How To Deal With Self-Critical Uninspiration – A Ramble

A while before I originally prepared this article, I’d tried and failed to write two other articles. I felt an overwhelming sense of “it’s not good enough” about creating things, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to write about things like writer’s block and artist’s block. In particular, about self-critical writer’s block/artist’s block.

This can happen when you either feel overwhelmed by the idea of “I should be creating things” or the idea of “everything I create seems to be terrible“. Typically, it tends to happen directly after both highly inspired projects and/or failed attempts at creative projects. But, it can also happen if you aren’t in a particularly great mood or are feeling overwhelmed in some way or another.

So, how do you deal with it?

Well, if you’ve been creating things for a while, then you’ll probably know that there’s a good chance that this is just a passing phase. Something annoying that happens to all creative people every now and then. Usually, the best way to deal with it is just to keep creating things – even if they’re “terrible” – until you start making good stuff again. After all, a “terrible” finished painting or story is always better than a “good” unfinished one.

But, there are lots of sneakier ways to get around it too. One obvious way is simply to look for another inspiration – yes, this depends on time and budget – but, if you can find something that absolutely knocks your socks off (eg: a film in your favourite genre that you haven’t seen before, an awesome indie game that leaves a lot to the imagination, an amazing webcomic that you’ve never heard of before etc.) then not only will this give you something to take inspiration from, but it will also fill you with the feeling of being in awe of a creative work.

If you aren’t careful, this feeling of awe can actually make your uninspiration worse. But, if you’re very careful about how you think about this, then you can turn it into a brilliant source of creative motivation here. The trick is, of course, NOT to think “This film/game/comic is brilliant, I’ll never be able to make something that good!“. Instead, try to think something like “How can I make something different that is as cool as the thing I just saw? I’ve got to try.

The difference is subtle, but one attitude will leave you feeling defeated before you even start and the other one will make you want to try creating something.

Another way to deal with creative self-criticism is simply to see it as part of the process. All of your favourite writers and artists weren’t born talented. They all had to learn, practice and make mistakes. They all went through phases where they felt that they couldn’t produce anything good. The fact that you are experiencing something like this means that you are taking art and/or writing seriously. If you weren’t, not feeling like you can make great things wouldn’t hurt at all.

So, when you find yourself in one of these moods, see it as a challenge. See it as something that all of the people you admire have had to deal with before (which means that you are on the right track). See it as a chance to work out all sorts of sneaky ways to get out of this mood.

And, yes, keeping a regular practice schedule will teach you a lot of these tricks. Whether it’s making “silly” private projects that you never show anyone, whether it’s remaking some of your old stuff, whether it’s making fan art/ writing fan fiction, whether it’s trying to create something in one of your favourite genres, whether it’s descriptive writing/still life painting etc.. there are loads of sneaky ways out of the mood that you’re in at the moment.

So, instead of feeling terrible about “not being able to create good stuff”, try looking for sneaky ways to get around this mood. Even if you don’t succeed at first, the shift in focus from feeling sorry for yourself to trying to figure out strange and unconventional ways around the problem will gradually help you to have a better frame of mind.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Some Thoughts About Indirect Influences – A Ramble

Even though this is an article about making art, making comics and/or writing fiction, I’m going to have to start by talking briefly about music and about a celebrity death that happened earlier this year. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

As regular readers of this site know, I write these articles ridiculously far in advance. As such, the morning before I wrote the first draft of this article, I read the news that Chuck Berry had died. Although I’d only heard a few of his songs before, I suddenly realised that all of the heavy metal and punk songs on the playlist that I was listening to at the time probably wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Chuck Berry either inventing or popularising rock and roll during the 1950s.

This, of course, made me think about the whole subject of indirect influence. Since I’m guessing that many of the metal and punk bands I was listening to probably weren’t directly inspired by Chuck Berry (eg: many of the bands I was listening to were formed during the 1980s and 1990s, when 1950s rock and roll was probably seen as laughably old fashioned). Yet, the bands that inspired those bands were probably either inspired by Chuck Berry or inspired by another musician who was.

So, this made me think about indirect influences and how fascinating they are.

If you create anything, then there’s a good chance that you probably have a few indirect influences that you don’t even know about. After all, something or someone probably inspired you to become an artist and/or a writer. Likewise, the types of stories you like to tell, the types of paintings you make etc.. were probably inspired by an interesting mixture of cool things that you’ve encountered throughout your life.

Every creative person has influences. And this is just as true for the creative works that influenced you. So, there could be a huge number of indirect influences that you might not even know about. But, why should you be interested in this subject?

