It’s Another “Alternate Versions” Art Preview

Well, since I wasn’t quite satisfied with the article I’d planned to post today, I thought that I’d show off some alternate versions of a few of next year’s art instead 🙂

As I’ve mentioned before, many of next year’s paintings/drawings will be realistic landscapes based on photos I’ve taken (I’ve kind of had to go in this direction due to various planning time, inspiration etc.. related reasons). Most of the alternate versions here are earlier “work in progress” versions with fewer digital effects than in the finished versions.

Anyway, enjoy 🙂

“Waterlooville – And Once A Pub (with less digital FX/ editing)” By C. A. Brown

“Fareham Creek – Window (version with less digital editing)” By C. A. Brown

“Portsdown Hill – Field (brighter version with unfinished sky)” By C. A. Brown

“Privett – Church Tower (version with less digital editing)” By C. A. Brown

“Massey’s Folly – Victoriana (greyscale version)” By C. A. Brown

“Portsdown Hill – Below (version with less digital editing)” By C. A. Brown

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

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

If I remember rightly, there were slightly more dialogue changes between the line art and the finished comics than usual in this mini series. Most of these changes can be seen (in a scribbled-out form) in the “late night TV” comic, mostly because I’d originally planned to include comments about censorship and “British prudishness” (which I changed to “old-fashioned prudishness” in the finished comic since it seemed a little odd/redundant in context).

The third comic also had a dialogue change too. Originally, I’d planned to show Derek ranting about political criticism of videogames (in a troll-like fashion) but I was worried that, if people hadn’t seen the series before, they might not understand the characters or that it was satire. So, in the finished comic, I changed this dialogue to cartoon-like symbolic profanity (eg: &*%$!! etc..).

Likewise, the last comic in this mini series contains a scribbled-out line of dialogue (which originally read “Nonsense, I’m sure the government…”, I think).

As usual, 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 Resurfaced- Utopia (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurfaced- Late Night TV (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurfaced- History (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurfaced- Second Thoughts (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurfaced- Portable (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurfaced- Future (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

How Artists Work Out Their “Process”

If you’re new to making art or are curious about making art, it can sometimes be strange to read about how artists make their work look like their own work. Often, artists will do very specific things, follow their own rules, use very specific types of materials etc… and you might be wondering “how did they work that out?“.

The simple answer is, of course, “trial, error, circumstances and research“.

For example, most of the techniques that I use in my own art were either the product of experimentation, gradual research and/or looking at other works of art. They are also a product of circumstances too. They make my art look a bit like this preview of a digitally-edited painting that I’ve prepared for next month:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 15th June.

For starters, my rule that “30-50% of the total surface area of each painting should be covered with black paint” wasn’t something that I worked out instantly. I mean, if you look at some of my older art (from back when I made pencil drawings rather than paintings), you’ll see that I don’t always follow this rule.

This is a drawing of mine from 2012. As you can see, less than 30% of the total surface area of the drawing is covered with black pencil. (“Attic Lab” By C. A. Brown
[10th June 2012])

No, I learnt this rule through lots of gradual experimentation, through careful observation of anything that I thought was “cool” (eg: computer games, heavy metal album covers, films/TV shows from the 1980s and 1990s etc…), from needing to make paintings in a hurry sometimes and through just making art that I liked (and then realising that it tended to include a lot of black paint).

Once I’d worked out that there was a rule, I was able to use this technique in a much more thorough and conscious way. Like this:

“Death Takes A Holiday” By C. A. Brown

“Coast Road” By C. A. Brown

Likewise, the current 18x18cm size for most of my paintings has a rather long story behind it. When I started making daily art back in 2012, most of my daily drawings were just under a quarter of an A4 page in size. This was a small area that I felt I could comfortably fill with art every day. When I got a bit more confident, I expanded to half an A4 page and then I’d often make A4-sized pieces. I didn’t really go any larger than A4 both for time reasons and because I worried that I wouldn’t be able to fit my art into the scanner that I use to digitise it.

When I switched over to using watercolour pencils in very late 2013/early 2014, also I switched back to only using half (or less) of an A4 page for a while. This was mostly to conserve the limited amount of watercolour paper, waterproof ink pens and watercolour pencils I had at the time. Of course, once I’d amassed a decent amount of low-mid range art supplies, I could make my paintings a bit larger.

After a bit of trial and error, I think that I eventually settled on the 18 x18 cm size for several reasons. It was small enough for me to make daily paintings and it had the advantages of both portrait and landscape formats, not to mention that the square format meant that the picture still looked fairly clear when automatically resized on the internet. After a while, I started adding 1.5cm black “letterboxing” bars to the top and bottom of most of my paintings. Initially, this was to make my art look more “cinematic”, but it also saved a bit of time and helped me to stick to my “30-50% black paint” rule more easily too.

These are the “standard” guidelines that I draw before making most of my paintings. And, yes, that little square in the bottom corner is for the title graphics for these articles too.

Likewise, most of the digital editing techniques that I used on my paintings after I’ve scanned them were things that I learnt from gradual experimentation and research. Initially, the only thing I really knew how to do was to crop pictures to the correct size. Then I learnt how to adjust the brightness/contrast levels in images. Then I went through a phase of using “blur” effects in all of my drawings (since it disguised the pencil lines slightly) etc…

And, gradually, I learnt how to do more and more. Sometimes, I’d learn by just messing around with the programs that I use and, sometimes, I’d learn through reading about what other artists did.

For example, I worked out how to add realistic skin tones to my art digitally after reading this “making of” article by Winston Rowntree. Initially, I selected each area manually, but then I eventually realised that most image editing programs have tools for selecting larger areas quickly.

Likewise, as I’ve mentioned before, my current palette was mostly inspired by the use of colours in these fan-made “Doom II” levels. But, even this followed several months of occasional experimentation with limited complementary colour-based palettes.

So, yes, an artist’s “process” is usually the result of things like trial and error, practical concerns, artistic research and experimentation. This is why, when you read about how an artist makes their art, it can sometimes sound a bit strange. There’s no standard “one size fits all” process for all artists. We usually have to work it out for ourselves.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Making Digital Art With Open-Source Software – A Demonstration

A while before writing this article, I was preparing one of this month’s daily art posts. I was also in the mood for making some digital art too.

But, wanting to challenge myself a bit, I decided to make the digital art using a slightly old version of a free open-source program called “GIMP” (GNU Image Manipulation Program) that I downloaded a few years ago. This program comes in versions for Windows, Linux, Mac etc.. So, it will work on pretty much any computer.

I chose to use this program because, although I’ve used it for occasional image editing before, I was curious to see what it could and couldn’t do. It can do a fair amount, however the version I used (version 2.6) does seem to lack a couple of features that I’ve seen in the old commercial image editing programs I use much more often.

So, let’s get started. You can click on any of the images in this post to see a larger version of them.

The line art:

Not a promising start, but it’ll get better!

I added the line art using a mouse. Although I’ve got an old graphics tablet, I often find the mouse more intuitive to use (even though I use my non-dominant hand for it).

However, unlike in the old version of MS Paint (version 5.1) that I normally use for digital drawings, I couldn’t seem to find any “line” tools in GIMP 2.6. So, I ended up having to draw the line art freehand with the “pencil” tool. Hence why it looks so shaky.

Filling everything in:

Note the menu that appears below the toolbox once the “bucket fill” option is selected. This allows you to choose what you want to fill the area with.

GIMP 2.6 contains a tool called the “bucket fill” tool that can be used to fill areas with either a solid colour or a textured pattern. Seriously, you can fill areas with textures (albeit a limited pre-installed selection).

This is a really cool feature, although it’s often a good idea to select the area you want to fill with the “fuzzy select tool” (the icon looks like a torch/magic wand) first. This allows you to quickly add other effects to the area after you’ve filled it (such as altering the brightness/contrast levels or the colour settings).

By selecting the area (with the “fuzzy select tool”) before filling it, I was easily able to change the colour of the pattern I added to this area.

To de-select the area after you’re done, just click on the square icon in the top left of the toolbox and click once on another part of the image.

Gradients:

Note the small purple line to the left of the silhouetted man. This line determines where the gradient is and how large it is.

For the sky, I decided to use the “blend” effect. The icon for this looks like a grey square and it is next to the “bucket fill” icon in the toolbox.

Once you’ve chosen your colours, just click and drag the mouse across part of the area you want to fill. This will draw a line which will determine where the blending will happen, what direction the blend will travel in and how large the blended area (between the two colours) will be. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but that’s what the “undo” button is for!

Miscellaneous stuff:

Altering the brightness/contrast levels in one part of the image to create shadows.

After adding some detail to the background using the “pencil” tool and the “RGB Noise” option in the “Filters” menu (at the top of the window), I then decided to add a few shadows to the image. This was done by selecting the relevant areas with the free select tool (the icon looks like a lasso/ loop of rope) and then going into the “Colours” menu and messing around with the brightness/contrast settings.

After this, I also tweaked the hue/saturation levels in the entire image to give it a more vivid look. The option to do this can also be found in the “Colours” menu:

Altering the hue/saturation levels in the image.

Then, using the airbrush tool, I added some extra background details. One cool thing about the airbrush in GIMP 2.6 is that you can vary the brush size and – depending on how long you hold down the left mouse button – the intensity/opacity of the paint too.

Seriously, the airbrush tool in this program is really great. You can vary the brush size and (depending on how long you hold down the left mouse button), the intensity of the effect.

Lighting effects:

This is where to find the lighting effects menu.

One really cool thing about GIMP 2.6 is that it allows you to add extra lighting to your picture. The program digitally adds a light source to the picture and then darkens other parts of the picture (to make the light appear bright by contrast).

This option allows you to select the position of the light source (and you can move the light source around in real time in three dimensions by altering the X, Y and Z axis values), to select the light’s intensity, the light’s type and the light’s colour. Seriously, this effect is really cool.

The preview window and the three “position” boxes allow you to move the light in three dimensions (just don’t move it too far out of frame. This feature of the program crashed when I moved the light too far to the right when messing around with this feature before this demonstration.)

This menu allows you to choose what type of light source you want to include (and how intense it is).

Finishing touches:

Seriously, the “airbrush” feature is great for adding rain effects (as long as you vary the line width etc..)

Finally, after messing around with the background a bit, I decided to add some rain to the image with the airbrush tool. This is where the airbrush really came in handy.

By varying the size of the brush and the amount of pressure I used, I was able to create much more realistic rain effects (using this technique) than I was in the program I usually use for this (MS Paint 5.1). Seriously, I cannot praise the airbrush in GIMP 2.6 highly enough!

Conclusion:

Although it would have been nice to see some line/shape drawing tools on the toolbar, I’m genuinely surprised (and pleased) at all of the stuff I was able to do in GIMP 2.6. And, given that this program is a free, non-commercial, open-source one that is available for pretty much all operating systems, there’s no excuse not to check it out.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Three Things To Do With Failed Webcomic Update Ideas/Plans

Well, since I’m still busy preparing a webcomic mini series for later this month, I thought that I’d write another webcomic-related article. In particular, I’ll be talking about what to do with the comic ideas that you don’t end up using. I’m sure I’ve talked about this topic before, but it seemed like it was worth repeating.

Needless to say, it’s incredibly useful to actually note these ideas down (or, even better, sketch them). And, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you’ve done this.

1) Make them (when you’re uninspired): A while before writing this article, I had to prepare a comic update for later this month. However, since this mini series seems to be one of my less-inspired ones, I was having trouble coming up with an idea.

Fortunately, since I ended up planning more comics than I actually made during my previous mini series, I was able to directly re-use an idea that I’d rejected whilst planning that webcomic. Although it certainly isn’t the best comic update in the world, it at least allowed me to make a comic update. And, if you’re making a webcomic, then actually making the updates is the most important part.

Here’s a preview of the comic update in question:

The full comic update will be posted here on the 25th May.

Another cool thing about recycling old ideas is that, if you point out that you’re doing this, then you can kind of turn it into a “deleted scenes” kind of thing. After all, it’s always interesting to see things that could have appeared earlier. So, as well as being a quick way to actually make a comic update when you’re uninspired, it can also be a way to give your audience a glimpse “behind the scenes”.

2) Use the basic idea: Whilst writing this article, I took another look at my preparatory notes and plans for my previous mini series and, to my surprise, I noticed an abandoned plan that was very mildly similar (in terms of structure, set up etc..) to one of the comics in my upcoming mini series.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] This mostly-planned comic update was going to be part of “Damania Regression”, but I ended up abandoning it in favour of another gaming-related comic idea.

Yet, the comic in my upcoming mini series has absolutely nothing to do with old computer games. Yet, by remembering the basic idea behind this comic (albeit subconsciously), I was able to rework it into something a bit more sophisticated and amusing. Not only that, I could also take inspiration from other sources too.

So, if a planned comic update doesn’t work out, then you can always return to the basic idea behind it and find a new way to use it.

3) Work out where they went wrong: One other useful thing about failed comic update plans is that they can help you to improve your webcomic. Normally, if an idea fails, then there’s usually a reason for it. If you can work out what that reason is, then this will help you to make better comics.

For example, when planning the next update in the upcoming mini series, I was determined to make an update about the band Cradle Of Filth (since I’ve been geeking out about them a bit recently). Yet, every time I tried to plan a comic update about this, it seemed like I was either re-hashing tired old tropes about heavy metal music or making something that looked more like an advert for the band.

I was only able to think of a decent comic idea after I realised that this idea was too narrowly-focused. Instead, I took a step back and, after remembering something that happened earlier that day, I was able to come up with a more generalised comic idea about musical nostalgia and technology.

So, yes, asking yourself why an abandoned webcomic update plan failed can be a good way to come up with better comic ideas.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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

Well, in the traditional fashion, I thought that I’d show off the “work in progress” line art that I scanned whilst making my recent “Damania Regression” webcomic mini series.

Unlike some of my mini series, there were hardly any dialogue/art changes between the line art and the finished comic (I think I replaced the word “that” with “the” in the second comic). However, since this mini series featured more digital art than usual, the line art for the final comic is missing two panels (since I added them digitally in the finished comic update).

You can click on each piece of line art to see a larger version of it.

“Damania Regression – Art House (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Regression – Community (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Regression – Testing (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Regression – Fan Fiction (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Regression – Gameshow (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Regression – Scanning Disk (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

Oh Joy! It’s Another Line Art Preview

Well, once again, I realised that I wasn’t quite satisfied with the article I’d planned to post today. So, like earlier this month, I thought that I’d post some of the “work in progress” line art for some of next year’s paintings instead.

And, yes, these are all realistic landscape paintings – this is mostly because, due to time reasons, quite a few of the paintings that will appear here during at least the first few months of next year will be realistic landscapes based on photos I’ve taken (and, yes, this is actually quicker than painting from imagination, if you can believe it).

Anyway, enjoy 🙂

“Titchfield Abbey – Gothic (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Petersfield – Alleyway (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Tipner Lake- Stairs (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“East Meon – Church Tower (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Portsdown Hill – Pyramids (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown