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:
Table of Contents
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.
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.
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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
All of them… together, haha.
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).
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.
Keeping it clean. It can take longer to clean up a mess than to work carefully from the beginning (thus the concrete concept).
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).
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.
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.
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.
I’ve got a bit of this and that everywhere, but Instagram always has the best bits: https://www.instagram.com/waltviviers/
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.
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