The first reason is for pure enjoyment. Not only might looking at what influenced the people who influenced you help you to discover new things that are at least vaguely similar to the things you like.

But, even if you don’t like these things, then you’ll be able to see how they turned those things into something that you actually enjoy. At the very least, this will show you the importance of having a good imagination and a wide range of influences. Plus, you’ll also have an even greater appreciation of your favourite movies, novels, comics, games etc.. too if you know what inspired them.

The second reason to search for indirect influences on your creative work is because they can help you to improve your own art, comics and/or fiction. If you look at the same things that influenced your favourite writers and artists, then there’s a good chance that you might end up seeing those old influences in a slightly different way. You might take inspiration from parts of them that your favourite creative people didn’t. So, you might end up creating something that is still reminiscient of your favourite things, but is even more unique.

Finally, the other reason is because it’s absolutely fascinating. Doesn’t the idea that there are people throughout history who have influenced and shaped the things you make right now without you even knowing it fill you with curiosity?

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

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 🙂

Four Reasons Why Creativity Gets Glamourised

Pictured: Not a realistic depiction of an artist.

Pictured: Not a realistic depiction of an artist.

Although this is an article about things like art, writing, making comics etc.. I’m going to have to start by talking about something slightly different for a couple of paragraphs. There’s a good reason for this that I hope will become obvious later.

This was because this article was prompted by watching a videogame review/discussion show on Youtube. This was one of those shows that involved a group of critics having a laugh and talking informally about games – and it was the kind of show that makes videogame criticism seem like a really awesome thing.

But, rationally, I know that a show like that is probably a lot less fun to make than it looks. After all, there are probably hours of grinding prep work that go into every “informal” video (eg: collecting and editing game footage, planning some of the more comedic dialogue etc..). Likewise, there’s probably a lot of hassle with lighting, cameras, make up, video editing, production schedules etc.. too.

Yet, just looking at the show, it seemed really glamourous. It was the kind of show that makes you want to be a “real” videogame critic on Youtube (rather than, say, occasionally writing rambling game reviews on a blog). But, the reason I mention it is because it is the perfect example of creativity being shown as more glamourous than it actually is.

So, why does this happen? Here are a few of the many reasons:

1) Self-esteem: I’m an artist who makes daily paintings (albeit quite a while in advance of when they’re posted here). Although I really like making art, being an artist can be a boring, mundane, annoying and chore-like thing sometimes. Yes, I get uninspired sometimes (and still try to make art nonetheless). No, I don’t have a large, dedicated studio.

And, no, I’m not some kind of wild bohemian who drinks absinthe every day and goes to all of the cool parties.

Yet, this stylised image of a “cool artist” is something that some artists like to spread because, well, it makes us feel cool. It makes the sometimes mundane and ordinary task of making art seem like something a bit more meaningful or special. It also makes other people think that we’re cool. So, yes, unrealistic depictions of “cool” artists exist just to improve the self-esteem of actual artists. Whose lives are usually a lot more boring than either they or the media might make you think.

Likewise, the myth of the “talented artist” is another thing that makes artists look cool. But, the fact is that artists aren’t usually born with “artistic talent”, they learn it through regular practice over a significant period of time – just like any other skill. Even the most “talented” artists probably have at least a few extremely clumsy early works somewhere. Why? Because every artist is inexperienced when they start making art. Yet, people can be put off from becoming artists because of this silly myth about “talent”.

Likewise, artists who always appear to be inspired either don’t show off the things they make when they aren’t inspired, or they’ve learnt how to take inspiration, or they make lots of notes when they are inspired, or they’re experienced enough that even an “uninspired” painting looks good etc.. No artist is inspired 100% of the time! Any artist who claims to always be inspired is probably just trying to make themselves look good.

2) Creative people create things: Generally, most “glamourous” depictions of creativity can be found in other creative works. Films about writers, comics about videogames, novels about musicians etc… That sort of thing.

If you create things regularly, then creativity is an easy subject to write or draw about. Likewise, there’s probably a certain element of “I wish that the thing I do regularly was even cooler” or “I wish I was making films, videogames etc… instead, so I’ll write about it“, which might also explain why stories, comics etc… about creativity tend to glamourise the subject quite a bit.

Because, well, creativity is all about imagination rather than boring realism.

3) Because cool things are created: Generally speaking, the audience often only gets to see the cool-looking end product of the creative process (eg: the novel, the comic, the painting etc..). As such, it can be easy to assume that the rest of the creative process was equally cool or glamourous.

Although making a highly-inspired creative project can be an amazing experience, it’s rarely (if ever) as glamourous or cool as the actual end product is. Usually, it just involves sitting in front of a computer screen and/or a sketchbook for varying periods of time. In other words, it looks really really boring from the outside. All of the seriously cool stuff tends to happen within the writer’s or the artist’s imagination, rather than in the real world.

Likewise, creative people who have created great things whilst living wild and glamourous lives have usually made those things despite all of the “glamourous” distractions, not because of them. Creating cool things means sitting down and putting the effort into actually making those things.

4) Because it should be: Despite all of my earlier cynicism in this article, I can’t think of anything that is more deserving of glamourisation than creativity. After all, many of the world’s advancements in culture, technology etc.. have been the products of creativity (just look at all of the inventions that have been inspired by “Star Trek”).

All of our imaginations and lives are shaped by the numerous creative works we encounter throughout our lives. Creative works can help us to make sense of the world and to find meaning in life. Creative works can make us feel a gigantic range of emotions, like a real-life Penfield Mood Organ, using just images, sounds, words etc..

I can’t think of anything else more deserving of glamourisation.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

The Individuality Of Art, Webcomics And Prose Fiction – A Ramble

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One thing that always amuses me is watching videos and reading articles about how Hollywood films portray reality in unrealistic ways. How large numbers of major films can make the same kind of “unrealistic” mistakes as each other, because “it’s what the audience expects”.

Likewise, it always amuses me when I read articles on major sites complaining about “comics” (or enthusing about them) for the simple reason that they’re almost always writing about just one well-publicised genre of comics (eg: American superhero comics). There’s often nothing about manga, webcomics, horror comics, newspaper comics etc… it’s literally like comics are only about superheroes, even if that’s blatantly untrue.

So, why have I mentioned this? Well, it’s to illustrate one of the strengths of art, webcomics and prose fiction. Namely that, since they’re often made by just one or two people, they can often contain a lot more individuality and creativity than things made by larger teams of people do.

Because there’s a much smaller number of people involved in creating these things, then they tend to reflect the imaginations of their creators a lot more vividly.

For example, a webcomic like Winston Rowntree’s “Subnormality” is set in a slightly surreal version of Canada and it features a strange cast of characters (including a sphinx!) who often like to talk at length about all sorts of introspective and philosophical topics. The comic is both incredibly realistic and incredibly unrealistic in it’s own unique way. There is quite literally nothing else like it in the world.

Likewise, an absolutely amazing writer called Billy Martin (who wrote under the pen name of “Poppy Z. Brite” before retiring) set most of his stories in a “realistic” version of America. But, the locations in his stories are often depicted in an extremely vivid, descriptive way that almost makes them seem like something from a comic or a painting. He’s written gothic fiction, splatterpunk fiction, surrealist stoner cyberpunk beat literature and heartwarming romantic fiction and yet all of these vastly different stories still seem to come from the same unique imagination. Again, there’s nothing else quite like these stories in the world.

Yet, I can’t imagine Hollywood ever adapting anything from these two amazing people. Yes, both of them have had their work adapted (eg: Winston Rowntree wrote and made the art for an animated web series called “People Watching“, and one of Martin’s short stories was adapted for an episode of a TV series called “The Hunger”), but this has often been done by smaller or slightly more independent outlets.

The interesting thing is that this gulf between individual creativity and mass media wasn’t always so wide. I mean, just look at Clive Barker – he makes really unique-looking paintings and writes very imaginative and distinctive horror/fantasy fiction. And, during the 80s and 90s, he got to direct several Hollywood films (eg: Hellraiser, Nightbreed and Lord Of Illusions). Yet, it’s very unlikely that he’d be able to direct a major Hollywood film today without it being reduced to some kind of bland, mass-market, CGI-filled, focus group-designed “PG-13” rubbish that contains at least one superhero.

Ironically though, this historical trend can also be seen in computer games too. Back when “mainstream” games were the only games out there, there was a lot more creativity and innovation. But, thanks to gaming becoming more popular and the internet allowing independent studios to distribute their games cheaply, games seem to have split into two very distinctive “types”.

There are the major large-budget games that seem to require the absolute latest hardware and which seem to focus on both a few simplified types of gameplay and on flashy hyper-realistic graphics. Then, you’ve got lower-budget indie games which sometimes tend to run better on older systems and often display the same level of variety, innovation, complexity, uniqueness and creativity that used to be standard in computer games.

