Awesome Art Can Lurk In Unlikely Places – A Ramble

Well, although this is an article about art, I’m going to have to start by talking about a TV show for a bit. This is mostly because, after discovering a random “funny moments” clip on Youtube, I ended up watching a DVD of a modern version of “Scooby Doo”. In addition to the humour, this was mostly because this cartoon series is a surprisingly good work of visual art. Here are a couple of examples to show you what I mean:

This is a screenshot from season one (2010-11) of “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated” that includes dramatic high-contrast lighting, clever use of silhouettes and a brilliant purple/orange colour scheme.

This is another screenshot from season one, which includes an ominous red/blue colour scheme (with a reassuring hint of orange/yellow), some hints of high-contrast lighting and hints of 1960s-style watercolour artwork too.

This is a cartoon series that includes bold high-contrast lighting, a really interesting 1960s-inspired modern art style, well-chosen colour schemes, some really dramatic compositions and a whole host of other amazing artistic stuff that you wouldn’t traditionally expect to see in a Saturday morning cartoon. And, of course, this made me think about finding awesome artwork in unlikely places.

The most inspirational artwork isn’t usually found hidden away in art galleries. Instead, it is usually “hiding in plain sight” in all sorts of places that you wouldn’t expect.

For example, one of the major elements of my own art style (eg: high-contrast lighting) was mostly inspired by all of the old second-hand 1980s/90s horror novel covers I saw when I was a teenager and the cover art for all of the amazing old heavy metal albums I found back then.

Likewise, as I’ve mentioned at least a couple of times before, many of the best examples of dramatic composition, clever use of perspective, clever lighting etc… that I’ve found have been in the old “survival horror” computer/video games that I played during my youth:

This is a screenshot from the 2000 PC port of “Resident Evil 3” (1999). Notice how the “camera” not only lurks far away from the player’s character in order to create a feeling of both insignificance and of being watched, but also how the game designers use lighting to draw the player’s attention to where they are supposed to go next.

So, what was the point out all of this?

Well, it is that amazing art is all around us if we are willing to look. On any given day, you’ll probably see more pieces of art than you even consciously notice, and many of these are a lot more sophisticated than you might initially think – if you’re actually willing to look at them.

Not only can all of this amazing “hidden” artwork have an influence on our art styles without us even consciously noticing, but it is also the perfect riposte to people who think that art is a “pretentious” or “irrelevant” thing.

The fact is that the world looks the way that it does because of artists. Art is the background to all of our lives in ways that we may not even consciously notice. And, what this often means is that some of the coolest and most dramatic works of art can be quite literally “hiding in plain sight”.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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Creativity, Subcultures And Fandoms – A Ramble

Although this is an article about making art, writing fiction etc… I’m going to have to start by talking about music and fashion/clothing for a while. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later. But, if you don’t have time for this, then just skip the next five paragraphs or so.

A while before I wrote this article, I ended up reading some online articles about something that I’d seen a few times at concerts/festivals but didn’t know the exact word for. I am, of course, talking about heavy metal “battle jackets”/”battle vests”, which are covered in band patches. No two are the same, and each one is a reflection of the wearer’s musical tastes.

Even though this made me curious enough to make a fan art painting of what my ideal battle vest would probably look like, it also made me think about my relationship with the heavy metal subculture too. But, first, here’s a preview of the fan art painting I mentioned:

This is a reduced-size preview, the full-size painting will be posted here on the 12th October.

Although I had a lot of fun making this painting, I suddenly found myself wondering if a battle vest was “too metal” for me. I mean, I wouldn’t think twice about wearing an Iron Maiden/Judas Priest/Cradle Of Filth etc.. T-shirt, but a battle vest seemed like a totally different thing.

Even though heavy metal is one of my favourite genres of music (and has been for over fifteen years), I felt strangely uneasy about the idea of ever making or wearing something that distinctively showed me to be the most absolutely dedicated of metalheads.

