Three Tips For Making More Interesting Fan Art

Although I don’t make fan art that often (since I’m worried that my imagination would start to atrophy if I do), I suddenly really felt like making some a while before writing this article. Even though the full-size picture won’t be posted here until mid-March, here’s a reduced-size preview of it:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 14th March.

Although I didn’t include all of the late 1980s/ early-mid 1990s references that I’d planned to include (as well as “Gremlins 2“, “Lois & Clark“, “The X-Files” and “Dilbert“, my initial idea also included references to “Twin Peaks” and “Heathers), it was a lot of fun to make. So, I thought that I’d give you a few tips about how to make your fan art more interesting.

1) Look for connections: One of the easiest ways to make interesting fan art is simply to look at what several of your favourite things have in common. If you can find some kind of connection between several things, then you can use this as the basis for a more interesting and complex piece of fan art.

For example, in the picture at the beginning of this article, two of the things that “Gremlins 2”, “Lois & Clark”, “The X-Files” and “Dilbert” have in common is that their heyday was during the 1990s and they are all at least partially set in offices. Because of this, I was able to combine all of these things into a single cartoon which was also about how strange things tended to happen in offices a lot more often in American TV shows/movies from the 1990s.

If you can analyse your favourite things for any similarities, then this can also allow you to include elements of parody in your fan art too. For example, the “I want to believe” poster from “The X-Files” near to Clark Kent (who is technically an extraterrestrial) in the example picture.

Here’s a close-up.

2) Don’t make it too often: Although I mentioned earlier that mostly making original art and avoiding making fan art too often (eg: more than about 1-2 times a month) can help you keep your imagination in shape, there’s another reason why you shouldn’t make fan art too often. It results in better fan art.

Why? Simply put, being reluctant to make too much fan art serves as a quality filter. If you set a limit on the amount of fan art that you make, then you’ll probably only make it when you’ve got a really good idea that you just absolutely have to make!

Only making fan art infrequently also gives you more time to think and plan your picture too. It makes you consider how you can express your ideas about the films/games/TV shows etc.. in question in the best way possible, since making fan art feels more like a special occasion than just an “ordinary” thing.

3) Make fan art of “realistic” things if your style is cartoonish, and vice versa: If your art style is more cartoonish, then you should focus on making fan art based on live-action films/TV shows etc.. If your art style is more “realistic”, then you should focus on making fan art based on stylised cartoons. But, why?

Doing this means that you either have to simplify or add complexity to a pre-existing thing. It also means that your fan art will automatically look slightly different from the thing that it is based on, which can instantly make it more visually interesting than a more “accurate” depiction.

This also ensures that you actually use your own style too. Since, if you’re an inexperienced cartoonist who is making fan art of another cartoon, then it can be very easy to use the other cartoonist’s style (not only is this incredibly lazy, but it also can cause visual consistency problems if you use your own style for the background etc..). Making fan art based on something with a radically different detail level to your own art forces you to actually use your own style.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Art Preview: Line Art, Alternate Versions etc..

Although I had a full article prepared for today, I wasn’t quite satisfied with it (it was supposed to be an article about computer games, inspiration and storytelling – but it mostly just ended up being a description of playing a computer game.).

So, instead of posting nothing, I thought that I’d show off some of the “work in progress” line art for some of my upcoming paintings (for late this year/early next year) in addition to some alternate versions (eg: with fewer visual effects etc..) of paintings that will appear here late this year/early next year.

So, enjoy 🙂 Normal articles should resume tomorrow (plus, there will be the usual daily art post here tonight too).

“Fan Art – Memories Of Books (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Cyberpunk Ruins (Without rain, digital lighting etc..)” By C. A. Brown

“Aberystwyth – The Green Leaves Of Summer (Line Art)”

“Metal Returns (Without rain, digital lighting etc..)” By C. A. Brown

“Aberystwyth – Bus Station (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Rural Gothic (Without rain)” By C. A. Brown

The Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My “Damania Reflection” Webcomic Mini Series

Well, as usual, I thought that I’d provide the “work in progress” line art for my recent “Damania Relection” webcomic mini series.

Surprisingly, there were hardly any major dialogue/art changes between the line art and the finished comics (the only one I can think of is the final panel of the first comic). This was mostly because, unlike some of my comics, I planned these ones a lot more extensively before making them.

Anyway, here’s the line art. Enjoy 🙂 As usual, you can click on each piece of line art to see a larger version of it.

“Damania Reflection – Gamer Anxiety (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reflection – Project (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reflection – Music (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reflection – Mind, Body & Spirit (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reflection – Timelines (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reflection – Attention Span (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

Improve Your Webcomic By Thinking Of Each Webcomic Update As A Whole – A Ramble

Well, I thought that I’d talk very briefly about making webcomics again since I’m kind of busy making a webcomic mini series for late February at the time of writing. In particular, I’ll be talking about a couple of the basic ways that you can improve your webcomic by thinking of each webcomic update as a whole.

