Today’s Art (27th January 2018)

Well, I was still in the mood for 1980s-style heavy metal art \m/ However, unlike yesterday’s painting, this painting ended up going in more of a horror/fantasy direction than a cyberpunk one.

This painting was going to be set in a futuristic version of Tokyo but I messed up the perspective slightly and ended up having to cover up a badly-drawn building by turning it into the giant fire-breathing monster on the left side of the painting. And, after that, the picture went in a more fantastical direction.

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

“Metallic Magic” By C. A. Brown

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Today’s Art (26th January 2018)

Well, after finishing my recent webcomic mini series, I was expecting to feel uninspired. But, although it took me a couple of tries, today’s digitally-edited painting turned out surprisingly well 🙂

Basically, after discovering a few really cool modern New Wave Of British Heavy Metal-style bands on Youtube (and, yes, new bands in this timelessly awesome sub-genre are actually a thing 🙂 The best one I found was probably a band called “Unleash The Archers” and I must have listened to this music video of theirs at least twenty times. ), I was in the mood for some retro heavy metal art \m/ … with cyberpunk elements too, because …well.. it is one of my paintings.

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

“Future Metallic” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (22nd January 2018)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the third comic in “Damania Reflection”, a new webcomic mini series featuring the characters who have appeared in most of my other webcomics. Although this mini series will consist of self-contained comics, I’m kind of thinking of making a more introspection-themed mini series this time. You can catch up on previous comics from this mini series here: Comic One, Comic Two

Surprisingly, although it’s the thid comic in this mini series, this was actually the first one of this set of comics that I planned (a couple of days before I started planning the rest of the mini series). Although my original plan was a lot less art-intensive, I’m feeling more creative than usual with this mini series. So, I decided to set the comic in the same nightclub that has appeared in this comic, this comic and this comic (and is loosely based on a pub called “The Angel” in Aberystywth).

And, yes, punk music (especailly 1990s American punk music) is a lot more depressing than it might seem. Listen to “Soul Mate” By No Use For A Name – at first, it seems like an upbeat punk song but if you actually listen carefully to the lyrics, it’s ridiculously depressing. Now compare this to a metal song like “Ever Dream” by Nightwish, “Leather Rebel” by Judas Priest or “Heaven Can Wait” By Iron Maiden. The emotional tone is completely different! Seriously, metal is a much happier and more uplifting genre than it might look at first glance 🙂

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Reflection – Music” By C. A. Brown

The Joy Of… Genre Fluidity

As regular readers of this site know, I tend to write these articles quite far in advance. As such, last April, I found myself thinking about genre fluidity after looking at some of the media surrounding the heavy metal genre. “Metal Hammer” magazine had been revived a few months earlier and I’d also been binge-watching a Youtube channel filled with quite a few heavy metal- themed lists too.

Although it had been a while since I’d really looked at all of the media surrounding the heavy metal genre, one of the changes I was glad to see was that generic, shouty mid-late 2000s metalcore was less of a popular thing than it used to be. But, one of the things that really surprised me was that there was even more genre fluidity in the metal genre than I remember.

For example, two modern bands recommended in the two issues of “Metal Hammer” that I read weren’t the sort of thing that you’d traditionally expect to see in a metal magazine.

One of the bands, “Creeper”, is a band who are kind of like an AFI-style gothic punk band, mixed with mid-2000s indie music. Another song I found on Youtube after a recommendation from the magazine (“Cult Drugs” by Blood Command) sounds a little bit like the kind of synthesiser-heavy nightclub music (eg: Crystal Castles, Alphabeat etc..) that was popular in the late 2000s.

Likewise, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this list of “hard rock and metal protest anthems[NSFW] on the metal-themed Youtube channel I mentioned earlier consisted of about one-third punk bands. I’d always thought that metal and punk were supposed to be very different genres and, yet, seeing the two of them together was really cool. It was like my two favourite musical genres rolled into one.

All of this, naturally, made me think about the whole subject of genre fluidity and how awesome it is.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, one of the best ways to create something truly original is to have a wide range of different inspirations. The more inspirations you have, the more original your creative works will be.

