Three Ways To Make Art That You Consider To Be Cool

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Although I might possibly have written about this topic before, I thought that I’d look at how to make art that you consider to be “cool”. Even though this may seem like an absolute no-brainer, making cool pieces of original art and coming up with an art style that you consider to be cool can be a bit more challenging than it might sound.

I mean, although I’ve been practicing art regularly for about about 4-5 years, it was only within the past year or two that I finally settled on a version of my own art style that I consider to be really cool. To show you what I mean, here are a few of my paintings in different genres:

"Connection" By C. A. Brown

“Connection” By C. A. Brown

"Fan Art - Ghost Dance - Celebrate 1986 (III)" By C. A. Brown

“Fan Art – Ghost Dance – Celebrate 1986 (III)” By C. A. Brown

"Skeleton Catacomb" By C. A. Brown

“Skeleton Catacomb” By C. A. Brown

So, how can you make the kind of art that makes you think “Wow! That looks really cool!

1) Commonality: Chances are, there are probably lots of different things that you consider to be cool (eg: movies, games, comics etc..). If you want to make art that is as cool as all of these things, then you need to take a careful look at your inspirations and see what they all have in common with each other. Once you’ve found this, then you can use it to create cool original artwork.

To give you an example, some of the things that I consider to be cool are the cyberpunk genre, heavy metal album covers, film noir, gothic comics, the classic “Doom” games, sci-fi horror movies, vintage 1950s horror comics, 1980s horror novel covers etc..

One of the visual features that all of these things have in common is their attitude towards lighting. Often, they’ll be set at night or in gloomier locations in order to make the lighting stand out a lot more, or they’ll use bold colours contrasted against a dark backdrop. From this, I was able to refine my frequently-mentioned rule of “30-50% of each painting should be consist of black paint” which helped to make my artwork look cooler.

So, look at the things that you consider cool and see if they share any common “rules” with each other. Once you’ve found those rules, then apply them to your own art.

2) Inspirations: Often, if you really want to make “cool” art but don’t know how, then this means that you don’t have enough inspirations yet. Even if you don’t have a large budget for comics, games, DVDs etc… then you can still find lots of visual inspirations right now by doing a general image search for the types of things that you consider to be cool.

For example, if you absolutely adore the retro-futuristic look of a classic movie like “Blade Runner“, then don’t just do an image search for “Blade Runner”. Instead, use a slightly wider search term like “sci-fi film noir”, “1980s cyberpunk” etc…

One of the benefits of doing a more general image search is that, because you’ll be confronted with literally hundreds of totally different “cool” images, you won’t be disproportionately influenced by any one image. Just remember the difference between inspiration and plagiarism though.

Generally, the more inspirations you have, the more distinctive, original and cool your artwork will look. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true.

If you only have a couple of inspirations, then your artwork is probably just going to be a thinly-disguised copy of those things. But, if you have lots of inspirations, then your artwork probably won’t be a copy of any one thing. It’s kind of like the difference between repeating sentences from a phrasebook and learning a language.

3) Practice and study: This almost goes without saying, but you actually need to practice if you want to make cool art. Likewise, whenever you see something cool, you need to take a close look at it and work out how and why it looks cool.

Look at the techniques that the artist used (and experiment with them), look at the colour combinations that are common (and experiment with them) etc… I’m sure that you get the idea.

Going from making art that you think is “ok” to making art that you think is cool isn’t something that happens instantly. It takes practice, study and experimentation. Yes, this sounds boring – but it also means that you’ll get to look at lots of cool stuff and to regularly make art that will slowly become cooler and cooler as time progresses. So, enjoy it 🙂

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Four Things To Remember When Watching Time-Lapse Art Videos (If You’re Learning)

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One of the cool things about the internet is that there are literally thousands of videos of artists making art on there. Usually, these are time-lapse videos which show an artist making a one to (however many) hour drawing or painting within the space of about five minutes. They’re absolutely fascinating to watch.

Although I’ve never made of these time-lapse videos myself (the closest thing has been a few basic drawing guide animations, like this one, that I made in 2014), I’ve been practicing making art daily for the past few years. So, I’d like to think that I have a bit of background knowledge.

But, if you’re trying to learn how to make art, then here are a few things that you need to remember when watching these videos.

1) They don’t usually show preparation: Most of the art videos that I’ve seen on sites like Youtube have focused on the actual act of drawing with ink and/or painting. After all, if you’re making a five-minute time-lapse video, then it makes sense to only focus on the most impressive-looking part of the whole process.

What you probably aren’t going to see is the process of making a pencil sketch (and/or basic preparatory sketches). It’s a basic thing, but it is something that every artist should do before they start using paint or ink. In fact, thanks to the lighting in some Youtube videos, the artist’s underlying pencil sketch can be rendered almost invisible. But, if any artist is creating an intricate, detailed or complex ink drawing and/or painting, then there’s almost certainly a sketch involved somewhere.

Likewise, the videos don’t often show other parts of the process – such as thinking of what you’re actually going to paint and/or draw. Looking at reference images to work out how to draw something you’ve never drawn before etc…

Basically, time lapse videos often only show one part of the whole process. So, don’t think that you can make good art without doing any preparation first.

2) They don’t show practice: It can be easy to feel intimidated if you watch sped-up footage of an expert artist creating a masterpiece in about five minutes. What you don’t see is the many years of practice, experimentation with different materials etc…. that they’ve done before they made that video. And, yes, I mean many.

For example, I’ve been practicing making art daily for about 4-5 years and I still consider myself to be intermediate at best. But, this isn’t meant to discourage you. In those 4-5 years, I’ve gone from making fairly basic art that looks like this:

"Attic Lab" By C. A. Brown [10th June 2012]

“Attic Lab” By C. A. Brown
[10th June 2012]

To making art that looks more like this:

"Data Transfer" By C. A. Brown

“Data Transfer” By C. A. Brown

So, yes, although the artists you see in online videos might make painting or drawing look easy, they rarely show the sheer amount of practice and experimentation that has gone into getting that good at making art. Those amazing art videos you can find on the internet will show you what you can look forward to after several years of practice. So, don’t feel intimidated or discouraged.

3) Look for techniques: Although you can learn a lot from copying other works of art, doing this won’t teach you much if you just copy them without thinking about the techniques that the artist has used (and finding ways to use those techniques in new and original works of art).

Learning techniques from lots of different artists and working out how to use those techniques in your own original artwork is how you build up your own unique art style.

For example, my own art style includes things like techniques I remembered from cartoons I watched when I was much younger, a few things I’ve learnt from anime/manga, something I learnt from the lyrics booklet of a punk album, things I’ve learnt from instruction books, a colour scheme that I picked up from this set of “Doom II” levels etc…

So, when watching a time-lapse video on the internet, pay close attention to the techniques that the artist is using. Do they have a particular way of painting light and shadows? Do they often use particular colour combinations? Do they draw people in a particular way? etc.. Ask yourself questions like this and, when you’ve found the answers, try to work out how they do this.

Once you’ve worked out how to use the techniques that you’ve seen, then practice making new and original artwork with them.

4) Ignore any branding: When you’re watching an art video, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you “must” have one brand of markers, one brand of paints etc.. if you want to make art that looks good.

Instead, focus on the general type of art supplies that the artist uses. Do they use watercolour paints, alcohol-based markers, India ink, oil pastels, rollerball pens, digital tools etc..? Once you’ve found the general type, then buy an inexpensive no-brand version of it and experiment.

As a side note, if you’re interested in using digital tools, then the digital equivalents to inexpensive art supplies are probably free, non-commercial, open-source graphics programs like GIMP [GNU Image Manipulation Program] (these have the same basic features that a lot of commercial programs do, and are probably good to practice with).

If you go straight for the fancy, expensive branded art supplies that you’ve seen on the internet then not only will you feel nervous about using them (since they cost so much and can’t be wasted), but you’re also setting yourself up for disappointment too. On their own, expensive art supplies can only make a piece of art look mildly better at most – the real reason why a painting or drawing looks so good is because of the skill of the artist. Skill that can only be gained through lots of practice and experimentation.

So, find out what general type of art supplies are featured in the video. Buy some cheap, no-brand versions of them that you won’t think twice about using – and then practice! Then practice some more! If you do this, you’re more likely to end up eventually making the kind of cool art that you’ve seen online than you are if you go straight for the expensive stuff (with the delusion that it will instantly make you better at making art).

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Random Techniques That Will Make Your Art Look Cooler

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Whilst there is no substitute for regular art practice, there are a number of simple artistic techniques that I wish that I’d learnt a lot earlier than I did. I’ve probably mentioned this stuff before, but it’s probably worth repeating nontheless.

So, here are some techniques that will make your art look cooler.

1) Cylindrical surfaces and neon lights: Interestingly, the same technique that can allow you to make cylindrical objects look 3D can also be used to create realistic-looking neon lights and/or strip lights.

The technique is, of couse, simply to make the areas around the edges of a long, thin area darker than the middle. If you want to make something look cylindrical, then make the middle part a lighter shade of the same colours you’ve used for the edges. If you want to make something look luminescent, then either leave the middle part blank or make it significantly lighter than the edges.

Here’s a quick MS Paint diagram to show you what I mean:

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE

Here is an example of the technique in action (albeit with some extra lighting added to the surrounding areas too):

As you can see, the middle part of both flourescent light tubes are either left blank or are a significantly lighter shade of the colour around the edges of the tube.

As you can see, the middle part of both flourescent light tubes are either left blank or are a significantly lighter shade of the colour around the edges of the tube.

2) High-contrast art: I’ve mentioned this before, but one way to make your art look significantly more vivid and dramatic is to ensure that at least 30-50% of the total area of the painting or drawing is covered with black paint or black ink. This makes all of the colours in your artwork look bolder and more vivid by comparison, as well as giving your artwork a gloomy 1980s/90s style “look” too.

Whilst this effect can be improved through digital editing techniques (such as altering the brightness/contrast levels in an image), one sneaky way to use this effect without being too obvious about it is to add black “letterboxing” bars to the top and bottom of your painting. This also has the effect of making it look like a frame from a film too.

Here’s an example of the technique in action. In addition to my usual digital editing, I’ve also added a sepia filter to the original painting to make the contrast between the light and dark areas of the painting stand out more:

This is a sepia-tinted version of one of my paintings. As you can see, the painting is about 50-70% sepia and 30-50% black.

This is a sepia-tinted version of one of my paintings. As you can see, the painting is about 50-70% sepia and 30-50% black.

3) Wall tiles: One of the easiest ways to give a painting or a drawing a cool retro-futuristic look is to use tiled walls. Yes, these can be a little bit time consuming to draw, but there are a couple of simple tile designs that will give your picture more of an atmospheric look.

Here’s a simple diagram that I made in MS Paint that will show you how to draw two of my favourite wall tile designs:

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE.

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE.

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

Three More Tips For Making Better Paintings When You’re Extremely Tired

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The night before writing this article, I was extremely tired. I’d been awake for almost 24 hours and, at about 1am, I realised that I needed to make a daily painting.

But, unlike my usual “tired paintings” (that often look like something that I made 6-12 months ago), this digitally-edited painting only looked like something that I’d made 2-3 months ago. Here’s a reduced-size preview of it:

 The full-size painting will be posted here on the 20th September.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 20th September.

So, how can you make better paintings when you are extremely tired? Here are a few tips:

1) Focus on the scenery: If you look at the preview painting that I showed you, you’ll see that it mostly consists of… well… scenery. Sure, there are a couple of people in it but, they’re standing in the distance and/or are drawn in a slightly undetailed way. The main focus of the painting is on the giant city that they are standing in.

Now, compare it to this preview of a quick “minimalist” painting that I made on the day when my all-nighter began, when I was considerably more awake:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 19th September.

As you can see, the painting that I made when I was awake features a lot more character detail. The person sitting on the chair is shown in detailed close-up, rather than hidden slightly in the distance. But, why didn’t I do this in the “tired” painting and why shouldn’t you?

Simply put, people are more difficult to draw well than angular buildings, natural landscapes etc… are. A lot more complex thought has to go into character designs – including everything from their pose to their clothes, hairstyles, expressions etc… And, if you’re tired, than you need to conserve that mental energy.

So, you can make much more impressive-looking paintings when you’re extremely tired if you mostly focus on painting the scenery. Sure, you can do things like adding a few undetailed people to the background but, for the most part, you’ll make much better “tired” paintings if you focus more on buildings and scenery than on painting people.

2) Have an inspiration right in front of you: First of all, if you’re making a painting when you’re extremely tired, then you should make it in a genre that you really love and, more importantly, a genre of art which you’ve already practiced a lot.

For me, this genre is the cyberpunk genre. This is a genre that almost always inspires me in some way, and it’s a genre that has had a huge influence on my art. Your own “inspirational genre” may be different though.

But, when you’ve found the genre that inspires you a lot – find a DVD, internet video, piece of music etc… from that genre and put it on in the background when you are painting.

No, you shouldn’t directly copy any of it (although taking inspiration is perfectly fine), but having something from your favourite genre directly in front of you can help to get you in the mood for making art. It’s a way to increase what limited motivation you’ll have when you’re extremely tired.

