Today’s Art (30th September 2016)

Well, since I was kind of uninspired, I just drew a random character and then started doodling. This digitally-edited cyberpunk drawing/ B&W painting quickly emerged after about half an hour or so.

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

"Cyberpunk Doodle" By C. A. Brown

“Cyberpunk Doodle” By C. A. Brown

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Four Reasons Why Black & White Art Is Awesome

(Wow, I spent WAY too long making this little drawing...)

(Wow, I spent WAY too long making this little drawing…)

Well, I thought that I’d talk about black and white art again today. For a type of art that I only really got into making semi-regularly last year, it’s become one of my favourite art styles.

For the sake of clarification, I should point out that I’m talking about art that literally only uses black and white and I’m not talking about greyscale art (which also uses grey). I’m talking about the kind of art you can create using nothing more than a black pen and a piece of paper.

Anyway, I thought that I’d give you four reasons (out of many) why black and white art is one of the most awesome types of art in existence. So, let’s get started:

1) It’s Timeless: Because the materials needed to create black and white art are so simple, this gives B&W art a timeless look that many other types of art (with the possible exception of some types of paintings) just don’t have.

Modern high-budget comic books with almost photo-realistic digital artwork will probably look at least slightly dated in a few decades’ time.

Since graphics technology will have moved on by then, these types of comics will probably end up looking like the futuristic equivalent of old four-colour comics from the 1950s.

Now, take a look at this picture. Go on, it’ll only take a second (unless you’re using dial-up, in which case, it may take thirty). Now, can you guess when this picture was originally printed?

Yes, the outfits in it are slightly old-fashioned, but it still looks a lot like the kind of art that you might see in a modern indie comic. So, when was it made? It was printed in 1918. Yes, you heard me correctly – it was made 97 years ago. And it still looks sort of modern.

So, because B&W artwork only requires fairly simple materials to make – it automatically looks at least slightly timeless.

2) It’s A Good Test Of An Artist’s Abilities: Because B&W artwork requires nothing more than black ink and/or black paint to create, there’s very little for an artist to hide behind. You can’t use fancy image editing techniques in a black and white drawing (although you can edit out mistakes fairly easily in MS Paint).

So, the only thing that appears in a black and white picture is pretty much what you drew or painted onto the paper. And, as such, it’s a good test of an artist’s abilities.

Yes, there are a few shading techniques and skills that are pretty much exclusive to black & white drawing. Although you don’t have to learn shading techniques if you make colour artwork, they can improve your colour artwork if you use them.

Likewise, there are things that you have to be aware of when making a B&W drawing that you don’t have to be aware of when you’re making colour artwork (eg: instead of paying close attention to the colour scheme, you have to pay close attention to the balance between black, white and shaded areas) – but, apart from this stuff, B&W drawings are nothing but the barest essentials of a drawing.

And, if you can do this well, then you can probably do most other types of drawing fairly well too.

3) Imagination: Because you can’t astonish your audience with flashy digital effects or expensive art materials in B&W drawings, you need to find other ways to astonish them.

In other words, you’ll have to use your imagination and skills to astonish your audience. You’ll have to do things like creating hyper-detailed art, using interesting shading techniques, thinking of imaginative ideas and/or coming up with fascinating character designs.

And, well, being astonished by someone’s imagination and skills is far more satisfying than being astonished by whatever image editing program that they happen to be using.

4) Spontanaity: This one is pretty self-explanatory, but since you only need a pen and a piece of paper to create B&W art, it’s something that you can create relatively quickly and create pretty much anywhere.

You don’t need electricity, you don’t need a vast array of art supplies and you don’t need lots of expensive software. Just a pen and a piece of paper.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (27th July 2015)

Woo hoo! I’m feeling more inspired again! Anyway, today’s drawing is based on an idea for a comic that I had (but ended up abandoning).

