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Topics - RAV
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General Discussion / Pixel Observations from ProcGen.
« on: March 19, 2018, 07:30:33 am »

I've been experimenting with pixel technique through content generation. Some more thoughts later.

General Discussion / The Master Builders of Minecraft
« on: January 30, 2018, 11:32:10 am »

Watch more stunning content like this on ElysiumFire.

General Discussion / Place and Purpose of Pixel Art?
« on: June 25, 2016, 01:36:43 pm »
We had discussions here about the role of arts and means of practice.
There were good points being made for the prime importance of fundamentals.
While at the same time, we try to develop pixel art into a contribution to the arts.
We try to make sense of pixel art, search for value in it, find its place in today's world.

Maybe we can first think about, what does each kind of practice bring to the table of art?
We are looking for constellations and relations within art. Maybe something like this:

Drawing: Form by silhouette and shading.
Painting: Material by colour and texture.
Pixeling: Pattern by reduction and reuse.

Painting incorporates the knowledge from drawing.
Pixeling incorporates the knowledge from painting.

Painting is not fundamentally different from drawing, but it adds another dimension to drawing.
And so does pixeling to painting and drawing. Or should try. That is what we should think about.

Focus study of an aspect is best done in the "native" craft,
form in drawing, material in painting, pattern in pixeling.

Pixeling builds ontop of the rest. After all, what is there to reduce and reuse, if you can't produce first?
But what do "pattern" "reduction" "reuse" mean? How much creativity and experience is in that? in pixel art?
Can it add a life long interest to the arts like "material" "colour" "texture" of painting did above drawing?

In its simplest form, it is just cleaning up the image after the fact.
In the higher order, it's constructing a scene out of rules and elements.

Thinking about how to stylize reality, has a greater function in pixel art, as greater means of reduction.
And like the art of reduction first needs knowing production, the art of stylization needs knowing reality.
Style is a form of ruleset, which is a kind of pattern, just like the reuse of colours or form can be.

By means of Structure and Suggestion along the mechanics of a grid,
we are looking for a clever ingenuity, that does a lot out of little:
Pixel Art is the Creative Reduction of the world, the design of elements that make worlds.

I think that this is the direction a natural tool for pixel art should take.

General Discussion / Pattern Recognition
« on: February 26, 2016, 04:20:44 am »
The question of art "fundamentals" and "style" is a difficult discussion.

The problem is that it's very loaded words for many people involved in the arts.
There are many negative examples and experiences, that made you conclude a certain way that works for you.
And when I try to see things from your point of view, I agree with you folks a lot, and your work speaks for itself.

But I also want to try make you better understand what this means for me, and how it connects with my work.
What kind of discussion I am really trying to have, and that I believe there is something good in it for you.
My involvement in pixel art is very special interest, it's not always directly relevant, but give it a chance.

I'd like you to appreciate that I took care in observing art work, and that I have often argued in your favour.
But in my own work, many weird things are happening, things that make me very curious, wondering.

I think the biggest problem is the question what kind of artwork we are looking for in this.
I mean, it's not just a question whether you do pixel art or pencil sketch.
What is it you want to create concretely, and what creative experience you're after?

A typical mistake I see in many newcomers to art is, that their subject matter far exceeds their current abilities.
Whether they start out on a way too large canvas, or that they go in with the expectation to draw convincing objects of real life, it gotta be recognizable as a real house, an actual person, or an animal you know. And they approach it as any other drawing. without knowing drawing.
But to accomplish that you need a kind of studies in the art that is indeed beyond the scope of pixel art.
When you try that without training, it's so easy to look so bad, because people know well how it's supposed to look.
Everyone has references in their head they compare it to and qualify in that.

There is a thought that's kind of nagging away on me for some time now, that the subject matter and style have a relevance in pronouncing the art form. And whether there is an artistic creativity that is beautiful, yet free from other conception, that you cannot train and study in other art forms but pixel art. A visual language, from design to execution unique to pixel art. In my experiments, I've seen remarkable mechanics innate to pixel art, a surprising power.

