Three Ways To Find Your Own Aesthetic

2017-artwork-find-your-own-aesthetic

Before I begin, I should probably explain the difference between an “art style” and an “aesthetic”.

Your art style is the unique way that you draw and the artistic techniques that you use. Your aesthetic, on the other hand, includes things like the type of lighting you prefer, the type of colour combinations you prefer, any recurring patterns etc…

Or, to put it more simply, your “art style” refers the technical details of your art (eg: how you draw faces, how you draw trees etc..) and your aesthetic refers to the overall “look” of your art as a whole.

For example, here are several paintings of mine that are set in wildly different locations, yet they look similar due to the fact that they have a similar gloomy type of lighting and a similar (relatively) limited colour palette.

"Nail Varnish Still Life" By C. A. Brown

“Nail Varnish Still Life” By C. A. Brown

"La Chanteuse" By C. A. Brown

“La Chanteuse” By C. A. Brown

"Cafe Cyberpunk" By C. A. Brown

“Cafe Cyberpunk” By C. A. Brown

"The Skeletal Hall" By C. A. Brown

“The Skeletal Hall” By C. A. Brown

So, how do you find your own aesthetic? Here are a few of the ways:

1) Your favourite things: Take a look at some stills from your favourite movie, take a look at the covers of your favourite albums, take a look at some screenshots from your favourite games, take a look at your favourite comics etc… and see if you can find what visual features they have in common.

It’s possible that they have absolutely nothing in common, but it’s much more likely that they have at least some vague similarities. After all, you chose all of these things. They all appealed to you in some way or another. So, it’s likely that there might be at least a few visual similarities of some kind or another.

For example, they might all use bold colours against a gloomy background, or they might use pale muted colours. They might all come from the same 10-20 year period. They might all feature a similar type of setting etc…

If you can find the similarities between your favourite things, then this will give you a few important clues about what your own aesthetic looks like.

2) Learn colour theory: One of the things that really helped me to find my own aesthetic was learning how colours interact with each other. And, more importantly, learning how to find groups of colours that complement each other.

If you look at a red/yellow/blue colour wheel, you can find groups of colours that will go together well by either drawing a line across the wheel or drawing an equilateral triangle over it. The colours at the ends of the line, or at the three points of the triangle will go together well (and are referred to as “complementary colours“).

Once you know how to find complementary colour schemes, then see which ones are your favourites. Once you’ve found them, you can either combine them in your art or you can look for variations by slightly altering all of the colours in the same way (eg: changing a yellow/light purple colour scheme into an orange/dark purple colour scheme).

This can help you to form part of your aesthetic. Just remember that there’s no copyright on colour schemes – so, don’t be afraid to borrow or adapt any cool-looking colour schemes that you find in other things.

3) Practice, observation and experimentation: Your own aesthetic won’t just magically appear within the space of five seconds. Even if you follow the first two points on this list, it’ll only give you a general idea of what your aesthetic might look like after more practice and learning. I mean, it took me at least 2-3 years of daily practice to learn more than the very beginnings of my own aesthetic.

Likewise, you should always be on the lookout for things that will help you to refine your aesthetic (eg: they almost fit into your current aesthetic, but don’t quite. Or they look intriguingly different).

For example, a month or two before writing this article, I played and reviewed a set of levels for “Doom II” called “Ancient Aliens“. As soon as I saw this, I knew that it was quite close to my own aesthetic (which is one reason why I loved it) but it was also different enough that I also learnt a few more things about how to handle colours in artwork from playing it.

So, keep practicing and keep looking for things that will help you refine your aesthetic.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Learning To Love The Limitations Of Your Art Style – A Ramble

2017-artwork-when-something-is-incompatible-with-your-art-style

Although none of the paintings that I’ll be talking about will be posted here in full for a month or two, I thought that I’d talk about a time when I tried to make a type of art that was incompatible with my own art style.

Basically, after watching quite a few episodes of the ITV adaptation of “Poirot” on DVD, I wanted to make some art that was set in similar kinds of locations. I wanted to make 1920s/30s-style art, with Art Deco architecture, vintage fashions and a slightly decadent atmosphere.

After all, I knew how to make new types of art inspired by cool things that I’ve seen. But, despite two attempts at this, I failed.

It was only a while later that I realised why, everything about my own art style was the opposite of the type of art that I was trying to make. The type of art that I wanted to make was bright, highly minimalist and almost modern/timeless in style.

However, my own art style and aesthetic preferences include things like giving the impression of lots of detail, gloomy locations , a focus on the more recent past (eg: the 1980s and 1990s) etc…. Although I probably could make the type of “art deco” art that I’d wanted to make, I’d probably feel like it wasn’t really “my” kind of art.

My kind of art looks a bit more like this:

 This is a reduced-size preview of a painting that is slightly more typical of my style, the full painting will be posted here on the 11th June.

This is a reduced-size preview of a digitally-edited painting that is slightly more typical of my style, the full painting will be posted here on the 11th June.

The only way I could even try to make the 1920s/30s style art that I wanted to make was to add a lot of my own style to it, to change the lighting and to change the detail levels to something more in line with the type of art that I usually enjoy making.

Here is a reduced-size preview of the best of the two paintings in this style that I attempted to make. It looks more like something from the 1990s than the 1920s, and it looks considerably gloomier than the things that inspired it:

The full-size painting will be posted here in late May. The other one will be posted here on the 9th June, and doesn't really look as good.

The full-size painting will be posted here in late May. The other one will be posted here on the 9th June, and doesn’t really look as good.

One of the problems with developing a unique art style (eg: how you draw people, buildings etc..) and/or a unique aesthetic (eg: how you use colours, lighting, patterns etc..) is that it’s going to limit what you can and cannot make. For example, if your art style/aesthetic is very bright and whimsical, then you’re probably not going to be great at making gloomy gothic art and vice versa.

But, this isn’t the giant problem that you might think it is. Your limitations can actually improve your art. After all, trying to make another type of art fit into your own “style” will make your art look more unique. It’ll make it stand out from the things that have inspired you.

Plus, finding a type of art that you can’t make because of your art style may possible also be a sign that you’ve actually found your own style. Of course, it could also be a sign that you need more practice but, if you feel like you could technically make the kind of art that has inspired you but would feel like it wouldn’t quite be “right”, then it’s probably a sign that you’ve found your own style.

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

Four Reasons Why The Noir Genre Is So Interesting For Artists

2017 Artwork Noir Art article sketch

Well, although I’ve talked about pulp art before, I thought that I’d look at something subtly different today. I am, of course, talking about the noir genre. Although the two genres are very similar, I’d argue that the noir genre is slightly different since it generally refers to a particular style or type of art, rather than a type of art that is set in a very specific time and place (eg: 1920s-50s America).

The noir genre has probably had a large influence on my own art – either indirectly (eg: being inspired by things that are, in turn, inspired by the noir genre) or, more recently, more directly. It’s one of the most inspirational genres that I’ve found.

So, why is the noir genre such a cool and inspirational genre for artists? Here are a few of the reasons.

1) It goes with everything: In artistic terms, the noir genre is a combination of an aesthetic and an attitude. Because of this, it can be combined with all sorts of things that you wouldn’t traditionally associate with the genre. The classic example of this is, of course, the film “Blade Runner” which seamlessly incorporates futuristic science fiction elements into a genre that is traditionally associated with the 1940s/50s.

But, because most of the things that make the noir genre what it is (eg: gloomy lighting, emotions, drama, a slightly gothic atmosphere etc…) aren’t time-specific, you can apply a timelessly cool film noir-like style to pieces of art that are set in virtually any time period or in any genre.

For example, here’s a slightly noir-influenced panel from a webcomic of mine set in Victorian England that will appear here in full in early-mid March:

Although it is perhaps slightly on the colourful side, the art in this comic panel was slightly inspired by the film noir genre.

Although it is perhaps slightly on the colourful side, the art in this comic panel was slightly inspired by the film noir genre.

2) You get to play with lighting: As the name suggests (“film noir” is French for “black film”), noir art tends to be on the gloomier side of things. Because of this, it means that you can do all sorts of cool and dramatic things with the lighting in noir art, for the simple reason that it stands out more against the gloom.

As such you can do a lot of cool things with the lighting in film noir-inspired art than you can’t do in other genres. Yes, the carefully-placed lighting in the noir genre is hardly new (I mean, Tenebrist artists were doing this kind of thing in the 17th century), but the contrast between light and darkness in noir art has an extremely distinctive and fascinating look to it.

Not only that, you also have to choose your light sources carefully – meaning that they have to be a part of the “story” within the painting or drawing.

For example, you could use the flare of a match as a character lights a cigarette, you could use the glow of a computer screen in a dark room, you could use the angry glow of a sunset, you could use the dramatic muzzle flash of a gun, you could use a dramatic-looking neon sign in the background etc.. In noir art, even the light sources are often part of the drama.

For example, in this old noir-influenced horror painting of mine from last year, the main light source in the painting is a mysterious red glow that is just tantalisingly out of frame. Only a muted dull orange/brown wall-mounted light provides any other lighting to the picture.

"Late Return" By C. A. Brown

“Late Return” By C. A. Brown

Because all of the light sources in noir art are often artificial lighting, this also means that you can create a bold and vivid colour scheme in your art by choosing the types of lighting carefully.