The comic would have been titled “The Bureau Of Wordless Novels” (and would have only contained a single word), but I ended up abandoning it after I realised that – although the idea was cool – I couldn’t think of a way to implement it. Still, I made this drawing based on my original idea.

Oh, if anyone hasn’t heard of “Wordless Novels” before, then check out this Wikipedia article about them. They were kind of like the precursor to modern comics.

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

"The Bureau Of Wordless Novels" By C. A. Brown

“The Bureau Of Wordless Novels” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (8th July 2015)

Ha! I’m feeling inspired again and I have computer games to thank for it once more 🙂 Basically, at the time of making this drawing – I was playing a really cool 1990s adventure game called “The Last Express” (it may be at least a week or two until I review it though), that is set in the 1910s. So, I wanted to draw a slightly old-fashioned scene.

Of course, me being me, this picture quickly went in a much gloomier and more ominous direction.

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

"The Secret Door" By C. A. Brown

“The Secret Door” By C. A. Brown

Why Learning B&W Drawing Can Really Useful To Painters

2015 Artwork Why B&W drawing can improve your paintings

Even though I only really seriously got back into making art about three years ago, I only really got interested in making black and white ink drawings (eg: without any pencil shading etc..) late last year and, since then, I’ve produced a fair amount of art that looks like this:

"Old Boats" By C. A. Brown

“Old Boats” By C. A. Brown

But, most surprisingly of all, I’ve also noticed an improvement in some of my “ordinary” watercolour paintings as a result of learning how to draw using just black and white.

This is mainly because learning how to draw in black and white means that you have to learn a whole array of shading techniques (eg: how to represent lots of different textures and/or shades of grey using different combinations of dots and lines). It also means that you have to pay closer attention to your picture as a whole, to ensure that there is a good balance between lighter and darker areas.

Although almost all of my paintings start with a drawing (using waterproof ink), many of these underlying drawings were a lot more basic before I started practicing B&W drawing. Here’s an example of the lineart for one of my paintings from before I started learning B&W drawing:

"Fascinators (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Fascinators (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

Notice how this picture is a lot more basic when compared to the other drawing earlier in this article.

It pretty much just contains the outlines of everything in the picture and it relies almost entirely on the addition of watercolour paint for things like shading, textures etc… In fact, this is what it looked like after I added paint to it:

"Fascinators" By C. A. Brown

“Fascinators” By C. A. Brown

Now, take a look at one of my more recent paintings and you might notice something of a difference in quality:

"Orb" By C. A. Brown

“Orb” By C. A. Brown

One of the main reasons for this is because I’ve been able to use some of the shading techniques I learnt from B&W drawing in order to add depth to this painting (such as the scribbled background).

In other words, I made sure that this painting worked as a B&W drawing before I decided to add watercolour paint to it. Unfortunately, I forgot to scan this picture before I added paint to it – so here’s a digitally-altered B&W version of it to show you what I mean:

This image has been digitally altered, to simulate my original B&W drawing. But, as you can see, this picture still works well without any colours

This image has been digitally altered, to simulate my original B&W drawing. But, as you can see, this picture still works well without any colours

What this means is that the entire painting looks a lot more detailed than it would do if I’d just used paint.

In other words, I had more techniques at my disposal to show the textures of the surfaces in this painting and the levels of brightness in different parts of the picture.

So, even if you prefer working in colour, learning how to draw in black and white can still be an extremely useful skill to learn for the simple reason that it allows you to add more detail and depth to your paintings.

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Sorry for such a short and basic article, but I hope it was interesting 🙂

Improving A Black And White Drawing (Plus Exclusive Art!)

Translation: I'll be dissecting one of my (better) failed drawings.

Translation: I’ll be dissecting one of my (better) failed drawings.

A few months ago, I made a black & white drawing which – despite the improvements I made to it – didn’t seem quite good enough to post in one of my daily art posts on here. I don’t know why I thought this, but I did.

