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 🙂

The Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My “Damania Replicated” Webcomic Mini Series

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Sorry that it’s a day or two late, but I thought that I’d show off the ‘work in progress’ line art for my “Damania Replicated” webcomic mini series that finished in late July.

This was probably one of the most art-intensive webcomic mini series that I’ve made (which is probably why I won’t be making a comic this month – but there will be at least one short “old-style” mini series in September).

This mini series also required a lot more digital image editing than usual – in fact, you can see where I totally messed up one of the comics (and later had to fill in a very large panel digitally). Plus, there are a few blank spots where digital effects were later added after I’d finished painting.

In terms of dialogue differences between the line art and the finished comic, there aren’t actually that many in this mini series. If I remember rightly, I only had to replace or remove a couple of speech bubbles during post-production editing.

Anyway, here’s the line art 🙂 As usual, you can see a larger version of each picture by clicking on it.

"Damania Replicated - 15 Million (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – 15 Million (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Voice Over (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Voice Over (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Mixed Feelings (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Mixed Feelings (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - In Other News (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – In Other News (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Upgrade (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Upgrade (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Disguised (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Disguised (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Chips (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Chips (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Records (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Records (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Special Forces (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Special Forces (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Signs (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Signs (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Runners (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Runners (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Gilded Age (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Gilded Age (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

The Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My ‘Damania Recovery’ Webcomic Mini Series

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Well, since my ‘Damania Recovery’ webcomic mini series finished recently, I thought that I’d do my usual thing of showing off all of the ‘work in progress’ line art that I scanned whilst making this mini series.

If I remember rightly, apart from a few small dialogue and art corrections [For example, the line art for the last two panels of the first comic mistakenly showed Rox using a smartphone… which is totally out of character for her] , there weren’t that many post-production changes to this comic. Unusually, most of the major changes (to the art, dialogue, panel layouts etc..) took place between my original plans for this comic and the line art that is included in this article.

You can click on each piece of line art to see a larger version of it, if it’s too small to read here:

"Damania Recovery - Manor (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Recovery – Manor (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Recovery - Late (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Recovery – Late (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Recovery - Process (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Recovery – Process (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Recovery - BYOB (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Recovery – BYOB (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Recovery - Denouement pt.1 (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Recovery – Denouement pt.1 (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Recovery - Denouement pt.2 (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Recovery – Denouement pt.2 (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

The Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My “Damania Revelry” Webcomic Mini Series

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Well, as usual, I thought that I’d show off the “work in progress” line art for my “Damania Revelry” webcomic mini series.

If I remember rightly, there weren’t too many art or dialogue changes between the line art and the finished comics.

Most of the post-production changes occur in the third comic (“Authentic”). The line art features more dialogue in the first panel and very slightly different dialogue in the fourth panel. Likewise, it also shows Roz and Derek holding suspiciously-shaped cigarettes in the third panel (and the date includes an extra digit too), but doesn’t show anyone snorting anything from a smartphone screen in the final panel.

As usual, you can click on each piece of line art to see a larger version if they’re too small to read.

"Damania Revelry - Festival Queue (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revelry – Festival Queue (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Revelry - Journal (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revelry – Journal (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Revelry - Authentic (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revelry – Authentic (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Revelry - Preparation (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revelry – Preparation (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Revelry - Rockstar (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revelry – Rockstar (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Revelry - Bogs (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revelry – Bogs (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Revelry - Unsigned (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revelry – Unsigned (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Revelry - Aftermath (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revelry – Aftermath (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

Doing Research Before Making Art – A “Making Of” Essay (With An Art Preview)

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Although it goes against the ridiculous popular idea that “art is made completely spontaneously and is 100% imagination“, research can often be a surprisingly important thing for artists.

Not only can research make you feel more inspired and/or confident about what to paint next, but it can also give your artwork a certain extra level of realism and/or detail too.

So, for today, I thought that I’d describe the research process for one of my upcoming paintings, in case it’s interesting and/or useful. Usually, I don’t research my paintings quite this much (mostly due to making paintings in a few genres/ setting types that I’ve already researched and/or due to time limitations), but it makes a good example.

First of all, here’s a reduced-size preview of the digitally-edited cyberpunk painting that I’ll be posting here in early-mid July:

The full-size painting will appear here on the 10th July.

The full-size painting will appear here on the 10th July.

Although I’d been making quite a bit of cyberpunk art before I made this painting, I first had the idea for the painting after accidentally finding this online article that contains a rather futuristic-looking photo– I was astonished to read that it was actually a real photo taken in Beijing during a heavy smog in 2013.

Needless to say, I suddenly felt inspired and knew what my next painting would be about. But, of course, I couldn’t just paint a copy of the photo in the article – not only would that be lazy (and illegal) plagiarism, but the subtle variations in colour would be difficult to re-create with my own high-contrast art style, and the materials (both traditional and digital) that I use. So, I’d have to make a totally new painting that was more suited to my art style.

Although I’d instantly decided to give my painting a cyberpunk look (so, it would have to be set at night in order to get the atmosphere right, and to make the lighting stand out), I also realised that I’d have to research how to paint smog.

So, I started by doing a few image searches about smog. Although most of the photos were taken during the day, looking at lots of them also provided me with some general information that I could later add to my painting to make it look more realistic.

After this, I wanted to research what smog looked like at night. Although I went through a phase of trying to learn how to paint fog in early 2016 (with varying degrees of success), I’d forgotten some of what I’d learnt. So, I decided to look at the few photos taken at night that had shown up in my initial image search.

From what I could tell from looking at several photos taken at night – the light tends to be a lot more diffused than it is during the day and the sky often tends to be a dark orange/brown colour, rather than pure black.

In addition to this, whilst looking at the search results, I found a picture of some “Pea Soup” smog from 1950s London. Realising that many photos from this time period were in black and white, and that there were likely to be more photos taken at night – I did an image search for smog in 1950s London. One of the advantages of looking at black and white images is that they allow you to see variations in lighting, detail etc.. more clearly.

These photos confirmed my theory that one easy way to paint a smog-covered city was to make the foreground look very detailed, whilst making the background look extremely blurry.

Although I had originally planned to include a gradual, gradiated haze in the final painting – I actually ended up relying on this simpler technique for both practical and time reasons. I further simplified this by using various digital effects to give the background a much blurrier look than it had in the original painting:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] This is a cropped, but otherwise unprocessed, scan of the original painting.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] This is a cropped, but otherwise unprocessed, scan of the original painting.

As you can see, the original version of my painting included the dark orange/brown sky that I had mentioned earlier. However, this ended up being significantly darkened during the editing process because I realised that it didn’t create much contrast between the background and the lighting in the foreground. After all, if you want to make something appear brighter in a painting, the easiest way to do this is to make everything surrounding it look darker.

As for the buildings in the foreground, I remembered some of my usual cyberpunk inspirations (eg: “Blade Runner“, “Deus Ex” etc..) whilst coming up with ideas for futuristic city architecture. Although this probably reduced the “authenticity” of the futuristic Chinese streets in the painting slightly, it seemed to work well on an artistic level.

Finally, I added text to the image. Although some pre-internet era European and American artists might have gotten away with just including random impressionistic scribbles when rendering large text that uses different alphabets, that sort of thing tends to be frowned upon these days (this is also why I digitally recoloured the loosely-sketched picture on the front of the map, lest it’s lines be mistaken for fake Chinese text).

Not to mention that, since everything posted online has a global audience, it’s much more likely to be read by people who speak Chinese. Since I don’t speak Chinese, I decided to keep the amount of text in the painting to an absolute minimum (the only words rendered in Chinese are “Luxury” and “Map”) and to use an online translation to make it at least vaguely accurate.

Since I was only including individual words, rather than full sentences, the chances of badly-translated grammar appearing were at least somewhat lower.

 I found the text by using an online translation. If you're going to include other languages in your art, it's usually a good idea to do this at an absolute minumum. You can possibly also just make out where I've had to cover up and re-draw part of the first character too.

I found the text by using an online translation. If you’re going to include other languages in your art, it’s usually a good idea to do this at an absolute minumum. You can possibly also just make out where I’ve had to cover up and re-draw part of the first character too.

So, yes, this is all of the research that went into making this one painting. As I said before, I don’t usually research my paintings this heavily, but it seemed like a good example to use.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

The Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My “Damania Relocated” Webcomic Mini Series

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Well, since my “Damania Relocated” webcomic mini series finished recently, I thought that I’d do the usual thing of showing off all of the ‘work in progress’ line art from when I made this comic.

If I remember rightly, there were quite a few dialogue changes between the line art and the finished comics. This was mostly because I foolishly took a “I’ll make most of it up as I go along” approach to planning the comic, which resulted in a lot of post-production dialogue changes.

As usual, you can click on each piece of line art to see a larger version if it’s too small to read here.

"Damania Relocated - Long Gone (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Relocated – Long Gone (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Relocated - Smart Business (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Relocated – Smart Business (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Relocated - Anachronism (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Relocated – Anachronism (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Relocated - Never Mind (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Relocated – Never Mind (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Relocated - The Plan (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Relocated – The Plan (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Relocated - Deal! (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Relocated – Deal! (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Relocated - Grand Theft (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Relocated – Grand Theft (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Relocated - Safe (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Relocated – Safe (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

Combining Traditional And Digital Art – A Ramble

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Although there are plenty of artists who only use digital tools, I thought that I’d talk about combining digital and traditional materials today. This is mostly because I’ve done this (to different extents) in virtually all of the art I’ve made since about 2010/2011.

The interesting thing is that virtually every artist has a totally different approach to doing this. For example, in this “making of” article by Winston Rowntree (the creator of an excellent webcomic called “Subnormality), he talks about how he uses traditional materials for the line art in his comics, but adds all of the colours digitally after scanning the line art. The interesting thing about this is that, before I read this, I thought that his comics were created entirely digitally.

Still, before I read that article, I didn’t entirely realise that it was actually possible to do this. But, after some experiments with two of the graphics programs I use (an ancient late 1990s version of Paint Shop Pro and a free open-source program called “GIMP), I found that it didn’t really work out that well for “proper” paintings/drawings, but that it could be used as a quicker and easier way to make the title pictures for many of these blog articles.

I guess that the main advantage of this approach is probably the fact that traditional drawing is a lot more responsive, quick and intuitive than using a graphics tablet can be. However, adding colour using editing programs often seems a lot more labourious in some ways – not to mention that most colours in art made like this have a very “flat” and obviously digital look to them.

But with the rest of my art, I usually try to use digital tools to enhance the traditional parts of my art, to correct mistakes and to add effects that I can’t easily create using traditional materials . In other words, I usually tend to try to use traditional materials as much as possible – and then I use digital tools to make my art look better. Like this old “before and after” example:

I've used this example before, but this is an unprocessed (except for cropping) scan of the picture. It's closer to the original painting, but slightly more faded due to the limitations of the scanner.

I’ve used this example before, but this is an unprocessed (except for cropping) scan of the picture. It’s closer to the original painting, but slightly more faded due to the limitations of the scanner.

"La Chanteuse" By C. A. Brown (with a low-moderate amount of digital editing)

“La Chanteuse” By C. A. Brown (with a low-moderate amount of digital editing)

The main advantages of doing things this way are the fact that I still get to enjoy the physical experience of making traditional art (and actually have a physical painting to show for it at the end), but I also get to use digital tools to give my paintings a distinctively vivid “look” and to reduce my worries about making mistakes.

On the other hand, this usually means that I have to spend at least 10-50 minutes editing my art after I scan it. Although this isn’t usually too much of a problem with paintings, it’s become increasingly time-consuming in any of the comics that I’ve made recently (mostly because I’ve learnt several new editing techniques, and because the backgrounds in my more recent comics are more detailed and require more detailed editing).

So, how can you tell how much of your art should be traditional and how much of it should be digital?

Well, it’s all to do with practicality, artistic taste and personal preference. If you find it easier to work with traditional or digital, then this should probably be the main medium you should use. Likewise, if you have more traditional tools available than digital ones (or vice versa), then it’s probably best to mostly use the tools you have.

Likewise, if you prefer the look of either traditional or digital art – then it’s pretty self-explanatory which one you should use more of in your art.

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Sorry for such a short and basic article, but I hope it was interesting 🙂