Alternate Versions Of Recent Paintings – A Good Idea If You’re Uninspired?

Well, although I was still busy writing last year’s Christmas stories at the time of writing this article, I thought that I’d talk very briefly about making art today. This was mostly because I found myself feeling somewhat uninspired.

Basically, I’d made a 1980s-themed drawing that didn’t really turn out as well as I’d hoped – even after extensive editing. So, I thought that I’d try to make another piece of art instead. But, I was a little bit pressed for time and needed to come up with a good-looking painting quickly.

Luckily, I remembered the view from the kitchen window earlier that morning. Thanks to the season and the time of the day, the world outside was shrouded in wonderfully atmospheric dark blue blue light. Needless to say, this seemed like it was worth painting. But, I’d already made a painting of the same view about a month earlier:

“Kitchen Window” By C. A. Brown

So, thinking quickly, I decided that my upcoming painting would be a companion piece to that one. I could use the old painting as a reference, whilst also doing a few things differently in my new painting. Here’s a preview of it:

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

So, is this sort of thing a good strategy when you’re uninspired?

Simply put, anything that works when you’re feeling uninspired is a good thing. Plus, since you’re partially repeating what you’ve done before, then it also means that you can make a good-looking piece of art quickly too. So, as a way to make art when you’re uninspired, it can certainly work!

However, I’d advise either not doing it too often, making extensive changes or waiting as long as possible before making new versions of your existing art. The thing to remember is to set your new version apart from the old version in an immediately noticeable way, and to make sure that there’s still a decent level of variety in the art you produce.

The main advantage to waiting as long as possible is that you’ll have become a better artist (if you practice regularly) during the time gap, so a remake of a painting from say – a year or two ago- can also be a good way to show how much you’ve improved.

Still, if you’re feeling uninspired, then making a new alternative version of one of your more recent paintings can be a good way to actually make some art. Just don’t rely on this technique too often.

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Sorry for such a short, basic and rambling article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

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Three Things To Do If You Worry That Your Art Is Getting Worse

Well, a while before I wrote the first draft of this article, I started to worry that my art was getting worse. This has mostly been because some of my recent and upcoming art has been somewhat uninspired and/or undetailed, like in this painting that will be posted here in a few days’ time.

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 10th August.

Not only hadn’t I been feeling the same drive and enthusiasm as I often do when I make art, but my art was decidedly less detailed than some of the art I posted here last year, like this painting:

“Architecture” By C. A. Brown

So, what should you do if you are worrying that your art is getting worse?

1) Remember, you aren’t getting worse: Generally speaking, if you’ve made good art in the past, then you’re still capable of making art like this. You still have all of the skills that you had back then and you’ve also probably had more practice too. So, it’s very unlikely that your art skills are actually getting worse.

No, it’s probably due to something else. For example, I’d been been busy with other stuff at the time that I made some of these lower-quality paintings, so the amount of painting time I had was one reason for the quality drop. Likewise, I hadn’t found anything that really inspired me in the way that had happened with some of my past paintings. Plus, I’d sometimes ended up making paintings when I was tired (which resulted in lower quality art).

I could go on, but usually the reasons why you might feel that your art is getting worse are often time-based reasons, emotional reasons and/or practical reasons. You almost certainly still have the same skills that you used to, but there’s probably some obstacle that prevents you from putting them into practice in the way that you used to.

Sometimes, trying to work around the causes of these problems can sometimes help you to produce better art. For example, a few hours after I wrote the first draft of this article, I ended up preparing another painting and – thanks to being more awake, finding an inspiration (eg: mid-2000s nostalgia, mixed with the cyberpunk genre) and finding more time to paint – it ended up being somewhat more detailed.

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 11th August.

2) Look at your really old art: Although it can be easy to compare your current art to art that you’ve made relatively recently and feel that your art is getting worse, it is extremely likely that your art is still improving in the grand scheme of things.

If you don’t believe me, then look at a “good” piece of art that you made three years ago or earlier. Compare it to one of your current “mediocre” pieces. There’s a very good chance that even today’s lacklustre art will still look at least marginally better than the distant past’s “good” art. For example, here’s a “good” painting of mine from 2014:

“Green Palace” By C. A. Brown [JULY 2014]

This old painting still looks reasonably ok, but on a purely technical and stylistic level, it isn’t really as well-developed as even the more mediocre art that I make these days.

If you’ve been making art for less than three years, then don’t worry. You’re still new to it and you’re still learning the basics. Having times when you feel less inspired, or times where you fail and make mistakes is all part of both being an artist and learning to be an artist. So, don’t worry about it and keep practicing regularly.

3) Do something “easy”: One of the best ways to restore your artistic confidence if you’re worried about the quality of your art is simply to make a piece of art that requires very little in the way of creative inspiration, which can be made relatively easily and which will automatically look better than your “ordinary” art.

Although this type of art varies from artist to artist, I usually find that art based on pre-existing things is very useful for this. If you know how to copy from sight, then making still life paintings or even studies of historical paintings ( just make sure that they’re out of copyright, and that you acknowledge the original artist) can be a great way to produce good-looking art when I’m going through an uninspired or mediocre phase.

For example, during an uninspired phase a few months ago, I was still able to produce some good-looking art by – for example – making a slightly altered study of this 19th century painting by Gustave Courbet:

“After Gustave Courbet” By C. A. Brown

So, making an “easy” type of art – whether it’s still life paintings, fan art, landscape painting, studies of old paintings etc… can be a good way to reassure yourself if you’re starting to worry that your art is getting worse.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

What To Do When Unenthusiasm Strikes In The Middle Of A Painting

Well, for today, I thought that I’d take yet another look at the topic of artistic uninspiration. In particular, I’ll be looking at when you suddenly feel a total and utter lack of artistic enthusiasm during the middle of a drawing or a painting. Mostly because this happened to me the evening before I prepared this article.

At the time, the drawing/ painting I’d started making was going well. I’d planned to make a digitally-edited painting of a 1990s-style video rental shop and, at first, the line art was going well. But, parts of the picture started to be a bit less well-drawn than I’d hoped, my planned background just seemed far too complex (and there seemed to be no way to remove, reduce or simplify it).

Thanks to the hot weather, the fact that I was tired and the fact that the painting looked like it would guzzle up a lot of time, I suddenly realised that I had no enthusiasm for it whatsoever. Or, more accurately, I realised that there was no possible way that I was actually going to finish this painting. Sure, I made a few vague attempts at adding more detail, but the painting just felt like a total waste of time – even though it would have looked really cool.

This painting could have turned out well, but it was failing quickly and my levels of enthusiasm were running low.

So, I abandoned the painting and decided to do something that I felt that I could finish. In fact, I realised that the quickest and easiest type of art I could make would be a piece of digital art (since I could make it less detailed and because there was no additional drying time or editing time).

The interesting thing was, as soon as I switched to making something that I thought I could actually finish, I suddenly felt a lot more creative and enthusiastic again. In fact, I even tried out a few techniques I hadn’t really used before – here’s a preview of the finished piece:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full picture will be posted here on the 7th July.

So, the lesson here is that if you feel completely and utterly unenthusiastic when you are in the middle of making a painting, try to work out what is causing you to feel unenthusiastic.

Sometimes, this can be external factors (like the weather, your mood etc..) but, more often, it has to do with the painting that you are trying to make. Often, it is because the piece of art you are making isn’t filling you with enthusiasm. Sometimes, this can be because the idea behind it doesn’t interest you as much as you thought, but sometimes it can be because your planned idea is too complex, over-ambitious etc.. when compared to your current levels of enthusiasm.

Abandoning failing paintings halfway through making them is something that gets easier with practice, but it can still be a little difficult if you’ve already invested time and effort into said failed painting. But, if you’re genuinely filled with the heavy, miserable, futile feeling of “I’m not going to finish this!“, then it’s the only thing to do. But, make sure that you immediately start a much easier piece of art (that you feel you can finish) as soon as you do this.

Not only does starting an “easy” piece of art mean that you’ll stop those feelings of failure from festering and becoming worse (because you’re still making art. Not only that, but art that is easy to make look good), but it also means that you’ll feel more motivated because your new piece of art feels a lot easier and more successful in comparison to the painting that you just tried to make.

