A month of pixel art, or the effect of daily practice?
I’d always wanted to have a chance at getting some daily practice in, that was also timeboxed such that I wouldn’t ruminate on a piece forever, never finishing it, just endlessly noodling.. moving pixels around, adjusting the palette.. Nay, no more of that this time!
For each of these, I’d work on them for somewhere between 30 mins to 2 hours, depending on how well it goes or how much I’m enjoying it (or how intensive the piece is with regards to shading etc).
Getting Started, or what suffering feels like
On the first day, I’d had a bit of a time figuring out how to get into the swing of drawing again, or even what format or palette I should use? Should I have a consistent sprite size I use every time? Should the palette be the same every time (aside from when the daily prompt forces you into a specific palette) or should it be up to my mood at the time?
So many questions.
So I had not yet set any limitations that I would stick to, figured I’d just get started, anywhere, on anything.
Day 1 - Theme: “Limit Break”, Title: “Boom Zoom”
I decided to start with a 128x128 canvas and the classic gameboy palette as I’d had luck with it before in “getting things done” without ruminating too much, being able to focus only on the form.
With the days theme being “Limit Break”, I decided to draw and animate a little anti-air installation:
Day 2 - Theme: “Marine Life”, Title: “Penguin?”
By the second day, I’d figured that sticking to the 128x128 format for every day of the monthly drawing run I was on might be a good way to avoid analysis paralysis, and so the one standardization I landed on was this: the canvas should always be 128x128. Palette would still be up in the air, as I felt being trapped in a single palette wouldn’t be much fun :)
With the theme being “Marine Life” and with my lifelong fascination with penguins, the motive choice here was pretty simple, a penguin adrift!
Day 3 - Theme: “Cereals”, Title: “Cornflakes”
For this one, I felt about halfway through that I’d picked a bad angle to draw my motive from, picked a bad palette and just generally run rather dry on motivation (no pun intended, there’s supposedly milk in the drawing after all), but I’m still happy I managed to draw something even if sub-par to my own expectations.
Day 4 - Theme: “Cracks”, Title: “A Humble Abode”
On this particular day, I was feeling a little bit grim given the theme was “cracks” and what popped into my head was the homes of people trapped between great powers at war, and this piece was produced, this time with the gameboy palette again:
“A Humble Abode”
Day 5 - Theme: “Mint”, Title: “A Leafy Friday”
For this particular theme, I’d always seen mint leaves up close at home in Sweden (when I was still there, that is), and figured I’d draw some Spearmint for the theme, and I was quite happy with the result here!
Other ideas for this particular theme included: mint leaves, mint plants, spearmint, peppermint, newly minted coins, mint condition items, and.. mint green?
But spearmint it was in the end!
“A Leafy Friday”
Day 6 - Theme: “Hermit”, Title: “A Peek Into The Hermits Chamber”
For this day, I actually ended up using Blender to set up a lighting reference for how the shadows would fall roughly given the scene (which helped a lot, my initial guess wasn’t bad, but the reference certainly helped even if crude).
“A Peek Into The Hermits Chamber”
Day 7 - Theme: “Plushy”, Title: “Penguin Plushie”
On this particular day, the theme was “Plushy” and I actually had a penguin I could use as reference even, and while I believe I got the approximate shape down, I was not at all happy with how the shading or colour choice worked out, the more I worked on it, the more definition it lost.. It does look “soft” and the shape is basically there, but again, I think I could have done better, but it was completed!
Day 8 - Theme: “Boiling”, Title: “Boiling.. Frogs?”
Given the theme this time, a boiling pot of water almost immediately came to mind at the time, initially I’d wanted to produce something more focused on the surface of boiling water but realised the immensity of the task and stepped to something I knew I could do (or figured at least, seemingly correctly this time) and would be appealing :)
For this one, I spent maybe a bit over 1 hour, and it was already quite late when I got to it, so I stopped at this point (when I’d finished my infinite noodling in getting the fume hood to look right)
If I’d had a little more time I would have liked to maybe tile the kitchen floor and perhaps decorate the kitchen wall a little? Small touches that could have helped the overall a lot, … or maybe just ruined it with too much clutter. Who knows? :D
Day 9 - Theme: “Luchador”, Title: “Face Rash, the Luchadore”
For this particular theme I originally dreaded the idea of drawing a Luchadore, I mean.. human form? Faces? Potentially both? In this 128x128 canvas? Well. It turns out my fears were a bit overblown and in the end I ended up enjoying the process a lot, producing this monstrosity I’m quite proud of.
Or in the words of a friend “a little warioware-ey” which does feel like where it ended up? Would probably fit nicely amongst portraits of that kind!
Note: halfway through making this I set out making a variant which used shading more extensively but I quickly found it destroyed the appeal of the piece so far a little bit, while not adding a whole lot, so in the end I scrapped that branch and kept the form as we see it now :)
“Face Rash, The Luchadore”
Day 10 - Theme: “Semaphore”, Title: “Stop or Go?”
