How To Find “New” Art Techniques – A Ramble

A few days before I wrote this article, I ended up making a digitally-edited drawing (based on a photo I took last April) that looked significantly more realistic than most of my art does. Here’s a preview of the picture:

This is a reduced-size preview, the full-size artwork will be posted here on the 5th April.

One of the interesting things about making this picture was that none of the techniques I used to make it were really “new” to me. Yet, they produced a piece of art that was totally different to anything I’d made before.

I already knew how to take interesting-looking photos, I already knew how to draw from photos by sight, I already knew how to directly sample colours using image editing programs, I already knew how to mask off areas by selecting them, I already knew how to use digital airbrush tools etc… Yet, I’d somehow never thought of combining these skills with each other before I made this picture.

Here’s a (slightly simplified) chart to show you what I mean:

(Note: To view full size image, click on it and then select “View Full Size” below the image). This chart doesn’t show every step, but it shows how combining skills you already know can result in new techniques etc..

So, one of the best ways to find “new” art techniques is simply to look at all of the techniques that you already know and to try combining them in different ways.

But, although this is something that can be done consciously and deliberately, the best examples of it just tend to appear when you are reasonably confident with the techniques that you already know. When you instinctively know how and why a particular technique “works”, then finding ways to combine it with other things you know well will seem a lot more natural and intuitive.

For example, I suddenly thought of the mixture of techniques I showed you earlier because I thought it would save time. It didn’t save much time, but it did result in more realistic-looking art. So, yes, these things don’t always happen completely deliberately.

Plus, of course, you can keep adding other techniques to the mix too. For example, here’s a preview of the digitally-edited drawing (based on this photo I took last April) that I made the day after the one I showed you earlier. It uses the same mixture of techniques I’ve already mentioned….

This is a reduced-size preview, the full-size artwork will be posted here on the 5th April.

…But, if you look closely at the trees and buildings, you’ll see that there is some very slightly more dramatic lighting. Here’s a close-up to show you what I mean:

Notice how the light seems to be filtering through the trees and buildings in a slightly hazy “lens flare”-like way.

How did I do this? Simple. I just used a technique that I’d used in digitally-edited paintings before (but hadn’t thought to use in the previous picture).

More specifically, once I’d worked out what colour the light was, I used a very large digital airbrush (applied lightly) to create the impression of a lens flare. And this technique was something I originally discovered when trying to find quicker/easier alternatives to using the digital lighting effects in an open source program called “GIMP 2.8. 22” – and I worked it out because I was quite familiar with how the program’s airbrush feature worked.

So, the general lesson here is that if you learn an artistic skill or technique to the point where it almost seems instinctive, then finding new ways to combine it with other techniques will become a lot easier and more intuitive. In other words, skills build more skills.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Clever Hidden Tricks That Writers Use

Well, I thought that I’d write about a few of the clever hidden tricks that writers use today (kind of like how game designers use hidden mechanics in videogames).

This article was initially inspired by a few of the books that I’ve read since I got back into reading regularly about a month and a half before I wrote this article. But, although I’ll be talking about some of these books, the cool hidden features I’ll be describing can be found in other books too. In fact, you might have seen a few of them without even realising it.

1) Internal recaps: At the time of writing, I’m binge-reading a ridiculously long 700+ page historical detective novel called “Lamentation” by C. J. Sansom. One of the interesting things about binge-reading a novel of this length is that it means that I was able to spot a really cool hidden feature that is designed to help out people who read it at a slightly slower pace.

In short, every once in a while (such as on page 201) there will be a recap of some of the previous events of the story. Either the narrator will briefly mention how some new clue connects to a previous clue that he has found, or there will be a scene where he spends a few paragraphs thinking about the earlier events of the investigation.

My initial reaction to all of this was “I know!!! I’ve been taking notes!” or “I worked that out on my own already!“. But then I realised that these short recaps are actually a really clever way to make sure that people who, say, only read thirty or fifty pages a day can still follow the complex events of the story. They’re kind of like the “previously..” segments at the beginning of TV show episodes – which are annoying if you’re binge-watching a boxset, but great if you’re watching one episode a week in the traditional manner.

So, if you’re telling a novel-length story, then it can be useful to occasionally include brief recaps of what has happened earlier in the story. Just like how novels in a series will sometimes quickly mention events from earlier novels in the series (to help both new readers and long-term readers), it can also be useful to briefly recap the earlier events of the story that you’re telling right now.

2) Hinting at a larger world/story: This is a technique that I noticed during both the final novel in Jocelynn Drake’s amazing “Dark Days” series and in Dashiell Hammett’s excellent “The Maltese Falcon“. Both stories will hint at a much larger story or “world” than is actually shown on the page – either through brief descriptions (that imply background stuff that isn’t directly explained or shown), through tantalisingly brief descriptions of really fascinating background events or through showing a dramatic event and then partially leaving what happens afterwards to the reader’s imagination.

When used well, this sneaky technique is useful because it helps to immerse the reader in the story. Although this might sound like it would annoy the reader, it has the opposite effect – it makes them curious. It makes them want to imagine what else happens in your story’s “world” and it makes them want more. It can also be a sneaky way to give your characters and/or story more depth than is shown on the page.

This technique is nothing new though and the most famous example of it can be seen in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” stories. Although most of Doyle’s stories will focus on just one of Sherlock Holmes’ cases, there will occasionally be ultra-brief references to some of Holmes’ previous cases. Some of these will be cases that appear in other stories but, in a stroke of genius, some of them aren’t.

This hints to the reader that they’re only seeing a few of the many intriguing mysteries that Holmes has solved. Not only does this make him seem like a character that exists independently of the events shown in the stories, but it also makes him seem like a more prolific detective too.

3) Easily- readable historical narration: One of the clever things that I’ve noticed in historical novels written in the 21st century, like Natasha Pulley’s “The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street” and C. J. Sansom’s “Lamentation”, is how they’re able to create an ‘authentic’ historical setting whilst still using first-person narration that is very readable to modern audiences.

The narration in both these novels still sounds a lot like something from Victorian London/Tudor England, but these novels are as easy and intuitive to read as a non-historical modern novel would be. And, if you’ve ever tried to read anything that is actually from Victorian or Tudor times, then you’ll know how… challenging… these things can be to read when compared to modern writing.

So, how do they do it? These writers look at the general linguistic features of writing from these times and then apply some of the underlying “rules” from this to more straightforward modern-style narration. The important thing is choosing which rules to follow and which ones to ignore. Basically, if a rule gets in the way of the story, then it has to go.

For example, the Victorian-style narration in Pulley’s “The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street” keeps the formal language and style used in 19th century fiction, but sticks to using words and sentence structures that modern readers will easily understand. On the other hand, the narration ditches the frequent references to classical mythology that are a common part of 19th century fiction (because modern readers will be confused by these).

Likewise, the 16th century-style narration in Sansom’s “Lamentation” is kept very readable because it uses a slightly modernised version of the more “matter of fact” tone used in non-fiction writing from this time (rather than, say, the elegant theatrical poetry of Shakespeare). In other words, it focuses on using the more “timeless” parts of the English language, but with modern spelling and grammar. This is then complimented by a few carefully-chosen historical words and phrases that usually make sense from the context that they’re used in.

So, yes, if you want to make historical fiction narration more readable, then look at the “rules” used by writers of the time you are studying and then try to find an unobtrusive way to apply some of them to more modern-style narration.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Cheap Ways To Make Trendy Types Of Art

Well, I thought that I’d write a proper instructional article since it’s been a few days since I last wrote one. So, for today, I’ll be looking at a few interesting artistic trends and telling you how you can re-create them in your own art without spending a ridiculous amount of money.

1) Vivid “retro-style” palettes: I’m not sure what the technical name for this trend is, but this style of colour palette been a feature of my art style for over a year. It looks a bit like this:

“Stage Lighting” By C. A. Brown

“Bus Stop” By C. A. Brown

Initially, it was something that I learnt from a really set of “Doom II” levels called “Ancient Aliens“. However, when preparing an article a couple of days ago, I realised that another game I’d played a couple of years earlier called “The Gift” also contains a couple of examples of it too. Then, when I saw the first “Guardians Of The Galaxy” movie a few months ago, I was delighted to see it there too.

Although influenced by the 1970s-90s, this style of palette seems to have become something of a slight trend in the 2010s and it’s really easy to re-create.

For starters, try to make sure that bright green, orange, purple, blue, yellow and/or red appear in your art. Then, (and here’s the clever bit) make sure that at least 30-50% of the total surface area of your picture is covered in black ink, paint, pastel etc… These dark areas make the rainbow colours stand out by contrast and gives them that retro-style vividness too.

If you’re editing scans/photos of your traditional art using image editing software, you can also enhance this effect by decreasing the brightness levels slightly, increasing the contrast levels heavily and increasing the colour saturation heavily.

In most editing programs, this can be done by looking for two options called something like “brightness/contrast” and “hue/saturation/lightness” in the program’s menus.

2) Marker pen-style art (for less!): If you look at art videos on Youtube, one art medium that you’ll see a lot are alcohol-based markers. However, even small sets of no-brand alcohol-based markers can have eyebrow-raising prices if you’re on a budget.

So, what’s a good, and slightly cheaper, substitute?

Well, you can use an older art medium in a very slightly unusual way. This technique won’t make art that looks exactly like marker pen art, but it’ll look very vaguely similar – if slightly less bold. Without any digital post-processing, it looks a bit like this:

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

Get some cheap watercolour paper (the more absorbent the better!), a wet paintbrush and some watercolour pencils (which, unless you buy fancy brands, cost far less per pencil than a set of markers costs per pen). Then apply a decent amount of pressure when using the watercolour pencils. Really saturate the paper with pigment. This will make your art look like a bold pencil drawing.

Then, lightly moisten your paintbrush (the less water the better!) and very gently go over your art with the brush, being sure to clean the brush between going over differently-coloured areas. The less pressure, the better. The goal here is to add just enough water to convert the pigment into paint, but not enough to turn it into more traditional “watery” watercolour paint.

The cheaper and more absorbent your watercolour paper is, the better this effect will look! Absorbent paper stops the paints from sliding around/ running into each other too much, although it does carry the risk of the paper becoming over-saturated with water if you aren’t very careful about the amount of water you use (again, less is more!).

If you want to make your art look even more like a marker pen drawing, then either buy a cheap waterproof ink rollerball pen (they’re about £2-4 each) and make a line drawing on the page before you begin painting. Or, if this is outside your budget, just wait until your painting dries and then go over the dry picture with a non-waterproof ink pen.

If you’re editing scans/photos of your art digitally, then just use the “brightness, contrast & saturation” trick I mentioned earlier to give your watercolour pencil art even more of a “marker pen” style look. Like this:

This is a digitally-edited version of the picture I showed you earlier – with digital alterations to the brightness, contrast and colour saturation levels.

3) Digital-style art (without graphics tablets or expensive programs): Digital art is more popular than ever these days. However, if you watch any Youtube videos about it, you’ll often see artists using an array of fancy high-end graphics tablets and expensive professional programs. But, you can make digital-style art with a pen, a piece of paper, some basic electronic equipment and a free open-source program.

As long as you have a computer (even a low-end one) and either a digital camera (even a phone camera) or, even better, a cheap scanner – then you can make some really cool digital-style art at a low cost. This is a technique that I initially heard about in this “making of” page for my favourite webcomic (“Subnormality” by Winston Rowntree) – but you don’t need the commercial image editing program that Rowntree uses.

Anyway, start by making an ordinary line drawing with pens and paper (being sure not to leave any gaps between areas that are going to be different colours). Once you’ve done this, you can then add the colours digitally.

You don’t need an expensive image editing program to do this! You can even legally download a totally free, open-source program called “GIMP” (GNU Image Manipulation Program) -which has versions for Windows, Linux and Mac. This program has many of the basic features that commercial editing programs do and is reasonably user-friendly too.

Anyway, how do you turn a photo/scan of some line art into something that looks like digital art?

Firstly, open your line art in whatever program you use, find your program’s “cropping tool”, “snipping tool”, “crop tool” etc.. (the icon for this feature usually looks like two diagonally-overlapping “L” shapes. But, in GIMP 2.6, the icon for it looks like a scalpel/craft knife) and cut away any unneeded background things, like the scanner bed or anything in the background of your photo.

Then look for the “brightness/contrast” option in your editing program and lower the brightness levels and increase the contrast levels until your art looks suitably bold. Like this piece of line art:

This is a piece of line art that has been cropped. After this, I’ve made it look bolder by decreasing the brightness levels and increasing the contrast levels. I think that most programs have an option called “Threshold” that does something similar to this too, but I haven’t really tried this.

Then look for an area selection tool in your program. The icon for this tool will often look like a magic wand of some kind. It allows you to select any self-contained segment of a picture. Here’s an example of the tool (called the “Fuzzy Select Tool”) in GIMP 2.6:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] Most image editing programs have a tool like this. It’s incredibly useful!

After you’ve selected an area, you can use a number of your editing program’s features to add colour. For example, in GIMP 2.6, the easiest way to do this is to just use the “bucket fill” tool (after selecting a colour by double-clicking on the “foreground colour” square at the bottom of the toolbox menu).

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] Adding colours digitally in GIMP 2.6. This is super-simple, since you can just use the “bucket fill” tool to add colour to the areas you’ve selected with the magic wand. You can also choose the colour by clicking on the squares in the menu to the left of the picture.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Random Techniques That Will Make Your Art Look Cooler

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Whilst there is no substitute for regular art practice, there are a number of simple artistic techniques that I wish that I’d learnt a lot earlier than I did. I’ve probably mentioned this stuff before, but it’s probably worth repeating nontheless.

So, here are some techniques that will make your art look cooler.

1) Cylindrical surfaces and neon lights: Interestingly, the same technique that can allow you to make cylindrical objects look 3D can also be used to create realistic-looking neon lights and/or strip lights.

The technique is, of couse, simply to make the areas around the edges of a long, thin area darker than the middle. If you want to make something look cylindrical, then make the middle part a lighter shade of the same colours you’ve used for the edges. If you want to make something look luminescent, then either leave the middle part blank or make it significantly lighter than the edges.

Here’s a quick MS Paint diagram to show you what I mean:

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE

Here is an example of the technique in action (albeit with some extra lighting added to the surrounding areas too):

As you can see, the middle part of both flourescent light tubes are either left blank or are a significantly lighter shade of the colour around the edges of the tube.

As you can see, the middle part of both flourescent light tubes are either left blank or are a significantly lighter shade of the colour around the edges of the tube.

2) High-contrast art: I’ve mentioned this before, but one way to make your art look significantly more vivid and dramatic is to ensure that at least 30-50% of the total area of the painting or drawing is covered with black paint or black ink. This makes all of the colours in your artwork look bolder and more vivid by comparison, as well as giving your artwork a gloomy 1980s/90s style “look” too.

Whilst this effect can be improved through digital editing techniques (such as altering the brightness/contrast levels in an image), one sneaky way to use this effect without being too obvious about it is to add black “letterboxing” bars to the top and bottom of your painting. This also has the effect of making it look like a frame from a film too.

Here’s an example of the technique in action. In addition to my usual digital editing, I’ve also added a sepia filter to the original painting to make the contrast between the light and dark areas of the painting stand out more:

This is a sepia-tinted version of one of my paintings. As you can see, the painting is about 50-70% sepia and 30-50% black.

This is a sepia-tinted version of one of my paintings. As you can see, the painting is about 50-70% sepia and 30-50% black.

3) Wall tiles: One of the easiest ways to give a painting or a drawing a cool retro-futuristic look is to use tiled walls. Yes, these can be a little bit time consuming to draw, but there are a couple of simple tile designs that will give your picture more of an atmospheric look.

Here’s a simple diagram that I made in MS Paint that will show you how to draw two of my favourite wall tile designs:

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE.

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE.

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

Three Ways To Make The Lighting In Your Artwork Look More Interesting

2017-artwork-cool-lighting-article-sketch

As regular readers of this site probably know, one of the things that I’ve been focusing on over the past couple of years is improving the lighting in my digitally-edited paintings. Or, more specifically, learning how to use one particularly cool style of lighting.

This is the kind of lighting that looks like something from a metal concert, the kind of lighting that looks like something from a film noir movie, the kind of lighting that looks like something from an “edgy”mid-late 1990s computer game, the kind of lighting that looks like something from the cyberpunk genre or the kind of lighting that you might see in an old sci-fi horror movie from the 80s or 90s.

In other words, lighting that really stands out. So, how do you create this kind of lighting?

1) It’s all about contrast: One of the principles I learnt when I was teaching myself the basics of how to make black & white monochrome art in 2014/2015 is that a good monochrome picture should consist of 30-50% black ink or black paint. If there isn’t enough, then the entire picture just looks “flat” and the lighter and/or shaded areas of the picture don’t stand out much.

Likewise, in 2016, I learnt that the easiest way to paint bright lights was to leave the centre of the light blank and to go around it with a gradually-darkening layer of whatever colour the light happens to be. Since the area around the centre of the light is slightly darker, it makes the centre of the light look brighter by comparison – like this:

 As you can see, the centre of this monitor is white, whilst the green light from the monitor grows darker as it moves away from the centre of the screen.

As you can see, the centre of this monitor is white, whilst the green light from the monitor grows darker as it moves away from the centre of the screen.

So, why have I mentioned all of this? Well, it’s all to do with contrast. Lighting stands out best when it is constrasted with dark surroundings. After all, a neon sign might look really cool at night – but it would probably look faded and boring if you happened to turn it on during the day.

So, if you use dark or gloomy locations in your art, then the lighting is automatically going to stand out a lot more – like in this old painting of mine from last year that I’ve shown off numerous times before:

"La Chanteuse" By C. A. Brown [2016]

“La Chanteuse” By C. A. Brown [2016]

2) Think logically and physically: I still have a lot to learn when it comes to painting truly realistic lighting. But, by knowing a few very basic principles, I’ve still been able to create dramatic-looking lighting nonetheless. Why? Because I’ve learnt how to think about lighting logically- and so can you.

This is all fairly basic stuff, but it’s important to remember that the lighting in your artwork has to come from somewhere. In other words, your painting should include at least a few obvious light sources (eg: neon signs, computer screens, spotlights, fairy lights etc..) and that these light sources should provide all or most of the light in your picture, just like in real life.

Likewise, you need to learn the basic principles of how light and shadow behave. This is really simple – just start by thinking of the setting of your painting as an actual three-dimensional thing (playing old 3D computer games can help you learn how to think about 2D images in 3D).

Once you’ve done this, then mentally draw straight lines radiating out from each light source – anything that these lines hit should be the same colour as your light (and anything on the opposite side of the things the lines have hit should be in shadow, unless it is being affected by another light).

If the light is brighter, the lines should be longer – if the light is dimmer, they should be shorter. Sound confusing? Here’s a detail from one of my digitally-edited paintings that will appear here in mid-July:

The full painting will appear here on the 16th July.

The full painting will appear here on the 16th July.

Now, here’s a modified version of the picture which shows how I worked out which areas each light source in the foreground of the painting would affect (even though, aside from some very basic shading techniques, I still don’t know how to paint things like faces being affected by light in a realistic way). Each major light source has brighter lines of the same colour radiating away from it and hitting anything nearby:

I've removed the background, lowered the saturation of the rest of the painting and added brighter light trails to the major light sources in the foreground. It isn't perfect, but I hope that this example gives you at least a vague idea of what I'm talking about.

I’ve removed the background, lowered the saturation of the rest of the painting and added brighter light trails to the major light sources in the foreground. It isn’t perfect, but I hope that this example gives you at least a vague idea of what I’m talking about.

The trick is, of course, working out where to put the lights and how many of them to include. Whilst this is something that can only truly be learnt from practice and experimentation, a good way to start is to limit yourself to 1-2 light sources per painting until you get the hang of it.

3) Light colour: You might have noticed that many of the light sources in the example I just showed you are different colours, this is because one of the cool things you can do with lighting is to use it to add a bold colour scheme to your painting.

The easiest way to do this is to use a complementary colour scheme (or two of them ) when deciding what colour the light sources in your painting should be.

To find a complementary colour scheme, just look at a red/yellow/blue colour wheel. Colours that are directly opposite each other on the wheel will complement each other. Likewise, if you draw an equilateral triangle over the wheel, then the three colours at each point of the triangle will compliment each other too.

Of course, you can use slightly different colour schemes than this if you want to create a particular effect (eg: red and blue is perfect for things in the horror/sci-fi horror genre). But, if the lighting in your painting follows at least one complementary colour scheme, then it will instantly add some extra atmosphere to the painting.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Cool Art Tricks I Learnt From Films, TV And/Or Computer Games

2017-artwork-art-techniques-learnt-from-film-tv-and-games

You’d be surprised at how many artistic techniques you can learn from “new” mediums like film (or TV) and games. After all, an individual frame from both of these things still has to obey the same “rules” that ordinary two-dimensional works of art do. After all, all of these things can be displayed on a flat, two-dimensional computer screen – even if the image itself might appear to be three-dimensional.

