Today’s Art (29th December 2017)

Well, this digitally-edited painting was another strange one. Originally, I’d planned to remake a painting of mine from 2014 but, whilst sketching it, I realised that the remake didn’t look that great. So, after another couple of random sketches, I found that I was making a painting set in a cosy, but ominously gothic, version of 1980s/90s America.

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

"The Ghost Night" By C. A. Brown

“The Ghost Night” By C. A. Brown

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Today’s Art (27th December 2017)

Well, today’s (heavily) digitally-edited painting was originally going to be a perspective experiment (eg: trying to draw a “selfie”-like perspective). But, it quickly ended up turning into a random 1980s/90s cyberpunk style painting instead.

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

“Batteries” By C. A. Brown

Three Tips For Finding “Hidden” Influences On Your Art Style

Although I’ve written about “hidden” influences (eg: things that have influenced your art, that you’ve mostly forgotten about) before, I felt like returning to the subject again after discovering a new one. I am, of course, talking about an old computer game from Apogee called “Math Rescue” that I played during my childhood. It also contains what is probably one of the earliest examples of high-contrast art that I ever saw:

The Apogee logo. Many of the first games I ever played were from this company, who also invented shareware too.

Although the actual game doesn’t really look that much like this, the menu uses this really cool high-contrast style. One of their other games, called “Paganitzu”, uses a version of this style a lot more prominently too.

Of course, my art style when I saw these games for the first time consisted of the kind of blob-like stick figures that most people draw when they’re about six or seven. But, whilst making a digitally-edited painting (in my usual high-contrast style) that will appear here in January, I noticed that it reminded me a bit of this game. And, hey presto! I’d found a hidden influence:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 4th January.

So, how can you find hidden influences on your own art style? Here are a few tips:

1) It can happen by accident: Like in the example I’ve just given, one of the easiest ways to find hidden influences on your art style is simply to wait until one of them appears. Usually, this happens when you make a painting or a drawing and then suddenly think “Hey! This reminds me of…

Sometimes this sort of thing can happen when other people see your art too. This is especially true when you show your art to people who knew you when you were younger and probably remember the things you used to read/watch/play.

Yes, sometimes your art might remind other people of things that you’ve never actually seen/read/played. This is always weird when it happens, but it’s usually because both you and the thing in question share a common inspiration or because you’ve been inspired by something that was inspired by the other thing. Either way, it’s helped you find another influence on your art that you didn’t know about.

2) Nostalgia: Another good way to find hidden influences on your art style is to be nostalgic. Look back on the things that you really enjoyed when you were younger (but only remember vaguely) and, now that you’re older, you’ll probably begin to notice some slight similarities between them and your own art.

This obviously won’t work with everything, but it can be really surprising when it happens. After all, even though you may not have been an artist at the time when you first saw these things, they’ve probably had some influence on your imagination if they impressed you enough that you still vaguely remembered them years or decades later.

The important thing to remember here is to focus on personal nostalgia (eg: things you actually remember from the time) rather than the stylised “nostalgia” that appears in the mainstream media. If you grew up in the 90s, then you probably have a slight advantage here since 90s nostalgia is only just really starting to become mainstream these days (compared to, say, 1960s-80s nostalgia).

3) Take influence/inspiration often: The best way to recognise hidden influences is simply to know how to take influence/inspiration from things. If you try to improve your art by looking at the things that impress you and working out how and why they do this (and applying those lessons to your own art), then you’re going to have a much better understanding of how inspiration and influence works.

Once you know this, then spotting “hidden” influences becomes a lot easier, for the simple reason that you know what sort of things to look for.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Reasons Why The 1990s Was Such A Creative Decade

Well, after looking through my CD collection and realising that 1994 was an absolutely amazing year for American punk music, I thought that it was time to write yet another article about the 1990s. In particular, I’ll be looking at some of the reasons why the 1990s was such a creative decade.

Because, it was! Computer games back then tended to be eager to innovate and try new things. TV shows back then weren’t afraid to be quirky, strange etc.. for the first time. Even generic action movies often tended to have more imaginative and original storylines too (eg: “Speed”, “True Lies” etc…)

Yes, I’m not sure if I’ve talked about this before but, here are a few rose-tinted reasons why the 1990s was a more creative decade:

1) The world was less connected: Yes, the world wide web existed during the 1990s. But, it was a lot slower, more primitive and less widely used than it is today. In other words, the world was a lot less connected than it is today.

What does this have to do with creativity? Well, it meant that there was a lot more variation between creative works. These days, if we’re interested in creating something different, we can just look it up on the internet and learn everything about it. Back then, you’d have had to read books, look for videos etc.. and then use your imagination to extrapolate from whatever research material you could find. This probably led to more variation between creative works about the same subject.

