Editorial: London Attack – Why You Shouldn’t Let It Scare You

[Note: [3:53pm GMT] Sorry about even more updates/amendments to this post but I thought that I should update it after seeing more news coverage.]
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I don’t usually write about current events on here but, earlier this morning, I read about the horrific attack in London. My first reaction was, of course, shock and fear. This sort of thing doesn’t happen here in Britain! I know people from London, and people who have visited the city recently! And that sort of thing. My mind flashed back to the news coverage of the 7/7 attacks from 11-12 years ago.

But, the more I read about the attack, the more I realised that – as tragic and unforgivably outrageous as it was – Britain is still one of the safest countries on the planet when it comes to this sort of thing. It’s natural to be shocked and disgusted by what happened. But, you shouldn’t let the actions of one evil man scare you. This is why.

For starters, this was the first major attack to take place (in Britain) in 11-12 years. There has been more than a decade where no major attacks of this type have happened here. As horrific as it is, it is very much the exception rather than the rule. Attacks like this one are shocking because they are incredibly rare. There are many, many more days when something like this doesn’t happen than there are when something like this does.

Secondly, from what I read, the criminal was prevented from using a bomb for the simple reason that our security services are some of the best in the world when it comes to detecting and stopping bomb plots. Although this evil bastard still caused a lot of harm, he was thankfully prevented from causing much more harm due to the fact that we have highly-experienced security services who are really, really good at stopping things like this (again, no major attacks in 11-12 years!).

Thirdly, the police did their job perfectly. One brave policeman gave his life to protect others and, thanks to lots of preventative planning, there were also armed officers stationed outside parliament who prevented the killer from entering the building. There were well-equipped (and, more importantly, properly trained) police officers ready and waiting to stop something like this turning into something far worse.

Likewise, the murderer actually had to leave his car before his attempted attack on parliament due to the fact that parliament was already well-protected against vehicle attacks, thanks to it’s fences and barriers. All of this shows that our police and security services are some of the best in the world when it comes to mitigating or, much more commonly, completely preventing atrocities like this. So, don’t be afraid. We’re well-protected.

Fourthly, and I know that this is probably a touchy subject for some of my American readers, it’s reassuring to note that the killer didn’t have a gun. Thanks to our strict firearms laws, a man intent on mass murder was only able to get his hands on knives and a car. Yes, he unfortunately still murdered several people (and injured many others). But, he would have probably murdered many more if he had been carrying a gun. Thankfully, the only people with guns there were highly-trained police officers with years of regular firearms practice. So, Britain is safer than many other places because mass murderers can’t get hold of guns easily.

Finally, violent religious radicals (which, from everything in the news since my last update to this article, the attacker seems to be) are very much the exception rather than the rule.

For every violent religious fanatic, there are hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of perfectly ordinary non-violent, non-fanatical people who follow that particular religion. Statistically, violent religious extremists are thankfully very rare.

So, whilst it’s perfectly ok to hate the individual person who committed this crime, don’t make the stupid mistake of hating or fearing whole groups of people – almost all of whom are perfectly ordinary and innocent, just like anyone else ( and who probably hate him as much as everyone else does).

Terrorists thrive on creating fear and panic. This is one reason why I was reluctant to use the (scary) word “terrorism” earlier in this editorial. But, historically speaking, there isn’t too much to be scared by these days. Compared to the frequent IRA terrorist attacks during Britain’s relatively recent past, compared to the atrocious Admiral Duncan bombing in 1999, compared to the horror of the 7/7 attacks in 2005 etc.. we are living in one of the safest times in modern British history. This recent attack was horrific, but it’s far from the worst that Britain has ever endured. We are safer now than we were then.

We are living in an age where these things are shocking because they don’t usually happen. Even twenty or thirty years ago (or even 11-12 years ago), this wouldn’t quite have been the case. Don’t let the disgusting actions of one evil man trick you into being scared. Yes, something terrible has happened – but Britain is safe.

Don’t let the terrorists scare you, don’t let them win. In the words of that famous poster, keep calm and carry on.

Why Realism Is Pointless – A Ramble

2017 Artwork realism is pointless

The day before I wrote this article, I happened to see a video review of an old computer game called “Jones In The Fast Lane”. This was a stylised electronic board game from the 1990s that is supposed to be based on real life.

Despite the game’s quirky humour, shortcuts, 1990s stuff, game mechanics etc.. it was obviously meant to be at least slightly “realistic”. And, my god, what a boring game it seemed to be!

This, naturally, made me think about the subject of realism in art, stories, comics, computer games, movies, TV shows etc… and why it should be avoided like the plague!