Still, rather than letting this drawing go to waste, I thought that I’d give you a detailed description of how I tried to improve this picture- in case it helps you to learn how to draw using just two colours.

At the very least, I hope that this article is an interesting “behind the scenes” look at how I make my drawings.

Anyway, here’s the original version of my untitled drawing:

"Untitled Punk Drawing 18/1/15 (original version)" By C. A. Brown

“Untitled Punk Drawing (original version)” By C. A. Brown

When I’d finished this drawing, something didn’t quite look right. It looked ok, but it didn’t really look that great. So, I abandoned it for a few hours and then I returned to it and made a few subtle improvements. Here’s the improved version of the drawing:

"Untitled Punk Drawing (improved version)" By C. A. Brown

“Untitled Punk Drawing (improved version)” By C. A. Brown

In case the changes aren’t that noticeable, here’s an altered version of the original (un-improved) drawing with all of the major changes highlighted and numbered. I’ll provide a list of what I actually did below the picture, in case it’s useful to you.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] I've highlighted and numbered the changes in colour. Hopefully this is still readable if you're colourblind. But, if not, then I apologise.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] I’ve highlighted and numbered the changes in colour. Hopefully this is still readable if you’re colourblind. But, if not, then I apologise.

…And, here’s what I did in each area of the picture in order to improve it:

1) To break up the large white area in the background, I added a cross-hatched floor to the bottom of the picture. I also added a few curved black lines to the bottom of the white area in the background, in order to make it look more like a curtain or a backdrop.

2) Both the lead singer’s and the guitarist’s trousers were shaded too lightly in the original picture. This meant that their trousers kind of blended into the background slightly and didn’t really stand out. So, I darkened both of their trousers using both black paint and additional scribbling.

3) The cymbal stands in the original drawing were scribbled fairly lightly and they kind of blended into the white background behind them. So, I darkened them quite significantly, so that they stood out and were more noticeable.

4) Since I’d decided to make the background look like a curtain, I added thin curved lines to it in order to give it a more curtain-like texture.

5) I’d forgotten to shade the singer’s microphone properly. This also meant that part of the un-shaded microphone blended into the singer’s neck slightly. So, I added some light shading to it, to differentiate it from everything surrounding it.

6) I added a thin curved line to the singer’s thumb, in order to make it look slightly more realistic. I’m surprised that I haven’t used this technique in any of my other drawings yet.

7) The white scratchboard on the guitar was the same colour as the guitarist’s arm and this meant that his arm wasn’t immediately recognisable at a glance. So, I added a dot pattern to the guitar in order to make the guitarist’s arm stand out against it.

8) The guitarist’s hair and the lead singer’s hair were both the same colour. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except that their heads were right next to each other and it made it difficult to tell them apart at a glance. So, I added a lot more shading to the guitarist’s hair, so that there was more contrast between the two musicians.

I also made a few other smaller changes that probably aren’t worth mentioning here.

But, if you take anything away from this article, it should be that – when you’re drawing in black and white – you should make sure that any two areas of your picture that are next to each other are shaded differently from each other.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Ways To Get Better At Drawing In Black And White (With Art Preview)

2015 Artwork Get Better At B&W Drawing article sketch

Although I’ve made greyscale drawings (with pencil shading) before and I’ve obviously drawn quite a few random doodles over the years, I only really got into making proper black and white drawings late last year.

Since then, it’s become one of my favourite artforms to work in. In fact, here’s a sneak peek at one of my upcoming B&W drawings that I’ll post here in a couple of weeks’ time:

"Chichester" By C. A. Brown

“Chichester” By C. A. Brown

But, this isn’t an article about why B&W ink drawings are awesome (I’ve already written one of those – ironically, I wrote it a couple of months before I really seriously got into using this artform).

No, it’s an article about how get better at drawing in black and white. I should probably point out that B&W drawing is one of those artforms that is “more difficult than it looks“. So, this article is aimed at people who are at more of an “intermediate” skill level (like myself) rather than at absolute beginners.

