Today’s Art (31st May 2018)

Well, here’s the full-size version of my digital painting from this article about making digital art using open source software (“GIMP 2.6” to be precise).

Seriously, although this 100% digital cyberpunk picture isn’t as good as my usual mixtures of traditional and digital art are, it still turned out better than I expected (and taught me a better way to apply rain effects to my art too!)

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

“Digital Future” By C. A. Brown

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Top Ten Articles – May 2018

Well, it’s the end of the month and this means that it’s time for me to provide my usual list of links to my ten favourite articles about making art, writing fiction and/or making webcomics that I’ve posted here over the past month. As usual, I’ll also include a couple of honourable mentions.

All in all, this month was something of a mixed bag. Although there are some articles that I’m really proud of, there were also times when the quality dropped somewhat. In addition to this, I also ended up writing more reviews than usual this month too (this may end up turning into something of a trend, or it might not. I’m not sure, although I’ll still try to follow my “don’t post two reviews in a row” rule).

Anyway, here are the lists. Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – May 2018:

– “Why Does Current Art Often Look Slightly ‘Old’? – A Ramble
– “When NOT To Let Your Art Evolve – A Ramble
– “Four Tips For Adding Some 1990s-Style Silliness To Your Story Or Comic
– “Five Things That Two Old TV Shows Can Teach Us About 1990s-Style Storytelling
– “Four Ways To Make Your Audience Feel Like Rebels
– “Why Creative People Should Be Critics Too – A Ramble
– “Making Digital Art With Open-Source Software – A Demonstration
– “Five Reasons Why Artists Should Be Gamers Too
“How Artists Work Out Their ‘Process'”
– “Three Cheap Ways To Make Trendy Types Of Art

Honourable Mentions:

– “Two Basic Ways To Use Reference Images When Making Art
– “Making Art Based On Daydreams – A Ramble

Why Does Current Art Often Look Slightly “Old”? – A Ramble

Well, at the time of writing, I’m busy preparing a series of gothic paintings set in Aberystwyth. One of the interesting things about this art series is that each painting seems to be set in a slightly different time period.

There are some set in the mid-late ’00s, there’s one set in the early 2010s, there are some set in the 1980s/1990s and there are even a couple of paintings set in a cyberpunk-style future. Here’s a preview:

This is a reduced-size preview of a cyberpunk-style painting of a corridor behind the Hugh Owen building on the town’s university campus. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 11th June.

This naturally made me think about art and time. This is mostly because, although artists often don’t explicitly state when their paintings are set, they’ve usually got a fairly good idea. And, with the exception of obvious historical pieces and sci-fi/fantasy art, you might be wondering why current artists wouldn’t set all of their art in an accurate version of the present day.

There are a lot of reasons for this. The first one is that art isn’t meant to be accurate or realistic. If you want an accurate realistic picture of the modern world, take a photograph. Art is about the blending of imagination and reality. It’s about seeing the world filtered through someone’s imagination. So, many artists might use artistic licence (such as adding slightly old or unrealistic elements to their art) in order to create a more distinctive and interesting picture.

For example, in this other painting of Aberystwyth from earlier this month, I deliberately used a rather unrealistic 1980s-style colour scheme, mostly to reflect the old music I was listening to during the time period (eg: the late 2000s) that this painting is set in. Which brings me on to…

The second reason why artists don’t always set their work in a realistic version of the present day is because art allows us to re-visit interesting memories and to depict the world based on rose-tinted versions of parts of history that we get nostalgic about and/or are interested in. It allows us to paint or draw a more stylised version of the world that seems better, more reassuring and/or more visually interesting than a more “realistic” one would be.

For example, here’s a painting from life (a first-person scene showing me drawing a small sculpture of a tortoise) that I made last year. Although it is technically set in 2017, I’ve deliberately added some slightly 1980s/1990s-style lighting and colour combinations to it in order to make it look more dramatic and visually-appealing than a starkly “realistic” depiction of the scene in question would be.

“Drawing A Tortoise Still Life” By C. A. Brown

The third reason why artists don’t always set their art in an “accurate” version of the present day is because of artistic inspirations and influences. Generally, the things that have inspired or influenced an artist are probably going to be slightly older things.

They’re probably going to be things that, say, an artist first discovered when they were younger and then studied in more depth when they got a bit older. Even if an artist is somehow only inspired by “modern” things, then those modern things are probably going to be inspired or influenced by older things in some way or another. So, artistic influences usually come from the past in some way or another.

Finally, it’s an interesting artistic challenge. There’s something enjoyably challenging about making something in the present day that looks like it could have come from the past. In order to do this well, you need to have done a fair amount of research and have a good understanding of what made the recent past (and art from back then) look the way it did. For example, here’s a digitally-edited painting of mine that was inspired by the old early 1990s computer games I played during my childhood:

“Marina” By C. A. Brown

Although this painting includes some elements of early 20th century Art Nouveau and 19th century Japanese Ukiyo-e art, I also tried to replicate the more garish and limited colour palettes used in some old computer games. I used bold high-contrast lighting (which gives anything an instant 1980s/90s-style look) and I also tried to make sure that the fashion designs and hairstyles in the picture looked like something from the early 1990s. Likewise, I made sure that the background design was as random and eccentric as the location designs in old computer games often were.

So, yes, making current art that looks like it could have come from the recent past usually involves a fair amount of research and thought, so it can be an interesting artistic challenge.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Art And Reality – A Ramble

Well, although I’m busy making a webcomic mini series at the time of writing this article, I thought that I’d talk about the relationship between art and reality today. This is mostly because I happened to read this absolutely fascinating BBC article about courtroom artists in both the US and the UK.

The interesting thing about this type of art is that it really highlights the complicated relationship between art and reality. Due to the short amount of time these artists apparently have to make their art, courtroom sketches rarely look “100% realistic”. Yes, their styles don’t look too cartoonish, but they often remind me of the art found in a rather prestigious graphic novel.

Yet, as the BBC article points out, these pieces of art often serve as a valuable form of documentation for things like court cases and some political proceedings. But, the article also shows several examples of when courtroom artists have got the likeness of famous plaintiffs or defendants hilariously wrong. But, as anyone who has ever tried to paint or draw from life (or even paint or draw someone famous) will tell you, realistic likenesses can be surprisingly difficult sometimes.

But, it also raises some interesting questions about reality and art in general. The general rule here is that art isn’t meant to be “100% realistic”. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with using a more realistic style but, if you want an entirely accurate and realistic picture of something, then you’re better off taking a photograph. The whole point of art is to either show reality filtered through the perspective of the artist or to show part of the artist’s imagination, or both.

Art is kind of like “reality plus”, with an artist carefully choosing things like perspective, colour schemes, composition etc.. in order to capture the essence of how they feel about something. For example, here’s a preview of a digitally-edited painting of mine that will be posted here next month. It was inspired by my memories of Halloween 2008, yet my actual memory differs somewhat from the picture itself:

This a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 7th June.

I’ve tried to capture the excitement of the evening through the use of vivid colours. I’ve placed extra emphasis on the awesome-looking lighting in the nightclub’s underground area. I also chose to use a slightly unusual composition/perspective in order to both fit more visual detail into the painting and also to give the impression that there are lots of things happening. The composition also allowed me to include a slight visual reference to “The Wizard Of Oz” too. The painting is a fairly accurate depiction of the emotions that this memory evokes in me, even if some of the precise details are probably wrong.

So, yes, the relationship between art and reality is more complicated than it might seem. But, there’s certainly something interesting about art that is made instead of a photograph. Whether it’s getting a glimpse into an artist’s perspective on a criminal trial or even an artistic reproduction of a politically-important photo that the press was banned from reprinting, art based on reality is really fascinating.

Plus, of course, these types of art also give us a fascinating glimpse at things that we’re not “supposed” to see. This actually makes the scenes in question even more interesting since the audience often has to use their imaginations in order to work out what the “real” scene actually looked like.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