Two Ways To Save Time Whilst Making Art

As regular readers of this site probably know, I’ve had slightly less time to make art over the past few months than I did before (mostly due to all sorts of things, such as doing the reading for the book reviews that appear here, other creative projects etc..). However, I was determined to keep posting daily paintings here, even if this required some fairly major changes.

Or, to put it another way, this is what my paintings look like when I have a bit more time:

“Formation” By C. A. Brown

And this is what they look like when I’ve got slightly less time:

“Tipner Lake – Mist” By C. A. Brown

So, what are the differences and how do they save time?

1) The most time-consuming part of making a painting isn’t what you think: If you’re new to making art, it can be easy to think that the most time-consuming part of making a painting or a drawing is the actual painting or drawing itself. Or perhaps waiting for the paint to dry (unless you’re using oil paint, in which case it possibly is). Surprisingly, this isn’t true.

The most time-consuming part of making a painting is working out what to paint. And, if you’re painting from imagination, then you can sometimes spend just as long thinking of ideas as you do drawing or painting. Yes, this will result in more distinctive, unique and creative paintings that look like this:

“Haunted Mansion” By C. A. Brown

“Cyberpunk Ruins” By C. A. Brown

But, it takes time and, if you’ve got less time and still want to make impressive-looking paintings, then this can be one thing to cut without sacrificing technical quality. But, how do you do this?

There are several ways of doing this (eg: still life paintings, making new versions of your older paintings, making studies of out-of-copyright historical paintings, making non-commercial fan art or making art based on photos you’ve taken). Personally, I seem to have gone for the photo-based approach, since there’s more room for artistic licence- like this:

(Click for larger image) As you can see, the source photo and the finished painting are both similar and different.

Even so, this approach does reduce the amount of creativity you can use in your art. Still, as a way of making ok-looking art in half the time, it can work quite well.

2) Digital is your friend: Simply put, if you’re primarily posting your art on the internet (and aren’t selling physical originals), then it is well worth learning how to use an image editing program or two (there are even free open-source ones on the internet, if you don’t have one).

This doesn’t mean that you should make entirely digital art, but you’d be surprised at, with practice, how much quicker it can be to add colours to scans or digital photos of hand-drawn line art digitally than waiting for paints to dry etc.. Although I’ve found that this approach works best for greyscale art, it can be a great way to trim 10-20 minutes off of a picture if you’re in a real hurry.

Here’s an example of this in one of my upcoming pieces of photo-based art (based on a photo I took of Tipner Lake near Portsmouth) which, if I remember rightly, only took me an hour or so to make.

(Click for larger image) This is an example of how I turned some hand-drawn line art into a greyscale digital painting.

Yes, this will look different to using actual paints (and I often just use digital tools for enhancing/improving my traditional paintings). But, if you’re in a rush and you know what you’re doing, then it can certainly shave a few minutes off of the time it takes you to finish a piece of art.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Three Quick Ways To Make “Retro” 1980s/90s-Style Art (If You’ve Never Made Retro Art Before)

Well, the day before I wrote this article, I needed to make some art in a hurry. I was also in the mood for making 1980s/90s-themed “retro” art too. Of course, having done some research into these decades (since they turn up a lot in the things I create), I didn’t feel too overwhelmed. But, I ended up wondering how anyone can make art set in these time periods if they haven’t done this kind of prior research.

So, I thought that I’d offer a few tips about how to make “retro” 80s/90s-style art if you haven’t really made this type of art before and need to make some in a hurry. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you already know a few basic art skills.

1) Still life painting: This is what I used to make a “retro” style painting quickly the day before writing this article. Basically, I found an old audio cassette from the 1990s/ early 2000s that was lying around my room and used it as the basis for a more stylised still life painting. Here’s a preview of the painting in question:

This is a reduced-size preview, the full-size painting will be posted here on the 8th April.

Yes, this technique relies on having random old stuff lying around. But, it can be a quick way to make a “retro” painting without too much planning or research time.

If you don’t have something from the 1980s/90s nearby, then two ways to quickly and cheaply solve this problem are either to go to your nearest town and take a look through the charity shops there (they’ve probably got lots of cheap old stuff, especially in smaller towns etc…) or to do an image search for something retro and then, using multiple reference images as a guide, come up with a new and original painting of the thing in question that doesn’t look identical to any one reference image.

Plus, like in the painting I showed you earlier, you can also give your still life painting even more of a “retro” look by doing interesting stuff with the colours and lighting. Generally, it can often be a good idea to contrast bold colours with gloomier lighting. Likewise, if you limit your colour palette somewhat too (eg: using something like a complementary colour pair) then this can also give your artwork slightly more of an 80s/90s-style look too.

2) Fan art: Another easy way to make “retro” art quickly, without lots of extra research and planning, is simply to draw on the “research” that you’ve already done. Yes, you know more than you think! Even if you only have vague memories or no memories of the 1980s and/or 1990s, then you’ve probably watched, read and/or played a lot of older things when you were growing up.

I mean, although I have no memory of the later parts of the 1980s and only relatively vague memories of the 1990s, my teenage years during the ’00s were filled with old DVDs, videos, books, CDs etc… of stuff from the 80s and/or 90s. Likewise, old stuff tended to get repeated on TV quite a bit too. The same sort of thing is probably true if you were born more recently.

So, you know more about the past than you think. So, if you need to make “retro” art quickly, then just make some (non-commercial) fan art based on the things from these time periods that you really love. For example, here’s a preview of a fan art painting that will be posted here tomorrow evening that is based on both “Gremlins 2” and “Lois & Clark“:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here tomorrow evening.

3) Materials: This one is a little bit more subtle, but one way to give your art a little bit more of a “retro” look is simply to change the materials that you use. The thing to remember here is that whilst digital art was a thing during the 1990s (eg: one of the image editing programs I use is from 1999!), the 1980s and the 1990s were the last decades where traditional art materials were king.

So, if you use more traditional physical materials, this will instantly give your art a very slightly “older” look. If, like me, you want to use traditional materials in conjunction with digital image editing, then try to stick to using the more basic features of your editing program. I’m talking about things like cropping, brightness/contrast adjustments, hue/saturation adjustments, RGB noise effects etc…

Yes, this won’t make your art look too “retro” but, if you’re someone who usually makes digital art, then the switch to more traditional materials and more basic image editing techniques will at least make your art look slightly “older” than usual.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Ways To Make “Lazy” Art Well

The day that I originally wrote this article was something of a tired and busy day. What this meant was that I didn’t really have as much time or energy to make daily art as usual. Still, the night before, I’d prepared some rather generic line art for a landscape painting (but, I fell asleep before adding paint to it).

Still, realising that I didn’t have time to start a new painting, I realised that I had to do something with this line art. It had to be quicker and easier than adding paint (and waiting for it to dry etc..), but it also had to be better than just adding the line art itself to the daily art post that I was preparing for January. So, I just scanned the line art and added colour, shading and a background to it digitally. It actually turned out relatively well, here’s a preview:

This is a reduced-size preview – the full-size picture will be posted here on the 28th January.

But, I wasn’t always this good at making “lazy” art or this confident about it. So, why am I now (and how can you be) ?

1) Keep a schedule: Keeping a regular art schedule with an almost religious level of devotion is, ironically, one of the best ways to learn how to make “lazy” art well. Because you’ll have days when you aren’t inspired but you still have to make art, this will force you to come up with ways to make original paintings with relatively little thought or effort.

It’ll teach you things like creating the illusion of detail, using clever lighting to shroud large areas of the picture in darkness (in a way that looks good) to cut down on painting time, how to take inspiration properly etc.. In other words, keeping a strict practice schedule actually comes in handy when you need to make a “lazy” piece of art.

In addition to this, keeping a regular art schedule will teach you how to make art quickly. It’ll teach you how to make a vaguely decent-looking piece of art within the space of a couple of hours (or less). Knowing how to make ok-looking art quickly can come in handy if time, energy or inspiration is an issue.

2) Multiple mediums: Although I have a preferred art medium (eg: a mixture between watercolour pencil painting, drawing and digital image editing), I have a basic knowledge of a couple of similar mediums. Namely monochrome B&W artwork (like this) and some rudimentary digital art skills learnt from my image editing experience.

Knowing how to use a couple of art mediums, even if they’re fairly similar, can be absolutely invaluable when you have to make a “lazy” piece of art. Since having multiple options available to you will allow you to instantly choose the “quickest” or “easiest” one and then focus more time and effort on actually making art.

3) Use what you’ve got: This one is fairly self-explanatory but, if you’re making a “lazy” piece of art, then no effort should be wasted. So, if you’ve got an old failed painting or an unfinished piece of artwork or even an unused idea, then use it.

Likewise, if you’re well-practiced at one type of art, then make that type of art (eg: this is one reason why a lot of my more recent “uninspired” paintings have been cyberpunk paintings. Since this is a genre I can pretty much paint in my sleep). It’ll be easier and it’ll look better too, thanks to all of your previous practice.

4) Know the theory: The difference between a good and bad piece of “lazy” art can often come down to how much the artist knows about the theory of art. This includes things like knowing where to add shadows and shading, how to use different types of perspective, knowing which types of compositions work well, having a basic understanding of what complementary colours are etc…

For example, one of the things I’ve been focusing on over the past year or two is getting better at choosing colours in my art. So, when it came to making the “lazy” digitally-edited drawing at the beginning of this article, I was able (after a little experimentation) to make the colours look like something from a modern 1980s-style album cover or an old comic book. In terms of the colour scheme, I went for a very slight variation on the classic red/green/blue one. Likewise, I also tried to add as much realistic shading as I could to the picture too.

A couple years ago, I probably wouldn’t have known how to do this and the picture would probably be a clashing mess of colours and/or just a series of boring “realistic” colours. Likewise, the lack of proper shading would have made it look much more “rushed” and “undetailed” too. So, yes, theory and knowledge can make a lot of difference!

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Last-Minute Inspiration Sources If You Don’t Have A Clue What Your Next Webcomic Update Will Be About

2017-artwork-three-quick-comic-ideas

Well, at the time of writing, I’m in the later stages of preparing a webcomic mini series (which will be posted here in late November/early December). One problem with this mini series was that I ended up feeling uninspired a lot more than I had expected.

Although this was mostly because I hadn’t planned the mini series in advance enough, regretting rushing into a comic mini series wasn’t going to help me finish the mini series. So, I thought that I’d go over some of the last-minute things to do if you don’t have a clue what your next webcomic update will be about. Of course, some of these will work best in some webcomics and some will work best in others. So, use your own judgement!

1) Culture: If you need an idea for a webcomic update in a hurry, then have your characters discuss films, games, books etc… These don’t have to be the latest up-to-date examples of these things. In fact, if you like something slightly more obscure and can write at length about it (without doing too much time-consuming research), then your comic update will be more distinctive as a result.

This is a good source of inspiration if you’re in a hurry for the simple reason that you probably have a favourite film, game, TV show etc.. or because you’ve probably encountered some kind of entertainment media within the past few days. Even if the only entertainment media you’ve seen recently is absolutely terrible or boring, then this is perfect source material for a cynical comic update.

Likewise, parodies (of films, games, TV shows etc..) are always a great last-minute idea if you aren’t feeling that inspired.

2) Art and an excuse: If you’re in the mood for making interesting art, but don’t have a good idea for what your next webcomic will be about, then one way to get around this is just to draw an interesting or unusual picture of your characters and then see if you can work backwards and extrapolate a comic idea from it.

At the very least, you can always use the old “it was a dream!” thing (this can work in very short webcomics, but it’s an abysmal plot twist to use in longer comics!). Or, even if that fails, then you’ve still got an interesting-looking picture of your characters that you can use as filler material to show the members of your audience who are expecting you to post something at the appointed time.

3) Opinions: Chances are, you probably have opinions that are either amusing in and of themselves and/or you have more serious opinions which can be expressed in an amusing way.

But, unless you specialise in making political cartoons, then having too many opinion cartoons in your webcomic series might annoy your audience. So, this is is best done occasionally at most. Likewise, make sure that the opinion actually makes sense in the context of your comic (and you don’t lecture the audience either).

The great thing about using opinions for inspiration is that, since you’ve already formed your opinions, the only thing you have to worry about is how to express them in comic form (eg: you don’t have to think of a totally new comic idea, just a way to use a pre-existing idea).

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Ways To Make A Webcomic Update In A Hurry

2017-artwork-making-comic-updates-in-a-hurry

Although I talked about filler updates yesterday, I thought that I’d look at something subtly different today – namely, how to make a webcomic update quickly.

This is mostly because, the day before I wrote this article, I found that I had relatively little time to prepare the second of the two comic updates (to be posted as part of a mini series in late July) that I’d planned to make that day.

Luckily, I still made the comic update. Here’s a reduced-size preview of it:

The full-size comic update will be posted here on the 26th July.

The full-size comic update will be posted here on the 26th July.

So, how was I able to speed everything up? Here are a few tips:

1) Three panels or one panel: Most of my webcomic updates tend to have 4-5 panels per update, this comic update only has three – even if this is cleverly disguised by the unusual panel layout. Although this might sound like it would be more difficult to write (since there’s less space for dialogue and storytelling), it actually isn’t if you’ve had a bit of practice.

Whilst longer comics might require more complex writing or structure, three panel comics often just follow the rule of “premise, set-up, punchline“. The first panel sets the scene, the second panel creates an expectation (about the third panel) and the third panel then shatters that expectation in an amusing way.

When you’ve seen this done enough times (typically in newspaper comics) and have practiced it a bit, then it’s a very familiar and easy rhythm that can help you to come up with quick comic ideas when you’re in a hurry.

Likewise, the general rule with one-panel comics is to set up an expectation with the art or the dialogue, and then subvert it with whichever one you haven’t used already (eg: art or dialogue) to set up the expectation.

2) Recycling: If you’re in a rush, then you probably won’t have much planning time for your comic update. So, take all or part of an idea or a joke from one of your previous comic updates and try to find a new twist on it (or add something to it). Don’t repeat the joke or idea exactly, but borrow the parts that made it so good the last time you used it.

For example, when I was making the comic update that I previewed earlier in this article, I didn’t have a huge amount of planning time. So, since it was a science fiction comic, I borrowed elements from the joke from this old four-panel comic of mine about VR technology and then used a slightly different punchline.

Although recycling your own stuff isn’t the most creative thing in the world and it shouldn’t be done that often, it can be useful for actually making something when you are in a hurry.

3) Art tricks: There are probably too many of them to mention every one here, but it’s always a good idea to learn some tricks that make the art in your comic look better than it actually is. This will save you time, whilst also allowing you to make impressive-looking comic updates.

These tricks include things like giving the illusion of detail, using realistic lighting to distract from the lack of detail in other parts of the artwork, making the setting look larger than it actually is, using simplified backgrounds, numerous digital editing techniques etc……

For example, most of the art in the preview at the beginning of this article is in the large middle panel. In case you can’t tell from the preview image, most of the art in that panel was created digitally using a few image effects. What this meant was that the bulk of the update’s art could be created by just selecting a few areas of the picture and applying various image effects.

However, the other two panels are made traditionally using ink and watercolours (albeit with some digital image editing after I scanned them). Since the comic starts off and ends with a traditional panel, it still gives the impression that the comic update was mostly made traditionally. Even though only about 25% of the entire update was created by slightly more time-consuming traditional methods.

If you learn sneaky tricks like this, then they can come in handy when you are in a hurry.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Quick Tips For Writing Fast

2017 Artwork Tips For Faster Writing

Well, since I was in a slight rush when I started writing this article, I thought that I’d give you a few tips about how to write fast. Most of these tips will work regardless of whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, but there are some slight differences.

So, let’s get started.

1) Practice your typing (or write it by hand): As I mentioned in this other article, you don’t need a touch-typing course to learn how to type fast (although it might help). All you need is lots of practice.

But, even if you still type by poking each key individually, then just keep doing this until you get faster. Try to use two fingers, one on each hand for each side of the keyboard.

When you’ve learnt to type fast, words don’t feel like a collection of individual letters. Each word feels like a pattern of movement instead. You move your hands in one way to make one word, and in a different way to make another. Almost like playing chords on a guitar.

Likewise, if you can, use a word processing program without a spell-checker (I use WordPad) and, when you’ve finished, copy your writing into one that does have a spell-checker. This might sound convoluted, but going back and correcting spellings every couple of minutes when you’re writing can be a huge distraction (and not the good kind, like in the third point on this list).

But if, like I used to, you write faster by hand than you do with a keyboard, then write it out by hand first. Yes, copying up the first draft is a bit of a hassle, but it also gives you a chance to edit what you’ve written and it’s less difficult than having to write it for the first time.

2) Simplicity (or not): Unless you’re really on a roll, you don’t have time for either fancy prose or informal prose, or for prose that is too short or too long when you’re writing fast.

The emphasis when writing fast is on just getting your ideas down on paper or on the screen. Go with the style that feels the most natural to you, regardless of whether you feel more comfortable with formal or informal writing styles. Regardless of whether you love to write at length or if you prefer shorter things. Go with what feels natural.

If you’re worried about using repetitive speech tags (eg: “he said”, “she said” etc..) or repetitive sentence openings, then don’t worry. Although it doesn’t always look very elegant, it’s easier for the reader to absorb and skip past repeated things than it is for them to read ten different words or descriptions for the same thing.

One trick for reducing repeated sentence openings without losing writing speed is to have a few well-practiced stock phrases that you can throw in at the beginning of sentences in order to keep things interesting (eg: “Therefore..”, “Another…”, “Likewise…”, “Whilst…” etc..). It makes everything sound a bit like an old school essay, but at least it keeps things mixed up.

As for speech tags, just go with “he said” and “she said” as much as possible. Using too many other types of speech tags too often just makes the writing sound pretentious or it makes the writer sound inexperienced. So, keep it basic. This will also save you having to consult a thesaurus when your characters start talking.

3) Write in bursts (or don’t): Often, when I’m writing quickly, I don’t just sit there and do nothing but writing. I’ll fire out a few sentences and then I’ll pause to read a little bit of something, pause and do nothing, or pause to change the song I’m listening to. Then I’ll go back and fire out another few sentences.

Having lots of very short breaks might sound like the opposite of what you’re supposed to do when you’re writing fast, but it gives you a little bit of time to gather your thoughts. The little breaks also help you to keep your attention focused on what you’re writing, provided that they don’t last for too long (eg: try to keep them under a minute).

Different people have different attention spans and different ways of writing. So, go for what works for you. If you find that you focus better by doing nothing more than staring at what you’re writing, then do this. If this tends to make you feel worn out or bored, then try taking micro-breaks every few sentences.

4) Stock ideas and writer’s block: Of course, you can be experienced at writing quickly, but it won’t help you if you don’t know what to write. So, either prepare some ideas in advance or have a stock of ideas that you can dip into at any time.

This stock can include things like topics you know a lot about, things that fascinate you, types of character relationships, interesting places, your own memories etc… If you’ve got a good enough stock – and you probably have, even if you don’t realise it yet – then writer’s block can be a bit less of a challenge than it might otherwise be.

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Whew, I wrote the first draft of this article in just under half an hour! Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Tips For Making Quick Daily Art To Post Online

2017 Artwork Ways To Make Quick Daily Art

Although it doesn’t suit every artist, there are certainly advantages (for both you and your audience) to posting art online every day. It gives your audience something new to return to your site for every day. It also means that you have a strong incentive to practice regularly too.

Of course, you should probably have a “buffer” of pre-made art before you start posting any of it online. You’ll probably still have to add to the buffer every day, but it means that you’ll be a lot less likely to miss a day’s updates.

Likewise, if your site has a feature that lets you schedule posts in advance, then take full advantage of it (eg: this is why my daily art posts appear here at precisely 7:45pm GMT every day).

But, most importantly of all, how do you make art quickly enough to post it online every day? I’m sure I’ve mentioned all three of these tips at least once before, but they certainly bear repeating.

1) Standardisation: If you’re making slightly more elaborate art, then one thing that can speed up the creative process is to make sure all of your paintings or drawings are a standard size. If in doubt, start small and – when you feel more comfortable working at larger sizes – keep increasing the size and experimenting with different sizes until you find the right one.

Not only will a standard size save you thinking time every time you make a painting, but you will also eventually be able to work out approximately how long it takes you to fill each page (or part of a page) with art, allowing you to plan your time more accurately.

For example, most of my daily paintings are 18 x 18cm in size, with 1.5 cm black borders at the top and bottom of this area. This basically means that the actual area I have to paint in is only 15 x 18 cm (even if the painting itself looks larger).

Even if I add a lot of detail to one of my paintings, I know that it will usually take me no more than 1-2 hours at the most to fill this amount of paper with art.

2) Sketchbooks: Even though I really don’t seem to keep a non-painting sketchbook these days (well, I have one, but it’s turned into a general notebook, where the closest things to drawings that appear in it are my plans for my occasional webcomics), keeping a sketchbook might be a good idea if you want to post art online every day without it taking too much time.

If you see anything interesting or have any interesting ideas, then just make a quick sketch in your sketchbook. Since these sketches will probably be fairly small and they probably won’t be too detailed, you’ll probably also be able to produce more than one sketch per day.

However, if you only post one of them online every day, then you’ll also be able to increase the size of your art “buffer” – which can either take some of the pressure off of you, or give you time for more elaborate art occasionally.

3) Find “Backup Ideas” For When You’re Uninspired:
One of the major causes of time wastage when making art is probably the planning stage. A drawing or painting may only take you 30-90 minutes to make, but trying to work out what you’re going to draw or paint can sometimes take a lot longer when you aren’t feeling inspired.

To speed this up, I’d recommend finding several “backup ideas” that you can turn to when you feel uninspired. These vary from artist to artist, but they’re basically the kinds of things that you can practically paint or draw in your sleep. In other words, the types of art that you find easiest to make.

For me, this includes natural landscapes, minimalist art, still life paintings, some types of sci-fi art, re-paintings of my really old paintings, fan art etc…. But it might be different for you.

Yes, you might find that some of the paintings you make using these ideas may look “boring”, but you’ll actually have a painting to post online. And you will have made it quickly, because you could start painting right away – rather than having to wait for “inspiration”.

Anyway, the main role of a “backup idea” is just to keep you making art regularly until you feel inspired again. So, even if you might spend four days painting similar-looking minimalist paintings, you’ll still be in the ‘rhythm’ of making daily paintings when inspiration strikes again.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