Today’s Art ( 18th November 2016 )

Well, today’s painting required a lot more digital editing than usual after I scanned it (mainly since I messed up the colour scheme in the original painting so badly that I had to re-do it digitally). This painting was, of course, inspired by old American horror comics.

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

"They Came From The Sewers" By C. A. Brown

“They Came From The Sewers” By C. A. Brown

The Joy Of… Old Newspaper Cartoons

2016 Artwork The Joy Of Old Cartoons

A couple of days before I wrote this article, I was looking through some old books of “Giles” cartoons from the 1960s and 70s (which also contained earlier cartoons from the 1950s too). This was an absolutely fascinating experience and it kind of made me think about the whole subject of old newspaper cartoons.

If you’ve never heard of “Giles” before, he was a famous newspaper cartoonist in 1940s-90s Britain (here’s a hilarious old 1940s British PathΓ© newsreel of him at work).

Although few of his cartoons were published in newspapers during my lifetime (although, when looking online, I managed to find the cartoon that was published on my original birthday), there are countless collections of his cartoons out there. Along with cartoonists like Low, he’s probably one of this country’s more famous 20th century editorial cartoonists.

The interesting thing about “Giles” cartoons is that they show a world that is both familiar and totally alien to me. They have a brilliantly cynical sense of humour and there’s a lot of stuff in there that seems very apt and instantly recognisable, but they’re set in a slightly different and older version of this country.

They’re set during the many strikes of the 1970s, they’re set in the world of the “Carry On” films, they’re set during the postwar austerity of the 1950s, they’re set during the swinging sixties, they have a simultaneously deferential and rebellious attitude towards authority etc… Although these “Giles” cartoons often focus on mundane everyday life, they almost always included topical issues from the time that they were published.

In other words, these “silly” and “disposable” daily newspaper cartoons showed me more about mid-late 20th century history than a lot of actual history articles and history books probably would.

Why? Because they show a stylised (and mildly exaggerated) version of what everyday life was like back then. They show what kinds of issues were in the news back then. They show public attitudes back then. In addition to all of this, all of this historical information is filtered through the mind of just one cartoonist – which adds to the sense of historical immersion.

You get to see the past through the imagination of just one person who was alive then, with all of their opinions and strange and amusing quirks (eg: for some reason, Giles seemed to have an absolute hatred of pipe smoke. As soon as someone in his cartoons actually lights a pipe, it often belches out vast conspicuous plumes of ink-black smoke that blot out large parts of the cartoon).

This reminded me a lot of another fascinating book (which I actually own two copies of, for some bizarre reason) called “The Cartoon Century” (Ed. Timothy S. Benson). This is a book that collects British editorial cartoons from every year of the 20th century and it is absolutely fascinating. Although this book explains the historical context of a lot of the cartoons, it’s fascinating to see the popular humour of decades past.

Likewise, another newspaper cartoon series that is absolutely fascinating from a historical perspective are Peattie & Taylor’s “Alex” cartoons. Although this is still a current cartoon series, it’s been going for quite a while and I’ve got a few old second-hand books of these cartoons from the 1980s and 90s (as well as some from the ’00s).

These are timelessly-hilarious cartoons about the life of an unscrupulous businessman called Alex and, yet, you can see the gradual passage of history in these comics. Over time, the characters get slightly older. Over time, the background details change slightly. The topics of conversation change, the jokes change etc…

Of course, this might just be a British thing or possibly a European thing. The few classic American newspaper cartoons that I’ve seen seem to be frozen in an almost timeless state. For example, in Jim Davis’ “Garfield” cartoons, everything seems to take place in some bizarrely frozen version of 1970s/80s suburbia. Likewise, in Scott Adams’ “Dilbert” cartoons I’ve seen, they also often seem to take place very slightly outside the space-time continuum (with the possible exception of changing computer designs in the background).

Still, as historical documents go, old newspaper cartoons are – by far – one of the most fascinating types.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Today’s Art (15th March 2016)

Well, I was still fascinated by vintage “film noir”-style photos and, after a bit of searching, I found this really cool public domain photo by Nickolas Muray on Wikimedia Commons. So, I just had to make a digitally-edited watercolour painting of it.

From everything I’ve read on both Wikimedia Commons and on Flickr, the source photo for this painting seems to have been released into the public domain by the George Eastman House Collection.

Although the source photo is clearly in the public domain, it doesn’t fall into one of the obvious public domain categories (eg: due to it’s age, due to it being produced by the US Government etc…) so, I’m going to err on the side of caution – as such, this painting will NOT be released under a Creative Commons licence of any kind.

"Fan Art - After Nickolas Muray" By C. A. Brown

“Fan Art – After Nickolas Muray” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (27th July 2015)

Woo hoo! I’m feeling more inspired again! Anyway, today’s drawing is based on an idea for a comic that I had (but ended up abandoning).

The comic would have been titled “The Bureau Of Wordless Novels” (and would have only contained a single word), but I ended up abandoning it after I realised that – although the idea was cool – I couldn’t think of a way to implement it. Still, I made this drawing based on my original idea.

Oh, if anyone hasn’t heard of “Wordless Novels” before, then check out this Wikipedia article about them. They were kind of like the precursor to modern comics.

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

"The Bureau Of Wordless Novels" By C. A. Brown

“The Bureau Of Wordless Novels” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (8th July 2015)

Ha! I’m feeling inspired again and I have computer games to thank for it once more πŸ™‚ Basically, at the time of making this drawing – I was playing a really cool 1990s adventure game called “The Last Express” (it may be at least a week or two until I review it though), that is set in the 1910s. So, I wanted to draw a slightly old-fashioned scene.

Of course, me being me, this picture quickly went in a much gloomier and more ominous direction.

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

"The Secret Door" By C. A. Brown

“The Secret Door” By C. A. Brown

The Joy Of… Horror Comics

2015 Artwork Joy Of Horror comics sketch

Although it probably won’t appear here for a few days, I’ve started work on a new comic! Yes, you heard me correctly, I’ve finally managed to start another comic after a brief hiatus of, I don’t know, over a year.

And, since it will be a cheesy vintage-style horror comic, I thought that I’d take a look at the genre that inspired it today. But, first, here are a couple of previews of my upcoming comic:

"Dead Sector - Preview 1" By C. A. Brown

“Dead Sector – Preview 1” By C. A. Brown

"Dead Sector  - Preview 2" By C. A. Brown

“Dead Sector – Preview 2” By C. A. Brown

Ah, vintage horror comics. Although the heyday of American horror comics was long before my time, they are – by far – one of the coolest genres of comics.

In fact, they were so cool that they actually got banned at the time – on both sides of the atlantic – by the comics code in the US and by actual legislation in the UK (although the old horror comics laws are, quite thankfully, completely unenforced these days). They were, in a way, the “video nasties” of the 1950s.

Horror comics might look laughably old today, but it’s a timeless lesson that- whenever anything cool appears – there will always be a group of miserable old whingers (and, these days, miserable young whingers too) who will try to ban it. Whether it’s rock and roll music, horror comics, heavy metal music, horror movies, rap music, violent videogames, newspaper cartoons or- in modern Britain – anything even vaguely risque – there will be a moral panic about it.

Sometimes, these prudish armchair censors don’t win and we can laugh at them. But, sometimes they do and the world loses a little bit of it’s richness as a result. But, although horror comics’ reign of garish terror was horrifically murdered by grumpy middle-aged people in stuffy suits and hideous floral dresses, we still have plenty of comics from the heyday of this genre to enjoy.

I can’t remember exactly when I first discovered classic American 1940s-50s horror comics, but it could have happened at one of three times in my life.

It could have happened when I was about fourteen and bought an ex-rental VHS of Stephen King’s “Creepshow” and was promptly terrified by it. But, this isn’t when I really discovered them – after all, I had no clue at the time that “Creepshow” was based on old American horror comics. I was too busy having nightmares!

It could have been in 2010 when, whilst looking through a bookshop in Aberystwyth, I stumbled across a giant paperback tome called “The Mammoth Book Of Horror Comics” and, since I had more money back then, ended up impulse-buying it. But, back then, I was far more interested in reading Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” comics than I was in reading some old black and white comics from the 1950s.

No, I only really discovered American horror comics in autumn 2012 when I found an absolutely amazing blog called “The Horrors Of It All“. This site is absolutely crammed with extracts from old American horror comics. Since I had become serious about being an artist by then, I was able to look at the comics in a slightly different way and pay more attention to the detailed artwork.

And, yes, although many of the old horror comics just use classic American-style comic artwork, there are some real works of art in this genre.

For example, just take a look at this comic page – it looks like something from a hallucinogen-fuelled “alternative” comic from the 1970s-90s, right? Wrong. It was originally published in 1952!

Seriously, as genres go, old American horror comics were often way ahead of their time in terms of imagination and creativity.

Not only that, many of these “horror” comics are absolutely hilarious. Seriously, from the ludicrously melodramatic cover art, to the wooden dialogue to the gleefully twisted plot twists at the end of many of them, they’re often laugh out loud funny. The idea that anyone could have actually been scared by these comics at some point in history is too funny to think about.

Another great thing about old horror comics was how badly-written they were. It’s true, most of them are terribly written – plot twists often come out nowhere, the dialogue is stilted as hell and there’s an over-reliance on cheap scares. But, somehow, they’re able to be “so bad that they’re good”. This also means that they’re both very easy to write and ripe for parody too.

So, yes, is it any wonder that I chose this glorious genre as a way to gently ease myself back into making comics again?


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Today’s Art (29th November 2014)

Well, I was still in the mood for vintage-style art, so I made this digitally-edited painting set in roaring twenties Paris for today. If anyone is curious about how I managed to make a greyscale painting look like an old photo, I used a filter in an open-source image editing program called “GIMP“.

As a blog exclusive, I’ll also provide the original greyscale version of this picture too πŸ™‚

As usual, these two paintings are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"La Belle Chanteuse" By C. A. Brown

“La Belle Chanteuse” By C. A. Brown

And here’s the greyscale version:

"La Belle Chanteuse (Greyscale)" By C. A. Brown

“La Belle Chanteuse (Greyscale)” By C. A. Brown