Monday, June 12, 2017

The Pixel Aesthetic



I never liked pixel art as an aesthetic. For the most part, I felt the look was a bit kitsch. It felt like an odd throwback to the days of retro video gaming and bad graphics. (Because it was.) And that's not to say I disliked pixellation, I just didn't have a strong affinity for it. I feel the same way about polka-dots and most electronic dance music. In the 2000s and the early 2010s, I'd seen many uses of the form on Etsy, on Tumblr blogs, at conventions, and in indie games. 

My own venture, The 8-Bit Cubist, attempted to be something interesting in terms of art that respected people that came from that era, but was not "geek" in the traditional sense. We strove to be more than kitsch. In fact, We heavily restricted the use of pixel art as a way of expressing ourselves. The 8-Bit referred to where we came from, not a definition of a visual or stylistic period. So in that sense, using pixels (what are literally 8-bit graphics to people) would have confused the message.

But recently, I've rethought what the look means to people in 2017. I believe that we're far enough away from the hipster-retro aspect of pixels, that I can confidently present the look without communicating the wrong thing. The hand-painted pixels can be seen as representing art created traditionally in contrast to computer generated images that no longer maintain such a primitive look.

It's a continuing study into a complex conversation about the reality and the fantasy, the timeless and the temporary, the organic and the synthetic, and of course, the medium and the message.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

I Just Hit The Reset Button

While I was working on moving to a new station in life, my parents, Earl and Shirley, passed away. This occurred around the time when I was starting to play with pixel art, so this happened:


Creating their images was honestly the weirdest creative feeling I've ever had. Most other projects are just jobs, but this was the first time I'd tried to recreate family members. I would move a pixel to the wrong spot and feel frustrated or disappointed. Then I'd move another and feel happy because I could actually feel when I was getting closer to their likeness. Moving the mouse was like operating a ouija board as I felt my way around. *shivers*

I was happy with what I'd created, but I started to become aware that these pixels weren't just a thing to do. They were reflecting my thoughts and feelings. These images made me think of my parents' life teachings. They often expressed that I should always do what I think I should be doing. Sound simple? Yep. You're right.

Recently, I'd noticed in my art and life is that I wanted extraneous factors to be removed. That included what I ate, scheduled, drew, posted, created, etc. I wanted to do more, but I needed to remove unnecessary friction. To accomplish this, I made simple guidelines. For example, I decided to avoid high-fructose corn syrup. Just avoid HFCS, and you'll live a better life. And it worked for me. There was a little bit of work when reading labels, but that part was easy. The hard part was figuring out a good rule that makes sense for a given position in life. You can also view it as avoiding bullshit.

With pixels, I have found a way to make my art communication easier. It's a simplification that provides a stronger message. With this new outlook, I feel like I can face the day with a new outlook. I feel like I just hit the Reset button.

Thanks, Mom.
Thanks, Dad.

- Mr Benja -


Bonus Note:
I wrote this blog post and several others numerous times before deleting them many times over. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with what I was doing. Then I realized that the hosted Wordpress blog on my site was bugging me for quite a few reasons. I have now jumped over to Blogger to create a fresh start. Heck, I'm even using the free 'Simple' theme. It says so at the bottom of the page. 🙂