For example, when painting the picture at the beginning of the article, I re-watched two and a half episodes of “Ghost In The Shell: SAC 2nd Gig“. This made me remember the highly-inspired cyberpunk art that I made when I watched this TV series for the first time (which helped me to feel motivated). Likewise, the futuristic cityscapes shown in the TV show helped to put me in more of a “cyberpunk” kind of mood.

Yes, the actual painting itself was more heavily inspired by other things in the cyberpunk genre (Blade Runner” and “Technobabylon” spring to mind for starters…). But, I was able to work up the enthusiasm to make it by watching something else from the same genre. So, yes, having an inspiration directly in front of you can be a useful thing when you’re extremely tired.

3) Use every trick in the book: Finally, if you want to make good-looking art when you’re tired, then you’ll have to be sneaky. You need to use every piece of art-based trickery in your repertoire to give the illusion that your painting is more detailed than it actually is. If you’ve practiced enough, this sort of thing should be second-nature to you.

There are too many tricks to list here but, to give you an example, here’s a reduced-size version of my “tired” painting that highlights all of the detail in the painting:

 All areas featuring artistic detail have been highlighted green.

All areas featuring artistic detail have been highlighted green.

If you compared the number of green pixels to the number of black pixels in this picture, it would probably only be something like 30-40% green and 50-70% black. In other words, through careful use of composition and lighting, I was able to make a better painting when I was extremely tired by only adding detail to less than half of the painting.

Likewise, here’s a close-up detail of one of the background details in the painting, from a version of the painting that doesn’t include any rain. For the sake of clarity, I’ve also digitally removed all of the colours from this close-up:

This is a close-up of a greyscale background detail from a version of the painting that doesn't include any rain. As you can see, most of the buildings are just simple shapes and/or random scribbles.

This is a close-up of a greyscale background detail from a version of the painting that doesn’t include any rain. As you can see, most of the buildings are just simple shapes and/or random scribbles.

Although distant objects in paintings are meant to look less detailed, this looks extremely undetailed (and more like a rough doodle than anything else). Yet, thanks to both the vivid colour scheme that I used and the rain that I digitally added to the background after scanning the painting, it looks a bit more detailed in the final painting:

This is the same area in the final painting. The lighting, colours and digitally-added rain make it look slightly more detailed.

This is the same area in the final painting. The lighting, colours and digitally-added rain make it look slightly more detailed.

So, yes, if you’re making a painting when you’re extremely tired, then be sure to use every sneaky artistic trick that you know.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Ghoulish Tips For Making 1980s-Inspired Horror Artwork

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Although the 1990s were probably cooler, if there’s one thing to be said for the 1980s, it’s that the horror genre looked way cooler back then!

Not only were splatterpunk horror novels and video nasties at the peak of their popularity, but the art associated with these things was much cooler. Seriously, this was a decade where heavy metal albums were more likely to feature hyper-detailed paintings on the cover than mere photographs or anything like that.

The 1980s was probably the last truly pre-CGI / pre-digital art decade and this meant that, if people wanted interesting illustrations for their horror novel covers, low-budget VHS covers, heavy metal album covers etc… they often had to use actual illustrations.

So, how can you make art in this style? Here are a few tips:

1) Use your own style: This might sound a bit counter-intuitive but, if you’ve already developed your own art style, then use it! Yes, it probably won’t look exactly like “authentic” 1980s horror artwork (especially if your style is very cartoonish, like mine) but it will make your art look distinctive and unique.

Not only that, using your own art style adds a certain knowing tone to the artwork. It shows that your painting or drawing is something made by a fan of 1980s-inspired horror artwork for fans of 1980s-inspired horror artwork. It allows you to tip your hat to the things that have inspired you, whilst also acknowledging that your artwork was made in the present day.

For example, this reduced-size preview of one of my upcoming paintings is extremely cartoonish. It features adorable stylised monsters, exaggerated 1980s fashions and only a tiny amount of blood. And yet, hopefully, it still makes you think of the horror genre in the 1980s:

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

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

Plus, as cynical as it sounds, using your own style also allows you to get on with making 1980s-style horror artwork art straight away. One of the distinctive things about horror-themed artwork from the 1980s was that it was incredibly realistic. It sometimes had a similar level of realism and technical quality to many famous historical paintings. In other words, it’s the sort of thing that takes years of formal training and/or decades of practice to make.

So, even just for simple practical reasons, use your own art style.

