Sherlock” showed, this type of horror doesn’t have to be gruesome to disturb audiences. The basic idea behind both things is the most disturbing part. For every diabolical contraption or impossible dilemma shown in either these films or that episode of “Sherlock”, someone actually had to come up with that idea.

So, yes, implication is especially disturbing in the horror genre because it relies on ideas. If the idea is disturbing, then it will be disturbing regardless of the level of visual or descriptive detail.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (29th December 2017)

Well, this digitally-edited painting was another strange one. Originally, I’d planned to remake a painting of mine from 2014 but, whilst sketching it, I realised that the remake didn’t look that great. So, after another couple of random sketches, I found that I was making a painting set in a cosy, but ominously gothic, version of 1980s/90s America.

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

"The Ghost Night" By C. A. Brown

“The Ghost Night” By C. A. Brown

Why It’s Important To Be Open To Artistic Influence – A Ramble

Well, today, I thought that I’d talk briefly about how useful it can be to be open to artistic influence. Before I go any further, I should probably link to my article about how to take inspiration properly (again!) since it’s an important thing to bear in mind when allowing yourself to be influenced.

Anyway, I thought that I’d write about this subject again because I noticed that I’d been inadvertently influenced by an old computer game I’d been playing recently called “Riven” (that revolves around exploring a series of mysterious islands and solving puzzles).

After playing this game for a few days, tropical islands started to show up in a couple of the paintings that I’d been making – like in part of the background of this random digitally-edited painting, which will be posted here properly in late January:

This is a reduced-size preview, the full size painting will be posted here on the 29th January.

If you’re new or inexperienced at making art, then the idea of being influenced so often might seem strange or scary. After all, you probably want to make your “own” type of art that is an expression of your own imagination, rather than something that is inspired by whatever you happened to be watching or playing recently.

Well, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, being influenced regularly can actually help you to express your own imagination. Why? Because you have to find a way to turn those pre-existing inspirations into something new and original. In other words, you have to use your imagination to come up with a way of incorporating your influences into your own art, without directly copying them.

Plus, of course, you’re the one who chooses what you are influenced by. Generally, you’ll probably be more likely to take influence from things that you consider to be “interesting” or “cool”. So, you are still in control of your own artistic development.

Likewise, taking influence regularly also means that you are expanding your imagination too. It means that you’re learning new things, imagining new things and coming up with your own “version” of new things on a regular basis.

Plus, being open to artistic influence is also how you develop your own art style too.

For example, as I’ve mentioned before, one of the latest changes to my style happened when I played this set of fan-made “Doom II” levels and was so impressed by the colour scheme used in it that I ended up changing how I used colours in my art (eg: I started focusing on including 2-3 complementary colour pairs in my paintings, I started using a slightly smaller colour palette etc..).

But, my art style has also been influenced by things like western cartoons/comics from the 1990s, anime & manga, heavy metal & punk album covers, old horror novel covers, etc…. It’s a unique mixture of different things. So, if you want a unique art style, then take inspiration from lots of different things.

But, best of all, being open to artistic influences also means that you’ll feel uninspired less often, which is great if you have a regular practice schedule.

What it means is that, if you’re feeling uninspired, then you can sometimes get over it by either watching or playing something interesting. Yes, you still have to find a way to translate that inspiration into a piece of new and original art, but this is something that becomes easier with practice.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (28th December 2017)

Woo hoo! Inspiration! This digitally-edited painting was kind of an interesting one. Originally, I’d planned to make a gloomy and slightly minimalist painting based on some wonderfully atmospheric rainy weather I’d seen a few hours earlier. But, as I started sketching, I thought of the street scenes in “Blade Runner” and decided to start painting a dense cyberpunk city. But, then it kind of turned into a strange vaguely post-apocalyptic cyberpunk seaside town instead.

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

"Coast Road" By C. A. Brown

“Coast Road” By C. A. Brown

Four Ways To Make “Lazy” Art Well

The day that I originally wrote this article was something of a tired and busy day. What this meant was that I didn’t really have as much time or energy to make daily art as usual. Still, the night before, I’d prepared some rather generic line art for a landscape painting (but, I fell asleep before adding paint to it).

Still, realising that I didn’t have time to start a new painting, I realised that I had to do something with this line art. It had to be quicker and easier than adding paint (and waiting for it to dry etc..), but it also had to be better than just adding the line art itself to the daily art post that I was preparing for January. So, I just scanned the line art and added colour, shading and a background to it digitally. It actually turned out relatively well, here’s a preview:

This is a reduced-size preview – the full-size picture will be posted here on the 28th January.

But, I wasn’t always this good at making “lazy” art or this confident about it. So, why am I now (and how can you be) ?

1) Keep a schedule: Keeping a regular art schedule with an almost religious level of devotion is, ironically, one of the best ways to learn how to make “lazy” art well. Because you’ll have days when you aren’t inspired but you still have to make art, this will force you to come up with ways to make original paintings with relatively little thought or effort.

It’ll teach you things like creating the illusion of detail, using clever lighting to shroud large areas of the picture in darkness (in a way that looks good) to cut down on painting time, how to take inspiration properly etc.. In other words, keeping a strict practice schedule actually comes in handy when you need to make a “lazy” piece of art.