Yet, art, (non-superhero) comics and prose fiction have rarely seen these kinds of changes. And I think that it’s all because of individuality. In all of these formats, there isn’t really a large team involved. Likewise, actually writing a story or making art costs considerably less than, say, making a film or a game does.

So, I guess that the rule here is that the more money and the more people are involved in creating something, the less creative it will be.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Good Creative Changes – A Ramble

2017-artwork-good-creative-changes-ramble

Although this is a rambling article about making art (and about creativity in general), I’m going to have to start by talking about music for quite a while.

This is mostly because I’ve recently been listening to two punk albums that I consider to be “perfect” albums (eg: albums without a single bad track.)

These two punk albums are “Stranger Than Fiction” by Bad Religion and “Sing The Sorrow” by AFI. The interesting thing is that both of these albums sound at least subtly different to other albums I’ve heard by these bands.

But, as much as I’d like to talk enthusiastically about Bad Religion, AFI’s music from between the 1990s and the early-mid 2000s offers a far more interesting example of how creative people can change whilst still remaining distinctive.

Although I first heard of AFI during my childhood in the late ’90s/early ’00s (since one of my cousins had “Black Sails In The Sunset” and/or “The Art Of Drowning” in their CD collection, although I didn’t really listen to these albums much at the time), they’re a band that I only got even vaguely interested in during my later teens and during various parts of my twenties.

But, although I’ve always thought of AFI as a gloomier, horror-themed gothic punk band, I decided to check out some of their really early stuff on Youtube when I was wondering whether those albums were worth buying or not.

The “early” AFI songs I heard sounded completely and utterly different to what I consider AFI to sound like. They sounded a lot “lighter” and some of the song titles were a bit sillier. Whilst the music certainly wasn’t “bad”, it’s certainly not what I personally think of as “AFI”. They just sounded like a fairly average 1980s-influenced American punk band. Yet, reading the comments below the videos, you’d think that the band had committed some huge cataclysmic betrayal because they don’t make music like this any more.

This provides the perfect example of how and why creative works change over time. Originally, the band was an “ordinary” punk band who were clearly inspired by other punk bands of the time. They made the music that they considered to be cool. Yet, they gradually expanded their range of influences as they grew older and more experienced (eg: their “A Fire Inside” EP contains a cover version of a song by The Cure) and their music became more distinctive as a result.

This is a good thing to bear in mind regardless of what you create. If you are only inspired by one genre, then your work is just going to be “average”. But, if you are willing to take inspiration from “cool” things that don’t fit into the genre that you create things in, then your work is going to be a lot more original and distinctive as a result.

The changes in AFI’s musical style are also a perfect example of good creative changes. After all, the changes didn’t happen suddenly. If you listen to “The Art Of Drowning” from 2000, then it sounds like heavier and slightly more introspective punk music – but it’s still fairly energetic. When you listen to “Sing The Sorrow” from 2003 – the music sounds even heavier and the gothic elements are slightly more overt, but many of the songs still have the same energetic punk pacing to them. The albums sound different, but one is clearly a natural evolution from the other.

In other words, creative changes work best when they happen slowly and/or organically. Yes, trying out totally new things can be exciting and there’s nothing wrong with experimenting creatively occasionally (it’s pretty much essential). But, the kind of creative changes that last and work well are the sort of things that happen so “naturally” that you sometimes don’t really notice them too much at the time. You see something cool and you think “how can incorporate what makes this thing cool into the things that I make?” and it just kind of happens.

For example, most of the art that I’ve made over the past year uses a slightly limited palette instead of more “realistic” colours. Although I’d experimented with smaller limited palettes in the past (based on one pair of complementary colours), they never quite seemed “right”. But, after seeing how the visual design in these “Doom II” levels used 2-3 pairs of complementary colours instead of just one, something just clicked. And my art changed.

For example, here’s an old cyberpunk paintingthat I made in late 2015 (and posted here in spring 2016). As you can see, it uses a slightly understated blue/orange colour scheme, but it still looks vaguely “realistic”:

"Strange Case" By C. A. Brown [2015/16]

“Strange Case” By C. A. Brown [2015/16]

And here’s a version of this painting that I made in 2016 (but posted here this year) that uses my new palette (as well as a couple of extra image editing techniques I’d learnt).

