Letting Your Imagination Assert Itself – A Ramble

Although I’m sure I’ve written about this subject at least once before, I thought that I’d talk about how your art can sometimes end up looking totally different to the original idea/plan that you had before you started making the drawing or painting. This tends to happen most often when you draw or paint from imagination (rather than from life, from photographs etc..) with relatively little pre-planning.

This is when it feels like something else was involved with the painting or drawing you’ve just made. Like how, on the journey from the initial idea to the final painting, something has changed a few details and made several alterations. It can be a really strange experience sometimes.

So, what actually happens here?

Simply put, many of the creative influences/inspirations that you’ve (knowingly or unknowingly) encountered in the past can end up having an effect on the painting in some unexpected way or another – for the simple reason that they’ve shaped your imagination and/or your aesthetic sensibilities (eg: the set of “rules” you believe that good/interesting art should follow).

This is a good thing. After all, one of the best ways to make more distinctive art is to learn how to take inspiration properly and to look for things that fire your imagination. Likewise, the more influences and inspirations you have, the more stuff your imagination has to work with. So, the more likely you are to surprise yourself in interesting ways.

Since our imaginations aren’t computers, influences and inspirations don’t tend to stay separated in neat little folders. They blur and blend together to produce slightly new things. This is the foundation of pretty much all types of creativity. It is also why the more inspirations you have, the more original your creative works will be. After all, originality comes from having a unique mixture of inspirations (since it is literally impossible for anyone to create anything that isn’t inspired by something else in some way or another. Even humanity’s earliest cave paintings were inspired by things that the artists saw in real life.).

What this means is that virtually every idea you have for a piece of art will be filtered through your existing mixture of inspirations at some stage in the creative process, and this is one of the main reasons why your final painting or drawing can look somewhat different from your original idea.

After all, if you’ve seen and studied a lot of cool and interesting things that have made you think “I want to make something like that“, then your imagination is going to remember this. It will have probably devised a set of “rules” that it learnt from all of these things, so it will probably feel more right to follow those rules than it is to ignore them. This is where the “something else” I mentioned earlier comes from.

So, if you’ve been practicing for a while (and the differences aren’t down to a difference in artistic skill), then it’s usually a good thing when your final artwork ends up looking somewhat different to your original idea. It means that your imagination is working properly. It means that you are beginning to discover your own unique type or style of art.


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


Why It’s Important To Be Open To Artistic Influence – A Ramble

Well, today, I thought that I’d talk briefly about how useful it can be to be open to artistic influence. Before I go any further, I should probably link to my article about how to take inspiration properly (again!) since it’s an important thing to bear in mind when allowing yourself to be influenced.

Anyway, I thought that I’d write about this subject again because I noticed that I’d been inadvertently influenced by an old computer game I’d been playing recently called “Riven” (that revolves around exploring a series of mysterious islands and solving puzzles).

After playing this game for a few days, tropical islands started to show up in a couple of the paintings that I’d been making – like in part of the background of this random digitally-edited painting, which will be posted here properly in late January:

This is a reduced-size preview, the full size painting will be posted here on the 29th January.

If you’re new or inexperienced at making art, then the idea of being influenced so often might seem strange or scary. After all, you probably want to make your “own” type of art that is an expression of your own imagination, rather than something that is inspired by whatever you happened to be watching or playing recently.

Well, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, being influenced regularly can actually help you to express your own imagination. Why? Because you have to find a way to turn those pre-existing inspirations into something new and original. In other words, you have to use your imagination to come up with a way of incorporating your influences into your own art, without directly copying them.

Plus, of course, you’re the one who chooses what you are influenced by. Generally, you’ll probably be more likely to take influence from things that you consider to be “interesting” or “cool”. So, you are still in control of your own artistic development.

Likewise, taking influence regularly also means that you are expanding your imagination too. It means that you’re learning new things, imagining new things and coming up with your own “version” of new things on a regular basis.

Plus, being open to artistic influence is also how you develop your own art style too.