So, let’s get started…

1) Copy Photos: One of the best ways to really challenge yourself when you’re learning how to draw in black and white is to try to draw an accurate copy of a colour photograph in black and white. This might sound like a fairly simple exercise but it’s both more difficult and more educational than you might think.

Why? Because you’ll have to find ways to represent all of the subtle variations in texture, tone, lighting, colours etc… that there are in an average colour photograph using only two colours.

In other words, you’ll have to convert a realistic colour image into black and white, whilst still making it look like the original image. Kind of like this:

"Berlin Underpass 2004" Photo By C. A. Brown

“Berlin Underpass 2004” Photo By C. A. Brown

"Berlin Noir" By C. A. Brown (Based on the above photo)

“Berlin Noir” By C. A. Brown (Based on the above photo)

Of course, the only way to make an accurate B&W copy of a colour photograph is to use a whole variety of different shading techniques (hatching, cross-hatching, dots etc…).

This means that you will have to pay especially close attention to the variations in brightness between different parts of the photo and work out how to represent these changes using all of the shading techniques that you know.

This is one of the best ways to learn how to draw in black and white for the simple reason that it makes you “think on your feet” and work out how to do various things whilst you’re actually drawing.

After all, you can sketch the outlines of everything in your photo in pencil before you start drawing, but when it comes to the shading – you’ll only really get one chance to do this in ink.

2) Look around: One of the best ways to learn how to draw in black and white is to look closely at other black and white drawings and to see what kind of shading techniques the artists used in these drawings. And then copy these techniques in your own art.

Yes, it’s perfectly ok. I’m not a lawyer, but it’s pretty obvious that there are no copyrights on basic shading techniques and simple texture patterns. So, if you see a B&W drawing where the artist has used a really cool technique, then don’t be afraid to use that technique yourself.

But you don’t just have to restrict yourself to drawings when it comes to learning new techniques – you’ll be surprised at how many basic B&W drawing techniques you can learn by just looking at random things and asking yourself “how can I represent this in black and white?

To give you an example of what I mean – an hour or two before I wrote this article, I was watching the special features on a “Babylon 5” DVD.

One of the creators of the show was being interviewed and, behind him, there was this wonderful textured green background made out of lots of little pyramids. I thought “I have to learn how to draw this” and, since my sketchbook was nearby, I drew a black and white copy of it:

It looks a bit like this.

It looks a bit like this.

I also quickly realised that it was a surprisingly easy texture to draw because all you have to do is make one diagonal half of each square black and make the other diagonal half white. After all, on the DVD I was watching, it was clear that one half of each pyramid was darker than the other half.

So, yes, you can learn a lot about drawing in black and white just from looking at things.

3) Take A Step Back: One thing that can be slightly difficult to learn about making B&W art is making sure that there is the right amount of contrast in your drawing.

If there are too many white areas in your drawing, it will look pale and washed out. If there are too many shaded areas, then the picture will just be one large grey blur and, if there are too many black areas, then it might be difficult to see what is going on in your picture.

The same is true on a smaller level too. If two areas of your picture are next to each other, then they should be different colours (eg: it’s ok to put a black area next to a white area, or a shaded area next to a black or white area. But, if you put two shaded areas next to each other, then they should be shaded in a different way from each other).

So, one of the best ways to check that there’s a good balance between white areas, shaded areas and black areas in your picture is to – quite literally- take a step back. If you look at your picture from a distance and you can still tell what it is from a glance, then you’ve got the right amount of contrast in your drawing. If it looks “wrong”, or it’s difficult to tell exactly what’s what, then it’s probably a good idea to make some changes to your drawing.

A more high-tech way to do the same thing is to scan or digitally photograph your drawing and then look at a thumbnail image of it on your computer. If it’s still recognisable in the thumbnail, then you’ve got the contrast levels right.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