For example, in this digitally-edited and noir-influenced sci-fi painting of mine that was posted here a week or two ago, the main light sources are two red strip lights and a small red television screen. These red lights are contrasted with the blue areas of the picture in order to create an ominous atmosphere:

"Midnight Centre" By C. A. Brown

“Midnight Centre” By C. A. Brown

3) The fashions: Although the noir genre can be applied to pretty much any time or place, one interesting facet of it is the fashions that work well in this genre.

Generally, slightly old, minimalist (in style, not amount of clothing!) and/or understated fashions tend to work best. Although the fashions in the historical film noir genre look wonderfully vintage these days, they were of course, totally ordinary and unremarkable at the time.

The best way to describe fashion design in the noir genre is probably “slightly formal fashions in informal situations”. This contrast between the two things sums up one of the things that makes the noir genre so instantly fascinating. Likewise, the fashions in film noir art are often both pretentious and unpretentious at the same time. It really gives the genre a truly unique look and it is one of the things that makes it so fun to use in art.

To give you an example from my own art, although this digitally-edited painting (set in the 1990s) is only mildly influenced by the noir genre, you can hopefully see what I mean about the contrast between formal fashions and slightly informal situations.

"1990s Office Awesomeness" By C. A. Brown

“1990s Office Awesomeness” By C. A. Brown

4) Instant drama: Finally, because of some of the things that I’ve mentioned, art in the noir genre just instantly looks dramatic. Plus, since it is a genre that takes it’s inspiration from film, there is also an emphasis on action and visual storytelling in this genre.

A good piece of noir art will look like it could almost be a single frame from a much larger film. This gives noir art an intriguingly mysterious, yet instantly thrilling appearance that helps to grab the audience’s attention in a way that most other types of art can only dream of.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

How To Give Your Art A Consistent Aesthetic

2015 Artwork Consistent Aesthetic Article sketch

Although this is an article about how to make your own art more distinctive, I’m going to have to start by singing the praises of another artist for a while. There’s a good reason for this so, don’t worry, I haven’t turned into an art critic or anything like that.

Anyway, a couple of months ago, I was randomly browsing DeviantART when I happened to stumble across an absolutely brilliant artist called Leonid Afremov.

His online gallery contains over 3000 paintings and, looking at random pages of it, there don’t even seem to be any periodic dips in quality (unlike my own art, which can vary in quality quite heavily at times). Every painting I’ve seen of his has been absolutely wonderful.

Like many great artists, Leonid Afremov has his own personal style – he tends to paint using very visible brushstrokes, which give his paintings an almost mosiac-like quality, whilst also being reminiscent of impressionist art from the 19th century. But, enough pretentious art criticism – what really makes his art stand out?

Simple. He has a very distinctive and consistent aesthetic.

What
do I mean by this? Well, whilst he uses a fairly distinctive painting style he also makes sure that many of his paintings have a few things in common.

Many of his paintings use an orange and blue colour scheme (with green added occasionally) and many of his paintings also include at least one tree. Combined with his distinctive painting style, this means that you can recognise a painting by Leonid Afremov at a glance.

There are many ways that you can create an aesthetic of your own. The most obvious one is, as I mentioned earlier, to use a consistent colour scheme. As long as the colours don’t clash and you have a good blend of “warm” and “cool” colours, then using a consistent colour scheme can be a great way to create your own aesthetic without limiting what you can and can’t paint.

(On a slight tangent, did you know that blue and orange colour schemes are the most popular type of colour scheme in modern movie posters? Seriously, it’s apparently one of the most visually appealing and attention-grabbing colour schemes in existence. )

Another way to create a consistent aesthetic is to have common themes in your artwork. This can involve using a recurring object (like the trees in Leonid Afremov’s paintings), but you can also do things like making sure that all of your art evokes a particular mood, a particular time in history etc…. The only problem with this approach is that it can limit what you can paint.

Finally, another way to come up with a consistent aesthetic is to use similar levels of brightness and/or contrast in almost all of your artwork.

As I’ve mentioned before, most of my paintings tend to be fairly gloomy (often with fairly high levels of contrast). Yes, even when I try to paint something as cheerful and bright as a summer music festival – this tends to happen:

"Festival Rain" By C. A. Brown

“Festival Rain” By C. A. Brown

Likewise, even when I try to do something like make a still life painting of some cute stuffed animals, then it still ends up looking gloomier than most paintings of stuffed animals do:

"Starfish And Nail Varnish" By C. A. Brown

“Starfish And Nail Varnish” By C. A. Brown

The advantage of using brightness and/or contrast as part of your own personal aesthetic is that – like with using a consistent colour scheme – you have total freedom when it comes to what you can draw or paint. Since you don’t have to worry about including the same things in all of your paintings, you can create a much wider variety of paintings that still look fairly distinctive.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