Today’s Art (17th July 2018)

Well, today’s digitally-edited painting was an interesting one. Originally, I’d planned to make some “Silent Hill 3” fan art, but then I decided to make an original painting instead. This was originally going to be more of a 1980s/1990s-style film noir style painting that would allow me to experiment with perspective. However, it eventually ended up including a lot more sci-fi elements than I’d originally planned.

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

“The Robot’s Nest” By C. A. Brown

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Today’s Art (16th July 2018)

Well, although today’s digitally-edited painting required more editing than I had expected (mostly because I messed up the original painting and had to salvage it digitally after I’d scanned it), I really like how it turned out 🙂

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

“The Abandoned Palace” By C. A. Brown

Three Basic Tips For Making Lovecraftian Art

First of all, if you’ve never heard the word “Lovecraftian” before, it simply refers to things in the horror genre that have been influenced by the fiction of an early-mid 20th century author called H.P.Lovecraft.

Although Lovecraft himself held some fairly terrible opinions, his influence on the horror genre is undoubtable and he pioneered a distinctive style of sci-fi influenced horror fiction that focuses more on things like atmosphere, implied horror, mysterious cosmic events beyond the comprehension of humanity, the limits and misuse of science, unreliable first-person narration etc…

However, since Lovecraft was a writer rather than an artist (although he did make this sketch), knowing how to translate Lovecraftian horror into art can be somewhat confusing for novice artists. So, I thought that I’d offer a few tips.

1) Read the original stories: This is pretty obvious, but it’s important to take a look at the original source material in order to get a deeper understanding of what sets Lovecraftian horror apart from other genres of horror. Luckily, this isn’t as much of a time-consuming or costly task as you might think.

First of all, due to the state of the publishing industry at the time Lovecraft was writing, he mostly wrote short stories (in addition to one novella). Although some of his short stories contain an over-arching mythology and/or a few common features, they can be read in any order. As such, you also don’t need to read literally all of them if you don’t want to.

Likewise, all of Lovecraft’s works are out of copyright in both the UK and mainland Europe (since 2008). So, if you live here, you can legally read them all for free on the internet or find inexpensive “classics” reprints of them. However, if you live in America, then things are a bit more complicated.

From what I understand (and I’m not a copyright lawyer), any of Lovecraft’s stories that were published before 1923 are out of copyright in the US – in addition to several post-1923 stories whose copyright was not renewed properly under the system in place at the time.

But as easy as it is to get hold of the works of H.P.Lovecraft, it can take a while to used to his narrative style – which deliberately imitates the more formal, complicated and verbose styles of 19th century fiction. Even so, after you’ve read a few stories, you’ll probably get used to his slightly old-fashioned writing style.

2) Visual style: Generally speaking, most things that take visual influence from H.P.Lovecraft tend to have a few common visual features. These include things like gloomy lighting, old buildings, tentacles, slimy monsters, old books, bleak landscapes, rural and/or coastal locations etc…

Although Lovecraftian horror-themed artwork can include gruesome elements, these should be kept relatively subtle (eg: trickles of blood, bloodstains/ pools of blood etc..) and should focus more on blood than on gore. Still, if you are going to include gore in Lovecraftian horror artwork, then it must also have some other underlying element that makes it disturbing (eg: the gore itself shouldn’t be the main source of horror).

The general emotional tone that you want to go for in “proper” Lovecraftian horror artwork is one of gothic bleakness, infused with a foreboding sense of mystery. As such, your colour palettes should include things like muted browns/reds, cold blues and eerie greens.

Although Lovecraftian horror art has traditionally favoured a more realistic style, there’s certainly something to be said for fun, cartoonish art that uses the main features of this style. Not only is the juxtaposition of cartoonish art with “gloomy” horror inherently amusing, but there’s also a certain knowing geekiness to making Lovecraftian art in this style. Like in this upcoming painting of mine:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 18th July.

3) Add other stuff: One of the best and most creative ways to make Lovecraftian art is simply to blend it with another genre. For example, the picture I showed you earlier also includes elements from the film noir genre too.

Although blends of Lovecraft and film noir are quite common, Lovecraftian horror can be blended with pretty much any type of art. The only real limit is your own imagination and creativity. But, a good way to learn more about this is to see things that include some elements of Lovecraftian horror whilst also fitting into another genre.

For example, the movie “The Thing” includes some Lovecraftian elements (eg: unknown horrors, desolate arctic locations etc..) whilst also including relatively more modern-style science fiction and horror elements.

Likewise, the movie “Alien” is a blend of Lovecraftian-style horror (eg: mysterious alien civilisations, unearthly monsters etc..), futuristic science fiction and traditional gory horror. Then there’s “The Evil Dead” which blends ludicrously gruesome dark comedy and some vague elements from the zombie genre with more traditional style Lovecraftian horror.