Why? Because metal is one of several genres that I absolutely love. I’m also a fan of songs by several punk bands, several gothic rock bands, a couple of electronic musicians, a couple of rappers, an indie band or two, a few acoustic musicians and even (dare I say it?) a few pop musicians. In other words – if I like a song, musician or band, then I like it. If the music is good enough, genre doesn’t matter.

But what does any of this have to do with creativity?

Simply put, having a wider range of interests (simply by following your own instincts about whether something is good or not) is essential for both creativity and originality. If you only take inspiration from things in one particular genre, then your creative works won’t be as distinctive as the things that you really love. Why? Because true originality comes from taking inspiration from lots of different things.

Following your own instincts about what you enjoy, rather than rigidly sticking to just one genre, also means that you have to think more critically about your own sensibilities. In other words, you have to look at what all of your favourite things have in common. Once you’ve learnt this, you can use this knowledge to improve your own creative works and make them distinctively “yours”.

To use an artistic example that I’ve used many times before, almost all of my paintings from the past couple of years feature high-contrast lighting and/or chiaroscuro lighting. My usual rule is that at least 30-50% of the surface area of each painting should be covered with black paint. It results in art that looks like this:

“The Lost Room” By C. A. Brown

“Launch” By C. A. Brown

But, how did I learn this rule? Simply put, I noticed that a lot of things that I thought were cool followed it.

These included things as diverse as heavy metal album covers, various computer and video games, old horror novel covers, the film noir and cyberpunk genres, 1980s/90s films (in several genres), historical paintings, various comics etc.. So, looking at a range of different “cool” things can help you to refine your own style and make your creative works more original.

To use a musical example, one of the qualities that I love in music is lyrical sophistication (eg: clever rhymes, good metaphors, interesting vocabulary, humour etc..).

This is why I really love various songs by Cradle Of Filth (heavy metal), Tinie Tempah (rap), Suzanne Vega (acoustic) and Bad Religion (punk). All of these musicians share this one quality, even though their music sounds extremely different. So, if I ever had the musical skill to write a song, then it would probably include this quality.

As cool as subcultures are and as cool as it might be to just focus on one genre, don’t let this restrict you! Following your own instincts and understanding your own sensibilities is much more important for your creativity than fitting into any one subculture, genre or fandom.

Of course, because the universe loves irony, one of the main themes in many subcultures is rebelling against conformity. Seriously, it’s something that metalheads, punks, goths, retro/indie gamers, hipsters, horror movie fans etc… all have in common. So, try to actually take it seriously.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Tips For Finding Creative Inspirations On A Low Budget

If you’re an artist or a writer, then it’s important to have lots of inspirations (but, be sure that you know how to take inspiration properly). But, of course, being “well-read” when it comes to books, art, games, comics, films etc.. generally tends to be a bit on the expensive side of things.

So, I thought that I’d offer a few tips on how to find inspirations relatively cheaply. Since I want to write a general guide, I won’t be mentioning specific shops or specific commercial media. But, I’ll link to free media – like in my articles about free cyberpunk inspirations and free pirate-themed inspirations.

1) It’s an attitude: There’s a certain mindset that you have to have when it comes to finding entertaining creative inspirations on a low budget.

For starters, you have to know yourself reasonably well. Having a good understanding of the types of thing that you really like (and which really inspire you) can be incredibly useful for the simple reason that you’ll be able to spot cheap things (that you’ve never heard of) that might fit into this category. This focus on self-knowledge also provides something of a bulwark against things like marketing hype etc… for newer and more expensive things too.

Secondly, you have to be somewhat patient too. We live in a culture where there’s a lot of emphasis on having the “latest” things, just because they’re new. Often, slightly older stuff is just as good or better – plus, it’s cheaper. Yes, getting used to this time gap can take a while, but it is a really good attitude to take. Plus, it also means that you’ll be a lot more selective on the few occasions that you actually buy “new” stuff too.

Thirdly, you have to be a little bit open-minded too. Often, things that are cheap may not be the things you are initially looking for. But thinking more abut price can be a great chance to discover books, films, TV shows, games etc… that you’ve never heard of before. Plus, since they cost less, there’s more incentive to try new things (rather than going for the “safe bet”) too. But, as I mentioned earlier, be sure that you have a very good understanding of your tastes and sensibilities.

