Well, it’s been a few days since I last wrote an instructional article (sorry about all of the writer’s block-induced rambles recently). So, I thought that I’d look at a few ways that you can really show off artistically. Although you’ll still need to have at least some level of artistic skill, these tips can make your art look a lot more impressive with relatively little extra effort (although some of these can take more time).
And, yes, I forgot to add still life painting to this list. If you know how to copy from sight, then you can use this skill to make still life paintings that look ten times better than anything painted from imagination (since you can just copy the shadows, lighting etc.. from whatever is in front of you rather than working out where they have to go).
Sorry for not including this in the article, but it seemed worth mentioning, especially when you can use the technique to create paintings like this old one of mine from 2015 (when most of my “ordinary” art looked nowhere near as good):
“Plush Rat And DVDs” By C. A. Brown 
Anyway, that said, here are some other sneaky ways to show off whilst making art:
1) Want to make your art look more detailed? Make cyberpunk art: If you’ve never heard of the cyberpunk genre before, it’s a sub-genre of science fiction that was popular during the 1980s and 1990s (but is enjoying a slight resurgence these days).
Visually, this type of science fiction tends to focus a lot on high-contrast lighting (eg: most things in the cyberpunk genre are set at night, so that light sources like neon signs and computer monitors stand out more) and it also takes a few cues from things like the film noir genre and modern cities in Japan, China and South Korea.
Although there are lots of different ways to make cyberpunk art, one constant is that cyberpunk art is almost always detailed. Whether it’s the angular buildings of a futuristic city skyline, thousands of animated billboards competing for attention or the strangely-dressed crowds of a bustling mega-city – cyberpunk art needs detail because, like with cyberpunk fiction, it often relies on “overloading” the audience with information in order to create the impression of a futuristic world.
Because of this, people expect detail when looking at cyberpunk art. So, you can either use this as an excuse to cram as much detail as possible into a picture, like this:
“Architecture” By C. A. Brown
Or, you can make a more undetailed and impressionistic painting which will look more detailed since the audience will expect it to contain detail (and will see detail where there is none). Like in this preview of a slightly rushed digitally-edited painting I made on an uninspired day:
This is a reduced-size preview, the full-size painting will be posted here on the 17th January.
Although there is some detail in the foreground, most of the background just consists of shapes, scribbles and silhouettes. Yet, it looks more detailed than it actually is because it’s in the cyberpunk genre, where detail is expected.
2) Want more interesting compositions? Computer games are your friend!: If you don’t know what “composition” is, it’s a fancy word for where everything in your painting is. It can also sometimes include things like perspective (eg: the “camera angle” in your painting or drawing) too.
One of the best ways to open your mind to more interesting ideas about composition is to play computer games. Not just any computer games, but games where the player can’t control the “camera”. In other words, games that still include significant two-dimensional elements. Old-style 2D “point and click” games, modern hidden object games and 1990s-style survival horror games (with pre-rendered backgrounds) are some of the best genres for this sort of thing.
Because the player can’t move the “camera”, these games have to find other ways to make each location look visually interesting. And they often do this by playing with things like composition and perspective. Here are some examples to show you what I mean:
This is a screenshot from the introductory segment of “Alone In The Dark” (1992) which shows a common composition used in old horror and/or adventure games, where something menacing would be placed in the very close foreground and would “frame” the rest of the picture.
This screenshot from the bonus content in “House Of 1000 Doors – Family Secrets (Collector’s Edition)” (2011-14?) uses a simple one-point perspective, but the artist makes the hallway seem larger and more ominous by using a slightly low camera angle, where the “camera” is near the floor.
Seriously, if you play computer games that used fixed camera angles, then you can pick up all sorts of cool-looking perspective and composition tips that can help your art to look more impressive with less effort.
For example, here’s another reduced-size preview of one of my upcoming digitally-edited paintings. This one uses a variant on the “dramatic stuff in the very close foreground” technique.
This is a reduced-size preview, the full-size painting will be posted here on the 14th January.
3) Want more precise paintings? Use watercolour pencils!: If you’ve never heard of watercolour pencils before, they’re coloured pencils where the “lead” is made from watercolour paint pigment. When you go over your drawing with a wet paintbrush, the pigment will turn into watercolour paint. This article of mine goes into more detail about how to start using them.
These pencils are made by most major art supply brands and, although they’re often slightly more expensive than coloured pencils, they’re often much cheaper than alcohol-based markers.
Although you’ll need to use these pencils in conjunction with watercolour paper (cheap, thin, flat and slightly absorbant watercolour paper is better for precision) and possibly waterproof ink (if you want to include drawings), these pencils allow you to make very precise-looking paintings when compared to traditional painting.
And, best of all, you only need basic drawing skills for this. So, if you want to give your drawings a bit more of an “artistic” look, or your want more precisions in your paintings, then these are the tools to use!
You can also do a few other painterly things with them, such as colour blending (just go over an area with two different pencils before using the wet paintbrush). But, you can’t really use them for “wet in wet” painting or anything like that. Even so, if you want an extra level of precision in your paintings or want fancier-looking drawings, then it might be worth experimenting with watercolour pencils.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