For all of the interesting things that happen (and have happened) in the world – 99% of the time, life is boring. It’s mundane. It’s repetitive. It’s dreary. If it wasn’t, then the world wouldn’t contain more novels than any one person could ever hope to read, more movies than one person could ever hope to watch, more games than any one person could hope to play etc…

I mean, there’s a good reason why even traditional soap operas have to add lots of ridiculously melodramatic storylines, arguments etc.. to their depictions of everyday life. If they were a lot more “realistic”, then they’d be ten times more dull than they already are.

Even with this, their storylines seem annoyingly dreary, trite, mawkish, tawdry, depressing, melodramatic etc… when compared to technically similar TV shows that are set in more imaginative locations ( “Game Of Thrones” springs to mind for starters).

When a TV show puts the effort into creating an entirely imaginary fictional world that is interesting because it’s different from the real world, then it can get away with “soap opera”-like storylines because of all of the extra “unrealistic” imaginative stuff that clearly says “this is a story! It isn’t even pretending to be like real life!”

Even comics and cartoons that are set in “realistic” locations are often interesting because of their unrealistic elements – their stylised art, their exaggerated characters etc…

Whether you’re part of the audience or the person creating it – stories, art, games etc… are timelessly interesting because they allow us to either escape from reality or to reshape it in some way or another.

This is best summed up by an awesome quote from a short story called “An Extra Smidgen Of Eternity” by Robert Rodi (which can be found in an anthology called “The Sandman: Book Of Dreams” Edited by Neil Gaiman and Ed Kramer).

Although the story itself will probably make you cry, and the ending won’t make complete sense unless you’ve read the fifth “Sandman” comic, it contains one of the best quotes about creativity and imagination that I’ve ever read.

The quote is: “Stories are hope. They take you out of yourself for a bit, and when you get dropped back in, you’re different – you’re stronger, you’ve seen more, you’ve felt more. Stories are like spiritual currency.”

All forms of creativity allow us to either give our own imaginations physical form, or to see the contents of other people’s imaginations. Imagination is one of the many things that stops the mundane repetitiveness of everyday life from becoming emptily depressing.

Merely copying reality doesn’t take much imagination and it doesn’t really give that much to the imaginations of the audience. So, yes, “realism” is totally and utterly pointless!

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Four Reasons Why The Censorship Of Art Is A Terrible Idea

2017 Artwork Why Censorship is stupid line art

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote about censorship. But, after reading a news article [Not safe for work… possibly] last summer about a satirical mural over in Australia (depicting the then-US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as a particular type of dancer, presumably as a comment about financing in politics) which was subject to official censorship, I thought that I’d look at a few of the many reasons why art probably shouldn’t be censored.

1) Liberal or conservative, it’s still the same: Going back to the example I linked to, although the authorities’ motivations for censoring the art were ostensibly “liberal”, the practical effects and consequences of the censorship are just the same as when conservatives have managed to ban risquΓ© things that they disagree with. An image was altered or removed due to the direct actions of those in authority.

Of course, although there are one of two obvious exceptions (eg: art that directly and genuinely advocates acts of violence etc…), most forms of official censorship don’t really meet this moral criteria and seem more similar to acts of vandalism. And, like with vandalism, it doesn’t matter if the vandal is a liberal or a conservative, the effects are still the same.

2) It’s unfair to uncensored artists: Most types of art that get censored are often flawed in one way or another. They’re often either brilliant on an artistic level, but mediocre on an ideas level or vice versa.

For example, whilst the high level of artistic skill in the uncensored version of the controversial satirical mural cannot be called into question, some people might question the sophistication or originality of making a political point by likening a politician to a dancer in a sleazy bar (although this is hardly justifiable grounds for the mural to be banned).

But, as soon as something is censored, it immediately becomes interesting. It gets debated by lots of people. It prompts people with opinions about censorship (like me) to write articles about it. The Streisand effect kicks in and something that may have only been seen by a few hundred people is seen by millions worldwide.

One unfortunate side-effect of this is that thousands of better or more sophisticated works of art immediately get overlooked as a result of everyone focusing on the banned picture etc…

3) It has a chilling effect: Thankfully, nothing that I’ve made has ever been official censored. This isn’t to say that my work has never suffered any censorship, it’s just that it ironically has always been carried out by none other than me. There are paintings I’ve never made, comics I’ve altered, articles I’ve replaced with something else before publication, topics I’ve avoided altogether etc.. due to the fear of some kind of external censorship.

Censorship (whether it’s done by conservatives, liberals, religious believers, atheists, anti-feminists, feminists, one person in authority, large numbers of people etc…) is a weapon of intimidation. The real intent of a lot of censorship isn’t just to destroy one particular work of art, but to tell everyone that no-one else should dare to make anything similar.

4) It makes everyone less human!: Most of the people who call for art to be censored don’t understand what art actually is.

Art, at it’s core, is a way for an artist to share part of their imagination with everyone else. It’s a medium of communication. Even if it’s the most apolitical work of art ever made, it’s still technically an idea in physical form (after all, the artist had to think about how to make that particular piece of art).

As I’ve argued before, censorship is a type of thought control. If you tell someone that they can’t paint something, you also tell them that they can’t think about it. And, well, our minds are the last truly free space that everyone has. To infringe upon that is to make everyone less human as a result.

So, if you see a piece of art that you dislike for whatever reason, then either ignore it in a sensible and mature way (after all, you’ve probably ignored thousands of ideas you disagree with without even noticing). Or, respond to it with measured, polite, well-argued criticism that respects the artist’s right to express their ideas. Because if they have no right to express their ideas, then neither do you!

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Making Impulsive Creative Projects – A Ramble

2017 Artwork Impulsive Projects article

Last summer, I had a moment when I just had to make a political cartoon. I hadn’t really planned it beforehand (the only planning involved how to turn the cynical mental images that had suddenly appeared in my mind into a coherent comic) or even wanted to make it, I just had to make it.

It was, of course, in response to the “it would be hilariously funny if it wasn’t real” news that Boris Johnson had been appointed (UK) foreign secretary….

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "BORIS Is The New FOREIGN SECRETARY!?!?! WTF?" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “BORIS Is The New FOREIGN SECRETARY!?!?! WTF?” By C. A. Brown

This, of course, brings me on to the subject of impulsive creative projects. These are projects that suddenly emerge from strong emotions, feelings or reactions. They’re unplanned and they’re often some of the best things that you’ll ever make.

It doesn’t matter how uninspired you were beforehand, as soon as something compels you to make one of these projects, you’ll have more inspiration than you could want. Ok, they’re usually created in response to bad things (eg: using dark humour to cope with terrible political news) but they often feel amazing to make regardless, in a similar way to a highly inspired project.

Not only that, impulsive projects serve as a sudden test of your writing and/or artistic abilities too. Quite a few years ago, whenever something prompted me to make a sudden cartoon, it often wasn’t fit for publication. The politics was often too heavy-handed or the emotional content was too blatant.

It’s only after spending over a year making comics semi-regularly again that I’ve reached the stage when I feel like any impulsive projects I make are actually good enough for publication.

This, interestingly, brings me on to one of the most confusing elements of impulsive projects. Although you primarily make the project for yourself, it often has to be something that is good enough to share. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with making private projects for emotional catharsis, one of the most powerful things about making impulsive cartoons is the powerful feeling of sharing your views with the world.

The thing to remember here of course is that, regardless of which emotions motivate you, you need to add some humour, theatricality, artistic skill and/or serious commentary. After all, other people have to look at it too.

This is especially true for impulsive projects that have been motivated by anger. For example, during John Whittingdale’s (thankfully brief) tenure as culture secretary last year, I was absolutely incensed by the fact that he planned to weaken the BBC (in order to strengthen commercial channels, bastions of quality programming that they are…), so I made this angry cartoon:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Editorial Cartoon - Our 'Culture' Secretary!" By C. A. Brown [1st May 2016]

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Editorial Cartoon – Our ‘Culture’ Secretary!” By C. A. Brown [1st May 2016]

Thankfully, I had enough artistic experience to present this opinion in a slightly toned down way. I knew enough about colour theory to add a menacing blue/red colour scheme to the painting. I was able to use visual metaphors in the background to make a point about the two different types of TV stations. Not only that, I was able to make him look a bit like a pantomime villain through subtle facial expressions.

A few years ago, when my knowledge of all of these things was less sophisticated, I’d have probably just drawn something ridiculously crass or extremely unsophisticated, before wisely deciding not to post it online. So, yes, being able to make even vaguely acceptable impulsive projects is a tough test of your creative skills.

But, all of this aside, impulsive projects are one of the best types of creative projects because they feel like pure self-expression. Rather than just speaking about your feelings or writing an online comment about them, spontaneously turning your strong feelings into an actual thing seems like a much more cathartic and powerful form of self-expression.

Just remember that, if you’re going to publish it, it should be something that other people will actually want to look at.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Editorial Cartoon: “Dangerous People”

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Editorial Cartoon - Dangerous People" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Editorial Cartoon – Dangerous People” By C. A. Brown

Although I often try to avoid politics (let alone international politics) on this blog, I just had to make a political cartoon about recent political events in America. Although this cartoon won’t exactly change the world, it was one of those moments where (if slightly belatedly) I felt strongly compelled to express a moral opinion about current affairs.

The fact that Trump could so casually cause chaos and fear for many families in America, that he could be so callous towards courageous Iraqi interpreters who have helped American troops (at great personal risk), that he bizarrely believes that Syrian refugees somehow pose a security threat [eg: They’ve been forced to flee from violent religious extremists. They probably hate both violence and the extremists even more than everyone else does!] etc.. is deeply chilling, regardless of who you may be. Trump’s preference for ruling by decree executive order and his willingness to ban people based purely on their place of birth is worrying for everyone, regardless of nationality or political views.

Likewise, in the UK, this decree executive order led to a situation where one of our most respected Olympic athletes, Sir Mo Farah, worried whether he’d be able to see his family living in the US. Where a member of parliament feared that he’d be unable to visit family members studying in the US. And where a vet from Glasgow was stranded in an airport in Costa Rica due to not being allowed a transit visa via the US. How any President could be deranged enough to think that these respectable Britons pose any kind of “security risk” is completely beyond me.

There was a lot of fanfare and press attention about the fact that Trump had moved the bust of Churchill back into the Oval Office. But, after this order, it seems clear that Trump has no sense of history. I mean, despite Churchill’s imperial past and conservative opinions, he was most famous for opposing things like extreme nationalism, undemocratic rule by decree etc…

Likewise, Trump’s order also means that the author/illustrator of one of the truly great graphic novels that I’ve read (“Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi) could also potentially be banned from the US. Why any country would deny entry to such a talented writer/artist is completely beyond me. Hell, one of the things that reading this comic taught me was that – even in despotic countries with strict, fanatical governments – most people who live there are just ordinary people. Ordinary people who like to have fun, to listen to music, to fall in love and to dream. It’s a graphic novel that Trump and his cabinet would do well to read.

In Trump’s own words, all of this is extremely. Sad.

Comics Really Aren’t All About Superheroes – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Comics Are About More Than Superheroes

Well, although I was still in the mood for writing about comics, I thought that I’d take a short break from writing about making webcomics and talk about reading print comics for a while instead.

This was mainly prompted by the fact that I accidentally found a few interesting videos about print comics on Youtube – although these videos were about things like comic collecting and the history of comics, they often contained the reassuring disclaimer that “comics aren’t all about superheroes” . However, when I looked at the lists of other videos on these channels, they would often be filled with superhero-related stuff.

Although, I don’t read print comics anywhere near as much as I did back in 2008-2010 (when I went through a massive comics phase), I’ve read very few superhero comics. However, the ones I have read usually have to have some other factor that makes me interested.

For example, I read Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” because, well, Alan Moore. I read Garth Ennis’ “The Authority: The Magnificent Kevin” mostly because of the ‘shock value’ humour in it. I’ve also read a few “Judge Dredd” and “Strontium Dog” comics because they’re cynical dystopian sci-fi comics that don’t technically fit into the superhero genre.

But, when I went through my comics phase, I read lots of astonishingly good comics. These were comics that were more than equal to film or prose fiction (in terms of emotional impact, distinctiveness, writing quality etc..) and there was barely a silly spandex suit in sight.

I read amazing 1980s/90s comics like Warren Ellis’ “Transmetropolitan” series, Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series (although this series briefly includes some superhero stuff, it isn’t a major part of the overall story) and many of Alan Martin & Jamie Hewlett’s “Tank Girl” comics.

I read manga comics (well, mostly “Death Note” and a couple of others too). I read newspaper-style comics, like Lise Mhyre’s excellent “Nemi”. I read ludicrously gory horror comics, like Raven Gregory’s “Return To Wonderland”. I read biographical comics like Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” and Catel & Bocquet’s “Kiki De Montparnasse” etc…

Comics are still one of my favourite storytelling mediums. I mean, I wouldn’t be making webcomics every now and then if I wasn’t interested in comics.

And, yet, whenever there’s something about “comics” or “comics culture”, it’s almost always about superheroes. It’s all about the stylised world of American-style comic book stores and the elaborate fan culture that has built up around superhero comics. And, this is great! There’s nothing wrong with celebrating comics. Comics are awesome. But, if you aren’t really a superhero fan, then it all just looks a bit… well… weird.

This might just be me, but I’ve always found the superhero genre to be, well, kind of silly. Not silly in a “so bad that it’s good” way, but more in a “why are they wearing those stupid outfits?” and “If I had super-powers, I probably wouldn’t become a vigilante” kind of way. And then there’s the mythology – it always seemed to me that unless you’ve read a superhero series religiously since it first appeared in the early-mid 20th century, then you should prepare for nothing but confusion.

Yes, superhero comics became popular due to American comics censorship in the mid-1950s (which pretty much killed off the far more interesting crime and horror comics that used to be much more popular on both sides of the pond), so many people’s first exposure to comics has probably been the superhero genre – given that it had a near-monopoly on the comics market for a few decades.

And, yes, I can even appreciate the fact that superheroes having secret identities is an absolutely spot-on LGBT metaphor, even if it was originally totally unintentional – given the extreme conservatism of the Comics Code during the development of the genre (I mean, LGBT characters were banned from even appearing in “code approved” comics until 1989!).

But, I think that focusing on superheroes has done the reputation of comics more harm than good. It’d be like if people talked about movies, but only ever talked about the latest offerings from Michael Bay. It’d be like if people talked about music, but only every talked about the latest generic pop music. It’d be like if people talked about gaming, but only ever focused on mega-budget “triple A”… wait, they do that already!

Superhero comics are a well-known type of comic, with a long history and a large fanbase, but they aren’t the be all and end all of comics. By mostly focusing on superheroes when talking about “comics” or “comics culture”, the media often does comics a great disservice. Whilst comics can be at least the equal of traditional prose fiction, this sensible argument isn’t helped when the only examples most non-comic readers know about are contrived stories about magical people who wear silly costumes.

Not only that, the superhero genre isn’t exactly the most original thing in the world. There’s nothing wrong with this if you’re a fan of superheroes. But seeing yet more comics about the theme of “people have superpowers, and use them to fight villainy” is just boring.

Whereas, with non-superhero comics, there’s a lot more variety and originality.

There are comics about Hunter S. Thompson-style journalists living in a futuristic cyberpunk world (eg: Warren Ellis’ “Transmetropolitan”). There are comics about life, death and dreams (eg: Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman”). There are comics that are more punk than some actual punk music is (eg: Alan Martin & Jamie Hewlett’s “Tank Girl” comics). There are comics about goths (eg: Lise Mhyre’s “Nemi” ) etc…

There are comics about pretty much any subject that can appear in prose fiction and there are comics about more subjects than can ever appear in film (since comics are usually made by 1-3 people, rather than by major movie studios). And, yet, with all of these great stories out there – the ones that always get associated with the word “comics” are the same few reheated stories about magical people in silly outfits.

It’s hilarious, really.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

What Traditional Creative Mediums Can Teach Us About Modern Technology- A Ramble

2016 Artwork Traditional Art Mediums And Technology Article

Although this is an article about things like print books, traditional (non-digital) drawing and painting, handwriting etc… which will probably make me sound about two or three decades older than I actually am, I’m going to have to start by talking about the internet for a while. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that will hopefully become clear after a while.

Earlier this year, I had a couple of moments that gleefully confirmed some of my cynicism about technology from this decade. I’d opened up Google Chrome to look at a badly-designed Chrome-optimised site (that refused to load a video in my usual browser), when Google Chrome flashed up an ominous warning message claiming that it will soon stop updating itself for anyone who doesn’t use the absolute latest operating systems. Unless Google has since come to it’s senses, this will have already happened a couple of months before this article is posted here.

My initial reaction to this was “Ha! I’m glad that I don’t use Google Chrome regularly!” and then, a few seconds later, I was filled with a strange mixture of creeping horror and ridiculing laughter. My mind was filled with stylised images of “hip” people of my own age, constantly upgrading their technology and constantly changing every digital thing that they surround themselves with. Their lives a never ending flux of shiny new devices, trendy social media websites and incrementally crappier new operating systems.

Somehow, this part of their lives seemed both eerily and laughably superficial to me – like they could never find a digital “home” or a constant in their lives. Like they’d never get to really know the technology they use, before it’s replaced with the latest flashy new thing. Like nothing that they use would ever become truly familiar to them.

Then, a day or two later, I read a slightly old article that claimed that Twitter was in financial trouble. Given my long-running cynicism about that site, this initially filled me with more schadenfreude than is probably healthy. However, the more I thought about it, the creepier it seemed. Twitter, as much as I despise it, has had a major impact on the world. It’s a thing that, for good or ill, has become part of our culture.

And, yet, this extremely annoying – but important- part of our history probably won’t be preserved if it loses mainstream popularity. It’ll probably just disappear. Twenty or thirty years later, most people will have probably forgotten all about it. Just like how many modern computers apparently don’t include floppy drives as standard any more.

Now compare this to the invention of the printing press. Although the technology for mass-producing books has advanced significantly over the years, you can still theoretically use an old-fashioned printing press and, more importantly, you can still read the books that were made using it. The surrounding technology has advanced, but the products of that technology are still as functional, timeless and accessible as they have always been.

Compare it to the invention of the pen. Whilst we don’t use quills any more, a quill is still a perfectly functional writing implement that anyone with the proper training can make. Likewise, whilst fountain pens are less common, you can still buy them. Not only that, the skills needed to use a modern ballpoint or (even better) rollerball pen aren’t too different to those needed to use a quill or a fountain pen.

We have more reliable pens, we have pens that don’t leak and we have pens which don’t need to be refilled regularly. And, yet, they’re still pens. A time traveller from the 19th century could probably work out how to use a modern rollerball pen fairly quickly, for the simple reason that it’s still a pen. It’s functionality, method of use and basic principles are still the same, even if the technology has advanced.

Now look at something like drawing and/or painting. The technology may have advanced significantly (I mean, I make all of my paintings with a waterbrush and watercolour pencils), but the basic actions of using something to create images on paper or canvas hasn’t changed that much in centuries. We might have pre-made paints, paintbrushes with water reservoirs, mechanical pencils, pencils made out of pigment etc… but the basics are still the same.

Modern technology, unfortunately, doesn’t have any of this timelessness. Sure, it has a lot of “progress”, but this progress often comes at the cost of erasing it’s own history. If a time traveller from fifty years in the future appeared today, they probably wouldn’t know how to use a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone. They’ll probably still know what the internet itself is, but they wouldn’t know how to access it using current technology.

However, they would probably still know how to use a pen, how to read a print book and, if they’re an artist, how to paint a picture.

So, in my opinion, these traditional mediums provide a good guide to what new mediums should strive towards. They should obviously keep advancing and upgrading, but they should do so in a way that both preserves their own history and remains accessible to everyone, regardless of their technology level.

However, it’s probably going to take everyone a long time to work this out. Why? Because, unlike pens, books etc.. There’s slightly more of a profit motive inherent in new technology. Whilst old printing press companies might have tried to sell the latest presses to publishers, the books that people read were still books that any literate person could read.

However, with new technology, these companies have the ability to sell both the technology for making stuff and the technology for accessing it. So, out of sheer short-sighted greed, they constantly change both the underlying technology itself and the things that ordinary people use to access it. In other words, they use planned obsolescence regularly.

To them, history doesn’t matter. To them, the sharing of information between the widest number of people isn’t an inherent good. To them, becoming familiar with a piece of technology (and getting to know and love it over the years) is something to be mocked, feared and scorned, because it doesn’t generate profit.

In the grand scheme of things, these are probably short term issues that will be resolved eventually. But, if modern technology wants to truly become part of both everyday life and modern history, the people who make it might want to take a look at everything that came before.

Because, it’s 2016 and I still write things with a pen, I still have a large collection of print books and I still make watercolour paintings – but I can’t update my copy of Google Chrome…..

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Are Left-Handed People More Creative? – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Left Handedness and creativity

One of the first things that I will say is that this is purely an opinion article, rather than a scientific study or anything like that.

If you’re looking for objective facts or detailed research, then it might be worth looking elsewhere. But, if you’re looking for rambling subjective thoughts, then you’ve come to the right place.

Anyway, I’ve read a few things in books and articles over the years which suggest that left-handed people (like myself) are more creative than right-handed people are.

This follows the (somewhat contested, and possibly totally disproved) theory that, with left-handed people, the right-hand sides of our brains are dominant. This supposedly means that we have more brainpower available when it comes to things like visual thinking etc… albeit at the cost of the side of our brains that deals with linguistics etc.. not being dominant.

Like anyone, I can only speak from my own experience here – since I’ll only use one brain during this lifetime and I won’t get to use any others. So, I can’t really compare. But, I usually tend to think in visual, verbal and physical (this is the only way I can describe it) ways in fairly equal measure. If anything, the verbal parts of my thoughts are probably slightly more prominent in day to day life than the visual or physical parts are.

Yet, nonetheless, back when I wrote a lot more fiction, I’d often think about writing in a very visual way. For example, I’d draw little sketches of the characters before starting a story. Plus, when it came to actually writing, it would be more like I was sometimes translating my visual thoughts into words. Then again, this is hardly unusual. I mean, if people lacked the ability to translate words into images, then literature wouldn’t exist. No-one would see the point in it.

However, when I switched from being a writer to being an artist – and had enough practice to become vaguely competent at it- it was extremely liberating. I didn’t have to construct an elaborate story to go with any of the visual thoughts that I had. I could just draw or paint the thoughts themselves and not bother with coming up with a story.

But, in many of the art videos that I’ve seen on Youtube – artists who are far better at art than I am and far more creative than I am can clearly be seen to be drawing or painting using their right hand. So, the idea that being left-handed instantly makes you more artistic or creative is absolutely absurd. If anything, practice makes you a better artist.