So, dropping what you’re doing and switching to something easier as soon as you realise that your current painting isn’t going to get finished is one of the best ways to deal with sudden moments of artistic unenthusiasm.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Tips For Making Rushed And/Or Uninspired Art Look Better

Since I seem to be going through a bit of an uninspired phase at the time of writing, I thought that I’d give you a few tips about how to make rushed and/or uninspired art look better.

Whilst this won’t result in ultra-high quality or ultra-detailed art, it will at least make rushed and/or uninspired art slightly less noticeable to the untrained eye.

Although I’ve probably mentioned some of this stuff before, I’ll try to avoid some of the really obvious ways to make uninspired/rushed art look good (eg: remaking your old paintings, making studies of historical paintings, making still life paintings etc..).

1) Focus on the easy parts: If you’re feeling uninspired and/or you don’t have a huge amount of time to make a piece of art, then one of the best ways to make it look better is to focus on the “easy” parts of the picture and to either leave out the more complex parts or find some way to hide them.

For example, people are often relatively difficult to draw well. So, in an uninspired digitally-edited painting that I’ll be posting here in early July, I made sure that the person in the foreground was facing away from the audience (and, thanks to the positioning of the painting’s light sources, was also little more than a silhouette). Here’s a preview:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 1st July.

By devoting less effort to the person in the foreground, I was able to spend more time on the “easy” parts of the painting – such as the background and the lighting. This allowed me to make these parts of the painting look reasonably ok (or at least better than they would have done if I’d focused my time and effort on drawing a more detailed character instead).

So, find the elements that you find “easiest” to paint or draw and focus on these.

2) Detail control: One of the best ways to make uninspired and/or rushed art look better is to add lots of detail to one element of the picture whilst reducing the detail levels in other parts.

This can be as simple as drawing or painting a detailed foreground and adding a rather quick or impressionistic background (or even leaving the background out altogether). But, it can also be done in much more subtle ways too. For example, here’s a preview of a somewhat rushed digitally-edited drawing that I’ll be posting here in early July:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 2nd July.

Although this picture looks reasonably detailed at first glance (due to the detail on the plants), the picture’s colour scheme is considerably less detailed. For the most part, it is just a simple orange/black colour scheme (with some grey and white too). By devoting much less time and effort to the colours and choosing an “easy” – but striking – colour scheme, I was able to save a bit of time whilst making it.

So look for areas where you can add detail and, more importantly, look for areas where you can reduce the detail level (without affecting the quality of the picture as a whole).

3) Have a unique style: Although it can take quite a while to develop a unique art style, it can be incredibly useful when you’re feeling uninspired and/or are in a rush.

This is because even a less-detailed or lower-quality piece of art in your own style will still look more unique and visually-interesting than a piece of art that uses either a more realistic style or a more commonly-used style. For example, here’s a preview of a slightly uninspired painting that will appear here in a few days:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 17th June.

Although I wasn’t feeling that inspired or enthusiastic when I made this painting, it probably still looks reasonably ok since it includes most of the key features of my art style – such as high-contrast lighting (where at least 30% of the total surface area of the painting is covered in black paint), my usual colour palette, my usual drawing style, some elements from the cyberpunk genre etc…

The thing to remember here is that even though an uninspired painting in your own style might just seem “mediocre” to you, it will probably still look interesting to people who either like your art style or haven’t seen it before. So, having a more unique art style can make even your uninspired or rushed art look a little bit more distinctive and interesting.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (2nd May 2018)

Well, due to extreme uninspiration (including at least a couple of failed attempts at making paintings), I eventually ended up making this random piece of cyberpunk digital art. If you want to learn more about the long-winded creative process behind this picture, then check out this article.

As usual, this picture is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Shrouded In Static” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (10th April 2018)

Due to feeling even more uninspired/unenthusiastic, this picture ended up being a (very) heavily digitally-edited drawing. Literally, when I was preparing this picture, I eventually just scribbled an abstract sci-fi landscape on paper and then, after I scanned it, tried to turn it into something better with lots and lots of random “trial and error” digital editing.

As usual, this picture is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Sunday Afternoon Scribble” By C. A. Brown

Two Reasons Why Making Studies Of Old Paintings Can Be A Good Idea (When You’re Uninspired)

Well, as a way of gradually getting out of the uninspired phase I seem to be going through at the time of writing, I decided to make some studies of old out-of copyright paintings. This is something that I do every now and then, and it’s certainly worth trying for a variety of reasons.

And, yes, I’ve probably said all or most of this stuff before. But, it’s worth repeating!

1) It still gives your imagination some exercise: Although the idea of copying an old painting might seem like an “unimaginative” way to make art when you’re uninspired, it still involves a fair amount of imagination and creativity.

But, thanks to the fact that you have something to copy, there’s no pressure to come up with entirely new ideas. So, you can give your imagination a bit of exercise without stressing out about the fact that you can’t think of any totally new ideas.

Even so, you actually have to find an interesting painting that is no longer in copyright. Although sites like Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons contain plenty of public domain paintings, you still actually have to look for them (and check their copyright status) yourself.

Still, looking at lots of art isn’t exactly a waste of time – since it will help to remind you how awesome art can be (which can help you feel more inspired). Not only that, you might even end up discovering a few interesting artists that you’ve never heard of before.

And, no, not all out-of-copyright paintings are boring. In fact, if you’re willing to search, you can find some really cool ones. For example, the painting I used in my study was this rather gothic-looking late 19th/early 20th century painting called “Lady With Cigarette” by Oskar Zwintscher (1870-1916):

“Lady With Cigarette” by Oskar Zwintscher (Via Wikipedia)

Not only does this painting contain some brilliantly gloomy lighting and an ominously ornate background, but it also has something of a timeless quality to it too. Needless to say, I was eager to make my own version of it.

But, like any cover version of something else, I realised that I’d have to put my own spin on it. Initially, I thought about going in a minimalist direction and just painting the lady’s face and hands (and using a solid black background for the rest of the picture). But, this seemed a little bit too lazy.

So, I eventually just decided to make the painting in the same way that I would if I was making an original painting. In other words, I used my usual cartoonish style, slightly limited palette, mixture of traditional and digital tools, high-contrast approach to lighting etc…

I also simplified a few things and changed the picture from a portrait painting to a square painting (with film-style letterboxing bars too). In addition to this, I also took inspiration from a mixture of other things that have inspired me in the past (eg: heavy metal album covers, old computer games etc..). So, my imagination still got a bit of exercise, but without the pressure of having to think of a totally new idea for a painting.

Here’s a small preview of my finished study of Zwintscher’s painting. The full-size version of it will be posted here next month:

This is a reduced-size preview, the full painting will appear here on the 4th May.

So, yes, making a study of an old painting doesn’t have to be a boring exercise in copying something verbatim. In fact, using your imagination a little bit (in a low-pressure situation like this) can help to remind you of how much fun it is to be creative. Best of all, since you’re already copying a pre-existing thing, inspiration is much less of an issue too.

2) It reminds you of what making good art feels like: Although there’s certainly something to be said for just pressing on and making crappy paintings until you feel inspired again, this approach doesn’t always work. Especially when you’re producing original art that looks a bit like this…

This is a reduced-size preview, the full painting will appear here on the 3rd May.

Whilst, during more inspired times, your original art looks more like this…

“Architecture” By C. A. Brown

If you’ve been experiencing severe uninspiration (and are producing very low-quality art very slowly as a result), then seeing yet another low-quality painting can end up sapping your self-confidence rather than making you think “Yes! I made some art! Even though I wasn’t inspired, I made some art!

So, making a study of a good (out-of-copyright!) painting by someone else can be an easy way to experience the feeling of making good art. And, yes, it is a feeling. It’s a focused feeling of purpose, of pride in your work and of complete and utter immersion in the process of making art. It feels like the literal opposite of feeling uninspired.

Feeling that “making good art” feeling once again can remind you of why you became an artist in the first place. It can distract you from the emotions that being uninspired provokes in you. It can make you feel proud of producing a piece of art that you gladly want to show off to other people. It can remind you of how unique your own way of making art is (if you compare your study to the original) and how it’s worth continuing to develop your own art style.

In other words, it’s a way to feel like you’re more inspired. And, when you’re feeling inspired, then you are much more likely to get inspired again.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