So for example, consider: Does Pacman look bad to you?

Please, for the purpose of this exercise, try best to assume distance to yourself, try not to burden it or yourself too much with your own motivation and conception.

For just a moment, lean back and try forget about yourself, and ask yourself, does Pacman look bad to you? Do you feel the need to criticize it?

Do you believe it would have been really better in a different approach exercising the art,
how much meaningful is drawing in informing Pacman, instead of just doing it as pixel art straight away?

In many ways you can call it an unaccomplished art work. It probably wasn't even made by a person that would identify as an artist.
And Pacman inspired many much more accomplished interpretations of how it could look more elaborate.

Wait a minute... it inspired? Pacman? huh? you gotta be kidding, right?... but it did. hrrrrm.
Pacman is visually striking, and burned into our cultural conscience forever. Its interpretations much less so.

Strange. this pixel art.

Again, try not to think about yourself. That this is unfair, how much work you put into studying anatomy.
There are plenty artworks that left a greater impression on humanity, your effort is not for nought.

But right now we're looking on the meaning of pixel art, forget the rest for a moment.

So we got something that has no shading, no anatomy, no gesture, no this or that.
It doesn't use pixel art technique to implement and accentuate any of that.

So what's left after that? Is there left anything meaningful? fun? creative?
Maybe we have something that is just pixel technique for the sake of looking beautiful by itself.
We have patterns in the grid. mesmerizing patterns. beautiful patterns, mechanically unique to pixel art.

But even in these patterns, we may recognize forms and even concepts, and a feel,
very loosely, but we can't help start seeing them, it's how our mind works.

And an artist knowing more about art, may be tempted to hint at that more.

So if you don't know much art yet, and maybe you're not certain you ever really want to,
why don't you just embrace having fun with the patterns of pixel art.
Even that by itself has infinite potential and brilliance.

Look, this video is not pixel art, and it is not made by an artist even.
But it is done by a dude who likes to play with patterns.
It's procedural, code meets art. Science and art always had an especially close relationship in computer graphics.
A merry go around of inspirations and requirements. But there are manual ways to doodle fractals like this too.
But even before computers, and millennia back, cultures worked with patterns in art, with close ties to what would become geometric math.

This video has an incredible atmosphere, provoking imagination, it's a mysterious world by itself.
It got jack shit to do with the real world. It's not a classic tree, a rock, or a rabbit.
You don't save a princess, defeat a dragon, and learn more about good or evil.

You don't need to know anything. Just look at this world, it has its own rules, you don't need to know anything else but it.
It is your all, this is your study, this you try understand, and from that you take your clues and build your imagination, in audacity.

Try to think how an inhabitant of such an environment could look like, what a house could mean there.
What else could this life there be about? How do even physics work there?
Don't be afraid of not looking how it's supposed to be, don't be afraid of being weird or making a mistake.
Being intimidated is a mistake and makes first for bad visuals. If you don't know traditional art, be bold to be different.
Don't make concessions. Don't "try" to be what you're not ready for, when you need to look good meanwhile.
Exercise that, but also dare experiment wildly with creative "non art" in your gaps when you need to make do.

I'm no artist, I'm not good at art. But look at this scene I made.

Look at the wall and the roof. I simply didn't know what to do.
So I started to embrace the pixel grid mechanic of patterns,
I could have done anything, it's amazing to play with.

Did I skimp out on doing real art there? did I cut corners in my work?
Maybe I should have done something else? Maybe you could have done something more amazing?
A real castle interior maybe. Personally, I felt I put effort into it and enjoyed myself.
I felt creatively engaged, but differently. But do I grow as artist like that? hrmm.
what artist? what art? and is any creativity that's different a waste of time, no progress?
Over time, I felt I get better at something. I don't know at what. is it relevant?

To me at least, it looks cool. You don't look at it thinking or feeling immediately that it's wrong art.

Maybe at some point, I'd look at some real things, and step the line, and mix and introduce real elements
into my grid patterns. maybe it looks like this? That doesn't try too hard, but it's going somewhere already.
Who knows what your journey is, what you're most into, where you start and where you end up.
Let your visual cortex run wild. fuck the system. break the rules. be free to dream. be unafraid.

