How To Add A Story To Your Art Using Connections

2015 Artwork Connected paintings and drawings article sketch

I’m not sure if I’ve talked about this subject before but, for today, I thought that I’d talk about adding connections between several of your drawings or paintings.

Although this sort of thing works best when you’re making a themed art series, it can be a neat thing to do even if you aren’t. But, more than just being something cool, it can also be used to add a story to some of your artwork too.

To give you an example, here are two connected paintings (and, yes, I know that one of them also appeared in yesterday’s article too) that I originally posted here in late December:

"Roboforensics" By C. A. Brown

“Roboforensics” By C. A. Brown

"The Abandoned Centre" By C. A. Brown

“The Abandoned Centre” By C. A. Brown

If you look closely at the second painting, you’ll notice that the dead robot from the first painting can be seen to be very much alive here (although he’s hidden in the background). In case it’s difficult to make out, here’s a close-up:

2015 Artwork Robot close-up

So, why am I mentioning this and what does it have to do with stories?

Adding small and subtle connections between several of your paintings and drawings gives your audience a few glimpses at part of a much larger “story”. It invites the audience to work out what happened between the connected moments that you show in your artwork. Although you don’t have to come up with much of a story, it’s always a good idea to at least hint at one.

For example, with the robot I mentioned earlier, the only real story is that he either is or was a police officer in a dystopian society (as shown by both his hat and the “OBEY” poster in the close-up) and that he either went rogue (depending on how you interpret the armed detective in the “Roboforensics” painting) or he was gunned down by persons unknown whilst working on a case.

If you’ll pardon the pun, it’s only the barest skeleton of a story and it’s extremely ambiguous. But, this is all you really need to do when you add a story to your artwork by connecting several of your pictures. People are inherently curious, so if you leave a lot of the story mysterious then your audience are going to want to “fill in the gaps” for themselves. Because, let’s face it, who can resist an unsolved mystery?

Even if your connection is something really small, like a distinctive background object that appears in several of your paintings or drawings, then this can still add something of a story to your artwork.

After all, if two of your paintings feature the same distinctive background object, then your audience is probably going to try to work out exactly how it got from one painting to the other. So, even small connections can invite your audience to think of a story to go with your artwork.

Sorry for the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

Halloween Approaches, Dare You Read “Acolyte!”? (My Free Interactive Horror/Comedy Story)

2015 Artwork Acolyte! Cover poster version

In case you missed the announcement earlier this month, I’ve written an interactive comedy horror story which can be read for free here.

It’s kind of like those old gamebooks that you might have played back in the 1990s, but it’s online… and, unlike in the 90s, you don’t need a dial-up modem, dice rolls, stat sheets or anything like that.

But, don’t just take my word for it, just read these expert testemonials (which I totally didn’t just make up, well, ok, I might have done… you can’t prove anything!!!):

Worship me, foolish mortal! … And read “Acolyte!” too, it’s awesome!
-The Elder Goddess Zuccax.

Ah… yes… I love “Acolyte!” It’s what I read to… unwind.. every night after a hard day’s work! It… really… speaks to me.
– The Keeper Of Darkblade Manor’s Historic Dungeons.

Bleat! Bleat! BLEAT! Bleat, bleat bleat!”
– Goats Against Ritual Sacrifice

A Sneak Peek At Some Upcoming Projects :)

2015 Artwork October Halloween preview

Well, it’s October and you know what is at the end of October? November, obviously. Well, no, there’s a little thing called Halloween too.

Anyway, I’ve got two really cool projects lined up for Halloween.

One will be another comic that will be posted here near at the end of the month and it will be a sequel to “Diabolical Sigil“. It’ll also be posted here and on DeviantART roughtly simultaneously, so neither place will get it too far before the other does.

The other project is well…. a bit more secret… I don’t know when I’ll post it online (and, yes, I’ve already set up a separate blog for it but as the 17 people who’ve tried to view it will probably tell you, it’s currently set to private).

It will be the closest thing to actual fiction that I’ve written in at least a year or so. As for what it is, well, the picture at the top of this article is the only clue I’m willing to give at the moment. But, it’s going to be awesome!

Writing The Rites – A Retrospective

"Liminal Rites  Cover" by C.A.Brown

“Liminal Rites Cover” by C.A.Brown

Well, forty chapters, an epilogue, a prologue and 30,000 words later – it’s over. “Liminal Rites” is finished.

I hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed reading it.

