Two Sneaky Ways To Be An Inspired Artist Again

Well, it’s been a few days since I wrote about making art. So, I thought that I’d talk about how to get into an inspired frame of mind because I seem to be feeling very inspired at the time of writing. This has led to digitally-edited paintings like these:

“Metal Returns” By C. A. Brown

“Cyberpunk Ruins” By C. A. Brown

But, during the weeks before this, I found myself grappling with uninspiration a few times. Whether it was the uninspiration that comes from thinking things like “what’s the point of making art? It feels like a chore” or whether it was the type of uninspiration where you just can’t think of what to paint, it was a world apart from the inspired phase I’m going through at the time of writing.

So, I thought that I’d offer a couple of tips for getting into a highly inspired frame of mind. Enjoy 🙂

1) Enjoy something new!: This may sound counter-intuitive, but find a creative work that you really enjoy, then enjoy it. This works especially well if it’s something that is new to you, but it can also work with fairly familiar stuff too. But, why can this make you feel more inspired?

First of all, it reminds you of how awesome creativity can be. If a game, comic, song, novel, film, TV show etc.. can make you feel amazed, then it means that it is possible for creative works to evoke these emotions. And, guess what? You also have the power to make things that make you feel awesome. So, it can be a great motivational tool.

Not only that, seeing things that you enjoy makes you think “I want to make something like that“. This then means that you’ll have an incentive to work out how to take inspiration from the thing you’ve seen and then create something new and original. In other words, seeing something that amazes you not only gives you a starting point for an original piece of art but it also gives you a thrilling challenge too (eg: how can I make something new and original that makes me feel as awesome as I did when I saw that other thing?).

In addition to this, it also makes you think about your favourite things. After all, if you are amazed by something, there has to be a reason for it. This will probably cause associative memories of other things that fill you with enthusiasm, fascination etc.. and help you to feel inspired.

For example, a couple of days before I made the inspired paintings I showed you earlier, I remembered reading Shaun Hutson’s “Erebus” and this made me think of the 1980s, cheesy horror movies, gloomy rural locations, ominous things lurking in the shadows and other wonderfully cheesy and atmospheric things. Needless to say, this also led to a highly inspired painting:

“Rural Gothic” By C. A. Brown

Finally, it makes you relax. Feeling uninspired is stressful, depressing, annoying etc… and if you focus on these emotions, then it’s only going to get worse. So, distracting yourself by spending some time with an awesome creative work can be a good way to get into a more relaxed and cheerful frame of mind. This can help you feel inspired.

2) Try something different:
Another way to make highly inspired art is to think of an artistic technique, art material, art style etc.. that you either haven’t used for a while or are vaguely curious about. This can help you feel inspired again for a couple of different reasons.

The first is that it adds an element of novelty to the “ordinary” process of making art. In other words, it makes making art feel excitingly new again. This is one way to deal with the “making art feels like a chore” type of uninspiration.

For example, both of the two example paintings at the beginning of the article use digital lighting effects. Although I’ve used these effects a few times before, they aren’t something I’ve really used that regularly. So, they were something that seemed worth experimenting with – especially since they require you to think even more carefully about lighting (eg: placement of light sources etc..) when painting. And, since lighting is one of my favourite elements of painting, this revitalised my interest in painting again.

Likewise, the painting that I’ll be posting here tonight also allowed me to experiment again with adding mist effects to my art digitally (using the “airbrush” feature in GIMP, but with the brush size cranked up to over 300-400). Here’s a reduced-size preview of it:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here later tonight.

So, yes, trying different or new things can be a great way to feel inspired again.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Three Examples Of How To Take Inspiration Properly

Well, although I’ve already talked about how to take artistic inspiration before, I thought that I’d look at it from a slightly different angle today. This is mostly because taking inspiration properly usually involves creatively “reverse engineering” things that you’ve seen, albeit in a very specific way.

It means seeing something and then breaking it down into it’s generic non-copyrightable elements (although I’m not a copyright lawyer, it is a general princple that “you cannot copyright an idea” [eg: copyright only covers highly-specific details]). Then, after you’ve done this, finding a way to use those generic elements in a new and original way.

But, if you haven’t done this before, then it can be difficult to know what to do. So, I thought that I’d provide a few examples of the process by looking at three images from various films/ games/TV shows, then commenting on and reviewing the generic features of each image and then creating a quick piece of original “inspired by” digital art that includes those generic features.