2) Do your research: If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably got the internet. So, as long as you’re reading this at home (and not at work, at school etc..) and aren’t easily disturbed by grotesque imagery, open up a search engine and do an image search for “1980s horror novel covers” or “1980s horror VHS covers”.

Now look at the hundreds of images and see what they have in common with each other. Once you’ve worked this out, then try to find a way to incorporate these general themes into your own 1980s-style horror artwork.

If you can’t do the research, then common themes include: visual contrast, visual storytelling, gruesome monsters, clever use of lighting, a slight degree of minimalism, understated gory imagery (since, with blood and guts, less is often more) etc….

In fact, now that you have this list, you already know all of the important stuff. But, I’ll spend the rest of the article going into detail about the first two things on the list, because they’re especially important.

3) Visual storytelling: Whether it was a novel cover, a VHS cover or an album cover, horror-themed artwork from the 1980s was attention-grabbing. This was mostly done through the use of visual storytelling.

In other words, things were happening in these pictures. Monsters lurched towards screaming bystanders, creatures lurked ominously, skeletons glared at the reader with hollow eyes, axes were brandished menacingly etc…..

Horror artwork from the 1980s had an immediacy and an impact that modern horror artwork sometimes doesn’t, for the simple reason that it was closer in style to a panel from a comic book or a frame from a horror movie. In other words, it often looked like a single moment from a much larger story. And, if you can add some action to your artwork, then it will instantly look more like something from the 80s.

For example, here’s another reduced-size art preview (that regular readers might recognise). Even though this digitally-edited painting uses my cartoonish style and is clearly set in the present day, it still evokes the horror art of the 1980s through the fact that it includes some visual storytelling – namely, a razorblade-wielding zombie lunging towards a terrified traveller:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 16th September.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 16th September.

4) Visual contrast: Another great thing about old 1980s horror artwork is that it made expert use of visual contrast. In other words, the important parts of the picture “stood out” a lot more because they were contrasted with a dark background.

In fact, many horror novel covers from the 1980s just use a solid black background, in order to make the rest of the artwork look brighter and more vivid by comparison.

If you look closely at the two preview pictures that I included earlier in the article, you’ll see that each painting consists of at least 30-50% black paint. As well as being a good general rule to follow for making cool-looking art, this also makes everything else in the picture stand out a lot more, whilst also giving the paintings a rather gloomy and ominous atmosphere.

So, if you want to give your horror artwork more of an ’80s look, then add some darkness!

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Tips For Making Minimalist Art (Or, My Interpretation Of It)

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Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk briefly about minimalist art. Or, rather, I’ll be talking about my own approach to minimalist art. This is mostly because knowing how to make art that includes relatively little detail can be extremely useful when you are either feeling uninspired or if you don’t have too much time.

There are lots of different approaches to making minimalist art, and I’ll only be covering one of them here. But, here are a few tips for how to make minimalist art in the way that I do:

1) Darkness: Shrouding large parts of your painting or drawing in darkness can be a great way to make minimalist art. Not only does the darkness make all of the colours in the painting look bolder by comparison, but it also allows you to do things like play with the lighting in your painting and to use a limited colour palette too (just remember to use pairs of complementary colours when choosing your palette).

One of the advantages of using darkness (with a few small light sources) is that, if you know what you are doing, you can leave a lot to the audience’s imagination. In other words, you can tell a story only using a few small visual details.

For example, here’s a reduced-size preview of a digitally-edited painting that I’ll be posting here in September:

The full-size painting will appear here on the 15th September.

The full-size painting will appear here on the 15th September.

As you can see, most of the painting is filled with black paint. But, the silhouette of a tail against the red doorway in the background implies the presence of some kind of alien monster. Likewise, the outline of the man is standing upright in an alert way, with the lights in front of him illuminating part of a pistol in his hand. This picture contains a fairly small amount of detail, but it still hints at a story of some kind.

2) Detail choice: Although your painting should look “minimalist” from a distance, one way to make it seem less minimalist (and look less “lazy”) is to add a lot of detail to a few small areas of the painting. These should usually be areas that are close to the foreground.

For example, here’s another art preview. This is a digitally-edited painting that will be posted here later this month and it features no background detail whatsoever and only four objects (three trees and a glowing orb).

The full-size painting will appear here on the 24th August.

The full-size painting will appear here on the 24th August.