Liminal Rites” was my second, and longest, attempt at writing a daily episodic story and I have to admit that my exhausted reaction when I finished the epilogue was something along the lines of ‘never again!’. I’d be lying if I said that writing “Liminal Rites” was anything but intense.

Still, it was fun. And it is also the longest story I’ve ever written too.

In case anyone is wondering, my original inspiration for this story was a dream I had on the 11th July. Whilst the content of the dream was quite different to this story, it was filled with a constant feeling of being stuck in between two places. When I woke up, I felt like turning it into a story of some kind – but I didn’t know how. Eventually, later that evening, I suddenly thought ‘I should make it completely and totally bizarre!’.

And, in that moment, “Liminal Rites” was born.

I launched myself into writing it and making this blog for it fairly quickly and my my mind was filled with all sorts of strange ideas about it. However, just after I’d posted the prologue online I suddenly realised the enormity of what I’d just committed myself to. A story (which could easily turn into a novel) that I had to update daily. I have to admit that I felt like a total idiot, but it seemed too late to turn back.

So, I carried on writing.

And that’s how “Liminal Rites” got started.

I have to admit that it ended up being a slightly different story to what I expected (the spectral hand I drew on the cover never made an appearance, but the dark scenery I chose for the background of the cover and this blog was oddly prescient).

Another thing that turned out differently about this story was the general tone of it too. When I started writing “Liminal Rites”, I pre-emptively flagged it as “mature content”, since I expected it to be this gruesome and bizarre horror story. However, in the end, it turned out to be something which – if it was a film – would probably be at the very upper end of the “12A”/ “PG-13” categories (or possibly very slightly higher). I don’t know, I guess that I tend to write horror a lot differently than I used to.

Something else I didn’t realise about daily writing until I started this story was how intense it was. Even though I quickly made a large “buffer” of chapters which gave me a bit of space to take a break – writing this much this quickly had quite an impact on my writing style in general. For starters, my writing style quickly ended up becoming a lot more “functional” than I expected and, due to time reasons, some parts of this story read like a first draft too.

I don’t know, all in all, making “Liminal Rites” was certainly quite an interesting experience and I hope that reading it was too 🙂

From “Ambitus” – ‘Jola’s Day’ (Fiction)

2013 Artwork Ambitus Episode One Cover

“Jola’s Day” is probably my favourite chapter from episode one of “Ambitus“, a sci-fi/comedy fiction series which I’m working on at the moment (it will be updated daily at 22:30pm GMT and it can be found here).

Anyway, this chapter (which is pretty much a self-contained story) introduces Captain Jola of the FMS Imperial, who is the main antagonist of the series. It’s also one of the funniest chapters in episode one, not to mention that it was also a brilliant opportunity to parody a few of my favourite sci-fi shows too.


“Ambitus” Episode One – Chapter Three – Jola’s Day

By C. A. Brown

Captain Jola of the FMS Imperial was having a bad day. The day had started quietly with an attempted raid by two pirate crafts. They’d made off with half of the engine coils and a third of the provisions before the gunner could get a lock on their ship. About half of the technical crew was still paddling around outside the craft in suits trying to recover as much of the engine as they could.

On top of that, three ensigns had been found storing contraband in the bulkheads. It was nothing major, just a few weapon parts and stimulant precursors but security would have to trace everything they’d found. In addition to this, procedure dictated a full search of every bulkhead in the event that anything else had been stored there. Jola was more than a bit nervous that they’d turn up his secret stash of impropriotous sense recordings from New Paris. Of course, he’d have to find some way to pin that on the ensigns too and, dammit, one of them was supposed to be overseeing the repairs to his transport pod.

By the time Captain Jola had got his morning coffee, it had gone cold. Not only had it gone cold, but there was something floating in it. He suspected that it was a crouton, but it looked distinctly biological and it smelt disgusting. He’d left the coffee and sent a memo to his lieutenants to redouble precautions against assassination attempts.

This attempt was probably from one of the techs in the bio labs. Ever since Jola had passed on the pay cuts from Main Command, he’d found the occasional genetically-modified rodent in his cabin and the occasional small pile of mysterious white powder in his ration tray. Fortunately, he thought, highly-qualified scientists make terrible murderers. Still, he’d have to get the crouton tested before he could file charges. And, of course, there was only one place on the FMS Imperial with the facilities to do this and he wasn’t visiting there any time soon.

Worst of all his second-in-command, Lieutenant Riller, had walked straight onto the bridge, taken one look at the coffee and cheerfully said ‘Thanks captain, just what I needed.’ Before Jola could say anything, Riller had drank half of it and had started chewing the crouton.

Smiling at Jola, Riller had said: ‘Hmm… it tastes like cinnamon’. Five seconds later, the first blue spot had appeared on Riller’s forehead. Ten seconds later, Riller had turned completely blue and started frothing at the mouth. Thirty seconds later, Riller was in the infirmary and Jola was arguing with Doctor Trelleck about whether the main bridge needed to be shut down in case whatever was in the crouton was also contagious. The Doctor had won.

Two full-body scans later, Jola had found himself in the cramped and dusty secondary bridge with all of his bridge staff. The atmospherics were playing up and the techs who had been assigned to fix it were just about visible through the porthole by the obsolete navigation console. They were wrestling with what looked distinctly like a giant frozen Bucolian squid.

It took Captain Jola a few seconds to realise that it was the same Bucolian squid which he’d been saving in the back of the stores compartment as the piece de resistance for the the diplomatic reception scheduled in two days’ time. He’d have to serve the representatives of three unstable worlds standard rations and Main Command would not be happy about it.

About halfway through describing to the bridge crew exactly what he would do to the next vessel of uncultured frixing pirates that crossed the FMS Imperial, Doctor Trelleck had turned up to ask about funeral arrangements for Lt. Riller. In a fit of rage, Jola had told her to just fire what was left of Riller out of the nearest torpedo tube on the off-chance that his body might puncture the hulls of any pirate vessels in the general vicinity. The last thing Jola had expected was for Trelleck to take him literally.

As the space-frozen body of his former second-in-command streaked past the porthole and obliterated one of the technicians, Jola had recieved a message from Main Command informing him of how the FMS Glorious had recently secured a new section of the border region.

For the first time in the whole day, Jola had smiled – at last he’d actually be able to try out the new phase cannon which had been installed a couple of weeks ago. After all of this, he was in the mood for blowing ten shades of crud out of the next ship which crossed his path. Then the second part of the message from central command had arrived.

Along with two cadet ships, the FMS Imperial had been assigned to collect civilian UT detainees from the new border zone. Jola practically smashed the console up. If there was one thing he hated more than peace, it was dealing with hundreds of border detainees. Hundreds of border detainees who would take up three of the cargo decks, take every chance they could to sabotage his ship, constantly claim their frixing rights under the frixing Sirtis Convention and constantly pester his crew. Even if he was able to palm most of them off to the two cadet ships, there was no way that his ship would be working smoothly for the next three weeks at least.

So, when one of his lieutenants pointed to an unidentified small vessel on the long-range scans which had an expired ident chip, a smile crossed his face for the second time. Law enforcement was part of his general orders and putting the fear of the Gods into some incompetent transport captain seemed like the perfect way to blow off some steam.

Turning to his bridge staff, Jola rubbed his hands together and said: ‘Bring me that ship!’

Introducing “Liminal Rites – A Surreal Detective Story”

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[Edited 14/7/13]

Well, I am very proud to announce my latest creative project “Liminal Rites – A Surreal Detective Story” [Note: This may end up turning into a horror story. You have been warned…].

Liminal Rites” will be a novella/novel which will be released episodically (probably either daily and/or whenever I write any of it) on it’s own blog, which can be found here. The first four chapters are online right now, with chapters five and six on the way over the next couple of days….

“Liminal Rites” follows Claura Draine, amateur detective and soon-to-be-former university student who is still hanging around in town at the end of term, waiting for the lease on her student house to end. The last thing she expects is a new case which will take her to the very edge of reality and beyond…

I should probably point out that since “Liminal Rites” is a surreal dark comedy/horror/mystery story in the tradition of Warren Ellis, William S.Burroughs, Hunter S.Thompson, Satoshi Kon and David Cronenburg – it will probably contain disturbing imagery, strong language, horror and other things which are more suitable for mature audiences.

Timeless (fiction)

2013 Artwork Timeless story sketch

Well, I was going to draw another page of my “Stories” comic earlier, but I couldn’t think what to draw. So, I decided to write a random short story instead. This story is more of a descriptive writing/stream-of-consciousness kind of story more than anything else, but hopefully it’s still interesting and not too over-written.

If anyone is curious, the two songs alluded to in this story are The Sisters Of Mercy’s excellent cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” and a random cyberpunk song called “DNA Codec” by Valium Era.

Anyway, without any further ado, here is “Timeless”.