Is that an advice to upstarting artists?
trying to become like your idols as fast as possible?
No. No advice, no recommendation, no anything.
If you're worried about wasting your time, stop reading me.

It's just my personal curiosity, trying to find things out for myself.
no matter where that leads me, if it is useful, and who likes it.
It's another perspective on this art with different motivations.


So what else is this thread about? Maybe discussing more patterns, and what it means for pixel art.

Even in traditional arts, ornament patterns often played an important role.

What examples do you have for artwork featuring patterns prominently in beautiful and influential ways?
Cross culture, Western, Chinese, India, Africa, millennia back or just yesterday. Show some patterns. What can we do with it?

Devlogs & Projects / Blackbox Voxel Tool
« on: December 24, 2015, 07:24:58 pm »
First public release experimental demo of Blackbox Voxel Tool. Download here (latest version 020c). Post and discuss art in this thread.

Update April 28 2016:

A lot has happened since my last activity here. Although much remains yet to be done.
Several updates have fixed and upgraded Blackbox into a different nature of creativity.
I would hope you have familiarized yourself enough with the first basics of the principle.
The new mechanics invite much experimentation and exploration of a depth unique to this tool.

These videos give a little hint:

Old introduction to topic:

The hotkey system discussed in the accompanied readme.txt may be a bit much at first, but will make more sense eventually.

This release omits the tiling capabilities shown in the videos previously, as well as the animation discussed on my website.
That will come with the following releases, alongside a better GUI. But it also sports abilities not shown or discussed yet. So do read the readme.

Still, there are a great many more or less obvious features missing that keep this from being an actual tool more than a toy. I consider this tool like the body of a living creature. It has vital organs, a heart, lungs, brain, any of which must be there and work properly, or the body can't live. There is a systemic dependency of functionality, so that the creature can go about the way it's supposed to. But this release right now would cut down from many vital functionality that define its true nature, its workflow, its very usefulness. For example, a selection snapped to grid is just a strange quirk only by itself. It is the crazy possibilities of the new tiling here that decide its usefulness, and entirely change your workflow. But that is not in this release. All you're stuck with is this weird selection then. And there are many other missing features just as important in defining the real identity of this tool.

The purpose of this release is to concentrate on studying the reactive behaviour of the grid, the visual behaviour of coloured cubes by side, the use of perspective on very large scale, and the basic idea behind the control scheme. Try to work around the tight cube limit with what you got, see what kind of visuals you can do with that for a mockup scene. That's enough for now. It will give you a first base of understanding. On the following releases it will start to actually get interesting then going from that.

As you play with it you may eventually notice problems innate to this medium.
Some of it will be solved, some will solve themselves as computers improve, some you may always have to work around.
We are here to study the potential, viability and proper use cases, alongside the limits, of this proposed technique here.

Also a couple more immediate issues remain that will be addressed in the future. Among them:

This project focuses on the very experience of the pixel art medium's process. It attempts to have a natural approach to it. One of its key features is a resilient and efficient Input Interpolation that enables beautiful line drawing, mostly uninterrupted even across corners and complex environment. However this needs more tweaking. For example, aggressive as it is now, it can happen that it paints a hidden side on edge cases, which prevents a reoptimization of the grid upon large overpainting. When you see it, use shift-paint to recolour the location wholesome, so the grid recovers.

Deleting a voxel can sometimes be a bit jumpy on the edge.

Have fun and work hard.

General Discussion / Pixel Art 3.0
« on: March 28, 2015, 01:26:40 pm »
"provocative". "controversial". Let's roll the ball and keep discussion productive.
As some of you know, I have been talking about this in the CB on PJ for quite some time now. And this is an attempt to move the topic over here.

First, take the time to observe. You might still remember my other videos from the past.

The last video, called Basement, I kinda forgot posting here. It is to be considered largely obsolete now; what you saw doing there would look very different now in this newest version:

The first few minutes showcase the improved Smart Select. It gets more meaty afterwards. it's half an hour long, try to give it the time to understand what we're talking about.