2) Public domain stuff: Although copyright limits vary from country to country, it is a general principle of copyright law that once a certain number of years have passed after the death of a writer, artist etc… then the copyright on their works expires. As such, these works can legally be freely distributed on the internet, read, downloaded, borrowed from etc…

Although this time gap is fairly long (eg: in the UK and mainland Europe, it’s 70 years post-mortem. The rules are different in the US though) you’d be surprised at how many interesting copyright-free historical paintings and novels can be found on sites like Project Gutenberg (for novels) and Wikimedia Commons (which also contains lots of more modern images that have been released under various Creative Commons licences too).

3) Second-hand books/DVDs and libraries: This is kind of obvious, but libraries, second-hand books & DVDs etc.. are often your best bet when it comes to being “well-read” on the cheap.

In addition to this, there’s a certain amount of chance and randomness too. Whether you’re searching library shelves or looking at second-hand shops and/or websites that sell second-hand stuff, they will often contain things that you’ve never heard of before. And, since it’s cheaper, you can often afford to take a chance on new things too. So, this can often help you to find new creative inspirations that you’ve even never thought of before. It also means that you have to focus more on quality (and your own tastes) than on what is “popular” at the moment too.

If you don’t mind a little bit of a time gap between the things you read/watch/listen to and current culture, then things like libraries, second-hand shops etc… can often be your best bet when it comes to being “well-read” on the cheap.

Plus, buying second-hand encourages you to be a lot more selective with any “new” full-price purchases that you make too. Then again, one cool thing about Blu-Ray discs appearing is that the price of new DVDs has dropped somewhat within the past few years (eg: they’re mostly about £10 these days. Which is still a little pricey, but better than – say- ten years ago).

4) Games And Gaming: One of the largest costs associated with gaming is the actual hardware itself. Trying to keep up to date with modern gaming is an endless and expensive task. But, as flashy and cool as modern gaming culture and marketing can often seem, you don’t need an ultra-fast system or the latest games to be a gamer or to be inspired by gaming.

Seriously, there’s a lot to be said for ultra low-spec retro/indie computer gaming when it comes to creative inspiration. Not only can you play these games on much cheaper/older computers, but they are often better (or as good) than everything I’ve seen about modern large-budget games. Seriously, fun is timeless!

Older games (from the 1990s and early-mid 2000s) often had to be creative with the limitations of the hardware of the time, which often means that they leave more to the imagination. Likewise, modern low-spec 2D indie games will often also have to be creative within budget limitations too. In addition to this, many older games usually inspired more modern games (and will often have more fan-made stuff on the internet too).

The best way to buy commercial games of this type is via legitimate direct download sites, for the simple reason that the games will often be updated to run on slightly more recent (but still old/ low-spec) hardware. Most of these sites will often have sales every week or at certain times of the year, which can often be worth watching.

In addition to this, if you’re willing to look, you can also find a lot of games on the internet that can legally be downloaded and/or played for free. But, be sure to look for non-commercial games that have been made by hobbyists or for former commercial games that were later officially released as freeware. Conversely, be very, very wary of modern “free to play” games that contain microtransactions.

Some examples of proper (microtransaction-free) freeware games, in various genres, include “The Last Night“, “Hacx 1.2“, “Harmony“, “Beneath A Steel Sky“, “Tyrian 2000“, “Treasure Adventure Game“, “Freedoom“, “Rosemary“, “SuperTux“, “Hurrican“, “SkyRoads” , “Flight Of The Amazon Queen“, “Open Arena” and “DreamWeb“. So, yes, there’s no shortage of proper free games out there.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Even More Thoughts About “Obvious” Early Creative Inspirations – A Ramble

Since I seem to be going through more of a nostalgic phase than usual at the moment, I thought that I’d talk about early creative influences again.

This is because it’s always absolutely fascinating when a major influence on your art, fiction etc… has been staring you in the face for literally more than a decade…. but you somehow don’t realise it until ages later.

But, why does this happen? I’ll start by giving a (long-winded) example from my own experiences and then I’ll look at the reasons why these types of inspirations and influences aren’t always immediately noticeable.

I’ve already talked a couple of times about how things like heavy metal album covers, old horror novel covers and various T-shirts have influenced my approach to lighting in most of my art from the past few years.

If you’ve never seen any of my art before, I generally tend to follow the rule of “30-50% of the total surface area of each picture must be covered with black paint“. This results in high-contrast chiaroscuro lighting that looks a bit like this upcoming painting of mine:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 16th July.

But, although I know about this already, I had two experiences within the past few weeks that reminded me of just how much of this style of lighting I’d been exposed to throughout my life.

The first was when I went through a phase of watching and/or re-watching lots of films from the 1990s for a series of reviews that appeared here recently – almost all of them included at least a few examples of this style of lighting:

This is a screenshot from “House On Haunted Hill” (1999), a horror movie I first watched when I was a teenager and re-watched recently for a review.

This is a screenshot from “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” (1990), another old favourite that I rewatched and reviewed recently.

The second was when I once again rediscovered a brilliant computer game I first played during my childhood called “Quake“.

This is a game I seem to have discovered (and then almost completely forgotten about) several times during my life. And, of course, this style of gloomy lighting is a central part of what makes the game so distinctive and atmospheric:

This is a screenshot from a set of fan-made levels for “Quake” (1996) called ‘Dimensions Of The Past’ (2016) that I’m playing at the moment.

Following on from this, during another moment of gaming nostalgia the day before I wrote this article, I decided to order a second-hand copy of the full PC version of “Silent Hill 3” (since my PS2 doesn’t work any more, and I’ve had a demo of the PC version for a few years).

This was a game that I first played when I was about sixteen and it holds a lot of nostalgic memories for me. But, when I thought about the game a bit more, I remembered that it too contained this style of gloomy lighting:

This is a screenshot from the demo version of the PC version of “Silent Hill 3” (2003). Again, it contains lots of gloomy high-contrast lighting.

I could go on for a while, but the fact is that I’ve been exposed to this style of lighting so many times in so many things that I consider to be “cool” that it really shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s become part of my art style. Yet, it’s always a bit of a surprise when I realise that another thing I enjoyed when I was younger contains this style of lighting. But, why?

Simply put, although it’s really easy to spot something that looks visually appealing, a narrative voice that you really like etc… It’s a little bit more difficult to work out the precise technical reasons why you really like it.

These reasons are important because, although you don’t need technical definitions for something to unconsciously influence your creative works (eg: when novice writers try to imitate the style of their favourite authors), you do need them if you want to be influenced or inspired in a more conscious and sophisticated way.

The best way to spot influences more easily is through study and comparison. If you gain a better understanding of things like artistic techniques, literary techniques etc… then you’ll be able to work out how the people who made your favourite things were able to make them so cool. Learning a bit about the technical side of art, writing etc.. also means that you’ll be able to spot things that you might not have consciously noticed (or known how to talk about) before.

Likewise, reading lots of reviews and/or watching in-depth reviews of things like games and films on sites like Youtube can also help you to get into the mindset of thinking about things critically. Usually, a good critic will explain the reasons why something does or doesn’t work – and being exposed to lots of these types of reviews will help you to get into this mindset too.

In addition to this, if you compare a lot of your favourite creative works, then you’ll probably start to notice similarities. The similarities might not be immediately obvious, but they will probably be there. As soon as you work out what these things have in common with each other, then your own creative works (which have probably been unconsciously influenced by your favourite things) will also start to make a lot more sense too.

Finally, the important thing to remember is that when we are first exposed to a lot of our most important early creative influences, we’re usually too young to really think about them in technical or critical terms.

In other words, we watch, read or play something that is cool enough to make us think “I want to make things like this“. But, we don’t know exactly what makes these things cool. Yes, we might have a general sense or a vague idea, but we won’t usually have a precise technical definition at the time. So, this is why discovering “obvious” influences years afterwards can be such a surprising thing.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Why Inspiration Works In “Strange” Ways

A while before I wrote this article, I happened to read this list of “unexpected” inspirations behind various films but, rather than finding it strange or bizarre, my reaction was more along the lines of ‘it’s a bit of an over-simplification, but that’s how inspiration works‘.

