Today’s Art (13th August 2017)

Well, I was feeling mildly uninspired when I made today’s digitally-edited painting. Since I was watching the last couple of episodes of season one of “Twin Peaks” at the time, I was in the mood for some 1980s/90s style art but, about halfway through sketching, I realised that the people in it looked like actors on a stage, so the painting ended up going in a slightly more random direction.

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

"Retro Stage" By C. A. Brown

“Retro Stage” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (12th August 2017)

Well, today’s digitally-edited painting was a fairly interesting one. Originally, I’d planned to make a more “realistic” painting of 1990s New York, which would have been inspired by this stunning HD Video from 1993!

Yet, probably due to the fact that I’d been watching a DVD of the first season of ‘Twin Peaks’ (it was broadcast in 1990, but probably filmed in the late 1980s – For example, many of the fashions/hairstyles in it look a bit like something from “Heathers), this painting soon went in more of a 1980s-style direction.

Then, the painting gradually ended up becoming more stylised too (eg: the American city in the background ended up being a wierd mixture of what I imagine New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Orleans to look like).

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

"1980s American Street Scene" By C. A. Brown

“1980s American Street Scene” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (9th August 2017)

Well, there are actually two versions of this picture. The main “1980s style” version of this picture was mostly just an excuse to try out this editing technique I found online for creating scanlines using a freeware editing program called “GIMP“. I also combined this with a variant on my “fake pixel art” technique, as well as a few extra effects from an ancient version of Paint Shop Pro.

The original version of this picture, with more detail, more vivid colours and more “normal” digital editing can be seen by clicking here.

As usual, both versions of are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Tech Corner (80s Version)" By C. A. Brown

“Tech Corner (80s Version)” By C. A. Brown

Four Ghoulish Tips For Making 1980s-Inspired Horror Artwork


Although the 1990s were probably cooler, if there’s one thing to be said for the 1980s, it’s that the horror genre looked way cooler back then!

Not only were splatterpunk horror novels and video nasties at the peak of their popularity, but the art associated with these things was much cooler. Seriously, this was a decade where heavy metal albums were more likely to feature hyper-detailed paintings on the cover than mere photographs or anything like that.

The 1980s was probably the last truly pre-CGI / pre-digital art decade and this meant that, if people wanted interesting illustrations for their horror novel covers, low-budget VHS covers, heavy metal album covers etc… they often had to use actual illustrations.

So, how can you make art in this style? Here are a few tips:

1) Use your own style: This might sound a bit counter-intuitive but, if you’ve already developed your own art style, then use it! Yes, it probably won’t look exactly like “authentic” 1980s horror artwork (especially if your style is very cartoonish, like mine) but it will make your art look distinctive and unique.

Not only that, using your own art style adds a certain knowing tone to the artwork. It shows that your painting or drawing is something made by a fan of 1980s-inspired horror artwork for fans of 1980s-inspired horror artwork. It allows you to tip your hat to the things that have inspired you, whilst also acknowledging that your artwork was made in the present day.

For example, this reduced-size preview of one of my upcoming paintings is extremely cartoonish. It features adorable stylised monsters, exaggerated 1980s fashions and only a tiny amount of blood. And yet, hopefully, it still makes you think of the horror genre in the 1980s:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 17th September.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 17th September.

Plus, as cynical as it sounds, using your own style also allows you to get on with making 1980s-style horror artwork art straight away. One of the distinctive things about horror-themed artwork from the 1980s was that it was incredibly realistic. It sometimes had a similar level of realism and technical quality to many famous historical paintings. In other words, it’s the sort of thing that takes years of formal training and/or decades of practice to make.

So, even just for simple practical reasons, use your own art style.

2) Do your research: If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably got the internet. So, as long as you’re reading this at home (and not at work, at school etc..) and aren’t easily disturbed by grotesque imagery, open up a search engine and do an image search for “1980s horror novel covers” or “1980s horror VHS covers”.

Now look at the hundreds of images and see what they have in common with each other. Once you’ve worked this out, then try to find a way to incorporate these general themes into your own 1980s-style horror artwork.

If you can’t do the research, then common themes include: visual contrast, visual storytelling, gruesome monsters, clever use of lighting, a slight degree of minimalism, understated gory imagery (since, with blood and guts, less is often more) etc….

In fact, now that you have this list, you already know all of the important stuff. But, I’ll spend the rest of the article going into detail about the first two things on the list, because they’re especially important.

3) Visual storytelling: Whether it was a novel cover, a VHS cover or an album cover, horror-themed artwork from the 1980s was attention-grabbing. This was mostly done through the use of visual storytelling.

In other words, things were happening in these pictures. Monsters lurched towards screaming bystanders, creatures lurked ominously, skeletons glared at the reader with hollow eyes, axes were brandished menacingly etc…..

Horror artwork from the 1980s had an immediacy and an impact that modern horror artwork sometimes doesn’t, for the simple reason that it was closer in style to a panel from a comic book or a frame from a horror movie. In other words, it often looked like a single moment from a much larger story. And, if you can add some action to your artwork, then it will instantly look more like something from the 80s.

For example, here’s another reduced-size art preview (that regular readers might recognise). Even though this digitally-edited painting uses my cartoonish style and is clearly set in the present day, it still evokes the horror art of the 1980s through the fact that it includes some visual storytelling – namely, a razorblade-wielding zombie lunging towards a terrified traveller:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 16th September.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 16th September.

4) Visual contrast: Another great thing about old 1980s horror artwork is that it made expert use of visual contrast. In other words, the important parts of the picture “stood out” a lot more because they were contrasted with a dark background.

In fact, many horror novel covers from the 1980s just use a solid black background, in order to make the rest of the artwork look brighter and more vivid by comparison.

If you look closely at the two preview pictures that I included earlier in the article, you’ll see that each painting consists of at least 30-50% black paint. As well as being a good general rule to follow for making cool-looking art, this also makes everything else in the picture stand out a lot more, whilst also giving the paintings a rather gloomy and ominous atmosphere.

So, if you want to give your horror artwork more of an ’80s look, then add some darkness!


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (13th July 2017)

Well, today’s digitally-edited cyberpunk painting ended up being a lot more detailed than I had originally expected, mostly since I happened to be watching “Ghost In The Shell[NSFW] (the “2.0” director’s cut of it, to be specific) whilst making the line art for it and wanted to try to make something even vaguely close to the hyper-detailed art in that film.

But, surprisingly, the final painting ended up having more of a 1980s-style look than I’d originally intended.

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

"Bus Stop" By C. A. Brown

“Bus Stop” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art ( 9th July 2017)

Well, today’s 1980s/90s-style gothic cyberpunk artwork started out as a watercolour painting but, after I’d scanned it and done my usual digital editing (to the brightness/contrast levels and the hue/saturation/lightness levels, as well as adding rain and lights in the sky) I still wasn’t quite satisfied with it.

Then I suddenly had an idea for a different editing technique that I really wanted to try out. By using the “dilate” effect in Paint Shop Pro 6 and then altering the highlight/midtone/shadow levels quite drastically (with another couple of small hue/saturation/lightness adjustments for good measure), I was able to make it look a bit like some kind of impressionist pixel art picture 🙂

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

"Corrugation" By C. A. Brown

“Corrugation” By C. A. Brown