So, here are three cool art tricks that I learnt from films, TV and/or computer games:

1) Perspective tricks:
One technique I have been experimenting with recently is similar to a technique used in films (and photography) in order to give an image a sense of depth. In films and TV shows, the camera lens will sometimes focus sharply on the foreground which leaves the background looking significantly blurrier and less detailed.

Likewise, some 3D computer games use a similar version of this technique – albeit for different reasons. By only using detailed textures for the foreground and using lower-resolution textures for areas further away from the player, not only do games create a subtler version of this effect but they can also reduce the amount of time and processing power required to “draw” whatever is on the screen at any moment.

When you’re making art, this technique can be re-created using either traditional or digital methods. Of course, you can also combine these two methods if you want the effect to stand out even more.

To do this entirely traditionally, just use a precise drawing-based medium (eg: waterproof ink pens, ordinary pens, pencils, thin markers etc..) to add detail to the foreground and then use paints or pastels exclusively for details in the background.

Here’s a cropped, but otherwise unprocessed, scan of one of my upcoming paintings that shows how this technique can work when trying to portray a smog-covered landscape:

This is an example of the "traditional" version of this technique. As you can see, the foreground details have been drawn using waterproof ink, but the distant background consists of nothing but watercolour.

This is an example of the “traditional” version of this technique. As you can see, the foreground details have been drawn using waterproof ink, but the distant background consists of nothing but watercolour.

To do this digitally, scan or digitally photograph your artwork and then use an image editing program (you can find a free open-source one called “GIMP” here) to select the background. To do this, find your program’s selection tool (in GIMP, it’s called the “Free select tool” and it’s icon looks like a grey lasso) and then use it to draw around the area of your picture that is in the background.

Once you’ve done this, then just apply a few image effects to the background in order to make it look more blurry and/or undetailed. Although these effects vary from program to program, you’ll probably be able to experiment (just remember to save backups and to use the “undo” function) until you get it right. Likewise, you can also select the foreground and apply a few effects to make it look sharper too. Like in this reduced-size preview of one of my other upcoming paintings:

You can just about see the technique in this reduced-size preview of a painting that will appear here on the 15th of July.

You can just about see the technique in this reduced-size preview of a painting that will appear here on the 15th of July.

After my usual digital editing routine in an old editing program called “Paint Shop Pro 6” (with some small corrections in MS Paint too), I selected the buildings in the distant background and added a “dilate” effect, before severely reducing the highlight/midtone/shadow levels in this part of the image.

Then, for good measure, I selected the pillar and computer screens in the close foreground and added a subtle “sharpen” effect to make them look like they were closer to the viewer.

2) Framing and composition: I’ve discussed this technique before, but one cool technique that was used by pixel artists in old “point and click” games was to “frame” the picture by including a few close-up details in the near foreground.

Usually, these close details would be near the edges or the corners of the picture and they instantly add a sense of depth and visual drama to the picture (as if the camera is “lurking” somewhere in the distance).

Back in the old days, when backgrounds in adventure games (and survival horror games) were pre-rendered 2D images (in order to save processing power and make the game look more realistic than it actually is) this compositional technique also allowed a totally static background to appear more three-dimensional. But, although art doesn’t really require much “processing power”, the technique can still be used to great effect.

Here’s a modified version of the preview picture I showed you earlier, where I’ve highlighted how I used this technique (albeit in a slightly less prominent way than in old games):

As you can see, the screens, poster and pillar in the close foreground "frame" the rest of the picture.

As you can see, the screens, poster and pillar in the close foreground “frame” the rest of the picture.

3) Visual storytelling: Since computer games, TV shows and films are storytelling mediums that rely on constant motion (eg: even if nothing is happening on screen – 24-60 frames are being shown every second), they tend to include a lot more motion and drama than “traditional” art sometimes can.

Likewise, since films and games need to tell a story within a relatively short space of time, they often have to rely on visual storytelling. This is where you use actions and background details to hint at the fact that something has happened or that something is happening.

So, if you see your drawings or paintings as being a single “frame” from a film or a game, then this will encourage you to use these techniques. It will make you think of your picture as part of a much larger story. This will, of course, add some extra drama and visual interest to your art – even if you do it in a fairly subtle way. Take another look at the preview image I’ve shown you before:

There's a lot more storytelling in this picture than you might think...

There’s a lot more storytelling in this picture than you might think…

You can see that the picture is set in the distant future due to the relatively modern computer monitors displayed in the window of an antique shop. Giant advertising screens tower over the picture, giving some hint that this is a dystopian future.

In the foreground, a woman stares at something inside the shop with nervous excitement. Behind her, a man walks past – talking on an old-fashioned mobile phone. Further away, another man smokes a cigarette and looks at something in the direction of the audience, his expression masked by futuristic sunglasses. Another man, to the left of him, does exactly the same.

Even though all of this stuff is fairly subtle and there isn’t really much “action” in this picture – it still hints at some kind of story. It still looks a little bit like it could be an individual frame from a film or a computer game.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Cool Painting And/Or Drawing Techinques That I’ve Learnt Recently

2016 Artwork Three Cool Art Techniques

Well, since I couldn’t think of a “proper” idea for an article for today, I thought that I’d talk about a few interesting painting and/or drawing techniques that I learnt in the weeks before writing this article, in case they come in handy if you are making drawings and/or paintings.

1) More realistic sunsets/ sunrises: If you’re painting a sunset or a sunrise, then one way to make it look more realistic is to leave a small white semi-circle (with rough edges) on the horizon, surrounded by yellow paint.

Since the white semicircle is contrasted with the slightly darker yellow paint, it will appear brighter by comparison. This allows you to give the impression of the sun rising or setting in a slightly more realistic way. Here’s a small example of this technique in action.

Notice how the "sun" is nothing more than a roughly semi-circular white space, surrounded by yellow paint.

Notice how the “sun” is nothing more than a roughly semi-circular white space, surrounded by yellow paint.

2) Film noir/ horror comic colours: Later this month, I’ll be posting a series of film noir/ vintage horror comic style paintings on here and -whilst making them – I ended up using a really interesting technique. In essence, I made sure that everything in the foreground was blue and everything in the background was orange.

Here’s a detail from one of these upcoming paintings to show you what this technique looks like:

 This is a detail from a painting that will probably appear here in about three weeks' time.

This is a detail from a painting that will probably appear here in about three weeks’ time.

Before I go any further, I should probably explain some of the technical details behind this decision. In order to create this effect, you need to use a pair of complimentary colours (eg: colours that are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel) in your painting. Since these colours are complimentary, one of them should be a “warm” colour (eg: red, orange, yellow, brown etc…) and one of them should be a “cool” colour (eg: blue, green etc..).

Personally, I prefer blue/orange or blue/red colour schemes (blue/red is perfect for horror artwork), but it might be worth experimenting with other colour schemes.

Anyway, to achieve this effect, you need to make sure that you use the “cool” colour for the foreground and the “warm” colour for the background. Technically speaking, this goes against the “rules” of how to use colours in paintings – since the classic rule is that “warm colours stand out and cool colours recede into the background“.

Since this rule has been turned on it’s head, the painting looks slightly strange and “cold”. This is perfectly suited to film noir and/or horror artwork.

3) Drawing minimalist faces:
Although I’m still experimenting with this technique (and it may or may not end up becoming part of my art style), I’ve been looking at art from old 1950s American horror comics recently and have learnt a couple of interesting minimalist techniques for drawing faces. Here’s a close-up from the example I showed you earlier so that you can see these techniques in action:

Notice how the eyes and nose are drawn in a fairly minimalist way.

Notice how the eyes and nose are drawn in a fairly minimalist way.

If you look at the character’s eyes, you’ll see that they’ve been drawn using nothing more than two curved lines and a circle. If you look closely, you’ll see that the top line is slightly thicker than the bottom one, which is a good way to give the impression that you’ve drawn eyelids and eyelashes without actually drawing them.

Likewise, if you look at her nose, you’ll see that it mostly consists of nothing but two small lines that represent the nostrils. Yes, I added a couple of thin vertical lines as well (this is kind of an old habit from the current version of my art style) but it doesn’t always actually need these vertical lines – so be sure to experiment when sketching.

….So, yes, these are three new artistic techniques that I’ve learnt recently.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