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Today we have quite a talented individual on our blog: Walt Viviers. He is currently the Creative Director at Menzies Media, and also the person we’ll be talking to about Pixel Art.

Firstly though, the formalities:


Please tell us a bit about who you are and where you’re from

I’m Walt and I’m from all over South Africa, small towns and big cities, I’ve settled down in Randburg, Gauteng (near all the action). I love vintage science fiction novels, classic Star Trek and old school 2000AD. I work as a full-time Creative Director and make arty stuff in my spare time, for now I’m spending that time on Pixel Art.



What’s a normal day in the office like for you?

No such thing as a normal day, haha – I oversee a team of specialists (writer, designer, social media manager, web designer) along with some freelancers to meet the demands of my superiors and their clients’ needs. I used to be much more hands-on, building myself up from the very bottom as a junior designer over a decade ago, but these days I mostly brainstorm, direct and guide. Every day is a little unique, but every day also has a lot of social media to deal with (SO much social media). I get in, go through status with the crew, go over client projects and then take it from there.



Which artists have been a big influence on you and your career up to this point?

Crumb, Rembrandt, all of the MAD & 2000AD artists, as well the artists at Ghibli and Disney (hand-drawn days) and the people whose names I don’t know but thankfully made all those tutorials I’ve been watching my whole life, and many many game designers and artists (but mostly the old school Lucasarts adventure games crew).


Are there any shout outs you would like to give to anybody?

My wife Cathy, she’s my partner in life; my Managing Director Heath, he’s my partner in crime; and the crew where I work, you guys make my life easy.

Now for the juicy bits that we’ve promised, Pixel Art:



Why Pixel Art?

There’s a kind of abstract nature to it, a type of cubism if you will, with normal illustration I can get so lost in the details that I’ll get tired of something before it’s even close to being done, with Pixel Art there is only the details, every single pixel counts, and I love how your brain takes these little blocks and translates them into eyes, mouths, hands and whatnot.



What do you enjoy most about this style?

It sort of feels like I’m like doing a puzzle, I’m big into games, so the fact that it feels like a game, and is also used in games, are big drawing points for me.



Please give us a break down on your thought process before you start a piece

This might be the hardest part: the time before starting a piece. Somehow it always feels impossible until you actually start, I guess it’s just really whatever it takes to get me started because once I get going I keep going.



Are there any special tips you can recommend for making the process of creating Pixel Art smoother?

Work small then enlarge afterwards, coming from a fine art and illustration background I’m used to pushing the size up as much as possible, it was a bit of a paradigm shift to work the other way around: one pixel at a time. Also, this might seem kind of obvious, but when you enlarge, keep it square, don’t enlarge it just by any random amount or it’ll start to lose its solid shapes, and when you rotate things you have to rotate on the square or it will start to feather and displace pixels.


Pizza, Burgers or Pasta? Or a big juicy piece of steak and chips with onion rings?

All of them… together, haha.

What are the first steps you take when you start making an art piece?

Thinking about it, I mean really thinking about it. I try and have as concrete a concept in my mind as possible before I start to craft it, or else I lose the plot (which makes me lose enthusiasm).



I’ve seen some of your pieces move, you know, as if animated. What part of this do you enjoy most?

Even though it takes forever to animate it, when it’s finally done it’s as if it has come alive; it’s pure magic, unlike any other feeling, a bit of a god complex I suppose.



What do you look out for while making your art?

Keeping it clean. It can take longer to clean up a mess than to work carefully from the beginning (thus the concrete concept).



Tea? Covfefe? Coffee? Or beer? (Which of these do you consume the most while working?

Haha. It used to be beer and coffee, but I’m having a kid soon so I’m trying to keep it a bit healthier these days: ginger tea and juice (and way too much coca cola).



When working on Pixel Art pieces, how do you keep the art looking consistent so that everything feels like it belongs in that space?

Colour palettes! Too many colours will make it look messy. I know it sounds simple but it’s really not, I’ll often recolour my stuff many times over before I consider it to be perfect.

What are some tips and advice you can give to anyone looking to start making their own Pixel Art?

Don’t be shy of tutorials, also, looking at other people’s art is cool, but tutorials are where it’s at, the more you understand the foundations of how things are put together, the faster you can work, the more you can make, the better you become.



What would you recommend artists look up before starting their own art pieces in this style?

The size of the work area and what settings to use (I work in Photoshop): you want crisp clean pixels, I couldn’t get my pixels to stay crisp until I did some tutorials and tweaked my settings. My biggest foe was (and sometimes still is) feathering, it’s so easy for everything to become smudged and shite.
And now lastly, after all the formalities and the juicy bits, all good things must come to an end.



If we’d like to find or follow you online, where can we go stalk you?

I’ve got a bit of this and that everywhere, but Instagram always has the best bits:



Do you have any thoughts you would like to share for upcoming artists or students?

There is enough of everything in the world, every art form is saturated, there is no need for any more artists (ah geez Walt, thanks a lot) so my advice is to do what you enjoy doing, don’t force yourself to be any kind of specific artist, be the artist you enjoy being, if you’re not having fun you’re wasting your time.

Neal Strydom

Written by Neal Strydom

Co-Owner of Pixelsmithstudios. Specialising in creating content for digital platforms Working fulltime in marketing & Advertising Always meeting new talent