But, before I go any further, I should point out that you really should HAVE MULTIPLE INSPIRATIONS! I cannot emphasise this enough! Although I’ll only be (mostly) taking inspiration from one thing in each example, the more inspirations you have (and the more different they are), the more original and interesting your work will be.

Example 1: “Ghost In The Shell” (2017)

This is a screenshot from “Ghost In The Shell” (2017 Remake). Let’s break it down into it’s generic elements.

This scene from “Ghost In The Shell” (2017) contains many features common to the cyberpunk genre, such as high-contrast lighting (eg: where the background is darker, so that the lights stand out more) and a dense urban setting. In addition to this, this scene of the film makes expert use of complementary colours – with a slight emphasis on red, green and blue lighting (echoing the colours used in computer monitors/display screens).

Plus, it also makes very clever use of composition and negative space too – by showing the film’s main character silhouetted in the close foreground. Compared to the riot of lights and colours in front of her, her dark silhouette stands out in a very distinctive way.

So, what are the generic elements here? They are a dense futuristic urban setting, high-contrast lighting, red/green/blue lighting and the clever use of silhouettes and negative space.

So, an original inspired painting that used these elements might look a little bit like this quick piece of digital art.

A piece of digital art that uses red/green/blue lighting, silhouettes & negative space and a dense futuristic urban setting. As you can see, it also looks nothing like the screenshot at the beginning of this example. This is also partly because I’ve also added general elements from both the horror genre and other cyberpunk works too. As I said earlier, more inspirations means more originality.

Example 2: “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut” (1997)

This is a screenshot from a horror game called “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut” (1997). Let’s break it down into it’s generic elements.

This screenshot from “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut” (1997) makes excellent use of composition and perspective in order to create an ominous sense of dread. The camera perches above the player, with a candelabra and a stag’s head in the close foreground to emphasise the height of the room. Likewise, the lighting in this room is fairly gloomy and the room itself looks slightly old and run-down. Again, this is done to create an atmosphere of dread.

So, what are the generic elements here? An overhead perspective, objects in the close foreground, gloomy lighting, an atmosphere of dread and old/disused locations.

So, an original inspired painting that used these elements might look a little bit like this quick piece of digital art (which was also inspired by another part of the game [involving a hole in the floor] and a couple of other games too).

A piece of digital art that uses an overhead perspective, includes objects in the close foreground, has gloomy lighting, involves old/disused locations and contains an atmosphere of dread. As you can see, it looks fairly different from the screenshot in this example. Again, I’ve used multiple inspirations – as well as taking inspiration from another part of “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut”, I’ve also taken inspiration from two other games- “Alone In The Dark” (1992) and “Hotline Miami” (2012).

Example 3: “Murder, She Wrote” (1984):

This is a screenshot from season 1, episode 4 of “Murder, She Wrote” (1984). Let’s break it down into it’s generic elements.

Although this scene isn’t really typical of the show, it provides a stunning visual spectacle. Bright neon lights are contrasted against ominous gloom, with the garish neon lights contrasting irreverently with the sombre seriousness of the graveyard. The character in the foreground looks instantly “1980s”, thanks to the show’s costume and make-up department. And the open gates in the close foreground beckon the audience closer.

So, what are the generic elements here? 1980s-style fashions/hairstyles, neon lighting, the theme of death, an intriguing composition and a slight degree of irreverence.

So, an original inspired painting that used these elements might look a little bit like this quick piece of digital art.

A piece of digital art that includes 1980s fashions/hairstyles, neon lighting, the theme of death and a slight degree of irreverence. As you can see, it looks very different to the screenshot in the example. Like with the other pieces of digital art, I’ve also taken inspiration from other things too – such as gothic art, the music videos for a band called “Creeper”, the cyberpunk genre and other 1980s-style things.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Nostalgia Is A Different Source Of Artistic Inspiration For Everyone – A Ramble

A while before writing this article, I found that I was going through more of a nostalgic phase than usual. However, rather than looking for “new” things from the 1990s and early-mid 2000s that I’d never seen before in order to learn more about these familiar, but still tantalisingly mysterious, parts of history – I found that I was much more interested in revisiting “old” things and old memories.

Whether it was old things like Ocean FM, late night channel 4 broadcasts, “South Park”, various audio cassettes, certain old computer games, Youtube videos of the Windows 98 “Maze” screensaver, shouty early-mid 2000s metal songs etc… these were all things that I’d experienced before in some way or another. They were a mildly more “personal” type of nostalgia.