There’s also the theory that left-handed people are more creative because we’ve had to adapt to a world that is primarily designed for right-handed people. Supposedly, this means that we have to think about things more (which can stimulate creativity).

But, for me, adapting to right-handed stuff is just an ordinarily mundane part of everyday life. It’s not something that I really think about much. In fact, bizarrely, I’m actually better at using a computer mouse, playing pool and playing the guitar (what little I could play on it) right-handed than I am at doing any of these three things left-handed. These seem to be pretty much the only exceptions though, I’m better at doing everything else left-handed.

Whilst this slight degree of ambidexterity is a cool bonus, I’ve never really noticed that it’s had any effect on my level of creativity. Then again, I have no real basis for comparison.

In conclusion, although being left-handed is really cool and although I can’t even imagine living life as anything other than left-handed, it isn’t some magical thing that automatically makes us more creative than anyone else. There are brilliant left-handed writers, actors, musicians and artists out there and there are brilliant right-handed ones too. Creativity is something that seems to follow it’s own unknown rules.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Comedy And Shock Value – A Ramble

2016 Artwork comedy and shock value article sketch

Well, I’m still in the mood for writing about the comedy genre. So, for today, I thought that I’d look at the subject of comedy and shock value. As with all creative things, there are no absolute “right” or “wrong” answers here and this article is just my opinion. After all, everyone has a different sense of humour.

Like with the horror genre, one of the things that good comedy has to do if it wants to work well is to shock or surprise it’s audience. Like good horror, good comedy often relies on playing with the audience’s expectations. To use a non-controversial and well-known example, just take a look at the classic joke “A man walks into a bar… Ouch!“.

As you probably know, this joke works because the beginning of it is similar to many other jokes (eg: “A man walks into a bar”), but the audience’s expectations are suddenly proved to be wrong when it’s revealed in the punchline that the “bar” is actually a metal bar. Although it’s comedic power has long since been blunted by common use, this joke relies on (mildly) shocking the audience in order to amuse them.

Of course, comedy often works in much more subtle ways than this. Good comedy is unpredictable and rebellious in one way or another. Whether it’s something as simple as a writer telling a story which occasionally goes in whimsically surreal directions, whether it’s a parody of a “serious” story or whether it’s very cynical and irreverent humour about a taboo subject, good comedy often relies on “shocking” the audience in some way or another.

Like with the horror genre, comedy – by it’s very definition – can’t be too “realistic” (unless, of course, you’re parodying an unrealistic movie or story).

Comedy has to rebel against expectations, conventions and realism to some level or another in order to work. Comedy relies on exaggerations, twists, taboos, irreverence, offence and other such things. It’s an anarchic and impishly unpredictable genre.

Of course, the real art form here is trying to find funny ways to shock your audience. Merely shocking an audience is not always, in and of itself, funny. After all, horror stories also rely on shocking their audiences too.

In other words, you have to find clever ways to either create expectations (or to go along with your audience’s pre-existing expectations) and then to break them in well-timed and unexpected ways. The only real way to learn how to do this well is to read, listen to and/or watch as much comedy as you can.

But, to give you an example, an ordinary person saying a four-letter word isn’t inherently funny. After all, unless you’re an extremely prim and puritanical person, you probably use your fair share of these words on a daily basis. It’s nothing special and nothing shocking. But, if a prim and puritanical person was to use one of these words, it would be funny because the audience wouldn’t expect it.

This contrast between a person and their actions is also why, for example, things such as [NSFW] these widely-publicised allegations about the (British) prime minister from last year resulted in widespread mockery, ridicule and general merriment rather than disgusted outrage.

If an ordinary person was accused of doing something like this, then it would quite rightly be considered to be disgusting rather than funny. But, because a prime minister (let alone a conservative one) allegedly did something revolting – but also technically harmless – it’s absolutely hilarious because it’s literally the last thing that anyone would expect.

Then, of course, there’s the somewhat trickier question of what is and isn’t “too shocking”. My personal view on this is that, because everyone has a subtly different sense of humour, there shouldn’t really be any formal or informal limits on comedy.

It’s kind of like food – I mean, you can buy hot chilli sauces and you can buy very mild types of mustard. Both of these things are spicy, but you probably prefer either one or the other or, more likely, something in between. If you’re more of a “mild mustard” kind of person and you accidentally end up eating chilli sauce by mistake, then it’s probably not going to be a pleasant experience.

No one would bat an eyelid if you then made the decision not to eat chilli sauce again as a result of this or even if you said that you personally don’t like eating chilli sauce. However, most people would consider it to be laughably ridiculous if you then earnestly called for chilli sauce to be banned from supermarkets and restaurants just because it didn’t fit into your personal tastes.

Not to mention that, as soon as you start trying to put limits on comedy, you also set up expectations… which comedians will just end up breaking for laughs. So, trying to censor or restrict comedy – however shocking it might be- is something of a fool’s errand.

So, yes, whether it’s extremely shocking or very mildly shocking, comedy has to be shocking.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

My Thoughts About Colouring Books For Adults (And 14 Lineart Pictures To Colour)

2015 Artwork My Thoughts On Colouring Books for adults

A couple of months ago, I was introduced to the subject of colouring books for adults. Not only did someone mention it in conversation, but there was even a video about it posted on BBC News less than a day later.

Puzzled by this bizarre synchronicity, I decided to think more deeply about this strange new genre and offer some of my thoughts about it (as well as lots of my own lineart at the end of this article that you can print out and colour in, if you want to – albeit with the caveat that you don’t post any re-coloured versions of my pictures online).

I’m ashamed to admit that my very first reaction when I heard that there were colouring books designed for adults was to laugh out loud. I mean, to me, colouring books were something I used when I was a kid but quickly grew out of when I got a bit older.

When I first heard about it, it seemed hilariously absurd.

My second reaction was to ask “why the hell would anyone want to miss out on the most fun part of making art?“. As a self-taught artist who comes from a drawing background, the most fun part of making art is actually designing and drawing the pictures that I create.

Adding colour can improve a picture and it can also be kind of fun to mix various colours and experiment with different colour schemes but, to me, it’s kind of an additional secondary part of making art rather than the main point of it.

However, from all I heard about the subject, many adults enjoy using colouring books because it’s supposed to be meditative and relaxing. I can sort of understand this, I mean adding paint to my own art is kind of the “easier” part of making art. Although most of the fun of making art comes from the challenge of thinking of something to draw and drawing it well, adding paint afterwards can be kind of relaxing.

Secondly, it also apparently allows people who don’t have the time or energy to learn how to make art to have the experience of creating art. And, well, I can’t argue with this. The most fun part of being an artist is actually making art. So, if some people have found an easier way to enjoy this, then I can’t exactly begrudge them that.

Thirdly, I guess, it’s a type of childhood nostalgia. I mean, we all still enjoy things that we enjoyed when we were younger – I still regularly play some of the computer games I loved when I was a kid and a teenager (and, yes, they are better than modern games) and I listen to the bands I liked when I was a teenager.

I was a fan of both “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” when I was a kid and I still absolutely love both shows even today. So, I guess that colouring books for adults are just an extension of this.

Finally, I was quite surprised to see that some artists have become incredibly successful just from producing these colouring books (one of these artists is interviewed in the BBC video).

On a purely cynical level, the idea of becoming a successful artist just by making a few unfinished paintings sounds like a pretty cool one. Plus, if people actually get a lot of genuine enjoyment out of this type of art – then it’s hardly a scam or anything like that.

So, in that spirit, here’s a large collection of “work in progress” lineart from my own paintings which you can print out and colour in, or you can digitally re-colour if that’s your thing. There is a little caveat though.

(Caveat: Even though I originally released many of these lineart pictures under a type of Creative Commons licence which includes a “no derivatives” condition, I give you all permission to re-colour these pictures (either traditionally or digitally) for your own private enjoyment. In other words, don’t post your recoloured versions of these pictures online. If you want to privately recolour any of my other pictures for your own enjoyment, I have no problem with this either. Just don’t post your altered versions online and/or try to pass them off as entirely your own work.)

Anyway, that said, here’s lots of lineart (of landscapes, still life pictures and cartoons) for you to colour in. Enjoy πŸ™‚

"Bathroom Plants (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Bathroom Plants (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

"Autumn (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Autumn (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

"Practice Park (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Practice Park (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

"Dorset - Patchwork Landscape (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Dorset – Patchwork Landscape (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

"Bay Of Ruins (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Bay Of Ruins (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

"Dorset - Giant Garden (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Dorset – Giant Garden (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

"Sandown Beach Lineart" By C. A. Brown

“Sandown Beach Lineart” By C. A. Brown

"Days Of The Angel (Lineart version)" By C. A. Brown

“Days Of The Angel (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

"Sunset Magic (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Sunset Magic (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

"Patchwork Sunset (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Patchwork Sunset (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

"Drunk Punk Zombies On Aberystwyth Coast (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Drunk Punk Zombies On Aberystwyth Coast (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

"Dorset - Four Of Wands (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Dorset – Four Of Wands (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

"Data Tower (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Data Tower (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

"Chichester Cross (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Chichester Cross (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚ Have fun πŸ™‚