In addition to this, keeping a regular art schedule will teach you how to make art quickly. It’ll teach you how to make a vaguely decent-looking piece of art within the space of a couple of hours (or less). Knowing how to make ok-looking art quickly can come in handy if time, energy or inspiration is an issue.

2) Multiple mediums: Although I have a preferred art medium (eg: a mixture between watercolour pencil painting, drawing and digital image editing), I have a basic knowledge of a couple of similar mediums. Namely monochrome B&W artwork (like this) and some rudimentary digital art skills learnt from my image editing experience.

Knowing how to use a couple of art mediums, even if they’re fairly similar, can be absolutely invaluable when you have to make a “lazy” piece of art. Since having multiple options available to you will allow you to instantly choose the “quickest” or “easiest” one and then focus more time and effort on actually making art.

3) Use what you’ve got: This one is fairly self-explanatory but, if you’re making a “lazy” piece of art, then no effort should be wasted. So, if you’ve got an old failed painting or an unfinished piece of artwork or even an unused idea, then use it.

Likewise, if you’re well-practiced at one type of art, then make that type of art (eg: this is one reason why a lot of my more recent “uninspired” paintings have been cyberpunk paintings. Since this is a genre I can pretty much paint in my sleep). It’ll be easier and it’ll look better too, thanks to all of your previous practice.

4) Know the theory: The difference between a good and bad piece of “lazy” art can often come down to how much the artist knows about the theory of art. This includes things like knowing where to add shadows and shading, how to use different types of perspective, knowing which types of compositions work well, having a basic understanding of what complementary colours are etc…

For example, one of the things I’ve been focusing on over the past year or two is getting better at choosing colours in my art. So, when it came to making the “lazy” digitally-edited drawing at the beginning of this article, I was able (after a little experimentation) to make the colours look like something from a modern 1980s-style album cover or an old comic book. In terms of the colour scheme, I went for a very slight variation on the classic red/green/blue one. Likewise, I also tried to add as much realistic shading as I could to the picture too.

A couple years ago, I probably wouldn’t have known how to do this and the picture would probably be a clashing mess of colours and/or just a series of boring “realistic” colours. Likewise, the lack of proper shading would have made it look much more “rushed” and “undetailed” too. So, yes, theory and knowledge can make a lot of difference!

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (27th December 2017)

Well, today’s (heavily) digitally-edited painting was originally going to be a perspective experiment (eg: trying to draw a “selfie”-like perspective). But, it quickly ended up turning into a random 1980s/90s cyberpunk style painting instead.

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

“Batteries” By C. A. Brown

Three Ways To Deal With Topics You Don’t Feel Able To Create Things About

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about creative self-confidence and self-censorship. This was mostly because when I was preparing a mini series of six comics (with the theme of “introspection and philosophy”) that will appear here in mid-late January, I realised that there were a lot of “introspective” topics that I just didn’t feel like I could make comics about.

Surprisingly though, these limitations probably actually improved the comics. But, more on that later.

So, I thought that I’d list a few ways to deal with topics that, for whatever reason, you feel you can’t write or make comics about.

1) Private side-projects: This is a fairly obvious one but, if most of your feelings that you “can’t” write or make comics about something come from worries about what other people will think, then make it anyway and don’t show it to anyone else.

If you don’t have the time, then remember that no-one other than you will ever read it. So, it doesn’t have to be a high-quality thing. Even if it’s a comic with hastily-scribbled artwork and swiftly-scrawled text, you’ll still get the feelings of catharsis and self-expression that you might get if you sunk more time and effort into it. After all, if you aren’t showing it to anyone else, then it doesn’t have to be technically perfect in every way.

If you don’t have the privacy or confidence to do this, then daydream about these projects. Imagine what they would look like. Imagine what you would write or draw if you could. Although this can sometimes be a miserable experience, it can sometimes also make you feel more inspired – and that inspiration can carry over into projects that you feel you can make.

2) Think of your audience: Earlier, I mentioned that realising that a lot of “introspective” topics were off-limits for my comic actually improved my comic. This was mostly because it made me think of how my audience will think about my comics. In other words, it forced me to make comics that were actually concise and funny, rather than rambling, confusing or miserable or whatever.

It also made me much more conscious of the emotional tone of my comics and helped to ensure that my upcoming comics still remained vaguely within the emotional tone of my previous comics featuring these characters. So, it helped to keep the comics at a vaguely good level of quality.

But, more importantly, thinking of your audience forces you to extract universal lessons from the topics you “can’t” write about and then find a way to express that underlying idea in a way that you feel confident about posting and which other people will find interesting or enriching.

3) Treat it as a puzzle: Worry-induced self-censorship can be a dispiriting thing. But, one way to feel better about it is to treat it as a challenge or a puzzle. To ask yourself: “Ok, I can’t write about this directly. But, how can I sneak a bit of it into my comic anyway?“.

If you’re focusing on adding “Easter Eggs” to your comics (that only you will understand) or you’re focusing on sneaky ways to express thoughts that you “can’t” express directly, then you aren’t focusing on “Oh , WHY don’t I have the creative courage to write about this!?!?

And, best of all, treating it like a puzzle or treating it like the director of a film trying to sneak something past the censors will make you feel like a little bit of a rebel. It won’t be as expressive or cathartic as fully expressing yourself. But, it’s better than nothing.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