The first thing to remember about inspiration is that it shouldn’t involve directly copying other things. After all, inspiration and plagiarism are two different things. So, taking inspiration usually involves taking the underlying elements, themes etc… of something and using them in a totally different way. So, when done well, inspired creative works should look at least slightly different to the things that inspired them.

The second thing to remember is that creative people rarely just have one inspiration. In order to create interesting and original works, you need to have as many different inspirations as possible. The more inspirations you have, the less obvious any one inspiration is and the more chance there is of your inspirations interacting and merging with each other in interesting ways.

The third thing to remember is that inspiration is a highly personal and unique thing. Two artists, writers, directors etc… might be inspired by the same thing, but will take inspiration from different parts of it due to their own preferences, sensibilities and interests. As such, it is very difficult to tell exactly how someone will be inspired by something.

The fourth thing to remember is that creative people are often on the lookout for inspirations. As such, it is possible to discover inspirations in all sorts of unexpected places.

For example, the use of colour in most of my art was inspired by a set of fan-made “Doom II” levels, of all things. The process of finding new inspirations is part research, part vigilance and part luck/serendipity. So, this is why creative people can sometimes have “strange” or “random” inspirations.

The fifth thing to remember is that inspiration and fandom generally go hand in hand. Most of the time, people are only inspired by things that they really like in some way or another. And, since creative people are… well… people, they don’t fit into neat boxes and categories. In other words, they often have a wide range of interests and fascinations. As such, “strange” inspirations are often just inspirations based on something that you might not expect the artist, writer etc.. in question to be interested in.

The sixth thing to remember is that inspirations can often be an offshoot from daydreams. For example, at least two of the inspirations on the list I linked to at the beginning of the article came about because a director saw or experienced something and then started daydreaming about applying the “mechanics” of it to some other situation or circumstance. As such, inspiration can often be a way to connect two seemingly unrelated things in the way that only daydreams can.

The seventh thing to remember is that inspiration can be a very subtle thing. Sometimes, someone might not be inspired by any of the obvious visual or narrative features of something, but by the “atmosphere” or “mood” that this thing evokes in them. This means that an inspiration may not be immediately obvious at first glance, since it is based on something that can’t be “seen” directly.

The eighth thing to remember is that what a creative person does with an inspiration is often more important than the inspiration itself. In other words, inspirations can be used in unusual or unexpected ways and still be really effective. This, of course, can sometimes make it difficult to spot what has inspired someone.

The ninth thing to remember is the whole subject of common inspirations. It’s possible for two things to either be inspired by the same thing or for someone to be inspired by something that is inspired by something else. As such, an artist’s or writer’s inspirations might not be what you might think.

For example, if one artist takes inspiration from the lighting used in 1980s horror novel covers, another artist takes inspiration from “film noir” movies and another artist takes inspiration from the lighting used in Caravaggio paintings, then the lighting in all four pictures will look similar because all of these inspirations use some type of chiaroscuro lighting.

The final thing to remember is that inspiration isn’t an exact science. Like dreaming or daydreaming, it can often follow it’s own unique logic. As such, trying to apply logical rules to it won’t work all of the time.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Five Free Pirate-themed Creative Inspirations (That Don’t Involve Digital Piracy)

Arrr! Avast ye scurvy dogs! This be an article about piracy! No, not that kind of piracy – quite the opposite in fact. Following the popularity of my article from last year about five cyberpunk inspirations that can legally be read/viewed/played for free, I’ve been meaning to write another article in this style.

And, after watching the first few episodes of a TV show called “Black Sails” on a second-hand DVD, it suddenly struck me that “pirates” would be a good theme for this article. After all, this is a genre that can be serious, funny and/or thrilling. It is also, like the cyberpunk genre, a cool genre that has fallen into obscurity slightly over the years.