For example, here’s a reduced-size preview of one of my comic updates from the mini series I’m making at the moment. Yes, I also previewed part of this one yesterday – although I’ll need to show you a (shrunken) version of the full update to illustrate what I’m talking about here.

The full-size comic update will be posted here on the 22nd February.

One of the first things that can help your comic updates to look better is to pay attention to the colour scheme of the whole update. Try to make sure that the predominant colour or colours in each panel goes well with the rest of the comic (reading about complementary colours might help you here), but that there is also some variety between the colours used in each panel.

For example, here’s another version of the preview with the approximate main colours in each panel highlighted. As you can see, it mostly uses both an orange/blue colour scheme and a black/purple one (with an orange/purple scheme in one panel and – although it isn’t included in the chart – a slight yellow/purple one in the first and last panel).

This is the whole comic with the (approximate) main colours in each panel highlighted.

Although the mixing of these colour schemes isn’t entirely perfect, it helps to add some visual variety to the comic, whilst also avoiding any of the panels clashing with each other too much.

Taking a step back and thinking about your comic update as a whole can also help you to save time with the art too. If you look again at the preview that I’ve shown you, only three of the panels have detailed backgrounds. In case you can’t see it, here’s a chart:

This is a chart showing the level of background detail in each panel.

Because the detailed panels are spread out between both horizontal “rows” of the comic, this allows me to make a more manageable number of detailed backgrounds whilst still giving the impression that the whole comic is more detailed than it actually is.

After all, the reader never has to go more than one or two panels without seeing a detailed background. So, the comic seems more detailed than it actually is – especially when read quickly. Doing something like this also helps to avoid the visual boredom that can come from seeing lots of undetailed backgrounds next to each other.

Those were just a couple of the ways how looking at your comic update as a whole can improve your comic. You can make your comic updates more instantly visually appealing through the choice and placement of colours, and you can save time by varying the level of background detail in sneaky ways. But, these things only work if you consider each comic update as a whole.

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Sorry for the short and basic article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

Three Ultra- Quick Reasons Why Filler Content Matters (In Webcomics)

Well, at the time of writing, I’m busy making a webcomic mini series that will appear here in late February. Although the mini series is going reasonably well, my main reason for making it was something along the lines of “I should really make some comics for February!” more than any sudden moment of inspiration. In fact, the mini series will even contain a remake of an old comic, but there will still be original comics – like in this preview:

The full comic update will be posted here on the 22nd February.

In other words, next month’s mini series could possibly fall into the category of “filler content”. But, although filler material often has something of a bad reputation – it can actually be a good thing. So, here are a few reasons why filler material matters:

1) It keeps you creating: Even if you’re feeling so uninspired that the idea of remaking your old stuff or making random doodles of your characters seems like an excitingly good idea, then making this filler content is still much better than making nothing at all.

Why? For the simple reason that you’re still making stuff. You are still creating things. One of the best ways to deal with uninspiration is just to keep making things, regardless of how good or bad they might be. Although this won’t instantly give you any new ideas, it will at least mean that you are still keeping up the momentum of creating things regularly. This will mean that when a good idea does appear, you won’t be out of practice.

Likewise, even making something terrible when you are feeling uninspired can still make you feel more of a sense of accomplishment than you would feel if you made literally nothing. This sense of accomplishment can remind you of what it’s like to feel inspired and can help you to gradually move back to a more inspired frame of mind.

2) It keeps your audience happy: Although some members of your audience might roll their eyes at a quick piece of filler content, they would probably be more annoyed if literally nothing appeared when they expected something to appear.

Posting filler content shows your audience that you still care about your webcomic, even if you are too busy or too uninspired to make full comic updates. More importantly, it also shows your audience that your webcomic is still current and that they should keep reading it.

In other words, it helps to avoid the appearance of an abandoned webcomic.

3) You can have fun with it: One of the great things about filler content is that it’s an opportunity to try something a little bit different. You can draw your characters in different styles, you can experiment with more minimalist comics, you can see what your old comics look like in your current art style, you can make parodies of other things (featuring your webcomic’s characters) etc…

In other words, filler content can be a chance to do things that might not “work” in one of your “ordinary” comics. So, try to see it as a chance to mess around and experiment a bit. Not only will this provide quick content that will interest and amuse your audience, but it will also make you think more creatively too – which might eventually lead to you feeling inspired again.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope it was interesting 🙂

Two Basic Reasons Why Digital Image Editing Matters (If You’re An Artist)

As regular readers of this site probably know, it’s no real secret that I (heavily) digitally edit most of my watercolour pencil and waterproof ink paintings before posting them here.

So, for today, I thought that I’d look at two of the most basic reasons why I do this and why it’s an important thing to learn if you’re making art that is intended to be viewed on a computer.