In addition to this, the lack of connections meant that creative works tended to reflect their surroundings a bit more too. This is why, for example, Californian punk music from the 1990s (eg: Bad Religion, The Offspring, Green Day etc..) often tends to have a fairly distinctive worldview and attitude. Likewise, the 1990s was a golden age for sitcoms here in Britain, and the differences in humour, attitude, characters etc.. between British and American sitcoms from the time are surprisingly pronounced.

So, when the world was less connected, people had to use their imaginations more and there also tended to be a lot more variation between both individuals and locations.

2) People did more with less: Back in the 1990s, film budgets were slightly lower than they are today (plus, mid-budget films still existed!). Back in the 1990s, computer and video game technology was a lot more basic than it is now. Back in the 1990s, TV shows often had even lower budgets than many films do.

Now, you’d expect all of this to have a damaging effect on the levels of creativity in the world. But, it didn’t. Because creative people had less, they had to find ways to do more with it. They had to find clever ways to make things seem more spectacular or expensive than they actually were.

In other words, they had to focus on the things that don’t cost much. These include old-fashioned things like good storytelling, clever humour, good game design, imaginative ideas, unique art styles, emotional depth, good characterisation etc.. that mostly seem to have gone out of fashion in modern mass culture.

Because film-makers couldn’t dazzle the audience with multi-million dollar CGI effects and game makers couldn’t use photo-realistic 3D graphics, they had to focus on other ways to keep the audience interested. In other words, they actually had to use imagination and creativity.

3) Culture: I can only speak for British (and maybe American) cultural history here, but there were so many creativity-friendly cultural differences in the 1990s compared to today.

The first is that, relatively speaking, the 1990s was a happier age. The cold war had ended and 9/11 hadn’t happened yet. The future seemed bright and optimistic. Of course, what this meant is that if anyone wanted to make anything thrilling, scary, dramatic, rebellious etc… then they couldn’t just look at the newspaper to get ideas. They actually had to think and to use their imaginations a bit more.

Likewise, the 1990s – in Britain especially- was a much more liberal decade in the traditional sense of the world. This was a decade where hedonism was celebrated, where being “edgy”, “controversial” and/or “rebellious” was cool etc… This was a decade where punk music was in the charts and where even a few manufactured pop groups tried to have some kind of a punk-like attitude (eg: The Spice Girls). This was a decade where LGBT-themed drama started appearing on television (eg: “Queer as Folk” in the UK and “Ellen” in the US). This was a decade where free speech and rebelling against the establishment mattered much more than it seems to today.

In a more general sense, culture at the time also tended to be more eager to reinvent things. Films like “Scream” and TV shows like “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” wanted to look at the horror genre from different perspectives. Established genres were re-imagined in interesting ways (eg: “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman” turns the superhero genre into a light-hearted romantic comedy, and it’s really great 🙂 But, it’d never be made in this modern age of “ultra-serious” superhero movies. ).

Although it probably wasn’t perfect, the culture of the 1990s just seems to have been far more creativity-orientated than modern culture is.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Three Tips For Making Art Set In Late 1980s/ Early-Mid 1990s America

Although I’ve never actually been to America, I’m absolutely fascinated by late 1980s and early-mid 1990s America (I’m going to define this time period as 1987-1996, even though 1988-1995 would probably be a better definition). From everything that I’ve seen and read about it, it seems like a really fascinating period of history in cultural terms.

Naturally, it’s also a setting that I’ve used in several paintings and one comic. But, it took me a while to work out how to make art that is set in this time and place. Although I’ve already shown off the line art for this painting, here’s a reduced size preview of a painting that I made that is set in this location/time:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 29th December.

So, I thought that I’d share a few tips for how to make art set in late 1980s/ early-mid 1990s America:

1) Research materials: One of the best ways to get a sense of what this time period was like is to watch and listen to as many things from back then as possible. Whilst you obviously shouldn’t directly copy anything from them, they can be incredibly useful if you know how to take inspiration properly.

Unfortunately, every TV show, film, album etc.. from that time period is still copyrighted. But, due to their age, second-hand copies of things from this time period can usually be found fairly cheaply. But, if you don’t have a large budget or you just want a quick general sense of the aesthetic of the time, then do a few image searches about the time period (but, of course, remember not to directly copy any of the images you see in your art). Likewise, check out this uncannily modern-looking HD footage of New York in 1993.