Plus, unlike the cyberpunk genre, it’s actually easier to find free inspirations in this genre since it’s old enough for the copyright to have expired on some things. However, I’ll also be including things that are still covered by copyright, but have been officially made available to view, listen to, play etc… for free by the copyright holder.

I’ll also be taking a relatively strict definition of the word “free”, which means that things like “Pirate Doom” (a free fan-made add-on to a commercial game called “Doom II”) or things that were previously released for free but no longer seem to be available on official sites (like the “Rough Diamonds: A Tribute To Running Wild” album that used to be freely downloadable from Running Wild’s website 5-10 years ago) won’t be included on the list. However, a free demo for an old commercial computer game will appear on the list – since you don’t actually have to spend anything in order to play it (and it is free from modern scams like micro-transactions etc..), and it has been officially made available for free.

Likewise, if you’re unsure of the difference between taking inspiration and lazy plagiarism, then be sure to read this article.

Anyway, dust off your letter of marque – here arr some free pirate-themed creative inspirations which, ironically, don’t involve (digital) piracy:

1) “Treasure Island” By Robert Louis Stevenson:
Well, this is the obvious place to start. Since this incredibly famous pirate-themed novel was published in the mid-late 19th century, it is free from copyright and can be legally downloaded for free from numerous places on the internet (like Project Gutenberg). Although it’s been over a decade since I actually read it, it is the source of a lot of modern pirate-themed tropes (such as parrots on shoulders etc..) and is a defining classic of the genre.

Interestingly though, given that it was written in the 19th century, the pirates are actually the villains in this story. This is kind of a common theme in a lot of old pirate-themed things, but it may be surprising if you’ve never read anything pirate-themed from this era.

Plus, according to Wikipedia, it was inspired by an out-of-copyright history book from 1724 called “A General History Of The Robberies and Murders Of The Most Notorious Pyrates” which, although it apparently isn’t the most accurate of historical sources, can also be legally read, downloaded etc… for free.

2) Sherlock Holmes vs Blackbeard! – “The Pursuit Of The House-Boat” By John Kendrick Bangs: If you want something a bit funnier and more surreal, then I can’t recommend John Kendrick Bangs’ 1897 novel “The Pursuit Of The House-Boat” highly enough!

This out-of-copyright novel is a sequel to Bangs’ “A House Boat On The River Styx” and, like with that novel, it revolves around the ghosts of famous historical figures and famous fictional characters who spend the afterlife living on a rather luxurious house boat that floats on the River Styx. In this novel, the house boat has been stolen by the ghost of the notorious pirate Blackbeard and it is up to the ghost of Sherlock Holmes to track it down and get it back!

Although a few elements are slightly old-fashioned, this story is surprisingly funny for something written in the 19th century. Plus, it’s a story about Sherlock Holmes versus Blackbeard. From the 19th century!

3) Official music videos: Good pirate-themed music can be hard to find. So, I thought that I’d mention a few interesting pirate-themed official music videos (from official accounts) on Youtube that might be interesting. Yes, all of these are still copyrighted – but their creators/copyright holders have made them available to view and listen to for free.

If you want something a little bit more traditional in style, then I’d recommend checking out the music video to a modern acoustic song called “The Pirate Shanty” by Worldwide Adventurers. Likewise, the original lyrics to the traditional pirate-themed song “The Derelict” (the “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum” song) have passed into the public domain and the song has been covered/performed by numerous amateur and professional musicians on Youtube. However, each modern interpretation and/or variation of the song is still copyrighted – even if the original 19th century lyrics aren’t.

If you want something a bit more… metallic…. then I would recommend pretty much any official music video by Alestorm – such as the video to “Shipwrecked“.They’re a heavy metal band (who I’ve seen perform live at least twice) who literally only sing songs about pirates.

4) The art of Howard Pyle: Howard Pyle was an American illustrator from the mid-late 19th century and early 20th century. He used a rather realistic art style, and – amongst other things – his body of work includes several pieces of pirate-themed artwork. Like this:

“Who Shall Be Captain?” By Howard Pyle [via Wikipedia]

Plus, all of his paintings are also completely free from copyright (under both American and European copyright law) and this includes a number of cool pirate-themed paintings, like “Who Shall Be Captain?“, “Buccaneer of the Caribbean” and “Captain Kidd“.