To use a slightly more vague example, when I went out to water a plant in the early evening before preparing this article, the air had a cool yet warm crispness to it and a slight floral/dried grass smell which suddenly made me think of random things from my childhood. It made me think of old kitchens, metal tins, green shoeboxes, a vaguely American-style church in Havant that I saw during the late 1990s, a pair of hideous old curtains, the very first time I ever tried to pull an all-nighter and a whole bunch of things that are personally nostalgic, but not “nostalgia”.

And this made me think about nostalgia and artistic inspiration. Because, most of the time when I try to make “nostalgic” art, it is often based on a highly stylised (and Americanised) version of the time periods that I’m trying to evoke. It’s often more based on the internet pop culture “version” of the decades in question than my actual memories of 1990s and early-mid 2000s Britain – like this:

“From The 1990s” By C. A. Brown

“Future 2004” By C. A. Brown

Of course, this is an easier way to make “nostalgic” stuff for the simple reason that the research material is more easily available. Likewise, it often relies on a commonly-known set of visual symbols (eg: for the 1990s, this would include things like floral prints, floppy disks, sweatshirts worn like belts, backwards baseball caps, audio cassettes, POGs, Tamagotchis, game cartridges, VHS tapes etc..). But, the downside to doing this is that these types of nostalgic art can lack individuality and personality.

Yes, the exact mixture of “nostalgic” pop culture and technology that is alluded to in this type of nostalgic art will vary heavily from person to person. And, to a large extent, this can be a good way of adding some individuality to your nostalgic art. After all, the really cool stuff that instantly makes you think of the 1990s or the early-mid 2000s will be at least slightly different to the things that evoke the same feeling in other people.

But, making art based on actual memories and/or feelings of nostalgia is significantly more difficult. This is mostly because memories can fade or blur over time, which means that trying to make “accurate” art based on them can be next to impossible. Yes, you can make art that sort of vaguely looks a little bit like them, but the exact details will probably be wrong. Like this:

This is based on my vague memories of ferry journeys during the mid-1990s and of how modern and “cool” the duty free shops looked back then. Again, it looks nothing like what actual duty free shops at the time probably looked like.
(“Duty Free 1996” By C. A. Brown)

The exact feeling of nostalgia is also one of those things that is near-impossible to put into words, let alone into pictures. It’s one of those highly complex emotions which can simultaneously exist in several versions and which also varies from person to person too. It is something that cannot be described or depicted fully and will always get “lost in translation” whenever this is attempted.

For example, one of my “nostalgic” moods is heavily based on the mood that childhood memories of visiting my cousins, listening to novelty “South Park” songs and/or looking at Windows 3.1 evokes in me. It’s a wonderfully warm, cosy and reassuring, but understated, mood. It is also a strangely “American” mood (even though I’ve never been to America). It’s a mood that I also experienced slightly when I played this set of modern “Doom II” levels. But, no doubt, this entire paragraph probably won’t tell you a thing about what this mood actually feels like.

So, yes, the less specific and personal nostalgia happens to be, the easier it is to use for artistic inspiration. But, even so, your own version of “pop culture” nostalgia will still be somewhat unique for the simple reason that the exact mixture of commonly-known inspirations you use will probably be slightly different to everyone else’s.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Why It’s Important For Artists To Be Part Of The Audience Sometimes – A Ramble

For a few days before writing this article, making art daily has felt more like a tiresome chore than anything else. All artists go through phases like this occasionally, when making art just seems pointless or when you want to make art but the ideas and enthusiasm just aren’t there. It’s perfectly normal for this sort of thing to happen every now and then.

But, what can help with this?

Simple. Be part of the audience for a while. Find something vaguely interesting and then watch, read or play it. Have fun.

There are several benefits to doing this. The first is that you might be able to take inspiration from whatever you are enjoying and the second is that enjoying another creative work will remind you of why you make art.

Seeing something awesome will remind you of what it feels like to be inspired, amused, thrilled etc.. by something that someone has created. It will remind you that, yes, there is a reason why making art matters. It will also remind you of the feelings you experienced whenever you created some of your best pieces of art.

In addition to this, being part of the audience will also give you space to think and daydream freely, as opposed to staring at a blank page/screen/canvas and frantically thinking “Oh god, I need to paint something!! But WHAT??“.

This relaxed trance-like state of thinking and daydreaming is an essential part of being a creative person. Letting your mind wander freely can help you to think of more interesting ideas or, at the very least, it will help you get out of the nervous or frustrated mood that might be causing you to be uninspired or unenthusiastic.

Finally, creative works that leave a lot to the imagination (eg: novels, indie games with pixellated graphics etc...) can be absolutely perfect for this kind of thing. Because your imagination has to “fill in the gaps”, it actually gets a little bit of a workout. Looking at one of these creative works can help your imagination get back into a more productive state, for the simple reason that you’re actually using it and having fun at the same time.

To give you an example, the day before I wrote this article, I bought an interesting-looking indie computer game called “Hotline Miami”. Although I don’t know when or if I’ll review it properly, one of the interesting things about this game is that it uses 1980s/90s-style pixel art graphics and a rather basic top-down perspective.

The game’s cartoonishly bizarre and psychedelic graphics are the sort of thing that instantly shows you how artistic decisions can affect the emotional tone of a creative work. Likewise, the surreal morally-ambiguous story of the game leaves a lot to the player’s imagination and the frantic, strategic, ultra-violent, repetitive action segments of the game can help to bring about the trance-like relaxed state that I mentioned earlier.

Although I didn’t make any art directly after playing it for the first time, I was able to use it to get inspired to make some 1980s-style art that will probably appear here within the next few weeks.

So, yes, being part of the audience for something else can be surprisingly useful if you are feeling uninspired or unenthusiastic about making art.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Easy Sources Of Artistic Inspiration

2017 Artwork Easy Sources Of Artistic inspiration

As anyone who makes art regularly will tell you, finding inspiration can sometimes be a challenge. So, for today, I thought that I’d give you a few examples of easy sources of inspiration that can sometimes come in handy if you make art regularly.

Using these sources of inspiration will obviously still require some imagination and artistic skill. If you don’t have many artistic skills yet, then try these things out anyway when you’re feeling uninspired (since artistic skill comes from keeping up your art practice even when you aren’t feeling inspired).

Likewise, as I’ll explain during the article, there’s a big difference between taking inspiration and just copying something (and hopefully, the specific techniques I’ll describe [for how to use the sources of inspiration described in the article] will help you to avoid direct or accidental copying).

So, let’s get started:

1) Television and film: This one is pretty obvious, but it can be an absolute goldmine if used correctly. In other words, DON’T directly copy what you see on the screen but, instead, immerse yourself in a TV show or a film until you have a rather good mental image of the “atmosphere” of the thing that you’re watching (eg: is it bright or gloomy? Is it modern or retro? etc..). Once you’ve got that, then use it as a springboard for your own original ideas.

But, what are original ideas? Although I’m not a copyright lawyer, it is a basic point of most copyright laws that copyright only protects highly- specific expressions of an idea, rather than general ideas. What this means is that, for example, Captain Picard standing on the bridge of the USS Enterprise is an example of a copyrighted character and a copyrighted location design.

But, the general idea of a spaceship captain commanding a spaceship from a ship-like bridge and/or command room is NOT copyrightable. After all, other TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, Stargate SG-1 etc.. show captains commanding spaceships and they don’t have to ask Gene Roddenberry’s estate for permission. But, of course, the characters look different and so do the spaceship bridges – yet, “Star Trek” was probably an inspiration for almost every space-based sci-fi show.

So, using general ideas/generic elements (Eg: colour schemes, general types of settings, general character types etc..) in new and different ways should usually be ok.

Likewise, you can also learn new artistic techniques (which you can use in new and different ways) by carefully observing things that you see on TV or in films.

For example, I learnt how to draw mountains covered with a shallow layer of snow by watching a nature documentary on TV the night before I wrote this article. The trick is, of course, to cover the side of the mountain with lots of short, irregular black, blue or brown horizontal lines (and irregular shaded areas) in order to make it look like some of the snow has melted and/or hasn’t covered the stone underneath:

Here's an example of the technique from one of my upcoming digitally-edited paintings.

Here’s an example of the technique from one of my upcoming digitally-edited paintings.

Of course, the idea trying out a new artistic technique that you’ve just learnt can be something that might help you to feel a bit more inspired.

2) Image searches: Using the “image search” feature on a search engine in a very specific way can work wonders if you have a vague idea of the type of painting that you want to make (eg: a rainy city, an old castle etc..), but can’t work out how to make it.

The trick here is not to look at any one specific picture for too long (and certainly not to directly copy any of them in your art!) but to look at as many images of the thing you want to draw or paint as possible, until you feel more in the mood for creating something. Then, close your internet browser, wait a few minutes and then start drawing or painting. The waiting part is important, for reasons that I’ll explain later.

First of all, by seeing lots of different images of similar things within a short amount of time, you help to ensure that your painting or drawing will be fairly original. After all, although you will end up taking some inspiration from the pictures that you saw, you won’t be taking too much inspiration from just one of them for the simple reason that you haven’t had time to study any one picture in a huge amount of detail (since looking at lots of pictures quickly helps you to spot general features, trends, similarities etc..).

Secondly, by waiting a few minutes after doing your image search, you’ll be working from memory alone. Since memory is a slightly unreliable thing, this also reduces the risk of accidental copying. Not only that, because you’ve looked at so many images within such a short amount of time, your memory will probably start to blend them together and conflate them in interesting (and original) ways too.

3) Your long-standing inspirations: Chances are, you probably have a few long-standing inspirations. These are things that often inspire you when you’re feeling mildly uninspired. They’re your favourite types of art, your favourite genres of films, your favourite music etc…. They are the things that you daydream about sometimes. These are the things that have already turned up in your art more times than you can remember.

The trick, of course, is to have as many of these inspirations as possible. Since, when you’re feeling uninspired, it’s possible that some of them might not “work” at that particular moment in time. So, the more long-standing inspirations you have, the more likely you are to find one of them that will actually work for you at that particular moment.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Five Ways To Get Artistic Inspiration From Music

2015 Artwork Artistic Inspiration from music article sketch

As regular readers of this site probably know, I worked on a short series of punk-themed paintings almost two weeks ago. In fact, here’s one of them:

"Drunk Punk Zombies On Aberystwyth Coast" By C. A. Brown

“Drunk Punk Zombies On Aberystwyth Coast” By C. A. Brown

Although I made another short series of gothic paintings beforehand, this punk art series was one of the first times in a while that I’ve made art that was inspired by music.

So, for today, I thought I’d give you a few tips on how to make art inspired by some of your favourite songs or bands:

1) Listen: This is probably the most obvious piece of advice on this list but, before you make any musically-inspired art, you should listen to a fair amount of music in the genre that you want to be inspired by and/or by the musicians you want to be inspired by.

If it currently seems like the coolest music in the world to you, then that’s a good sign that you’ll be enthusiastic enough about it to want to make art inspired by it. If it doesn’t seem that interesting, then look for another musician or genre of music to be inspired by.

2) Soundtracks and imagination:
One of the easiest ways to be inspired by music is to just start daydreaming when you listen to the music you want to be inspired by.

Basically, just try to imagine something that either sums up the entire song in a single image or try to think of an interesting scene that would go really well with the music (eg: the music should be the “soundtrack” to this scene, like in a TV show or a movie).

Once you’ve thought of this, then just make a drawing or painting of it. It’s as simple as that.

3) Subcultures: One of the best ways to create things that evoke the type of music you’re listening to is to look at everything else that has already been inspired by this type of music. Look at album covers, look at fashions associated with this type of music and look at music videos. I’m sure you get the idea.

Whilst you shouldn’t directly copy any of these things, seeing lots of other things that have been inspired by similar music to the type that you want to be inspired by can point you in the right direction when it comes to coming up with your own artistic ideas.

4) Memories: If you’re anything like me, you’ve got something of a musical memory. In other words, certain songs can end up being strongly associated with particular times in my life.

This is usually because I’ve been listening to a certain song a lot during one part of my life, but sometimes it can happen if a song just “reminds” me of part of my life (even if I didn’t listen to it back then).

So, if you have a memory like this, then one of the easiest ways to make musically-inspired art is just to paint or draw whichever memories a particular song evokes in you.

For example, my painting “Days Of The Angel” (inspired by “Days Of The Phoenix” by AFI) was based on my memories of spending quite a few nights in an absolutely amazing pub/nightclub in Aberystwyth called “The Angel”:

"Days Of The Angel" By C. A. Brown

“Days Of The Angel” By C. A. Brown

5) Originality And Meaning: The most important thing when making musically-inspired art is to be original and to be meaningful. In other words, you need to be true to your own imagination. You need to make sure that your artwork is a reflection of your own interpretation of a song, rather than anyone else’s.

For example, the song “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones is often associated with the sixties, the Vietnam war etc… in the popular media. But, to me (thanks to the excellent cover of the song by The Sisters Of Mercy), it’ll always be associated with Aberystwyth in the late 00s and the fiction and art that I made back then.

Likewise, when I made my recent punk art series, I’d originally planned to set the paintings in California (since this is where many of my favourite punk bands come from). But, since I’ve never actually been to America, let alone California – I eventually decided that the paintings would be more meaningful if I set them in one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. Hence why they’re set in Aberystwyth, rather than California.

So, stay true to your own imagination and you’ll produce more unique art as a result.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