If you don’t have a program that you can use to edit digital photographs or scans of your art, there’s a free, non-commercial, open-source one called “GNU Image Manipulation Program” (“GIMP”) that will work on most operating systems and can be legally downloaded here.

If you already have an editing program, then I’ll be using fairly non-program specific descriptions in this article, so it will hopefully be useful to you too. Most image editing programs (old, new, open-source, closed-source, cheap, expensive etc…) contain the same basic features.

But, if anyone is interested in the programs I used for the examples in this article, I used a combination of an ancient late 1990s program called “Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6” and an old version of MS Paint. So, yes, you don’t need the latest fancy graphics programs to improve your art with image editing.

(It also goes without saying that this guide is only intended for improving non-commercial online displays of art. If you are selling the phyiscal originals, or advertising a gallery showing of said originals, then you must display accurate, unedited photographs/scans of the originals. Showing edited copies when selling the original [or selling access to it] is fraud.)

So, why does digital image editing matter?

1) It makes your art look bolder: Depending on the scanner you use or the lighting when you take digital photographs, digitised copies of your art can look somewhat faded or “flat”. Faded artwork tends to bring out every small imperfection and it can also give artwork a slightly “amateurish” look too. Like this:

This is a cropped, but otherwise unedited, scan of one of my paintings. As you can see, it looks somewhat faded.

This used to puzzle me for a while, especially since most art that you see on the internet tends to look a bit bolder and more vivid. But, I learnt how to solve this problem fairly quickly after I started using image editing programs. All you have to do is to look for an option in your editing program called “Brightness/Contrast” or “Brightness and contrast”. Once you’ve found it, then lower the brightness levels and increase the contrast levels until your picture starts to look a bit more vivid.

You’d be surprised at the difference it can make:

… And here’s the picture with -15% brightness and +71% contrast. As you can see, it instantly looks a lot bolder and more vivid.

After this, you can further increase the boldness of your art by looking for an option in your editing program called “Hue/Saturation/Lightness” (or something similar). Once you’ve found this, crank the “saturation” levels to maximum. Repeat the process if necessary. This should make the colours in your art look very slightly more vivid.

Here’s the picture after two “100%” saturation increases. The difference is slightly subtle, but the colours are a bit more vivid than the previous example.

2) It allows you to correct mistakes: One of the great things about digital image editing is that it allows you to correct mistakes that you made in your original painting. This can be an absolute lifesaver sometimes, not to mention that the experience of salvaging a slightly failed painting can be an oddly satisfying one.

Although explaining all of the techniques would take far too long, pay attention to the “pick color”/”color picker” tool in your program when you’re correcting small mistakes. The icon for this tool looks like a pipette/eye dropper in most programs and it allows you to change the brush colour to the exact colour of any pixel you click on with the icon. This means that small corrections will blend into the rest of the picture a lot better than if you just use the stock colours available in your editing program.

Likewise, do you remember the “Hue” part of the “Hue/Saturation/Lightness” option I mentioned earlier? Adjustments to this will change literally all of the colours in a selected area of your image (or the whole image if you haven’t selected part of it) by a set amount.

So, small adjustments to the hue level are one thing you can use to improve the colours in your art. Likewise, you can also change the colours in your art by looking for options labelled “colourise”/”colorize” or “Red/Green/Blue”, which are best used to change the colour of smaller selected areas in your artwork.

There are, of course, lots more things you can do with even the more basic image editing programs. But, if you take the time to learn and experiment, you’ll have the confidence to salvage paintings you would have abandoned or to improve paintings that you already really like.

For example, here’s a newly re-edited version of the example picture (my original edited version from a couple of months ago can be seen here). Compare it to the unedited example at the beginning of this article and you’ll see how much difference digital editing can make.:

This is the picture after some extensive additional editing. With the exception of the rain in the background, most of these changes are fairly subtle. But, they include adding more depth to the painting through the use of blurring effects, brightness changes and extra shadows. They also include adding more realistic skin tones, altering the hue and saturation levels even further, correcting countless small mistakes and altering the framing of the picture slightly too.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

The Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My “Damania – A Cynical Christmas (2017)” Webcomic Mini Series

Well, since my Christmas webcomic mini series finished recently, I thought that I’d do my usual thing of showing off the “work in progress” line art that I scanned whilst making it.

If I remember rightly, there weren’t that many major changes between the line art and the finished comics (I added a MS Paint snowman to the final version of “Spirit” and there were some very minor art changes to “Display”).

Anyway, here’s the line art. You can click on each piece of line art to see a much larger (and more readable) version.

“Damania – A Cynical Christmas (2017) – Novelty (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania – A Cynical Christmas (2017) – Spirit (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania – A Cynical Christmas (2017) – Movies (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania – A Cynical Christmas (2017) – Display (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania – A Cynical Christmas (2017) – Carols (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania – A Cynical Christmas (2017) – Sales (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown