Pixel by Pixel- The Sinclair Spectrum

With Pixel by Pixel I’d like to give people little insights into the wonderful world of
enforced minimalism. Low resolutions, limited palettes (CGA anyone?) and other awkward limitations. For a lot of artists this is a tremendous headache, to me it is just delightful as it makes us design and create with a limited toolset, thus giving us challenges to master.
So, spoiled artists of the future, I give you:

The ZX Spectrum

Some while ago I did a demake of Witcher 3 on said device and I want to explain why it
looks the way it looks. There are some pretty hardcore limitations to consider.


Witcher 3 if it had been made in.. say.. 1985



First off, you start with a resolution of 256 x 192 and a limited color palette of 15 colors.


To a pixel enthusiast, even with a rather limited palette like that without any skin tones or even browns that’s kind of okay.  To any other artists, it’s a real pain in the ass.
You don’t use brushes here, you place pixels like a mason would place bricks.
Even more so because of the following limitations.

The 256 x 192 canvas is divided into “attribute blocks” of 8 x 8 pixels:


And here comes the “fun” part. Those attribute blocks are only allowed to have 2 (!)
out of the primary 8 colors. You can use up to 15 by designating the attribute block as “bright”. A bright black is still black, so… 15 colors it is.

Being allowed to use only 2 colors in a block means you get “attribute clashes” like this:


The bloody baron should have a blue brickwall behind him, right?
Well, yes, but, no. That would mean 3 colors in one attribute block.
So, you have to make do with that and give the red guy a plain black block background.

Still, people have managed to create wonderful works of art within these boundaries:


Head over Heels title art by F. David Thorpe

With limitations  like that you need to get your shit together and do some serious designing. So let’s raise our 8×8 pixel glasses to those pixeleers in the pioneering days.

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Digital Painting Workshop

Wow, it’s been a long time since the last update 😀
Anyway, here’s a little step-by-step progress in creating a character concept.
I did this as part of a digital painting workshop I gave last year.
It took an afternoon from sketching a few shape doodles to find an appealing basic shape to the finished, rendered “Space Miner”.

So what we did was starting here:


…and moving here:


Here’s the whole progress:


Note that this is in no way “the right way” to digitally paint. My work is flawed in lots of places and there are different approaches to render digital 2D works. But, well, this is mine 🙂
Hope it helps!

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Latch Key Robots.

.) Job assignment not found.
.) Housing not found.
.) RoboHumanRelationship = 0.12;
.) Set Gang affiliation to True


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My impatient self likes the idea of <60 mins. paintings 😀

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Witcher 3 for ZX Spectrum!

Finally a version for a state-of-the-art personal home computer.
Follow the witcher Geralt on his adventures in this colorful and thrillingaction adventure!


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Doodling in quantity

If you are new to “concept art” or production design this might be interesting for you.
Brace yourselves for some non-native english and more words than pictures.
Concept art is not illustration. Those top images on art platforms like artstation.com are in most cases beautifully rendered illustrations that got polished over days or even weeks.
Illustrations usually are rendered to perfection to be enjoyed by the final consumer, while you should prepare to throw away most concept art doodles you did when you are merely part of a production.
It’s about producing quick doodles and designs and refine those until you have a foundation for those beautifully polished illustrations, 3d models or costumes.
I struggled myself for a while producing a lot of doodles instead of following the 2nd or 3rd idea through and getting lost in rendering what’s actually an illustration. Which can be explained by me coming from illustration and the reluctance to “throw away” most of your approaches that a lot of artists show.
What really helps in enjoying this process is aleatorics.
You can avoid the risk of falling into usual approaches f.ex. to forms or silhouette by going crazy with random brushes or symmetry drawing apps/plugins and rather start to interpret random results. Or at least embrace a certain mount of randomness that might bring in new, fresh ideas.

On a train ride I did a bunch of doodles using an ipad and a stylus for
spacesuits / robots.
(Further down you’ll find a link to what I used in detail)


When you quickly, roughly doodle with a symmetry function, there’s a good amount of randomness involved
that might ideally lead you to cool ideas you haven’t expected. It also puts a lot of fun and adventure into painting/drawing because you just make shit up as you go. Like playing with legos when you were a kid and made do with the bricks you just happen to grab from the box.
That in itself was aleatorics that led you to crazy new ideas while following a basic plan.
For example building / designing a robot.
With a bit of practice you should be able to do dozens of these doodles on a longer (2 to 3 hour) trainride.
I made a selection of silhouettes and threw away a few that really didn’t work before I put them together.

Some ideas just happened by accident, for example the flying-insect-like droid thing with what might be sun collector wings like you see on satellites. Then my mind directly wandered off to images of NASA employing these things as sun powered repair droids. I’ll definitely follow that idea later.

Once you have a silhouette / basic design you like you might do a mid-level concept as a follow-up with some color and moody lighting. Note that this shouldn’t go too far timewise if you are doing concept art in a project. Always be prepared that somebody MIGHT kill the idea before it becomes a finished, polished asset for the final user. Be it because of design issues, technical limitations or marketing reasons.

I picked this silhouette for a next-level step…

…and put in some coloring and feel for the metallic, sci-fi material in around 40 minutes.
Later I added some lighting and some dust around it to put it into a very basic environment mood.


What did I use?

I used an Ipad Mini along with the Sensu Artist Brush (using the stylus tip), although I’d recommend the Maglus Stylus. I didn’t have that with me on that weekend but I like it more. The brush tip on the sensu is pretty unnecessary on an ipad that lacks the precision of professional drawing tablets.
is the symmetry drawing application for IOS that I used.
Its usability is a bit awkward but you’ll get used to it.
It’s cheap and very effective for symmetrical doodling.

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Digital Character Doodles





Not sure yet if I’ll follow any of these sketches through.
It’s been fun though to sketch out some Character poses / designs just using a diamond shaped brush.


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Bellicist Pinup

OH, I know you might consider this sexist.
But if you think there is ANY connection between the fantasy world of zombies, space cruisers or pinup girls and reality… well… no. Not really.


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Embrace your laziness!

For years I’ve been really unhappy with my art. I’ve been looking at artworks, both traditional and digital and got angry at myself for my lack of progress and most of all my lack of focus.
I looked at higly complex drawings and paintings and got downright mad at myself for not coming up with the focus to work for hours towards a goal that I definitely have floating around in my mind.
But at some point, I lost focus and I started again.
The problem is that as artist in the entertainment industry I am influenced by ideas creeping into my head based on market logic. Certain artistic styles are predominant and more “wanted”, in the gaming field these are mostly highly complex, detailled, naturalistically rendered works.
So isn’t it logically to train yourself and overcome your “laziness” to deliver that kind of demanded art?
Not exactly. You should use your thinking, your character, your strengths AND your weaknesses to improve your art.
I started pursuing a reduced, exaggerated, non-naturalistic artstyle because it delivers quick results
and doesn’t afford me to painstakingly render every single ring on a chainmail.
My lack of focus and “laziness” made sure of that. But it’s no problem.
Instead of hitting myself for my lack of skills in hyperrealism, I learned to love my strengths in
reducing designs and achieving quick results. And, no surprise, the industry loves quick results.

And there will always be a niche for any art that is made with love. Even on the capitalist market.
Just focus on what you really feel like doing and maybe, just maybe occasionally hit yourself. It’s ok.
Just don’t get lost in self-loathing for not being the next hyperrealist rpg illustration master.
Because there are a couple of them out there doing deliveries. What the world needs more is artists that pursue their own crazy ideas using their own tools in THEIR OWN GOOD TIME and share them with the world.

This is a piece of illustration I did in a really short time because I needed some fun (quick painting results) and which led me to writing this blogpost.


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