Three More Ways To Deal With Failed Paintings (Emotionally)

Well, although I’ve written about the topic of failed paintings a few times before, I thought that I’d return to it today.

This was mostly because, despite attempts to salvage it with various digital effects, the heavy metal-themed painting that I’d prepared a few hours before writing this article was something of a failure. Seriously, it looks like a piece of badly-made abstract art! Here’s a preview of it:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 30th July.

So, how do you deal with the emotions that can appear when a painting you had high hopes for ends up turning into absolute rubbish?

1) Don’t judge yourself: Although it’s always useful to think about the reasons why a painting failed (so that you can try to avoid the same mistakes in the future), try to remember that you are more than just one painting. In other words, don’t judge yourself.

One failed painting, or even a hundred failed paintings, doesn’t mean that you are a failure. All it means is that you either had a bad day/week/month/year, that you need to learn/practice more or that you made some kind of technical mistake in that one painting. It doesn’t make you any less of an artist. All artists make failed paintings (even if many don’t show them off). Failure is an essential part of being an artist.

The fact that you actually finished a painting, however badly it turned out, means that you’re more of an artist than many people. The fact that you care about the fact that your painting didn’t turn out well means that you’re more of an artist than many people. So, don’t judge yourself. You are an artist! Just work out what went wrong and then get on with making the next painting as soon as you can.

2) Remember, it won’t last forever: One of the good things about practicing art regularly for several years is that you start to see patterns and trends. The main one of these is that periods of failure and/or uninspiration don’t last forever! In my experience, they usually only tend to last a few days or a couple of weeks at the very most.

So, if you keep making art, there’s a very good chance that you’ll end up making a good work of art again. In fact, that chance increases with every subsequent “failed” painting that you make – for the simple reason that repeated failure will prompt you to either try new things or to work out a way to get around the failure.

The only way that a period of artistic failure and/or uninspiration can last forever is if you give up and don’t make art again. But, if you keep making art, then – even if it takes a while – you’ll start making better art.

3) Congratulate yourself: After you’ve made a failed painting, it can be easy to feel that you aren’t very good at making art. Ironically, if you feel this emotion, then it probably means that you are at least slightly good at making art.

Why? Because you’re probably comparing your failed painting to other paintings that you’ve made, some of which are probably reasonably good. And, if you made those good paintings, then that means that you are good at making art. If you weren’t, then you wouldn’t have made those other paintings.

Think about it this way. If you’re an absolute beginner at making art – then failure doesn’t usually feel too bad. Since you’re new, you don’t expect to produce something great instantly. So, although failure can be annoying, it doesn’t feel too bad because it’s an expected part of the learning process. However, if you’ve been making art for a while, then failure can feel bad… because you’ve made good art before. So, feeling bad about failure means that you are already good at making art.

The other important thing to remember is that everything is relative. A terrible painting that you make today will probably still look better than a good painting that you made a few years ago. Feeling bad about making a failed painting just means that your painting is a failure in comparison to the good paintings you’ve made within the past year or so.

So, if a failed painting makes you feel miserable, then congratulate yourself. It means that you are a good artist – even if you’ve had a bad day or an uninspired moment.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Ways To Make Things That Will Inspire Other People


Although I’ve probably talked about this topic ages ago, I thought that I’d return to it today. I am, of course, talking about how to make things that will inspire other people to create things.

It’s kind of like how “Blade Runner” was just one film from the early 1980s, but it has inspired and influenced more things in the sci-fi genre than anything else.

Or like how “Sherlock Holmes” was a series of detective novels and short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from the late 19th century/early 20th century which has influenced virtually everything made in the detective genre since then.

Or how “Doom” was a computer game from the early-mid 1990s that popularised the first-person shooter genre in a way that no prior game could.

So, how do you make something that will inspire other people? Here are a few tips:

1) Ambiguity: One way to make something that will inspire other people is to leave as much to the imagination as possible. Yes, you’ve still got to dazzle the audience with interesting backgrounds/settings/characters/events etc…., but you’ve also got to leave a lot to the imagination too.

Why? Because it makes the audience curious and, if they’re curious enough, then they’ll probably start making new things of their own in order to explore the things that you’ve left hidden.

For example, a fair amount of my own art is inspired by the movie “Blade Runner”. To show you what I mean, here’s a painting of mine (which was also inspired by “Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex) that appeared here a while ago:

“Architecture” By C. A. Brown

But why was it “Blade Runner” (and not, say, “Star Trek” or “Star Wars”) that influenced me so much? Although there’s a “Blade Runner” sequel coming out soon, it was a stand-alone film for quite a long time. So, there was just one film that gave the audience a few tantalising glimpses at a giant, detailed futuristic world and then just left the rest of it to our imaginations.

Seriously, apart from a few streets, a few cityscapes and several building interiors, we don’t actually get to see that much of the “world” of this film. But what we do see is absolutely fascinating. So, it is up to us to imagine what the rest of the film’s “world” looks like. And, if you’re an artist or a writer, then this is a good starting point for coming up with your own original sci-fi art, fiction etc…. Just remember the difference between inspiration and plagiarism though.

So, yes, if you show just enough to tell the story, but leave a lot of tantalising details to your audience’s imaginations, then you’re probably going to inspire other people.

2) New mixtures: As the old saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun. It is quite literally impossible to create something that is truly “100% original”. That said, the things that tend to have the most influence on other artists, writers, comic makers, game developers etc… are more original than average. But, how do they do it?

Simple, they find something seemingly “unrelated” and add it to a well-known genre. For example, Sherlock Holmes wasn’t the first fictional detective, but he’s the most influential one for the simple reason that he was the first to apply deductive reasoning and the scientific method to solving crimes. Previously, no-one had really thought of combining science and logic with the detective genre. These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a detective story that doesn’t involve science or logic in some way.

Likewise, “Blade Runner” certainly wasn’t the first science fiction film ever made. It wasn’t even the first thing in the science fiction genre to question what it is that makes us human. But it was one of the first films to combine the film noir genre with science fiction. It was also one of the first western sci-fi films to take visual inspiration from large cities in countries like Japan, South Korea etc… too.

So, if you can find an interesting way to add something new to a familiar genre, then there’s a good chance that the things you create will end up inspiring other people.

3) Timelessness: One other way to make something that will inspire other people is to make something that is timeless. Thinking about it more, the best way to do this seems to be to make sure that the underlying structure of the thing you’re creating is the kind of thing that has a universal appeal.

For example, the original “Doom” is a computer game from 1993. It looks very old. It was originally distributed on floppy disk. In fact, you can play it using nothing more than the keyboard if you want to. It looks very 90s, but it’s an iconic game that people have been playing (and modifying, updating etc..) for over two decades because it is fun!

It is a game that focuses on fast-paced combat, basic puzzle solving and strategy (eg: many challenging modern fan-made levels for “Doom”/”Doom II” pretty much require you to know the ‘rules’ of the game, and how to use them to your advantage). These things are timeless and universal.

Likewise, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original “Sherlock Holmes” stories are (mostly) set in the 19th century (“His Last Bow” is set in 1914 though). But, they have a timeless appeal for the simple reason that the underlying structure of the stories revolve around a highly-intelligent detective using science and logic to solve crimes.

This part of the stories is timeless and it’s one reason why Sherlock Holmes has not only inspired many other fictional detectives, but why he can be easily transposed into more modern settings (eg: like in the BBC’s “Sherlock” series) and not seem out of place.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Starting A Webcomic? Remember, No-One Starts Out Good At It

2017 Artwork Even the best webcomics started out badly

If you’re new to making webcomics, then it can be very easy to look at the webcomics that have inspired you to start making your own and feel discouraged. After all, you might think that the art looks ten times better than anything you can make and the writing makes yours look terrible.

Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal! In fact, the people who made the very webcomics that inspired you probably thought exactly the same thing when they were starting out. Being terrible at making webcomics is a phase that literally every webcomic creator has to go through.

I’m hardly the first person to point this fact out, but you can see evidence of this yourself by comparing the both the very first and the very latest updates from your favourite long-running webcomic.

One will look terrible (and will probably be badly-written too), the other will look and read significantly better. If both look good, then all this means is that the comic creator in question is hiding their really early stuff.

The best way to think about making a webcomic is that it’s a bit like playing an old-school RPG game. When you start playing, your character is at level one and has no experience or skills, but through repeated, regular activity – you’ll gain experience and your character’s skill level will increase. Like in an old RPG game, you might start out as a weak character – but, after playing the game regularly for a while, you’ll become an absolute badass.

However, if you give up early because you don’t think that your webcomic is very good, then you’ll never gain the practice, knowledge or experience that you need in order to make better webcomics. The format itself will help you with this for the simple reason that webcomics are traditionally meant to be updated regularly (but, beware of comics burnout – it’s why I only make comics occasionally these days, even though I still do daily art practice), so it’s a good incentive to get lots of comic-making practice

Likewise, don’t expect instant improvement. Webcomic improvements are the kind of subtle, gradual things that you’ll probably only notice when you look back on your comics from several years earlier.

To use a personal example, here’s what my occasional long-running webcomic series looked like in 2012 (I technically started posting webcomics online in 2010, but only started my current occasional comic in 2011/ 2012):

"Damania - Haunted" By C. A. Brown [16th October 2012]

“Damania – Haunted” By C. A. Brown [16th October 2012]

And here’s another comic update from a mini series that I posted here earlier this year ( as the first part of a trilogy that also includes this mini series and this one). This is after 4-5 years of daily art practice and occasional comic practice:

“Damania Retrofuturistic – Time Police” By C. A. Brown

So, how do you keep going even when your webcomics look terrible and are badly-written? Well, if you actually need to ask, then you’re possibly not quite ready to start making webcomics yet.

You keep going even when your webcomic looks like crap because you’re actually making webcomics. Because the idea of actually posting a webcomic (however bad) online seems ten times cooler than the idea of not posting a webcomic online.

In other words, the thing that will carry you through the crappy earlier phases of your webcomic is your enthusiasm for the medium itself. If you don’t have this enthusiasm, then wait until you do before you start making webcomics.

This enthusiasm will also carry you through days when you are feeling uninspired or dispirited. It will also carry you through the inevitable times when making comics feels more like a chore than anything else. It’ll help you to fight uninspiration, rather than give in to it. And, most importantly of all, it will make you keep making comics even when they look crappy.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Why You Shouldn’t Get Jealous Of The Ways That Other Artists Make Their Art

2016 Artwork Why You Shouldn't Get Jealous Of Other Artists Practice Methods

Although this is an article about why you shouldn’t get jealous of the ways that other artists make art, I’m going to have to talk about when this happened to me (and how I got over it), in the hope that it might be useful to you.

Earlier this year, I was trying to get into more of an “artistic” mood. So, I decided to take a look at some art by one of my favourite artists on Youtube.

Anyway, the thing that really caught my interest was the fact that this artist had also started posting daily artwork on Instagram too. As someone who posts daily art online myself, it’s always really cool to see other artists doing this.

But, as I was looking at all of the drawings, I realised that most of them contained something that I often seemed to be lacking in my own art – spontaneity.

Thinking about it logically, I imagine that there was probably quite a lot of time, thought, planning and preparation put into each of the daily drawings in the gallery. But, from the way that they’re presented (eg: photographs of sketchbook pages), they look like brilliantly inspired drawings that were created in a fraction of the time that it takes many artists to draw a picture. They all look like they were drawn furiously in sudden moments of inspiration.

By comparison, my own daily art practice felt extremely stodgy and formal. I usually try to make most of my paintings a standard size (although this varies slightly over time) and I also usually try to ensure that most of my paintings take less than 60-90 minutes to make. When I’ve finished a painting, I scan (rather than photograph) it and then I usually edit it digitally (at minimum, this can involve cropping the picture to size and then changing the brightness, contrast and colour saturation levels).

Usually, after I’ve finished a daily painting, I’ll write two dates in the margin – the date that the painting was made and the date that it will be posted here. There’s usually a significant gap between the two dates. If I ever become famous, this will probably baffle art historians for decades.

About the closest thing to “spontaneous” that I get is when I make B&W comics like this one or this one and, even then, I usually tend to make them months in advance.

Then again, this is the kind of art practice that actually works for me. It’s something that I’ve developed over about four years of daily art practice, and it’s meant that I’ve actually been able to keep up my daily art practice.

If you’re doing something every day for a long period of time, then you will naturally gravitate towards a style of practice that works best for you. In a way, it almost becomes an expression of who you are.

It can be very easy to look at another artist’s work and conclude that they have a much better relationship with their art practice than you do with your practice. Whilst it’s probably true that successful artists have a good relationship with their art practice, what this actually looks like varies significantly from artist to artist.

So, looking at something that is right for one artist and then concluding that your own way of making art is “wrong” or “inferior” is a foolish idea. It’d be like looking at a list of someone else’s favourite foods and feeling bad because your own favourite foods are different.

My own way of making art may not be very “spontaneous”, but it’s what works for me. If I tried to be “spontaneous”, then I’d probably produce art that I didn’t really like. I’d constantly be rushing around in a panic and trying to make art within much shorter deadlines than I’m used to. After a few weeks or months, I’d probably end up either going back to my old “not spontaneous” style or I’d just stop making art.

My own way of making art is something that has developed alongside me and it is uniquely suited to me. With enough time and practice, your own way of making art will become uniquely suited to you.

And, if you’re still feeling discouraged about the fact that there are better artists out there than you, then remember that there are also worse artists out there too. Even the artists that you think are better than you probably think that their own art isn’t as good as the art that their favourite artists make.

If you don’t believe me, then just take a look at the front page of a popular art website called DeviantART. If you look at the newest updates on there for a while, you’ll see both better and worse artwork than your own art.

So, the next time you see another artist’s work online and you think something like “they’re so much more spontaneous than I am“, “they make art every day! Every day!” or “they focus on detail a lot more than I do“, just remember that they’re using a practice style that works for them. It might not work for you.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Another Three Ways To Be Creative Before The Apocalypse

2015 Artwork Creative Apocalypse sketch censored version

Well, since I was stressed out at the time of writing this article (a couple of months ago), I thought that I’d revisit a topic that I’ve covered twice before (here and here). I am, of course, talking about how to remain creative when you’re feeling stressed out or worried about the future.

Apologies in advance if I repeat anything which I’ve covered in the previous two “apocalypse” articles. I probably will, but there will also be some new stuff here. Anyway, let’s get started:

1) Go for your emotions: In other words, try to focus on making something that will put you in a better emotional state than the one you are in right now.

This obviously isn’t as simple as it sounds because, if you’re stressed out, then the last thing you want to do is to sink a lot of effort into making something. So, don’t worry about quality or quantity or anything like that – just make something that will make you feel better.

Sometimes, this might be something that may sound depressing – but which makes you feel less alone in the world. Sometimes, self expression for the sake of self-expression can work wonders on an emotional level.

For example, a few months ago, I was stressed out and I kind of felt like there wasn’t quite enough time in the day. Suddenly, a couple of lines of music poetry just kind of appeared in my mind.

They went something along the lines of: “Time ticks away, hour by hour/ I feel more and more like Jack f**king Bauer“. In case you don’t know who Jack Bauer is, he’s the main character in a TV show called “24” where there’s always a ticking clock (and not quite enough time) in every episode.

Although writing this rhyming couplet didn’t immediately make me feel better – it was such a brilliantly rhythmic expression of my frustration that I could imagine it being set to music and forming the soundtrack of my life. And, thinking about a soundtrack to my life made me look at everything from a slightly more distanced perspective, which helped.

Of course, different things work in different situations. But, the genres that are best for getting into a better emotional state usually include things like poetry, dark comedy and erotica. But, go for whatever works for you – and don’t worry about quality.

2) Adventure games: If you like computer games and you’ve got an hour or two to spare, then try playing an old “point and click” adventure game (you can find a couple of freeware adventure games from the 1990s here, that will work on literally any computer – I’d recommend “Beneath A Steel Sky”). Just remember to find a walkthrough guide on the internet first, because the last thing you need right now is to be frustrated by near-impossible puzzles.

If you’ve got a bit more money, then I’d recommend buying a couple of modern “hidden object games”. These games are fairly similar to old “point and click” adventure games. These games have less frustrating puzzles and lots of beautiful artwork, although there’s slightly less exploration, dialogue and interactivity than you would find in a traditional “point and click” game.

So, why can adventure games help you to be creative when you’re in this kind of mood? Well, there are several reasons – one of them is that they often have a much slower and more contemplative style of gameplay than most games do, and this can be oddly relaxing.

Not only that, many adventure games are filled with cynical humour that can make you look at your own life in a more humourous way. In addition, most of them have fairly happy endings – which might give you hope about the future. Plus, since most of these games are focused on problem-solving, then this might put you in a better frame of mind to solve your own problems (even if you use a walkthrough guide when playing).

But, most of all, adventure games are one of the most atmospheric and immersive types of games in existence. And, if you spend long enough immersed in an interesting fictional world then not only will this make you feel better, but it’ll also spark your imagination too and hopefully lead to a few new creative ideas.

In fact, I used this exact tactic to make a drawing that was posted here a couple of days ago:

"Under A Broken Moon" By C. A. Brown

“Under A Broken Moon” By C. A. Brown

As you can see from this drawing, the perspective and layout of the drawing is fairly similar to what you can find in a “point and click” adventure game. And the background itself was heavily inspired by the dystopic sci-fi computer game settings that I’d been looking at for the past couple of hours.

3) Dissect something: No, I don’t mean that you should literally dissect something! What I mean is that you should take a fairly close look at a novel, comic, film, artwork or game that you really love and try to work out exactly what makes it so great.

Once you’ve found this out, then try making something of your own that contains these qualities (but which also has an original setting, original characters, an original story etc..). The reason why this can be such a good way to stay creative when you’re feeling stressed or miserable is because it saves you having to work out what you want to do with your story or piece of art. All you have to do is to come up with enough changes to make your work into something original.

And, best of all, you’ll also get the satisfaction of having produced something which you personally think is really cool.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

The Joy Of… Cheap Art Supplies

2015 Artwork Cheap Art Supplies Sketch

Even though this is an article about art, I’m going to have to start by talking about music and computer games for a while. Trust me, there’s a valid reason for this and I’m not just rambling about obscure stuff just to sound pretentious. Honest.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, a few weeks ago I rediscovered a couple of acoustic punk bands I first found on Youtube a couple of years ago – I am, of course, talking about “Johnny Hobo And The Freight Trains” and a later version of the same band called “Wingnut Dishwashers Union“. Some of their songs can also be legally downloaded for free on the Internet Archive too.

One of the interesting things about both of these albums is both how low-budget they sound and how this doesn’t matter in the slightest, because the lyrics are so wonderfully-written and cynical. The lead singer/guitarist might sound like a busker, but he’s more punk than most “popular” punk bands are. And I don’t even consider myself to be a punk, even though the first “cool” band I ever discovered was a punk band (The Offspring, if anyone is curious).

And then this made me think about my favourite computer game – I am, of course, talking about “Doom II” and all of the various fan-made levels and mods for it you can find on the internet. This is a game that is over twenty years old and, graphically speaking, it looks very primitive. But it’s still a lot more fun than many games that have been made over the past decade, because it’s so well-designed.

It’s easy to write things like this off as “the exception to the rule”. The rare things which, although they may be low-budget and/or primitive, are still somehow great for a weird reason that no-one can explain. But, I’d argue that they’re great because they’re so basic.

One of the most damaging myths about making art is that it requires a lot of money in order to be great. I’m talking about the idea that a good artist needs lots of expensive art supplies, a purpose-built studio and/or expensive graphics editing software in order to produce great art.

This is, quite simply, nonsense.

Yes, using lots of expensive stuff will help to make any flaws in your art less obvious at first glance and it will probably also make you feel more “professional” too. But it’s no substitute for skill, imagination and/or experience and you shouldn’t let a lack of money and/or expensive equipment put you off from making art.

The fact is that the basic tools for making art are fairly cheap. And they still work.

You can draw a truly stunning picture with a cheap pen in a cheap notebook, you can make a great picture with cheap coloured pencils, you can paint something wonderful with low-grade paints, you can digitally edit a picture with a free open-source image editing program like GIMP etc…

And, ironically, the quality of your work will shine through a lot more easily than it would if you produced something with expensive stuff.


Well, because there’s nothing to hide behind. No fancy art supplies, no flashy digital effects or anything like that. It’s just you and your work and, if you’re good at it, then you’ll impress people – if you’re not, then you won’t. And, if you can seriously impress people using incredibly cheap materials, then this is a sign that you’re doing well.

Plus, sometimes, it can be fun to test yourself by going “back to basics” and seeing if you can still make great stuff with nothing more than a pen, a pencil and a piece of paper. Yes, it’s a bit more of a challenge than usual, but it’s still strangely satisfying nonetheless.

The interesting thing is that all of the things I’ve said only really apply to things like art and/or music. There’s no real equivalent for writing because, at the end of the day, words look like words – regardless of whether they’ve been typed on a top-of the range modern computer or on something from the mid-2000s.

The text of a bestselling novel and the text of a self-published e-book still look pretty much the same in visual terms. So, in a way, I guess that writing is the most “honest” and “open” form of creativity in the world.

It’s just a shame that other forms of creativity aren’t as inherently egalitarian as writing is, in this respect.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Three More Things To Do After You’ve Drawn A Terrible Picture

2015 Artwork More terrible pictures article sketch

Well, since a couple of my recent paintings have been.. well… awful, I thought that I’d re-visit a subject that I last wrote about a few months ago. I am, of course, talking about what to do after you’ve made a terrible picture – like this one:

"Valley Of The Lost Pyramids" By C. A. Brown

“Valley Of The Lost Pyramids” By C. A. Brown

If you make art – then there are going to be times when you fail miserably. It happens to all of us since it’s impossible for an artist to produce literally nothing but masterpieces. And, any artist that claims that they do probably has a large stack of failed paintings and/or drawings hidden away somewhere.

So, failure isn’t the devastating thing that you might think it is when you look at your latest failed piece of art. Still, how can you deal with it? Here are a few tips:

1) Make something you know is going to be good: If you’ve just failed miserably at making a piece of art, then it can be easy to feel disheartened and to lose confidence in yourself. After all, you’ve poured a lot of effort into your artwork and you’ve probably had a clear mental image of what it will look like – only to be rewarded with something that looks absolutely terrible.

It can be enough to shake anyone’s confidence in their own artistic abilities. And, well, one of the best ways to win your confidence back is to produce something that looks great. But, how do you do that?

Simple, you do something that you feel is “easy” and/or almost guaranteed to produce good results. Of course, what exactly this is will vary from artist to artist – so you need to know what works for you.

For example, some artists might find painting still life pictures to be an almost impossible challenge, whereas other artists might find it a relaxing break from the difficult task of painting from their own imaginations.

Likewise, some artists might put a lot of thought and stress into making a piece of fan art, whereas other artists may just make fan art as a bit of light-hearted relaxation. Every artist is different, so make sure that you know what you personally find to be “easy” types of art to make.

2) Make something even worse: For me, failed paintings don’t usually exist in isolation. Usually, when I make something crappy, there’s a good chance that I’ll end up making a couple more crappy pictures before I finally start making good stuff again. Your own creative processes might be different to mine, but I’ve always found that failure attracts more failure.

So, how do you stop this turning into an unstoppable downward spiral? Simple, you produce something even worse that – to you at least – makes your original failed picture look good by comparison. This can be a very sneaky way to re-build your artistic confidence just enough to get back into the mood for producing better work.

For example, a day or so before I produced that terrible “pyramid” picture that I showed you earlier, I made another painting that I thought was kind of rubbish. It was a rather quick one that I produced when I was fairly tired and I was kind of disappointed by it when I’d finished:

"Puffer Fish" By C. A. Brown

“Puffer Fish” By C. A. Brown

But, although I still don’t see this picture as one of my best, I have a slightly better opinion of it now than I did before I produced my “pyramid” painting.

Why? Because my “puffer fish” picture actually has vaguely good composition, a slightly coherent colour scheme, vaguely realistic shadows and lots of other fairly basic things that were missing from my “pyramid” picture.

3) Get used to it and keep going: This might sound kind of harsh, but it isn’t supposed to be. You see, one of the great things about making art on a regular basis is that you get used to failing every now and then. It’s annoying when it happens, but it doesn’t feel like the end of the world.

Why? Because it’s happened to me quite a few times before over the past couple of years. And, every time, I know that I’ll end up producing good art again eventually. It might take a few days, it might even take a week. But I know that if I keep making art on a regular basis, then it will get better again.

And this has changed my entire perspective on artistic failure. Rather than seeing it as a personal failing of any kind, I see it as more like a spot of bad weather.

Yes, the weather in England may be searingly hot and annoyingly bright on a particular day, but no-one thinks that it will last forever. After all, the delightful gloom and vibrant rain will always return after a while.

But, well, you’ll only end up having a perspective like this if you keep making art on a regular basis – even during the times when you’re producing nothing but failed paintings. So, keep going!


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

On Romanticising Your “Early Days” As A Writer Or An Artist

2014 Artwork Romanticising Old Stuff Article Sketch

Even though this is a pep talk about both the benefits and perils of romanticising your “early days” as an artist and/or writer, I’m going to have to start by talking about my own “early days” for a while.

There’s a reason for this (as well as an uplifting message at the very end of this article too) and I’m not just writing about it for the sake of self-pity or anything like that.

A while back, I was looking through my DeviantART gallery for one of my old pictures, when I started to notice some of the art that I’d made back in 2012 just after I’d decided that I’d produce at least one picture per day.

At first, I laughed because it was hilariously terrible compared to my modern stuff and it made me wonder why I’d stuck at it for so long and seen myself as an “artist”, when I was producing things like this on a regular basis:

"Aristocracy" By C. A. Brown [24th July 2012]

“Aristocracy” By C. A. Brown [24th July 2012]

Then I remembered the feeling of carefree joy that I had when I made art every day back then, when it was still a “new” thing to me. I remembered the optimism and joy I felt when I produced each picture and how I’d often eagerly produce 2-5 small drawings every day. And then I felt kind of sad since, although I still really enjoy making art – it doesn’t quite hold the fascination that it did back then.

The same is true, to a lesser extent, with the art that I produced early this year – when watercolour pencils were still a new art medium to me and I was still fascinated by the idea of being a “painter”.

Back then, I was keen to copy old paintings, to paint from life and to see watercolour painting as something “special” rather than “ordinary”. Some of you might remember this, but it was the time when I produced stuff like this:

"From The Chair By The Door" By C. A. Brown

“From The Chair By The Door” By C. A. Brown

It really was a truly magical time in some ways.

But, when I’m not feeling confident about my current art, it’s easy to look back at the art I produced during those early months and think things like “Wow! I’ve really got worse since then!“. Of course, I also tend to ignore all of the fairly mediocre and/or crappy paintings that I also made back then – like this one:

"Random Mountains" By C. A. Brown

“Random Mountains” By C. A. Brown

And don’t even get me started on my writing – I tend to think that I peaked as a fiction writer back in 2008 -10 and that it’s been downhill ever since. Although, saying that, I used to write fiction far more regularly back then than I do now. So, there might actually be some truth to this.

So, why are any of these melancholic introspective ramblings relevant to you?

Well, if you’re writing fiction regularly or taking yourself seriously as an artist and practicing regularly, then it can be easy to get nostalgic about your early days. And this isn’t a bad thing, after all – it can help you to feel better about yourself as a writer and/or artist, if you have your own “personal mythology” and can categorise your work based on when it was produced.

I don’t know why, but it can make you feel like a historian or an expert on your own work. It can help you to feel closer to the more well-known artists or writer that you aspire to be like, by having a history and a list of works like they do. It can help you to rehearse the interesting stories about your “early days” that you will tell interviewers when you eventually become “well-known” or whatever.

In emotional terms, romanticising your “early days” isn’t a bad thing. However, it isn’t always an entirely good thing either. This is because you can sometimes end up looking down on all of your current work, because it doesn’t live up to the rose-tinted “perfection” of your old stuff. But, I’ll let you in on a secret.

In a couple of years time, you’ll probably start getting nostalgic about what is now your current work. I mean, back in 2012, I used to worry that my art wasn’t as great as the art that I produced on an irregular basis back in 2010 and 2011. So, why is this relevant?

Well, in case you haven’t guessed already, this means that you will end up getting nostalgic about the things that you are making right now. In a few months or years, you’ll look back to now and think “Wow! Those were my glory days!.” And so on and so on….

So, if you ever worry that your art or writing doesn’t have the quality or “energy” that it used to, just remember that – in the future – you’ll think exactly the same thing about this moment in time. It’s just like something from this classic Iron Maiden song.

In other words, you’re in the middle of your “glory days” right now! Enjoy it 🙂


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Remember, Art Is All Around You.

2014 Artwork Art is All Around You Sketch

One day a few weeks ago, I woke up and realised that it was one of those grumpy, cynical and generic days when I felt a lot older than I actually am. I thought that, on that day, I’d maybe churn out one useless and mediocre painting if I really tried hard and wore myself out.

I tried to remind myself that this happens to all creative people from time to time and that periods of uninspiration and unenthusiasm come with the territory. But I still felt like something of a failure and, not only that, a failure who was probably going to have a crappy day.

And, then as I was leaving my bedroom, I spotted an old name plaque that I’d walked past hundreds of times before and never really paid much attention to. It was one of those things that someone is given when they’re a kid and keep for years later out of a combination of forgetfulness and sentimental value.

This particular one featured several vaguely “realistic” cartoon animals dressed in silly clothing and my very first thought upon seeing it was something along the lines of: “What a bizarre and freaky piece of kitsch! As if my day couldn’t get any worse! I’m surrounded by crap!

It wasn’t until a couple of seconds later that another far more uplifting thought went through my mind: “Hold on a minute! An ARTIST draw and painted that name plaque and some company somewhere thought that it was good enough to mass-produce copies of it.”

Although I still felt like I was living in a freaky version of a kitschy old Cyndi Lauper video from the 80s, I suddenly didn’t feel so bad about being an artist.

You see, if you’re an artist who isn’t exactly well-known and well-renowned, then it can sometimes be easy to feel that art is something of a “pointless” activity. That it’s nothing more than a pretentious-sounding solitary hobby that doesn’t really have any value in the world.

It’s easy to feel that the real heyday of art happened centuries ago and that art is one of those forgotten things that is only really kept going by a few dedicated enthusiasts, cartoonists and a tiny number of “celebrities”.

Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. Art is all around you.

It’s on some of the greetings cards that you got for your birthday, it’s on the websites that you look at, it’s on some of the junk mail that comes through the letterbox, it’s on some the album covers in your old CD collection, it’s on some of your T-shirts and tops, it’s in the editorial cartoon on the news website you read regularly, it’s on the title card of the video game review you’ve just watched on Youtube.

It’s on the covers of at least half of the books that you’ve read, it’s on some of the food packaging in your kitchen and it’s in some of the annoying banner ads that you mentally tune out whenever you look at a website. If you’ve got a smartphone, then it’s almost certainly in some the games on there that you play in your spare time.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea…

The fact is, although “art” is something that some people see as the preserve of pretentious “celebrity” artists, long-dead painters in museums and the kind of posh people who like to talk about “the arts” in recieved pronunciation (although, ironically, my accent probably sounds a little bit like received pronounciation LOL!), the world would grind to a startling halt if it wasn’t for artists.

Ok, I’m exaggerating here – but the world would look very strange if it didn’t contain any art.

Many artists aren’t well-known people who have their work shown in galleries, many artists are people who hide their work in plain sight all around us. Most artists exist anonymously in the shadows – putting out unnnamed work that makes the world a little bit more of a beautiful, amusing, cool and/or kitschy place.

Yes, this might not be the pep talk about being “the next big thing” that you were hoping for. But, at the very least, I hope that it has reminded you that there is still a place for artists in the world. And that the world needs artists too.

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Five Cool Little Things About Being An Artist

2014 Artwork cool things artist sketch

Well, since I can’t think of any good advice to give today, I thought that I’d come up with a list of cool little “everyday” things about being an artist – either to give you some ideas or to help you feel inspired if you’ve been listening to people who tell you that being an artist isn’t a worthwhile path through life.

1)You can make your e-mails more interesting: If you produce art fairly regularly and you’ve got a digital camera or a scanner, then you can make your daily e-mails a lot more memorable and/or interesting by including some of your art when it’s appropriate to do so.

This works best if the e-mail program and/or website that you use allows you to insert images directly into the e-mail, since people are probably slightly less likely to look at your stuff if they have to click on an attachment in order to do so.

Plus, if you attach your work to an e-mail and forget to mention it, then they might not even notice that there’s an attachment. So, if you can insert images into your e-mails directly (and the file size isn’t too large) – then do this.

2) You can impress people when you’re bored: Generally speaking, quite a few people instinctively doodle on notebooks, post-it notes, newspapers, leaflets etc… when they have to pay attention to something, since doodling improves both our attention and our memories of things.

But, if you’ve been making art for a while and you’ve done enough practice that drawing feels almost instinctive to you, then your doodles are going to be a lot more impressive than the random shapes and squiggles that most people tend to draw when they’re doodling.

What this means is that if someone looks over your shoulder or if someone notices that you’re doodling, then they’re less likely to be annoyed by it. Hell, they might even be impressed by it.

3) Personalised Gifts: If you can make art reasonably well, you can make gifts for people. Not only will this mean that you won’t have to rush around to buy last-minute birthday or Christmas presents and/or cards for people, it also means that the people you’re giving art to will have a completely unique and/or personalised gift too.

A piece of art is the kind of gift that is very memorable and can be displayed and enjoyed for years.

Not only that, if you’re the kind of starving artist that most of us probably are, it’s also a fairly inexpensive way of making high-quality gifts for people too. The only real expenses are your time, any art supplies that you use and possibly a frame of some kind.

4) Free website graphics: If you’re not an artist, then finding graphics for your website can be expensive and/or time-consuming.

You can either just use random things you find online (and risk copyright problems), you can spend hours searching for the right Creative Commons-licenced picture, you can commission some graphics from an artist or you can splash out and buy royalty-free stock images.

Of course, if you can actually create art yourself (and you have some way to get it onto your computer), then you really don’t have to worry about any of this…..

5) You see things slightly differently: I’d never really thought about this too much until I read an absolutely excellent book last year called “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” by Betty Edwards, but artists have a different way of looking at the world – we tend to notice things like shapes, composition, lighting etc.. a lot more than most people do.

What this generally means is that, if you ever see a beautiful view, an interesting building or anything like that, your first thought will probably be “how do I paint this?” and you’ll automatically start drawing on your artistic knowledge and analysing what you’re seeing in a way that most people don’t do. I don’t know why, but this is really cool and it reminds me a lot of the “deduction” scenes in the BBC’s “Sherlock” series.

Yes, no-one else will know that you’re thinking in this way. But it can be a very good way of impressing yourself though.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