As you can probably see, the tree in the foreground has a lot of extra detail. There are striations and realistic shadows on it’s trunk, there are veins on the leaves and even the soil that it sits in has some level of detail. The other trees have considerably less detail than this but, because the detailed tree is the first tree that the audience sees (and the other trees are further away), they’re just going to assume that the other trees have the same level of detail. They don’t.

So, if you want to make a “minimalist” painting that doesn’t seem like something lazy, then add a high level of detail to a few select parts of the picture.

3) Silhouettes:
One way to give the impression of detail, whilst keeping your painting fairly minimalist is to make heavy use of silhouettes.

But, as a general rule, if you are going to include a silhouette, then there should be a light source of some kind behind it. After all, this is how silhouettes work in real life.

One advantage of using silhouettes is that, as long as you get the outline vaguely right, then your audience will automatically imagine all of the details that you haven’t included.

Plus, even a more limited use of silhouettes can also give your artwork an ominously gothic “look” too- like in this almost-minimalist digitally-edited painting of mine that makes heavy use of silhouettes:

"Storage" By C. A. Brown

“Storage” By C. A. Brown

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three More Tips For Making Art That Looks Like It’s From The ’90s

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A while before I started writing this article, I ended up salvaging a failed painting using lots of digital editing. This painting was originally meant to be a 1980s-style cyberpunk painting, but it ended up looking more like something from the 1990s when I was finished with it. Here’s a reduced-size preview:

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

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

So, after this, I thought that I’d talk about some more ways to make your art look like it’s from the 1990s (since I’m sure I’ve written about this topic at least once or twice before).

1) Cultural hangovers and old nostalgia: Nostalgia wasn’t invented in this decade. In other words, people were getting nostalgic for past decades (in a stylised way) during the 1990s too. Likewise, there was probably a bit of a cultural hangover from the 1980s too. So, one way to make your art look more 90s is to include things that are vaguely reminiscent of the 1960s-80s in your art, but to give them more of a 1990s-style twist.

In other words, make things from the ’60s and ’70s look slightly darker, use more high-contrast colour combinations and/or include gloomier lighting. Remember, the 1990s was a slightly nihilistic decade where it was fashionable for things to be “dark and edgy”.

As for things from the 1980s, include the occasional 80s-style thing (eg: jackets with shoulder pads, 1980s technology, floral dresses etc..), but try not to include too much of it.

For example, the lighting effect on the characte’s t-shirt in the art preview I showed you was originally meant to just be ambient lighting. However, once I’d finished the painting, I noticed that it looked a bit like a 1960s tie-dye shirt. However, like with the cover of Bad Religion’s “No Control” album, it has more of a 90s-style look purely because it’s contrasted with several dark parts of the image.

2) What was cool: One easy way to make your art look more ’90s is to try to remember what was considered “cool” in the 1990s. Then include it in your painting, depicted in a “cool” way.

For example, computers were still cool in the 1990s. The internet gripped the public imagination in both good and bad ways. For example, computer hackers were often portrayed as either cool rebels or scarily omnipotent figures in movies like “Hackers”, “The Net”, “Ghost In The Shell”, “The Matrix” etc.. rather than the mundane criminals that they are considered to be today.

So, although my painting was originally meant to be a 1980s-style cyberpunk painting (hence the ultra-bulky bulky laptop), the fact that it features a slightly “alternative” character using a laptop also makes the painting look a bit 90s too. After all, whilst someone using a laptop is a mundane thing these days, it was probably a lot more unusual and cool back in the 90s.

So, yes, search for things that were considered “cool” in the 1990s and then add them to your art in a cool way. Another good example of this sort of thing would probably be either skateboards or flip phones (although flip phones are probably more ’00s than ’90s).

3) Movies and TV:
Because it’s still relatively recent, a “realistic” painting set in the 1990s may not always stand out as being “retro”. So, look to the more stylised world of 1990s movies and TV shows for inspiration.

The best things I’ve found are probably American movies and TV shows from the early-mid 1990s, for the simple reason that they look a bit more “old”. Plus, the 90s was a lot weirder and more interesting in American movies than it was here in Britain (then again, other countries always look more interesting in comparison to the ones you’re used to).

So, watch these things. Look at what types of clothes the characters are wearing. Look at their hairstyles. Look at the kind of set design that was popular back then. Look at the kind of lighting, especially in sci-fi and horror movies, that was all the rage back then.

Once you’ve done that, stop watching and then try to create something similar (but different) from memory alone a while later. Working from memory helps to ensure that you don’t accidentally copy something verbatim, since memory is inherently unreliable. If you want more tips on how to take inspiration without copying, then check out this other article.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