5) The free demo of “The Longest Journey”: Although “The Longest Journey” is a commercial computer game (which mostly doesn’t revolve around pirates), there is an official free demo of the game that might be of interest to any fans of the pirate genre.

Although it is also apparently available on various archive sites, the easiest (and safest) place to find this free demo these days is on the game’s official Steam page. However, this also requires creating a Steam account (and the games on that site have internet-connection based DRM). Still, the full game is also available on other legitmate game sites, and second-hand official DVD-ROM copies of it also exist too.

Although most of the game takes place in both a sprawling futuristic cyberpunk city and a large tropical fantasy world, the free demo is restricted to one of the few self-contained parts of the game.

In other words, a short puzzle-filled sea voyage on a vaguely pirate-style galleon. Although it doesn’t technically involve pirates, there are telescopes, sails, the occasional piece of pirate-style dialogue and other such things that may be of interest to fans of the genre. However, the demo takes place about halfway through the events of the game, so it may be a little confusing and/or contain mild plot spoilers.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂 Ahoy mateys!

How To Have More Than One Main Inspiration

Although it’s great to find something that constantly serves as a major inspiration for your creative works, it’s usually a good idea to have more than one main inspiration. This is mostly because, as I’ve mentioned many times before, having multiple inspirations is the key to creating original things.

If you only have one inspiration, then anything you create will be a second-rate imitation of that one thing. However, if you have multiple inspirations, then anything you create will be a unique mixture of elements from these things. In other words, it will be noticeably different to any one thing.

So, how do you make sure that you have more than one main inspiration?

Simply put, you do research. And you have fun whilst you do it. A good way to start is to look at your main inspiration and search the internet for information about anything that is similar to it. Once you’ve found lots of things, try to buy as many of them as you can afford to do so and study them carefully.

Seeing how other people have used similar influences will not only help you to find your own approach to the genre in question, but it will also widen your understanding and give you a slightly larger mix of inspirations to draw from.

For example, the largest influence on a lot of my art is the movie “Blade Runner“. Within the past 2-3 years, I’ve been on the lookout for things that are similar – but different- to this film. This has had a large influence on my art. For example, here’s a reduced-size preview of a cyberpunk painting that I’ll be posting here next month:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 17th February.

Although the decision to use a gloomy cyberpunk-style lighting scheme came straight from “Blade Runner”, my approach to the location design was probably more influenced by the futuristic Japanese locations in the “Ghost In The Shell” anime franchise. Likewise, my approach to handling colour in this painting (and most of my more recent paintings) was inspired by the colour schemes in this set of science fiction-themed “Doom II” levels. Yet, the final painting doesn’t look exactly like any one of these three things since I used a mixture of inspirations, albeit relatively similar ones.

But, of course, the best types of creativity come from having lots of radically different main inspirations. So, how do you do this? Here are the two most basic ways.

The first is simply to just stay on the lookout for cool stuff. If you read, watch, see or play something that really makes an impression on you, then ask yourself why? Take a close look at the thing in question and try to work out what general elements (eg: qualities that can be described in no more than 2-3 words) appeal to you. Once you’ve found these qualities, then try to find a way to incorporate them into your own art.

The second is to realise that you probably already have more than one main inspiration, even if you don’t realise it. After all, you’ve probably been a fan of more than literally just one thing at various stages in your life. You’re probably a fan of more than one thing right now. However, if you focus on one thing by considering it to be your “main inspiration”, you don’t tend to think about the other things so much -even if they might have an influence on what you create.

So, look carefully at the things that you really like (but don’t consider to be “main influences) and you might start to notice the effect that they’ve had on your creative works. These effects may be more subtle than the things that you consider to be your “main influence” (since you’ve probably taken inspiration unconsciously, rather than consciously), but they will probably exist in some way or another.

Once you’ve found them, then try taking inspiration from these things more consciously (eg: in the same way you do with your “main influence”).

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