"Strange Case (II)" By C. A. Brown

“Strange Case (II)” By C. A. Brown

It looks different (eg: less “realistic”), but you can hopefully just about see the evolution from a more limited blue/orange palette to a palette that includes multiple colour pairs (there’s purple and green, plus red and blue!). But, I wouldn’t have known how to do this if it hadn’t been for my earlier experiments with more limited palettes. One is an evolution of the other.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Ways To Add Some Creativity To Painting From Life

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Once you’ve practiced and learnt the basic skills (such as copying from sight and recognising realistic colours), painting from life is one of the easiest ways to create impressive-looking art…. even when you’re feeling uninspired. After all, if you’re painting a still life, then you just literally have to copy what you see in front of yourself.

However, this isn’t to say that there’s no room for creativity when painting from life. In fact, using artistic licence in various ways can make your paintings from life stand out from the crowd. Here are a few ways to do this:

1) Add parts of your art style: If you’ve been making art for a while, then you probably have an idea what your own unique style looks like. If you haven’t, then you’ve got all of this to look forward to when you’ve been influenced and inspired by a suitably large number of different things that you think are “cool” (which will teach you a unique mixture of techniques that will eventually become your own style).

But, the thing to remember about your art style is that it’s more than just “how you draw people”. It’s how you handle lighting and shading. It’s how you use and choose the colours that you add to your art. It’s your preferred level of detail. It’s the general types of art materials that you work best with. It’s a collection of preferences and “rules” that you can apply to any paintings of things in real life that you make.

For example, one of the relatively recent “rules” of my art style is that the surface area of each painting should consist of at least 30-50% black paint. This allows the other colours in the picture to look a lot more vivid by comparison, as well as lending my art a slightly gothic 1980s/90s-style look too. So, when I paint from life, I often tend to find ways to add extra darkness to whatever I’m painting.

For example, in this old still life of mine from 2015, I removed the distant background in order to make the colours in the rest of the picture look bolder.

"Plush Rat And DVDs" By C. A. Brown [2015]

“Plush Rat And DVDs” By C. A. Brown [2015]

Once you have a good understanding of how your art style “works”, then you can apply it’s rules to more realistic paintings from life. Then again, once you’ve found your own style, you’ll probably start doing this instinctively anyway.

2) Instinct is better than perfectionism: Although my occasional paintings from life tend to look better than the paintings from imagination that I make more regularly, they probably aren’t technically “perfect” in every way. But, and this is the important thing to remember – if you want technical “perfection”, then take a photo.

When you’re painting from life, especially if you’re painting a still life, then your main concern should be “how can I make this into an interesting painting?” rather than “how can I represent this accurately?“. In other words, think of your painting from life as a painting that is loosely-based on real life, rather than a “100% accurate” record of what you are seeing.

In other words, don’t be afraid to let your artistic instincts take over. For example, the day before I wrote this article, I’d originally planned to make a quick still life painting of a tortoise figurine. But, when I was looking at it and sketching it, I thought that it would be interesting to also draw my hand holding the tortoise. Before I knew it, I’d made a first-person perspective picture of myself making a still life drawing. Here’s a reduced-size preview of it:

The full-size painting will appear here on the 9th December.

The full-size painting will appear here on the 9th December.

On a purely technical level, this painting probably isn’t quite “right”. The background is deliberately left slightly undetailed in order to place the emphasis on the foreground, the colours in the picture are deliberately bold and unrealistic, the lighting in this picture is very unrealistic, everything in the picture is probably slightly “squashed” vertically (in order to fit more stuff into the picture) etc…

But, again, paintings from life aren’t photographs! They’re art. So, think of your painting as a work of art first and foremost, and don’t be afraid to use all sorts of artistic techniques that might make your picture look less “realistic” or “technically perfect” if you think that this will make your painting look more attention-grabbing, visually-interesting, unique etc…

3) Placement and subject matter: One of the easiest ways to add creativity to paintings from life is simply to choose something interesting to paint. This means either arranging the things you are going to paint in an interesting way (eg: so that it hints at a story of some kind) or being on the lookout for any interesting things that you see.

For example, one of the things that has prompted a couple of paintings from life is seeing my reflection in curved surfaces. Not only does this give me a chance to practice using different types of perspectives, but it’s also a quick and easy way to come up with interesting-looking self-portraits that contain a low level of detail. Although I previewed one of these pictures a few days ago, here’s an older full-size picture based on seeing my reflection in a bottle of nail varnish:

"Self-Portrait In A Bottle Of Nail Varnish" By C. A. Brown [2015/16]

“Self-Portrait In A Bottle Of Nail Varnish” By C. A. Brown [2015/16]

So, yes, choosing what to paint can be as much of a creative decision as choosing how to paint it.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