For example, as I’ve mentioned before, one of the latest changes to my style happened when I played this set of fan-made “Doom II” levels and was so impressed by the colour scheme used in it that I ended up changing how I used colours in my art (eg: I started focusing on including 2-3 complementary colour pairs in my paintings, I started using a slightly smaller colour palette etc..).

But, my art style has also been influenced by things like western cartoons/comics from the 1990s, anime & manga, heavy metal & punk album covers, old horror novel covers, etc…. It’s a unique mixture of different things. So, if you want a unique art style, then take inspiration from lots of different things.

But, best of all, being open to artistic influences also means that you’ll feel uninspired less often, which is great if you have a regular practice schedule.

What it means is that, if you’re feeling uninspired, then you can sometimes get over it by either watching or playing something interesting. Yes, you still have to find a way to translate that inspiration into a piece of new and original art, but this is something that becomes easier with practice.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Ways To Take Artistic Inspiration From Anime And/Or Manga (If You Don’t Use That Drawing Style)


Although I seem to have something of a strange on/off relationship with anime and manga, they can be surprisingly inspirational things if you’re an artist. This is even true when, like me, your own art style isn’t actually an anime/manga art style (and, yes, there are both advantages and disadvantages to not using this style).

So, how and why should you take inspiration from this type of art?

1) It’s like every genre “turned up to eleven”: Even if you’re not interested in some of the more well-known types of anime and manga, it’s important to remember that these terms only refer to the group of art styles used in Japanese-style comics (manga) and animation (anime).

Since these mediums have historically been taken much more seriously in Japan than they were in the UK or US, there are anime and manga in pretty much every genre you can imagine. Yes, even “serious” science fiction!

For example, the thing that made me return to anime (after re-watching “Akira” a week or two earlier) was when I read that the original “Ghost In The Shell” film was very similar to my favourite (live-action) film, “Blade Runner”.

After finding a cheap second-hand DVD of the director’s cut of “Ghost In The Shell”, I checked it out and was absolutely astonished by it. Although a few scenes lacked the gloomy atmosphere of “Blade Runner”, the actual film itself was like Blade Runner on steroids! Seriously, it’s one of the few films that I can easily see myself rewatching numerous times – both because of the sumptuous art and because of the complex, intelligent “Blade Runner”-like storyline. And it’s a cartoon!

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, one of the cool things about comics and animation is the fact that, whilst the art can look fairly realistic, it isn’t limited by the constraints of real life. As such, it can be exaggerated in an imaginative way that you can’t do if you try to be too realistic.

Like how literally anything can happen in a novel because the only materials needed (to say, build a gigantic fictional world) are 26 letters – one of the cool things about art and comics is that, if you know how, you can draw literally anything with just a few art supplies.

Since comics and animation have, historically, been a much more respected medium (with a much more diverse range of genres) in Japan than they have been in the English-speaking parts of the world – anime and manga contain numerous inspirational examples of how to use the creative freedom inherent in traditional art to create things that would be difficult or impossible to create using film, photography etc…

So, if you need to remind yourself of how creative art can be at it’s best, then watch some anime or read some manga.

2) Realism and detail: Although I discussed this in the comments on another article last year, one of the things that can be very easy to miss when watching anime or reading manga is the fact that the art is often much more realistic and detailed than it might appear at first glance. If you ignore the stylised character designs and look at the backgrounds instead, you’ll quickly see what I mean.

When you watch as little as a trailer for a large-budget anime film or TV series like “Akira”, “Cowboy Bebop”, “Spirited Away”, “Ghost In The Shell” etc.. you’ll be bowled over by the sheer level of realism and detail in both the backgrounds and the animation itself. Likewise, although many manga comics are designed to be drawn quickly (more on that later), the backgrounds in them can often be astonishingly detailed line art drawings that almost look like they were traced from photographs.

If you find an anime film/TV series that you really love or a manga series that you really love, then it’s probably going to make you want to add more detail to your own art. After all, you’re going to want to make something that looks as cool as the thing you’ve just seen – albeit in your own art style.

For example, the day after I watched “Ghost In The Shell” (and started to watch some of the spin-off TV series, which I’d bought at the same time) I ended up producing what is probably my most detailed digitally-edited painting yet. Here’s a reduced-size preview:

The full-size painting will appear here on the 14th July.