For this theme, semaphore already has a particular meaning in mine and erics field 1 , but I’d remembered semaphores (okay okay, after a little research) also related to railway signaling and in my quest to avoid drawing human figures (and fitting my fascination with rail), I decided to draw the semaphore arm for the MAUQ (Multiple Aspect Upper Quadrant) system for signaling:
… Why this system in particular you ask?
Mostly because I thought it looked cool with a bit of the old, a bit of the new :)
“Stop or Go?”
Day 11 - Theme: “Kiwi”, Title: “A Kiwi… in comfortable darkness?”
On this particular day the theme was “kiwi”, and given the (somewhat obvious, maybe?) twist that many put on the kiwi with making a kiwi that was also a kiwi.. (yes, the fruit), I felt like I would rather just draw a “normal” kiwi in an interesting moody setup, whilst tackling my mortal enemy.. fur.
Fur and hair, are for me two things I am terrible at drawing, but given my previously sorta bad experiences with trying to draw hair and my experience gain since then in applying shading to make fur/hair more believable, I think it turned out quite well!
If there’s anything I’d like to improve on here it would be achieving similar results with a far smaller palette!
“A Kiwi, In Comfortable Darkness”
Day 13 - Theme: “Wreck”, Title: “Wrecked In The Ice”
For this particular theme, what immediately came to mind for me was the Skadovsk 2 , which of course wasn’t actually lodged in the ice, but on a dried out riverbed, however imagining the ship in an arctic setting got my mind moving and I set out to make it real!
“Wrecked In The Ice”
Day 14 - Theme: “Dirt”, Title: “Dirt Cheap”
The choice of title and motive here was motivated by my.. uninspiring financial situation when I drew this, the kind of thing you end up drawing when you search your mind and think “dirt cheap” sounds apt, a three leaf clover because “nobody with dirt in their wallet is lucky enough for a four leaf clover”.
… Too grim? (It’s not as grim as it sounds, really, and I enjoyed drawing this so it balanced out!)
Day 15 - Theme: “Banana”, Title: “Fried Banana? Fried Banana.”
This piece is probably one of those that I had the most fun doing, the combination of semi-transparent bits (the viscuos sort of liquid/syrup), the odd perspective and simultaneously trying to convey that these are indeed banana slices at this resolution was.. challenging.
In the end I could have just drawn a banana 3 , but where’s the fun in that? :D
“Fried Banana? Fried Banana.”
Day 16 - Theme: “Mineral”, Title: “Shards of Time”
For this particular day, the theme was “mineral” and leading on from my confusion about what I would draw for this theme that had so many possibilities, I eventually came to look at the worn out wristwatch I had sitting on my desk I’d purchased on a trip to Münich with a friend… it became clear, I would draw the “Shards of Time” (the name of the piece was kindly contributed by my friend Scarlet), or our dear friend the oscillator and timekeeper… quartz!
The first version I made was the basic shape and outline, but I figured once I’d gotten this far.. maybe I could add some shading to give the watch a bit of the worn appearance the real watch it was mimicking actually had?
“Shards of Time”
The version with the shading!
Day 17 - Theme: “Negative Space”, Title: “Cityscape”
For this theme, I remember feeling quite tired and uninspired on the day, and given the many many possibilities and places you could go with “Negative Space”, I tilted a little bit at first. However, recalibrating and missing the ambience of the city and the mountains both, I thought a hillside cityscape would be just right :)
Day 18 - Theme: “Nocturnal”, Title: “Nocturnal.. Creatures”
For this one, I started with a very simple view of the corner of a room and was going to draw a lit up desk in the dark, inspired by my recent habits of staying up late drawing.. but then my brain took it somewhere else and this.. thing? .. came out of the other end!
Day 20 - Theme: “Portrait”, Title: “Pro Bird Rights”
For this one, the theme was “portrait”, and while I think most people interpreted it as being a portrait of a person, I chose to exercise my ahem… artistic liberties and chose one of my favourite twitter accounts: @ProBirdRights to be my subject!
This one was extra spicy because the pixel dailies theme this time also included a restriction to stick to the ZX Spectrum palette!
While I am no stranger to working in limited palettes.. the ZX Spectrum palette is.. inspiringly garish :)
“Pro Bird Rights”
… for this one, I actually came back the day after and experimented with making it look a bit more “alive”:
Day 21 - vvvv experiment day! - “Snek Visualizer”
On this day, a Saturday if I remember correctly I ended up falling into experimenting with vvvv just after lunch, with some DnB blasting in the background and fucking around with some functions over time, I ended up with this:
The Graph, in all its “glory”
Day 22 - Theme: “TextBox”, Title: “A .. Textbox?”
