Today’s Art (24th May 2018)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the third comic in “Damania Resurfaced” – a mini series of self-contained webcomic updates featuring the characters from my occasional webcomic series (many more comics featuring them can be found in the “2016”, “2017” and “2018” segments of this page).

Previous comics in this mini series can be found here: Comic One, Comic Two

And, yes, it’ll be interesting to see how history views gaming from the 2010s. Given that it’s been one of the more interesting, but controversial, decades in the history of gaming (since it’s when gaming became truly “mainstream” and when indie games became popular too) – this part will be especially interesting. Still, given that the most easily available research materials are critical articles and youtube videos, I’m starting to think that historians might end up with a slightly rose-tinted view of the decade.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Resurfaced – History” By C. A. Brown

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Why Creative People Should Be Critics Too – A Ramble

Although I’m more of an artist these days, most of my formal training is as a writer. However, a slightly strange thing about one of the creative writing courses that I took during my late teens/early twenties was that the course would often include more hours spent studying literature than actually practicing writing or even discussing writing techniques.

For quite a while, I thought that this was just “filler” or possibly a way to make the course seem more “prestigious” or something like that. At my most cynical, I concluded that the literature modules were included to make the writing-based parts of the course seem more interesting by comparison.

But, thinking about it more carefully, it was actually a much more essential part of the course than it first appeared to be. In fact, it has even been useful to me after I became an artist. But, why? Because studying literature makes you think like a critic.

There’s often something of an artificial divide between critics and creative people in popular culture. After all, there’s even the famous saying that “a critic is just a failed writer/artist/director/musician” But, thinking like a critic is one of the best ways to get good at writing or making art.

Why? Because, when you strip away all of the pretentiousness, the main job of a critic is to study and analyse other creative works. A critic takes a careful look at something and works out which parts of it “work” and which parts don’t. After this, they also have to work out why.

Once they’ve done this, a critic also has to look at how a creative work relates to other works in the same genre, how it takes inspiration from other things and what techniques the writer, artist etc.. used. A critic has to really “get to know” something and then describe it in a (relatively) concise review.

In other words, a critic has to “dissect” other things in order to see how they work and then distil that information into a small guide. A critic has to be able to look at creative works closely and think about them in a greater level of depth. Over time, a critic will also gain a good sense of both their own sensibilities and the sorts of things that appeal to audiences.

From there, it isn’t too much of a leap to “reverse engineering” other creative works in order to learn how to improve your own creative works.

And this is how you learn how to be a better artist, writer etc… You see what other people have done, you work out how they did it and then you use those techniques in a new and original way in your own works. In addition to this, if you have a basic knowledge of copyright law, you can even go a step further and take inspiration from any works that really impress you.

Part of taking inspiration properly includes being able to look at creative works in a fairly analytical “critic-like” way in order to break them down into the general, non-copyrightable elements that you can re-use in new and interesting ways.

Thinking like a critic means that you can focus on more than just the story that is being told or the image in a painting. It means that you also pay attention to things like story structure, emotional tone, narrative style, chapter length, art materials, colour palettes, lighting decisions, themes etc.. too.

Thinking like a critic also means that you can learn from more than just the things in your chosen field too.

For example, many of the art techniques that I’ve learnt over the past few years haven’t come from looking at other paintings and drawings, or even from reading art tutorials. They’ve come from looking closely at movies, TV shows, photographs and computer games. So, yes, thinking like a critic means that the range of “educational materials” available to you is much larger than you might think.

So, strange as it might sound, thinking like a critic is one of the best ways to become a better artist or a better writer.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (23rd May 2018)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the second comic in “Damania Resurfaced” – a mini series of self-contained webcomic updates featuring the characters from my occasional webcomic series (many more comics featuring them can be found in the “2016”, “2017” and “2018” segments of this page).

Previous comics in this mini series can be found here: Comic One

And, yes, this comic update was initially inspired by a real TV show on a mainstream channel (Channel 4) here in the UK last year. Still, even though said TV show probably wouldn’t raise eyebrows in mainland Europe, it is at least reassuring to know that British television is still less censored than American TV (I mean, I once heard that an American news broadcast actually censored/blurred footage of an Amedeo Modigliani painting!)

This comic update was also originally going to be a much more political one about censorship, but I decided that character-based humour would be a lot funnier. And, yes, Harvey is a little on the prudish side, but “has some knowledge of obscene poetry”.

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

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

Today’s Art ( 22nd May 2018)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the first comic in “Damania Resurfaced” – a mini series of self-contained webcomic updates featuring the characters from my occasional webcomic series (many more comics featuring them can be found in the “2016”, “2017” and “2018” segments of this page)

Wow! This comic update ended up being a lot more detailed than I’d originally expected 🙂 Yes, the humour is a bit on the character-based side of things, but it’s a good introduction to Roz, Harvey, Rox and Derek if you’ve never read the comic before (and, yes, Derek really likes the idea of being an absolute monarch, of the villainous variety.)

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Resurfaced – Utopia” By C. A. Brown

How Artists Work Out Their “Process”

If you’re new to making art or are curious about making art, it can sometimes be strange to read about how artists make their work look like their own work. Often, artists will do very specific things, follow their own rules, use very specific types of materials etc… and you might be wondering “how did they work that out?“.

The simple answer is, of course, “trial, error, circumstances and research“.

For example, most of the techniques that I use in my own art were either the product of experimentation, gradual research and/or looking at other works of art. They are also a product of circumstances too. They make my art look a bit like this preview of a digitally-edited painting that I’ve prepared for next month:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 15th June.

For starters, my rule that “30-50% of the total surface area of each painting should be covered with black paint” wasn’t something that I worked out instantly. I mean, if you look at some of my older art (from back when I made pencil drawings rather than paintings), you’ll see that I don’t always follow this rule.

This is a drawing of mine from 2012. As you can see, less than 30% of the total surface area of the drawing is covered with black pencil. (“Attic Lab” By C. A. Brown
[10th June 2012])

No, I learnt this rule through lots of gradual experimentation, through careful observation of anything that I thought was “cool” (eg: computer games, heavy metal album covers, films/TV shows from the 1980s and 1990s etc…), from needing to make paintings in a hurry sometimes and through just making art that I liked (and then realising that it tended to include a lot of black paint).

Once I’d worked out that there was a rule, I was able to use this technique in a much more thorough and conscious way. Like this:

“Death Takes A Holiday” By C. A. Brown

“Coast Road” By C. A. Brown

Likewise, the current 18x18cm size for most of my paintings has a rather long story behind it. When I started making daily art back in 2012, most of my daily drawings were just under a quarter of an A4 page in size. This was a small area that I felt I could comfortably fill with art every day. When I got a bit more confident, I expanded to half an A4 page and then I’d often make A4-sized pieces. I didn’t really go any larger than A4 both for time reasons and because I worried that I wouldn’t be able to fit my art into the scanner that I use to digitise it.

When I switched over to using watercolour pencils in very late 2013/early 2014, also I switched back to only using half (or less) of an A4 page for a while. This was mostly to conserve the limited amount of watercolour paper, waterproof ink pens and watercolour pencils I had at the time. Of course, once I’d amassed a decent amount of low-mid range art supplies, I could make my paintings a bit larger.

After a bit of trial and error, I think that I eventually settled on the 18 x18 cm size for several reasons. It was small enough for me to make daily paintings and it had the advantages of both portrait and landscape formats, not to mention that the square format meant that the picture still looked fairly clear when automatically resized on the internet. After a while, I started adding 1.5cm black “letterboxing” bars to the top and bottom of most of my paintings. Initially, this was to make my art look more “cinematic”, but it also saved a bit of time and helped me to stick to my “30-50% black paint” rule more easily too.

These are the “standard” guidelines that I draw before making most of my paintings. And, yes, that little square in the bottom corner is for the title graphics for these articles too.

Likewise, most of the digital editing techniques that I used on my paintings after I’ve scanned them were things that I learnt from gradual experimentation and research. Initially, the only thing I really knew how to do was to crop pictures to the correct size. Then I learnt how to adjust the brightness/contrast levels in images. Then I went through a phase of using “blur” effects in all of my drawings (since it disguised the pencil lines slightly) etc…

And, gradually, I learnt how to do more and more. Sometimes, I’d learn by just messing around with the programs that I use and, sometimes, I’d learn through reading about what other artists did.

For example, I worked out how to add realistic skin tones to my art digitally after reading this “making of” article by Winston Rowntree. Initially, I selected each area manually, but then I eventually realised that most image editing programs have tools for selecting larger areas quickly.

Likewise, as I’ve mentioned before, my current palette was mostly inspired by the use of colours in these fan-made “Doom II” levels. But, even this followed several months of occasional experimentation with limited complementary colour-based palettes.

So, yes, an artist’s “process” is usually the result of things like trial and error, practical concerns, artistic research and experimentation. This is why, when you read about how an artist makes their art, it can sometimes sound a bit strange. There’s no standard “one size fits all” process for all artists. We usually have to work it out for ourselves.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (21st May 2018)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling very inspired. So, today’s artwork is a digitally-edited drawing (rather than a digitally-edited painting) of some kind of random formal party.

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

“Manor Grounds” By C. A. Brown

Three Examples Of How To Take Inspiration Properly

Well, although I’ve already talked about how to take artistic inspiration before, I thought that I’d look at it from a slightly different angle today. This is mostly because taking inspiration properly usually involves creatively “reverse engineering” things that you’ve seen, albeit in a very specific way.

It means seeing something and then breaking it down into it’s generic non-copyrightable elements (although I’m not a copyright lawyer, it is a general princple that “you cannot copyright an idea” [eg: copyright only covers highly-specific details]). Then, after you’ve done this, finding a way to use those generic elements in a new and original way.

But, if you haven’t done this before, then it can be difficult to know what to do. So, I thought that I’d provide a few examples of the process by looking at three images from various films/ games/TV shows, then commenting on and reviewing the generic features of each image and then creating a quick piece of original “inspired by” digital art that includes those generic features.

But, before I go any further, I should point out that you really should HAVE MULTIPLE INSPIRATIONS! I cannot emphasise this enough! Although I’ll only be (mostly) taking inspiration from one thing in each example, the more inspirations you have (and the more different they are), the more original and interesting your work will be.

Example 1: “Ghost In The Shell” (2017)

This is a screenshot from “Ghost In The Shell” (2017 Remake). Let’s break it down into it’s generic elements.

This scene from “Ghost In The Shell” (2017) contains many features common to the cyberpunk genre, such as high-contrast lighting (eg: where the background is darker, so that the lights stand out more) and a dense urban setting. In addition to this, this scene of the film makes expert use of complementary colours – with a slight emphasis on red, green and blue lighting (echoing the colours used in computer monitors/display screens).

Plus, it also makes very clever use of composition and negative space too – by showing the film’s main character silhouetted in the close foreground. Compared to the riot of lights and colours in front of her, her dark silhouette stands out in a very distinctive way.

So, what are the generic elements here? They are a dense futuristic urban setting, high-contrast lighting, red/green/blue lighting and the clever use of silhouettes and negative space.

So, an original inspired painting that used these elements might look a little bit like this quick piece of digital art.

A piece of digital art that uses red/green/blue lighting, silhouettes & negative space and a dense futuristic urban setting. As you can see, it also looks nothing like the screenshot at the beginning of this example. This is also partly because I’ve also added general elements from both the horror genre and other cyberpunk works too. As I said earlier, more inspirations means more originality.

Example 2: “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut” (1997)

This is a screenshot from a horror game called “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut” (1997). Let’s break it down into it’s generic elements.

This screenshot from “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut” (1997) makes excellent use of composition and perspective in order to create an ominous sense of dread. The camera perches above the player, with a candelabra and a stag’s head in the close foreground to emphasise the height of the room. Likewise, the lighting in this room is fairly gloomy and the room itself looks slightly old and run-down. Again, this is done to create an atmosphere of dread.

So, what are the generic elements here? An overhead perspective, objects in the close foreground, gloomy lighting, an atmosphere of dread and old/disused locations.

So, an original inspired painting that used these elements might look a little bit like this quick piece of digital art (which was also inspired by another part of the game [involving a hole in the floor] and a couple of other games too).

A piece of digital art that uses an overhead perspective, includes objects in the close foreground, has gloomy lighting, involves old/disused locations and contains an atmosphere of dread. As you can see, it looks fairly different from the screenshot in this example. Again, I’ve used multiple inspirations – as well as taking inspiration from another part of “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut”, I’ve also taken inspiration from two other games- “Alone In The Dark” (1992) and “Hotline Miami” (2012).

Example 3: “Murder, She Wrote” (1984):

This is a screenshot from season 1, episode 4 of “Murder, She Wrote” (1984). Let’s break it down into it’s generic elements.

Although this scene isn’t really typical of the show, it provides a stunning visual spectacle. Bright neon lights are contrasted against ominous gloom, with the garish neon lights contrasting irreverently with the sombre seriousness of the graveyard. The character in the foreground looks instantly “1980s”, thanks to the show’s costume and make-up department. And the open gates in the close foreground beckon the audience closer.

So, what are the generic elements here? 1980s-style fashions/hairstyles, neon lighting, the theme of death, an intriguing composition and a slight degree of irreverence.

So, an original inspired painting that used these elements might look a little bit like this quick piece of digital art.

A piece of digital art that includes 1980s fashions/hairstyles, neon lighting, the theme of death and a slight degree of irreverence. As you can see, it looks very different to the screenshot in the example. Like with the other pieces of digital art, I’ve also taken inspiration from other things too – such as gothic art, the music videos for a band called “Creeper”, the cyberpunk genre and other 1980s-style things.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