We decided to ride out the apocalypse in a club. It was the kind of place you could only find in nineteen-nineties fin-de-siecle cyberpunk adventure games. The kind of place which the apocalypse would probably find comfortingly familiar. They had cheap cocktails and a good DJ too, it’s the kind of place which last memories are made of.

Revenz sat next to me, sipping a neon purple cocktail and looking at something on her phone. I think it was a countdown program of some kind, a morbidly fascinating death clock for the world.

Although we’ve known each other for years, it always seemed slightly odd when she used a modern phone. She kind of has the whole fifties Bettie Page gothic domme look going on – with maybe a bit of roaring twenties, art deco, silent movie Louise Brooks glamour too. Although she’s the same age as me, she could have fitted into any time in history and still been edgy and interesting. She’s an anchronism of the most amazing kind and I couldn’t think of a better person to spend the apocalypse with.

‘Lore, you know what this place needs? Pyramids.’ She smiled.


‘Yeah, pyramids. Bright golden pyramids. They go with anything.’

I couldn’t disagree. They were as timeless as Revenz. Pyramids were the kind of things which were strong enough to not only withstand an apocalypse but to lodge in the collective consciousness of the cockroaches which would inevitably survive for a hundred generations. Yet, they were ephemeral, up for grabs, public domain. Ancient history. And that’s how things survive – they spread like viruses. Or should that be “virii”? They stay open, they get changed and modified by everyone until they’re nothing more than a recurring background detail in the world’s subconscious mind.

Revenz finished her drink and said: ‘So, do you think it’ll be for real this time?’

‘Nah, people have been predicting the end of the world since it began. It always survived, it’s probably like quantum immortality on a larger scale.’

‘What?’ She raised an eyebrow.

I took a sip of my pina colada and tried to work out a way to explain the whole thing. It’s like Schrodinger’s Cat, but not quite. It’s kind of the idea that, due to a whole bunch of things to do with parallel universes, it is impossible for a person to subjectively experience their own death.

It was all very theoretical and hypothetical and involved an experiment which looked like something out of a Golden Age sci-fi horror movie. A deadly game where someone sat in a metal box and diced with death every ten seconds – or didn’t, if the theory was to be believed. Anyway, my own interpretation of the basic theory behind this geeky game of Russian roulette was absolutely fascinating, but annoyingly difficult to explain.

Finally, I muttered ‘Nothing, just some random thing I read.’

‘Whatever it is, as long as it works, then it doesn’t really matter.’

‘I think it works, it’s impossible to prove or disprove.’

‘Like the apocalypse?’

We smiled at each other and I shook my glass, Revenz nodded and I got up to get some more drinks. As I squeezed through the throbbing dancefloor, the DJ started playing a version of ‘Gimme Shelter’, I hadn’t heard before. It had haunting guitars, staccato drum machine rhythms and sonorous eighties vocals. Everyone slowed down, as if it was the first cracklings of the apocalypse.

When I got to the bar, it was still crowded three deep. All I could do was stand at the back and let myself be carried forwards, as if by osmosis. When I got there, I rustled a note onto the sheet metal counter and asked for a pina colada and a purple sparkle. The barman cupped his hand to his ear, I almost shouted it. Pina colada and a purple sparkle. He raised an eyebrow, so I tried again. Fighting against the all-consuming music. This time, he nodded, plucked the note off of the counter and started mixing.

A punk guy with bright red hair and a mushroom cloud tattoo picked up a pint of lager from the counter and almost spilled it over my dress. We muttered subliminal apologies to each other over the music before he walked away and I turned back to the bar. The two drinks were waiting and I moved to thank the barman, but he’d already gone. Picking them up, I osmosed through the crowd again and circumvented the dancefloor entirely.

By now, the music had changed to mechanical techno beats intercut with audio clips from an old German science video. It was oddly mesmeric. When I got back to our table, Revenz was playing with her phone again. She looked up and nodded at me.

‘Fifteen seconds left.’ She smiled.

I smiled too, hopefully not too nervously. For all the stuff about quantum immortality, I still felt butterflies in my stomach. That exhilerating pre-freefall lightness which can happen completely at random and make the whole world feel warm, bittersweet and exciting for a few seconds. Ten to be precise.

‘To the end.’ I muttered and raised my glass. We clinked them together and downed our drinks in one gulp. Fortifying.

Revenz brushed a strand of hair behind her ear and put her phone on the table. In bright red and black, there was just a number on the screen – eight. Then Seven. Then Six. Five. Four. Three. Two.

The music stops. Conversations fade out like static on a dying radio. Glasses clink in a skeletal drumroll.