With the days theme being “TextBox” I thought it too weak to not go somewhat meta with it, so we have a cat and a textbox.. in a box, and as we all know cats love boxes … right?
“A .. Textbox?”
Day 23 - Theme: “Glove”, Title: “The Glove”
For this particular day, I really struggled to draw the leather gloved hand I imagined, I mean.. hands are hard in the first place, but then a /gloved/ hand! Of course, the theme itself was just “Glove” so nothing ahem.. forced my hand
But still, I felt like the more I noodled, the more it ended up looking more like a black dude’s hand and less like a glove, but hey, at least it looks like something and I finished it!
“The Glove” (yes I know, very imaginative)
Day 24 - Theme: “Pandoras Box”, Title: “Pandoras.. Chest?”
For this one, I started out with a clean chest sketch and some really basic floorboards, and then at some point I just completely zoned out and went ballistic with shading and probably something closer to painting more than “pixel arting”, in the end, despite some technical issues (direction of the wood grain etc), I’m really happy with how the piece turned out, especially the cloud/explosion/smoke emanating from the chest!
Day 25 - Theme: “Time Capsule”, Title: “Bottle From The Past”
This one was a lot of fun as well, and was partially based on a reference photo for how a bottle actually looks when it’s floating around on the water surface, overall relatively happy with it, even if i’d like to have gotten some of the specular highlights to have turned out a little better than they actually did? As it is, it’s a very grimy looking bottle!
“Bottle From The Past”
Day 27 - Theme: “Extinct”, Title: “The Great Auk”
I love birds. Especially Penguins.
So, given that the Great Auk is supposedly the reason what we today think of as penguins are actually called penguins 4 , I jumped at the chance to help immortalize a species that was now extinct (I found the Great Auk by way of a cursory search for extinct birds, like the Dodo).
Overall, fairly happy with the result! :D
“The Great Auk”
This one I revisited the day after, to clean up the lines a little bit and remove the border that I think wasn’t adding anything (and it didn’t fit with the style of the rest of the piece).
Day 28 - Theme: “Card Game”, Title: “The Porch”
For this theme, I was missing the experience of sitting out on someone’s porch, playing a lazy game of cards over a cup of tea.. Another limitation of the day was max 5 colours, so I returned to my trusty and relaxing GB palette and .. more or less produced the space which I’d like to inhabit? Soon.
Day 30 - Theme: “Windmill”, Title: “A Windmill In The Night”
For this theme, I thought a straightforward approach wouldn’t be so bad and I quite quickly started browing google for images of windmills to seek inspiration from and found a wonderful reference:
Day 31 - Theme: “Pair”, Title: “Penguin Pair”
Again, the theme was pair and all I had in my head was pairs of penguins, somehow very specifically Gentoo 5 penguins appeared in my head, I found a really nice reference to use here as well from a BBC article on Gentoo penguins and the until now not wwidely known variety of species amongst what we’ve until now still just referred to as “Gentoo penguins”.. anyways I digress:
I mean, how can you compete with that level of penguin swagger?
Just because I actually did record it, here’s a timelapse of the process of drawing the last one!
If there’s anything I wish I’d done different here it’s maybe noodle not quite as long on figuring out the feet?
Feet are the worst.
It’s certainly something I’d like to improve on being more intentional about getting the shape right of.
Closing out, I ended up drawing for Creative Habit Jam #2 as well, however at this point life.. circumstances had come in the way a little bit and I’d run out of a steam a bit in terms of keeping going, so I didn’t manage to keep up the same pace.
However, I have no regrets in at least doing this for a month and a half or so, I pinpointed quite a few things I’d like to get better at art-wise and figured out I actually had a vaguely distinctive style already.
It also gave me the confidence that I could actually produce a piece if I just sat down and focused, maybe it wouldn’t be perfect and things can always be better, but there would be a little piece of art produced by yours truly and for that I’m happy that the creative habit jam was created to help facilitate this, thank you to Prolonging the Prologue for hosting part of this, it was (and is! it’s still going!) wonderful.
1. Okay so maybe I was aware of the meaning of it in a railway context before as well, but I wasn’t aware of enough of the details to make art out of it that wasn’t just silly, I like to at least blend my nonsense a litle bit with authenticity when I am leaning on an existing concept, be it real-world or fictional! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semaphore_(programming) ↩
2. A ship from the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat, the central hub for most quests the player undertakes after first landing in the world, quite memorable! https://stalker.fandom.com/wiki/Skadovsk ↩
3. Yes, the yellow elongated fruit, see also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana ↩
4. The Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis), extinct in the mid 19th century, also the bird from which penguins got their name, though they are not closely related! How great is not the ignorance of our ancestors? (see also emperor and king penguins): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_auk ↩
5. Can you blame me? Have you seen a Gentoo penguin lately? … No? Go! I’ll wait. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentoo_penguin ↩