The full-size painting will appear here on the 14th July.

3) Good art made quickly: Because manga comics are usually made fairly quickly, they contain lots of easily noticeable lessons about how to use artistic techniques and how to make good art quickly.

For example, if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to draw in black and white, then look closely traditonal manga comics.

Yes, many of them use pre-made dot pattern transfer sheets for the shading. But, if you ignore this, then manga comics are pretty much a “how to” guide when it comes to learning how to do things like balancing the amounts of black and white in a single image, how to only show the most essential details, how to give the impression of things like shiny surfaces etc…

Likewise, if you want to make comics of your own, then you can learn a lot of time-saving techniques from looking at manga. For example, to save time, dramatic scenes will sometimes use a solid black background. Not only does this draw attention to the characters and give the picture a “serious” look, it also meant that the artist doesn’t have to draw a complex background.

Here’s an example from one of my own (non-manga) comics of this technique in action. You can see it in the last panel:

"Damania Regenerated - Killjoys" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Regenerated – Killjoys” By C. A. Brown

So, yes, if you take a close look at manga comics, you can learn all sorts of new artistic techniques that will both make your art look cooler and allow you to make it more quickly.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂


Four Reasons Why The Noir Genre Is So Interesting For Artists

2017 Artwork Noir Art article sketch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Late Return" By C. A. Brown

“Late Return” By C. A. Brown

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

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

"Midnight Centre" By C. A. Brown

“Midnight Centre” By C. A. Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂


How To Find And Use Your Largest Creative Inspiration

2016 Artwork Main Inspirations article sketch

First of all, it goes without saying, but all artists and/or writers should have more than just one thing that inspires them.

If you only have one major inspiration, then your creative works will just end up being an inferior copy of that one thing. So, although I’ll be talking about how to find your “main inspiration” or “largest influence”, this should only be one inspiration out of many.

Whether you want to or not, you’re probably going to end up having one influence or inspiration that has a slightly larger effect on the things that you produce than any of your other inspirations. If you’ve been making art and/or writing for a while, then you probably already know what this is. In fact, when it comes to main inspirations, they tend to find you rather than the other way round.

Generally, it will be something that – when you see or read it at the right time – will literally seem better than everything else. It will be something that will seem uniquely wonderful or fascinating. It’ll be something that will make you think “I wish I’d made that!“. It’ll be something that will linger in your imagination for a long time. Your largest inspiration is one of those things where you’ll know it when you see it. Well, most of the time anyway….

Sometimes, it will be something that you already know about or have encountered before, but which doesn’t really become influential until the time is right.

For example, one of my main artistic inspirations is the film “Blade Runner“. I first saw this film when I was fourteen, but foolishly dismissed it as “boring” at the time – only to rediscover it again (and appreciate it properly) about three years later. It’s been my favourite film and one of my main inspirations since then. As I said, your main inspirations often find you.

Not only does this film influence how I draw anything even vaguely science fiction-related, but it’s high-contrast neon-lit settings are one of the many things that influenced how I handle lighting and colour in my art. It’s also prompted my gradual shift towards including more detail in my artwork (although this was also inspired by various comics I’ve read too).

It’s also one of my go-to sources of inspiration when I’m feeling uninspired. If I’m feeling uninspired, I can just think about “Blade Runner” and this will usually give me a jumping-off point for coming up with different and original ideas for sci-fi art. This is an important thing to remember.

There’s a huge difference between inspiration and copying. Being inspired by something involves looking at the generic elements of that thing ( rather than specific details, such as characters, exact settings etc..) and then finding a way to use those general elements in a new piece of art or work of fiction. This is something that all good writers and artists do, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this.

If you don’t know how to do this, then try to find a way to describe your largest influence that doesn’t mention character names, place names, specific events etc…. Now find a way to tell a story or make some art that includes the elements you’ve described, but doesn’t include any characters, backstory, locations etc.. from the thing you’re being inspired by.

Copying highly specific details from something else isn’t inspiration – it’s copying. Using the general and generic elements of something else to create a new work of art or fiction that is clearly different from it’s source material is inspiration!

Going back to “Blade Runner”, the generic elements of this film include things like the cyberpunk genre, 1940s-style fashions, goth/punk fashions, gigantic overcrowded cities, constant rainfall, neon signs, bulky 1980s technology, giant advertising billboards, Aztec-style wall tiles, private detectives, mixtures of old and new things etc… These are the things you use if you want to be inspired properly.

To give you an example, here are details from two of my upcoming paintings that were partially inspired by “Blade Runner”, but which are also original works in their own right:



And -for comparison- here’s a detail from a “Blade Runner” parody/ fan art cartoon that I’ll be posting here in December.



As you can see, this picture uses characters (eg: Deckard and Rachel) and settings (eg: The Bradbury Building) from the film – albeit with a lot of additional artistic interpretation. It’s a fan art/parody picture that is based on “Blade Runner”, but not “inspired” by it.

So, yes, finding your largest influence isn’t as difficult as you might think – just make sure that you are only inspired by it and don’t just copy it verbatim (unless you’re making fan art, parodies etc…).


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂


Taking Inspiration From Other Mediums – A Ramble (With Another Comic Preview)

2016 Artwork Inspiration From Other Mediums article sketch

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about one of the easiest ways to get extra inspiration and to come up with interesting ideas. If you’re a writer, artist and/or comic maker, then this is probably something that you’ve already done several times before in some way or another, but I thought that I’d talk about it nonetheless.

I am, of course, talking about taking inspiration from other mediums.

Whether it’s using music to get in the mood for writing or making art, or using cinematic techniques in your comic, it always interesting how different mediums can be a powerful source of inspiration. But, you already know this. I mean, it’s the kind of thing that we do without even really thinking about it too much – like in this panel from a webcomic update of mine that will be posted here in mid-August.

 The comic series is set in a slightly surreal version of modern Britain but, well, I just couldn't resist including a "western"-style update featuring two of the characters.

The comic series is set in a slightly surreal version of modern Britain but, well, I just couldn’t resist including a “western”-style update featuring two of the characters.

But, more importantly than this, other mediums can also inspire you to create in slightly different ways and to think about the things that you make in different ways.

To use an example that I’m sure I’ve given before, when I finally got back into making webcomics again, I knew that I didn’t really have the ideas, creative attention span or energy to make a traditional “endless” long-running daily series. Yet, I still really wanted to make webcomics.

In the end, I settled on the idea of making multiple “mini series” of about 6-20 daily updates, and taking a break from comic-making between each mini series (eg: I’d return to just making “ordinary” watercolour paintings/ drawings instead). Whilst, in previous years, I might have despairingly thought of this as a lazy half-measure, taking inspiration from television has actually helped to keep me motivated.

Why? Because instead of thinking of my webcomic as being a fragmented thing that isn’t a “proper” webcomic, I think of each mini series as being closer to a “season” of a TV show. This instantly makes creating a webcomic feel about ten times cooler than it already is.

Once I’ve finished each mini series, I post an article that collects the entire mini series together in one place, like a DVD box set of a TV show. So far, I’ve made four “seasons” of my webcomic (which can be viewed here, here, here and here), with a fifth one that will appear here in early August. Thinking about my webcomic this way has really been a great way to motivate myself.

I’m guessing that you can probably do the same thing with other mediums too. I mean, I tended to think about themed art series in a similar way (although I saw them as being closer to a CD album, than a TV series), and it’s probably not too much of a stretch to imagine the chapters of your novel or your individual short stories as being like episodes of a TV show.

In addition to this, when I started making webcomics again, I also took a small amount of inspiration from computer games, literature and films too. Instead of just titling each mini series “series one”, “series two” etc… I looked at the titles of movies, games and books to come up with something more dramatic.

My current titling system for my mini series is to call them something like “Damania Re-“. This originally started off as a subtle way of pointing out that I was re-starting an old webcomic series of mine, but it also allowed me to parody sequels and “director’s cut” versions of films too.

For example, the title of the first mini series (“Damania Redux”) is a parody of “Apocalypse Now Redux“. The second mini series’ title (“Damania Resurgence”) is an unintentional parody of the title of the second “Independence Day” film. The title of the third mini series (“Damania Returns”) is a reference to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Return Of Sherlock Holmes” etc…. This title format also took a bit of inspiration from the titles of Dave Gilbert’s excellent “Blackwell” games too.

The thing that I’m trying to say here is that there are lots of different ways to take inspiration from different mediums and, sometimes, the most effective types of inspiration can be subtle structural things rather than more obvious things.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂


Cultures And Genres – A Ramble

2016 Artwork genres and cultures article sketch

Although this is an article about genres (of art, fiction, comics etc..) and about how the same genre can change significantly from country to country, I’m probably going to have to start by talking about some of my own art yet again. There’s a good reason for this that I hope will become obvious later.

As I mentioned recently, I’ve been making a series of horror-themed “film noir”/ 1950s American horror comics- style paintings at the time of writing some of these articles.

Anyway, one of the things that always fascinated me about the film noir genre is (relatively speaking) just how little I seem to know about it, given that it’s one of my favourite genres. Don’t get me wrong, it always seems like a really cool genre whenever I see anything related to it. But it’s one of those rare genres, like the cyberpunk genre, that I don’t encounter nearly as much as I should.

I mean, the painting I made a few hours before writing this article barely even fits into the film noir genre. In fact, it’s probably more horror punk than film noir.

"Danse Macabre" By C. A. Brown

“Danse Macabre” By C. A. Brown

I think that half of the problem with this art series is the fact that although I’ve seen more American TV shows than I can remember, read more American novels than I can remember, seen more American websites than I can remember, played more American computer games than I can remember and seen more American films than I can remember, I’m not American and I’ve never been to America.

And, well, this made me think about genres and cultures. The noir genre is a uniquely American genre, it’s a very specific sub-genre of detective fiction that evolved in America and it works best when it’s set in American cities (especially in the 1930s-50s). [EDIT: Although I’ve transposed this genre to a UK setting in the comic that is currently being posted here every evening, the only way I was able to get this to work was to tell a comedic story, rather than a serious one.]

Yes, it has a really cool visual aesthetic that can be used in any setting. And, yes, noir-style stories can be set pretty much anywhere – but this probably takes a lot more effort, imagination and research to do properly.

Anyway, this made me think about how different countries and cultures have their own versions of the same genre. For example, I’m a huge fan of sci-fi TV shows – and one really fascinating thing is the huge difference between classic American sci-fi shows and classic British sci-fi shows.

To generalise a lot, classic American sci-fi shows are a lot bolder and more militaristic. They’re shows about adventure, combat and exploration. They’re shows about hierarchy and teamwork.

Whether it’s the various versions of “Star Trek”, “Bablyon 5”, “Stargate” etc.. American sci-fi shows are bold, thrilling, intelligent adventure shows about teams of well-trained explorers, soldiers etc… They’re shows about authority, teamwork, principles and how badass humanity is.

Classic British sci-fi TV shows, on the other hand often tend to be a lot more eccentric, comedic, anti-authoritarian, anti-militaristic and individualistic. They’re about a million miles away from classic American sci-fi. Whether it’s “Doctor Who” or “Red Dwarf”, these are shows that are pretty much the polar opposite of classic American military sci-fi.

Yet, they are in exactly the same genre.

It’s always interesting how genres can change from country to country and yet remain recognisable as the same genre. This isn’t to say that you can’t attempt to make things in other versions of the same genre, but it will probably either be more challenging than you think or, more interestingly, you’ll end up producing a version of that genre which is a unique blend of your “own” version and the version you’re trying to copy.

But, whatever you do, you’ll probably be either influenced by, enhanced by and/or limited by your own culture’s version of the genre in question.

Why? Because these versions of every genre evolved from the culture you grew up in, the culture you’ve been saturated in. They’re imbued with the general attitudes you’ve been surrounded by when you were growing up.

Even if you look at more things from other versions of the same genre, anything you produce will probably look at least a little bit like your own version of this genre.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