In terms of games, the classic computer game “Quake” uses some vaguely Lovecraftian-style settings, monster designs etc… whilst avoiding the slow, implied, psychological horror of Lovecraft’s stories in favour of thrilling, fast-paced gory combat-based gameplay. Another good gaming-based example is “The Last Door” which adds some surrealist and Edgar Allen Poe-style elements (in addition to a few modern-style jump scares) and 1980s/90s-style pixel art to it’s Lovecraft-influenced story.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (14th July 2018)

Thanks to feeling a bit more inspired and a bit less rushed, today’s digitally-edited painting (which also comes in a non-rainy version) turned out at least slightly better than some of my more recent paintings 🙂

As usual, this painting (and the non-rainy version too) is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Devices” By C. A. Brown

Even More Thoughts About “Obvious” Early Creative Inspirations – A Ramble

Since I seem to be going through more of a nostalgic phase than usual at the moment, I thought that I’d talk about early creative influences again.

This is because it’s always absolutely fascinating when a major influence on your art, fiction etc… has been staring you in the face for literally more than a decade…. but you somehow don’t realise it until ages later.

But, why does this happen? I’ll start by giving a (long-winded) example from my own experiences and then I’ll look at the reasons why these types of inspirations and influences aren’t always immediately noticeable.

I’ve already talked a couple of times about how things like heavy metal album covers, old horror novel covers and various T-shirts have influenced my approach to lighting in most of my art from the past few years.

If you’ve never seen any of my art before, I generally tend to follow the rule of “30-50% of the total surface area of each picture must be covered with black paint“. This results in high-contrast chiaroscuro lighting that looks a bit like this upcoming painting of mine:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 16th July.

But, although I know about this already, I had two experiences within the past few weeks that reminded me of just how much of this style of lighting I’d been exposed to throughout my life.

The first was when I went through a phase of watching and/or re-watching lots of films from the 1990s for a series of reviews that appeared here recently – almost all of them included at least a few examples of this style of lighting:

This is a screenshot from “House On Haunted Hill” (1999), a horror movie I first watched when I was a teenager and re-watched recently for a review.

This is a screenshot from “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” (1990), another old favourite that I rewatched and reviewed recently.

The second was when I once again rediscovered a brilliant computer game I first played during my childhood called “Quake“.

This is a game I seem to have discovered (and then almost completely forgotten about) several times during my life. And, of course, this style of gloomy lighting is a central part of what makes the game so distinctive and atmospheric:

This is a screenshot from a set of fan-made levels for “Quake” (1996) called ‘Dimensions Of The Past’ (2016) that I’m playing at the moment.

Following on from this, during another moment of gaming nostalgia the day before I wrote this article, I decided to order a second-hand copy of the full PC version of “Silent Hill 3” (since my PS2 doesn’t work any more, and I’ve had a demo of the PC version for a few years).

This was a game that I first played when I was about sixteen and it holds a lot of nostalgic memories for me. But, when I thought about the game a bit more, I remembered that it too contained this style of gloomy lighting:

This is a screenshot from the demo version of the PC version of “Silent Hill 3” (2003). Again, it contains lots of gloomy high-contrast lighting.

I could go on for a while, but the fact is that I’ve been exposed to this style of lighting so many times in so many things that I consider to be “cool” that it really shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s become part of my art style. Yet, it’s always a bit of a surprise when I realise that another thing I enjoyed when I was younger contains this style of lighting. But, why?

Simply put, although it’s really easy to spot something that looks visually appealing, a narrative voice that you really like etc… It’s a little bit more difficult to work out the precise technical reasons why you really like it.

These reasons are important because, although you don’t need technical definitions for something to unconsciously influence your creative works (eg: when novice writers try to imitate the style of their favourite authors), you do need them if you want to be influenced or inspired in a more conscious and sophisticated way.

The best way to spot influences more easily is through study and comparison. If you gain a better understanding of things like artistic techniques, literary techniques etc… then you’ll be able to work out how the people who made your favourite things were able to make them so cool. Learning a bit about the technical side of art, writing etc.. also means that you’ll be able to spot things that you might not have consciously noticed (or known how to talk about) before.

Likewise, reading lots of reviews and/or watching in-depth reviews of things like games and films on sites like Youtube can also help you to get into the mindset of thinking about things critically. Usually, a good critic will explain the reasons why something does or doesn’t work – and being exposed to lots of these types of reviews will help you to get into this mindset too.

In addition to this, if you compare a lot of your favourite creative works, then you’ll probably start to notice similarities. The similarities might not be immediately obvious, but they will probably be there. As soon as you work out what these things have in common with each other, then your own creative works (which have probably been unconsciously influenced by your favourite things) will also start to make a lot more sense too.

Finally, the important thing to remember is that when we are first exposed to a lot of our most important early creative influences, we’re usually too young to really think about them in technical or critical terms.

In other words, we watch, read or play something that is cool enough to make us think “I want to make things like this“. But, we don’t know exactly what makes these things cool. Yes, we might have a general sense or a vague idea, but we won’t usually have a precise technical definition at the time. So, this is why discovering “obvious” influences years afterwards can be such a surprising thing.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