Two Basic Tips For Making Art That Is Distinctly “You”

The afternoon before I wrote this article, I was preparing one of March’s daily art posts. To say that I was feeling uninspired was something of an understatement, but I was determined to keep up with my art schedule nonetheless. So, in the end, I made a digitally-edited painting – here’s a reduced-size preview of it:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 12th March.

At the time, it just felt like I’d made a “generic” painting (even after using a mildly different colour scheme to my usual one). But, the more that I thought about it, the more that I realised that even though I probably see this painting as being “generic”, “under-detailed” etc.. it probably looks distinctively like the kind of painting I would make.

There’s the high-contrast lighting (eg: a technique involving covering 30-70% of the total area of the painting with black paint to make the lighting stand out by comparison, used by everyone from Caravaggio to 1980s heavy metal album cover artists), there’s the influence from classic 1980s/90s sci-fi, there are CRT monitors and retro fashions, there’s my usual drawing style, there’s the slightly limited colour palette, there are the usual digital effects etc.. It’s certainly not my best painting, but at least it still looks like one of my paintings.

So, I thought that I’d give you two basic tips about how to do something like this yourself – how to make art that looks and feels like it is distinctively “your” kind of art:

1) Take inspiration!: First of all, it is important to know how to take inspiration properly. So, here’s how to do it:

First of all, work out what the general (non-copyrightable) elements of the thing you’re taking inspiration from are. Although I’m not a copyright lawyer, it is a general principle (in most copyright laws) that copyright only protects highly-specific details rather than ideas, concepts etc.. For example, the concept of “a grey spaceship” can’t be copyrighted, but the exact visual design of the USS Enterprise, Millennium Falcon etc.. can be copyrighted.

Then, once you’ve done this, try working out what visual “rules” your inspiration follows (eg: lighting, colour choices, compositional techniques etc…). Then, once you know what the general elements and visual rules are, taking inspiration means doing something new and different (eg: not an exact copy of all or part of the inspiration) with that information. But, of course, you shouldn’t have just one inspiration.

One common misconception amongst people who are just getting into making art is that their own type of art has to be completely and utterly different from everything that has ever been made before. This is, as you might have guessed, a completely impossible thing. Even if you don’t consciously try to take inspiration from other things, you’re going to do it unconsciously. The thing to remember here is that “originality” comes from having a unique mixture of many different inspirations and not from never taking inspiration.

On the flip side, another problem with people who are just getting into art is that they can spend too much time directly copying things (eg: making fan art). You won’t be able to make art that is distinctly “you” if you do this. You’ll just end up making second-rate copies of other things.

As I mentioned before, there’s a difference between copying and taking inspiration. Taking inspiration requires you to use your imagination and, yes, this is something that will need to be exercised regularly and fed with as many inspirations as you can find if you want to turn it into something interesting and distinctive. Using and improving your imagination is harder than just copying things, but it results in much more unique artwork.

Taking inspiration is key to finding your own distinctive “type” of art. Taking inspiration from lots of different art styles will help you find your own art style. Taking inspiration from things that look cool (eg: working out what “rules” they follow and then using those rules in new ways) will help your own art to look cool. The more cool things you find to take inspiration from, the more you’ll be able to come up with your own “uniquely cool” type of art and, more importantly, the more you’ll be able to apply this style to things in different genres to your inspirations.

Taking inspiration will also help you to work out what colour combinations, lighting styles etc.. you like to use the most. As ironic as it sounds, you can’t make your own unique art without taking inspiration.

2) Practice. Practice. Practice!: You won’t find your own unique “type” of art instantly. You might think that you’ve found it but, a couple of years later, you’ll look back and think “my art used to look like THAT?!?!“.

However experienced you are, you will always have moments like this every year or two. Your own type of art is something that will be constantly changing and refining itself slowly over time. This is a good thing, it means that you are developing as an artist.

To give you an example, here is what my own “type” of art looked like on a good day in 2014 (after 1-2 years of daily art practice):

“Ravens” By C. A. Brown [ MAY 2014]

And here’s a more recent example of my “type” of art (made on a bad day, when I was totally uninspired). As well as looking at least marginally better than the “good” picture from 2014, it also has a very different “look” to it too. Practice works!

“Station 76” By C.A. Brown

But this can only happen if you practice. It can only happen if you keep making art. If you tell yourself that, regardless of how good or bad it looks, you are going to make a piece of art every day/three days/ week/month etc…

Regular practice not only helps you to become more skilled and confident as an artist, it also forces you to regularly come up with new ideas for paintings or drawings. Yes, this is difficult to do at first, but it is important because it forces you to get to know your own imagination. To learn what kinds of art feel best to make, what subject matter you prefer to include in your art, what type of emotional tone you want your art to have etc…

It also forces you to experiment occasionally and learn new things for the simple reason that making the same type of art over and over again can quickly get boring. It makes you focus on different sources of inspiration every now and then, helping you to discern what you do and don’t want to be a part of your own type of art. It’s just incredibly good for your artistic development.

So, practice often and take inspiration regularly and you’ll find your own “type” of art.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Three Tips For Finding Artistic Knowledge (That Can’t Be Found Online)

During a rather long series of thoughts I had the day before I wrote this article, one intriguing phrase appeared in my mind quite often – “knowledge that cannot be found on the internet“. The phrase sounded mysterious enough to fascinate me – but, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it probably applies to most artists in some way or another.

After all, aside from more basic things, there isn’t usually a tutorial online for the exact specific thing that you want to draw or paint. Usually, if you want to learn how to do something new, the internet can only often help in the most indirect of ways. So how do you learn how to do something artistic if there isn’t a specific online guide for it?

Here are a few tips:

1) Learn the basics (then extrapolate): One of the best ways to work out how to do something on your own is to have a basic knowledge of the theory of art and to have some basic art skills. No, this doesn’t mean that you have to have gone to art school (I haven’t) or even have a particularly advanced level of artistic skill. But, the more theory you know and the more skills you have, the easier it will be to work out how to do things that aren’t explained in online guides.

Why? Because you’ll be able to see which “rules” the thing you want to make follows. For example, if you see a really cool-looking piece of art and you want to make something in a similar style, but can’t find any guides online, then knowing some basic theory and having some basic skills can help in a number of ways, including….

Knowledge of different art mediums will allow you to guess which tools the artist used. And to find the closest available thing to it that you have.

Knowledge of colour theory will allow you to work out that colour palette that the artist used, and why it “works” so well. Likewise, it’ll allow you to see the relationship between the colours in the picture too (eg: does the artist use one or more complementary colour pairs? etc..).

Knowing how to copy from sight alone will allow you to make private studies and reconstructions of the artwork in question, which might give you an insight into some of the techniques the artist used, and why they used them. You can then use those techniques in new and different ways for your own original art.

Knowledge about how lighting is often relative (eg: something can be dark, but still appear bright when placed next to something even darker) can help you to work out how the artist gave their picture a particular “look” (eg: vivid, muted etc..) and how to use similar techniques in your own original art.

I could go on for a while, but the more theory you know and the more skills that you have, the easier it is to work out how to do things that aren’t explicitly spelled out for you in an online guide.

2) Observation (and study): If there isn’t a specific online guide for how to draw something, then start by looking at as many pictures of it as you can (in books, online etc..).

However, unless you own the copyright to the images, then you shouldn’t directly copy any of the images that you see.

Instead, your goal is to see as many different pictures of the thing in question from as many different angles and perspectives as possible. To break the object in question down into it’s most basic shapes and outlines. To see what visual features all of the pictures have in common and to build up a “3D model” of the thing in question inside your mind.

The more different pictures of the same thing that you see, the easier it will be for you to work out the basic principles of how to draw or paint it. Then you can use the “3D model” as the basis for a new and original piece of art.

3) Trial and error: If you really want to learn how to draw or paint something that isn’t explained in any online guide, then sometimes the best way to do it is simply through good old fashioned trial and error. Even if the results aren’t perfect, then at least you’ll be closer to achieving what you want than if you didn’t try.

Genrally, if an impressive piece of art or an interesting style of art exists, then that means that it (and more importantly, art in a similar style/traditon as it) can be made. After all, someone has already made it. So, there has to be a solution to the puzzle of how to make it.

It’s kind of like how, in old first-person shooter computer games from the early-mid 1990s, the player would often end up “stuck” in challenging situations. Yet, because these games were often designed to be fair, there was almost always some way or another, some tactic or stratagem that the player could use to progress, even if it took a lot of thought and a lot of failed attempts. If you play enough of these games (modern fan-made levels for “Doom II” are probably a good place to start), then they can really improve your attitude towards trial and error in other areas, such as making art.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Sneaky Ways To Show Off In Your Art

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 [2015]

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.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Tips For Making Art Set In Late 1980s/ Early-Mid 1990s America

Although I’ve never actually been to America, I’m absolutely fascinated by late 1980s and early-mid 1990s America (I’m going to define this time period as 1987-1996, even though 1988-1995 would probably be a better definition). From everything that I’ve seen and read about it, it seems like a really fascinating period of history in cultural terms.

Naturally, it’s also a setting that I’ve used in several paintings and one comic. But, it took me a while to work out how to make art that is set in this time and place. Although I’ve already shown off the line art for this painting, here’s a reduced size preview of a painting that I made that is set in this location/time:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 29th December.

So, I thought that I’d share a few tips for how to make art set in late 1980s/ early-mid 1990s America:

1) Research materials: One of the best ways to get a sense of what this time period was like is to watch and listen to as many things from back then as possible. Whilst you obviously shouldn’t directly copy anything from them, they can be incredibly useful if you know how to take inspiration properly.

Unfortunately, every TV show, film, album etc.. from that time period is still copyrighted. But, due to their age, second-hand copies of things from this time period can usually be found fairly cheaply. But, if you don’t have a large budget or you just want a quick general sense of the aesthetic of the time, then do a few image searches about the time period (but, of course, remember not to directly copy any of the images you see in your art). Likewise, check out this uncannily modern-looking HD footage of New York in 1993.

In terms of films and TV shows, I’d recommend checking out any of the following: “Twin Peaks” (Seasons 1&2), “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman” (Seasons 1&2 ), “The X-Files” (Seasons 1-3), “The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air” (Seasons 1-6), “The Simpsons” (Seasons 1-7), “Drop Dead Fred”, “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”, “Heathers”, “Trancers”, “Pulp Fiction”, “Tremors” and “Robocop 1-3”.

In terms of albums, I’d recommend any of the following: “Stranger Than Fiction” by Bad Religion (punk), “Smash” by The Offspring (punk), “Metallica” by Metallica (thrash metal), “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A (rap), “Days Of Open Hand” by Suzanne Vega (acoustic), and literally anything by Nirvana (grunge).

2) Fashions: From my (relatively limited) research, American fashion in this time period was kind of like a slightly stranger and/or mildly more formal version of modern fashion.

Generally, it tends to include things like trench coats/ biker jackets, plaid shirts, floral dresses, boxy sunglasses, sweaters worn like belts, white T-shirts paired with jeans, sleeveless dresses layered over T-shirts, longer sweaters with belts, pencil skirts, garish tracksuits etc…

Likewise, American goth fashions of the time tended to be a lot more understated (eg: black T-shirts, leather trench coats etc..) when compared to 1980s Britain (eg: large hairdos, fishnets etc..). American punk fashions of the early-mid 1990s were also fairly understated (eg: T-shirts, jeans etc..) when compared to traditional British punk fashion (eg: mohawks, safety pins etc..). Heavy metal fashion, on the other hand, is pretty much timeless.

This was also the age of grunge fashion, 1980s middle America and the whole “no logo” trend. So, there tended to be a preference for clothes without obvious branding back then. But, saying that, I’ve learnt most of what I know about the history of American fashion in this time period from looking at films and TV shows (where for advertising/copyright reasons, obvious branding was often avoided if it wasn’t part of a product placement deal).

3) Location design: Although many places in late 1980s/early-mid 1990s America probably looked fairly “ordinary”, locations in media from the time often tended to look interesting in all sorts of cool ways.

For example, offices tended to have much more of an art deco kind of look to them (eg: lots of marble, minimalist office furniture, abstract art etc..). Likewise, cosy wooden buildings tended to be a lot more popular too. Likewise, city streets often tended to have more of a “film noir” kind of look to them too.

Another way to make a location in a painting or a comic from this time period look more “historical” is simply to include technology from the time. Technology back then tended to be a lot bulkier than it is now – so, include things like CRT televisions/computer monitors, boomboxes, floppy disks, audio cassettes etc…

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Ways To De-Mystify Making Art (If You’re An Absolute Beginner)

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If you’re thinking about learning how to draw and/or paint, then it can be easy to feel intimidated or confused. From what I can remember of my more inexperienced days, even many “how to draw” books often seemed confusing or intimidatingly complicated in one way or another.