The thing to remember about genres is that they’re artificial things. They were invented to make it easier for people to find the types of stories, films, games etc.. that they like. They’re a descriptive thing, rather than a prescriptive thing. They evolve from creative trends, rather than being a set of rules that people have to follow.

A good example of this process in action is the development of the First-person shooter genre of computer games over the past 25-30 years. Whilst 1993’s “Doom” certainly wasn’t the first FPS game ever made, it was the first one to really gain any level of popularity. As such, it inspired other game developers to make games that were similar to “Doom”. These games were originally called “Doom-clones” by the popular gaming press.

It was only when the genre became even more popular that the more generic term “First-person shooter” was eventually coined. This is kind of like how old “film noir” films apparently weren’t originally called “film noir” at the time they were made, but were referred to as “melodramas” etc.. at the time, with the descriptive “film noir” genre label being applied slightly later.

So, regardless of what some traditionalists might say, genres aren’t set in stone. They’re a byproduct of creative people being inspired by other creative people. They’re something that bookshops, record stores, game shops etc.. use to make things easier for their customers. They certainly aren’t meant to restrict creativity in any way.
In fact, most new genres appear because someone “breaks the rules” and mixes or modifies elements from pre-existing genres.

So, yes, genre fluidity is awesome 🙂

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Why It’s Ok To Be Less Well-Known – A Ramble

Although this is a rambling article about writing fiction, making art and making webcomics, I’m going to have to start by talking enthusiastically about classic heavy metal bands for a little while. There’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later in the article.

The day before I wrote this article, I ended up listening to a “greatest hits” CD by an awesome old-school heavy metal band (who I saw perform live in 2009) called Saxon. I’m seriously surprised that it has taken me this long to add something by this band to my CD collection.

Anyway, although Saxon are a part of the heavy metal “canon”, they often tend to get overlooked slightly when compared to other legendary metal bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Black Sabbath etc..

Still, being slightly less well-known has it’s advantages. In fact, these days, the entire heavy metal genre is a good example of this (when compared to other musical genres).

Heavy metal music is one of the most varied, creative, complex and intelligent genres out there. Because it doesn’t have to appeal to a “mainstream” audience, because it virtually never gets played on the radio and because it hardly ever appears on television, the bands are free to do their own thing a lot more. Because metal is a less “famous” genre, it isn’t as over-commercialised as manufactured pop music is. So, it has much more creative freedom.

Another good example of this can probably be seen with comics. When most people in the media talk about “comics”, they’re usually talking about whatever generic, tightly-controlled superhero rubbish DC and Marvel are churning out these days. Yet, if you want to see real creativity in comics, then there are literally thousands or millions of less famous independent comics and webcomics out there. And I haven’t even mentioned manga (which, in terms of sales, is probably more popular than superhero comics are – yet is often overlooked in media coverage of “comics”).

Being slightly less well-known also usually means that the people who will seek out your works will usually be fairly dedicated fans of the genre that you write or make art in. They’ll have got bored of all of the famous stuff and be looking for more. What this generally means is that your audience might be smaller, but – if you’re any good- they’re a lot more likely to really love the things you create.

Plus, being less well-known means that you’ll also have a more evangelical fanbase too. Since most people won’t have heard of your stuff, this generally means that your fans will probably want to enthusiastically tell people about it.

So, don’t worry if your creative works aren’t world-famous. It’s actually a good thing. It means that you have more creative freedom and it means that your fans will be more dedicated.

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

Three More Things That (Visual) Artists Can Learn From Heavy Metal Music

Well, as something of a continuation of an article about the heavy metal genre and artistic inspiration that I posted a few days ago, I thought that I’d look at a few more things that (visual) artists can learn from the heavy metal genre.

1) Humour, silliness and theatricality: One of the brilliant things about heavy metal music is that, despite the melodramatic imagery that is often associated with it, it doesn’t always take itself entirely seriously.

There are too many examples of humourous metal songs to list here, but they include songs like “Born To Be Epic” by Equilibrium, “Metal Inquisition” By Piledriver, pretty much anything by Alestorm, “Mr. Torture” by Helloween etc…

Even more “serious” metal often tends to have a slightly tongue-in-cheek element to it that is absolute joy to listen to. These songs are deliberately melodramatic in a way that makes them much less “serious” than they might initially appear to be. Some examples of this kind of song include “Kill For Metal” By Iron Fire, “Iron Maiden” by Iron Maiden, “For Your Vulgar Delectation” by Cradle Of Filth, “Metal Machine” by Sabaton etc..

So, what does any of this have to do with art? Well, including the visual equivalent of this kind of thing in your art can be a great way to give your paintings or drawings a distinctive look.

Including overly melodramatic (but knowingly humourous) horror imagery and/or dark humour in your art can really make it stand out from the crowd.

Although this is something that I should probably do a lot more in my own art, I’ve experimented with it a bit, like in this digitally-edited painting called “Skeleton Service” (which was originally inspired by old horror novel covers):

"Skeleton Service" By C. A. Brown

“Skeleton Service” By C. A. Brown

2) Minimalist storytelling: One of the great things about heavy metal songs is that they sometimes contain a certain amount of storytelling. Whilst this is hardly exclusive to the metal genre, it seems to be a much larger feature of the metal genre compared to many other genres. Within the space of just 100-500 words, a metal song can tell a dramatic story in a similar manner to the epic narrative poems of old.

For example, Judas Priest’s “The Sentinel” tells a story about gladiatorial combat in a post-apocalyptic world using just 189 words. Iron Maiden’s “Number Of The Beast” tells the story of someone witnessing an evil ritual using just 301 words. Turisas’ “To Holmgard And Beyond” tells the story of an epic Viking sea voyage (with multiple fictional characters) in just 279 words etc…

So, again, what does all this writing-based stuff have to do with art?

Well, it’s all to do with the power of minimalist storytelling. When you make art, you often have to tell part of a story within the space of a single image and often without using words.

So, learning the value of compact, minimalist (visual) storytelling can be incredibly useful. And learning how to focus on important details, important events etc.. is something that listening to narrative-based metal songs can help you with.

3) Metal Covers: One of the awesome things about the metal genre, especially within the past couple of decades, is that metal bands will occasionally cover non-metal songs in a metal style. Sometimes, this is just done for laughs, but it can often give these songs more intensity and depth than they originally had.

Examples include Cradle Of Filth’s dramatic covers of both Shakespeares Sister’s “Stay” and The Sisters Of Mercy’s “No Time To Cry”, The Birthday Massacre’s cover of James And The Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now”, Die Apokalyptischen Reiter’s Cover of “Ghost Riders In The Sky”, Nightwish’s epic cover of Gary Moore’s “Over The Hills And Far Away”, Alestorm’s hilarious cover of Taio Cruz’s “Hangover”, Inkubus Sukkubus’ creative cover of Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps And Thieves” etc…

So, yet again, what does any of this have to do with art?

First of all, it isn’t a suggestion that you should directly copy other people’s art. With a very small number of exceptions (eg: private practice, parodies, making studies of out-of-copyright paintings etc..) this is usually considered to be plagiarism. So, stick to just taking inspiration from art that you consider to be cool.

Anyway, the reason why I mentioned metal covers is because they’re often examples of a band showing off their own distinctive “style”. It’s also an example of why it’s so important to develop your own unique art style since, like with metal covers of non-metal songs, whatever you paint or draw will be distinctly “yours”.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂 Now, listen to some metal \m/

Today’s Art (8th October 2017)

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

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

And, yes, the “loudness war” is (or, unfortunately, was) a real thing. I heard about it for the first time about a day before I made this comic and I picked a side almost instantly, especially after seeing a video on Youtube called “Iron Maiden – Fighting the loudness war” which was presumably meant to inspire horror about the fact that Iron Maiden’s albums have got “louder” over the years. But, well, it’s Iron Maiden – a band that awesome should be loud 🙂

Seriously, I knew there was a reason why some of my favourite metal albums from my teenage years and early 20s sounded so badass! Hell, after reading about the “loudness wars”, I decided to give Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” another listen (my copy has been gathering dust since 2008) and it sounds even more badass than I remembered, especially “That Was Just Your Life”. Regardless of what pretentious audiophiles might say – low dynamic range, I salute you! \m/

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Resized- Fighting The Loudness War” By C. A. Brown