In terms of films and TV shows, I’d recommend checking out any of the following: “Twin Peaks” (Seasons 1&2), “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman” (Seasons 1&2 ), “The X-Files” (Seasons 1-3), “The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air” (Seasons 1-6), “The Simpsons” (Seasons 1-7), “Drop Dead Fred”, “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”, “Heathers”, “Trancers”, “Pulp Fiction”, “Tremors” and “Robocop 1-3”.

In terms of albums, I’d recommend any of the following: “Stranger Than Fiction” by Bad Religion (punk), “Smash” by The Offspring (punk), “Metallica” by Metallica (thrash metal), “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A (rap), “Days Of Open Hand” by Suzanne Vega (acoustic), and literally anything by Nirvana (grunge).

2) Fashions: From my (relatively limited) research, American fashion in this time period was kind of like a slightly stranger and/or mildly more formal version of modern fashion.

Generally, it tends to include things like trench coats/ biker jackets, plaid shirts, floral dresses, boxy sunglasses, sweaters worn like belts, white T-shirts paired with jeans, sleeveless dresses layered over T-shirts, longer sweaters with belts, pencil skirts, garish tracksuits etc…

Likewise, American goth fashions of the time tended to be a lot more understated (eg: black T-shirts, leather trench coats etc..) when compared to 1980s Britain (eg: large hairdos, fishnets etc..). American punk fashions of the early-mid 1990s were also fairly understated (eg: T-shirts, jeans etc..) when compared to traditional British punk fashion (eg: mohawks, safety pins etc..). Heavy metal fashion, on the other hand, is pretty much timeless.

This was also the age of grunge fashion, 1980s middle America and the whole “no logo” trend. So, there tended to be a preference for clothes without obvious branding back then. But, saying that, I’ve learnt most of what I know about the history of American fashion in this time period from looking at films and TV shows (where for advertising/copyright reasons, obvious branding was often avoided if it wasn’t part of a product placement deal).

3) Location design: Although many places in late 1980s/early-mid 1990s America probably looked fairly “ordinary”, locations in media from the time often tended to look interesting in all sorts of cool ways.

For example, offices tended to have much more of an art deco kind of look to them (eg: lots of marble, minimalist office furniture, abstract art etc..). Likewise, cosy wooden buildings tended to be a lot more popular too. Likewise, city streets often tended to have more of a “film noir” kind of look to them too.

Another way to make a location in a painting or a comic from this time period look more “historical” is simply to include technology from the time. Technology back then tended to be a lot bulkier than it is now – so, include things like CRT televisions/computer monitors, boomboxes, floppy disks, audio cassettes etc…

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (11th October 2017)

Yes! Today’s digitally-edited painting was originally just going to be a painting of a bookshop/newsagents from the early 2000s. But, I was feeling even more inspired than I had expected, so it ended up going in a much more interesting 1980s/90s cyberpunk style direction 🙂 And, yes, I used a bit of artistic licence since – were I to draw a realistic early 2000s horror bookshelf, it’d probably consist of at least 50% Stephen King novels…

And, yes, I consider this painting to be a belated part of one of my two “awesome stuff” art series (here’s a page containing links to the first one, I can’t remember if I compiled the second one into a single post)

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

"And Those Were The Glory Days" By C. A. Brown

“And Those Were The Glory Days” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art ( 7th October 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the fourth comic in “Damania Resized”, a new webcomic mini series (with extra panels!) 🙂 Plus, in case you missed it, here’s the first comic, the second comic and the third comic.

If you’re interested, you can find links to lots of my other comics here).

This comic ended up being a little bit more political than I’d expected. It was inspired by the fact that I’d re-watched “Robocop 3” earlier that day (after first seeing it on second-hand VHS when I was about fourteen). One of the things that really surprised me was just how liberal it was, and (most of the time) in the best possible way too. Almost all of the “liberal” parts of the film are just subtle, integral elements of what makes the film what it is. It’s a refreshingly normal film, and the kind of thing that modern Hollywood probably wouldn’t make.

But, yes, 1990s pop culture was a lot more liberal in many ways (back in the days when being liberal was a laid-back attitude, rather than a set of rigid jargon-filled political dogmas that must be followed [on Twitter] religiously). I’m just annoyed that I didn’t have room in this comic for “Star Trek: The Next Generation/Voyager/DS9”, “Babylon 5”, “Urban Chaos“, “Bits“, “Bugs“, “The Longest Journey“, “The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air“, “The Sandman” etc…

Note: Unlike the previous comics in this mini series, this comic update is NOT released under a Creative Commons licence of any kind (since it features characters from modern culture. Albeit in the context of parody, cultural criticism etc..).

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Resized - Progressive" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Resized – Progressive” By C. A. Brown