So, I thought that I’d look at a few ways that you can “de-mystify” making art.

1) You don’t need “talent”: If you’re totally new to making art, it can be easy to look at pictures by other artists and think that they were born “talented” and that you have no hope of ever being even a fraction as good as they are. This is nonsense!

Every artist, even the “talented” ones, has been where you are right now. Every artist was confused. Every artist produced clumsy-looking early artwork. Every artist tried new things and failed a few times before getting it right. Every artist thought that they’d never be as good as another artist.

When you see a great picture by a “talented” artist, you probably aren’t seeing the literal thousands of practice drawings etc… it took for them to get to the point where they could make amazing-looking art. In other words, literally every artist starts out as a beginner. So, don’t feel bad about it.

2) Just do it (even if it doesn’t look good): The only way that you’re going to gain artistic confidence and get better at making art is to practice regularly. Even if you’re totally inexperienced, start out with something manageable (eg: one small and simple drawing every day or every week or something like that) and just keep going.

The thing to remember here is that, it doesn’t matter how good or bad your practice artwork is as long as you actually make it. Yes, even if you make a terrible-looking piece of art (or a few of them), then you’ve still “won” because you’ve kept up with your practice schedule. Why is this important? Well….

Even if you don’t study any artistic theory, regular practice is still a good place to start for the simple reason that it gets you used to the idea of making art. In other words, it turns making art from “something fascinating that other people do” into something “ordinary” that you do. This will help to build your artistic confidence. It’ll mean that when you eventually look at some drawing guides/painting guides, you’ll be approaching them on slightly more equal terms and will be less likely to feel confused or intimidated by them.

Plus, if you keep making art regularly, then you’re going to have a wonderful moment (maybe several months or even over a year later) when you suddenly notice that a “terrible” picture you made today actually looks better than a “good” picture that you made shortly after you first began practicing regularly. This is a sign that you’re improving.

Likewise, getting into the mindset of making art regularly (regardless of quality) will help you out when you feel “uninspired” too. Even if you produce a terrible-looking picture (or even a copy of one of your earlier pictures) when you aren’t feeling inspired, then you’ll have still made something. Doing this enough times will help to make you feel less afraid of being uninspired and it will mean that uninspiration will have less of an effect on you.

3) Use cheap materials: If you’re new to making art, it can be easy to think that you need lots of fancy art supplies. You don’t. In fact, it’s often best to go for art supplies that are cheap and easy to use. Personally, I’d recommend starting with simple pen and pencil drawing (or pen and coloured pencil or something like that). Even if you move on to other art mediums later, then it’s a good way to learn some of the basics.

The advantage to using cheap, simple materials is that there’s no excuse for procrastination (eg:”I need to set up a studio before I can start practicing” etc..). Likewise, it helps you to see making art as more of an “ordinary” thing (which may make it seem slightly boring sometimes, but it’ll also make you feel more confident). Plus, you don’t have to worry too much about wasting your art supplies if you’re making art regularly, which means that you might be more willing to experiment with different techniques.

4) How to use drawing guides: Books and online guides about making art can be incredibly useful, if you know what you’re doing (and have built up some confidence from regular practice). The thing to remember with any kind of drawing guide is that it’s just that, a guide. It isn’t an edict, an order or a law, it’s just a series of suggestions.

So practice the things that actually make sense to you. If something doesn’t make sense to you, then either come back when it does or keep practicing other things until you find a better guide that teaches you how to do the thing that you want to learn how to do.

Likewise, the example pictures given in a guide book are there for you to copy (privately and for educational purposes, of course). In fact, the only way that they will teach you anything is if you try to copy them (by sight) yourself.

Yes, you can’t call the copies your own work or post them online, but – if you happen to learn a new technique (eg: a sudden “aha!” moment, where you suddenly realise how the artist did something) whilst copying – then you can use this technique in new ways in your own original artwork.

Likewise, just because a guide shows you how to draw something in a particular style, it doesn’t mean that you have to use that style in your own art. Instead, look for any parts of the style that appeal to you (eg: the way that the artist draws eyes, the way that they use shading etc..) and then add those techniques to your own original art. If you do this with enough different types of art, then you’ll have the beginnings of your own unique art style. This is how most artists develop their own style.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