However, unfortunately, I could no other than produce this video with an excruciatingly bad video capture setup; this video begins with my earlier setup, but from mark 6:45 turns into my current bad, so you notice a terrible drop from there. This tool by itself still runs smooth as the earlier video. I had a similar problem way back in the past, and the difference between this bad video and the good reality of the tool running on even lower-end hardware, is the same as what you saw between the old "Blackbox" and "Colorado" videos in my youtube gallery. Painful as that is, since I am not sure when I can get better video capture again, I thought I might as well just jump in the cold water now, and start discussing the ideas behind the project. For the sake of discussion, try to concentrate on the meat of the proposed ideas for now, and just assume that this technically very well works actually.

We try to maximize distinctive differences of pixel art to other digital art, regardless of past limitations.
And finding solutions that are within this spirit to the art, that help define identity of the art, instead of confusing it.

There is no difference between a pixel or sprite or tile or map.
It can be considered all the same on a technical level.
Does this sound like confusing the matter? I believe these distinctions confuse the matter.
And this has consequences to the workflow; and the question of what is pixel art.

And as such, you could see here, there is no difference between colour-picking and tile-picking, it just depends what your current selection encompasses. And neither makes it a difference what size your brush has or what form it has, like that of a tile for example. And that's also how the 45 blocks will make a comeback as basis of an advanced tileset logic, as much as pixel logic--if you so please. Because it all makes no longer a difference, it's unified, while keeping the spirit of pixelart intact, and even pronounce the core distinctiveness of this artform, regardless technical limitations of a time. This is pixel art in its most distinctive form as a process of art compared to other digital art, and arbitrary limitations are not necessary to force a defensive definition of this art form.

Pixel art is about combinatory logic in a grid space.
limitations beyond that definition are just funny context to it. modes of the game. preferences.
each interesting and fulfilling in its own right. Even the question of 2d or 3d becomes just another context to it.
CG workflow that is less about combinatory problem in grid space, is less about pixel art;
-- the more strictly it is about combinatory problem in grid space, it transcendents contextual limits.

Snapping the brush of any size into a resolution grid, reinforces the identity of what is pixel art. That does not mean doing it different is not pixel art or bad pixel art. We must go away from taking it the wrong way. It means we have a strong point of orientation, a northern star, within the identity space of what is pixel art. And by that you are able to navigate your own way. By that we are able to conceptually grasp and develop pixel art, we are able to translate into other territory, be it platform or style. We are even better able to defy and spite it. And whether you accomplish making it look like painterly or realism or whatever, that's great, that's a praiseworthy accomplishment on its own, especially if you manage to do that within this strict logic of the art, especially though it might not be the best suited for it.

Tiled based workflow is not necessarily meant for just producing tiled looking works. First and foremost it helps you build substance in the starting phase. you quickly build critical mass that you can customize, mold and tune into whatever unique vision you have. The dynamic fractal-tile approach turns pixel art into its own creative advantage. And there is a large potential of skill and creativity in fully utilizing this.

It seems to be a common verdict here that mixed resolution is bad. Many of these sort of statements look at the issue from a stylistic/artistic point of view on a given work, as whether it is obviously mixed resolution. However, if you look at it from a technical perspective on the fundamental logic of the medium, you come to another conclusion: Almost every pixel art actually already is mixed resolution, whether it is intended or not. Whenever there are bigger clumps of clusters, there is a good chance this area could be technically described the same with bigger pixels of lower resolution. It's just non-obvious at first sight without dynamic adaptive grid visualization highlighting this abstractive fact.

Realizing this, with proper technical support, you have a much better orientation in canvas space. The dimensions and proportions of areas are much easier to eyeball on the fly in the planning phase, since instead of judging big confusing clusters of countless little pixels at same size, you intuitively compare their simplified definition as mixed resolution behind their seemingly continuous space: instead of 194 pixels of one area confusingly compared to the 295 pixels of the other, you may look at this same area as comprised of simpler cluster forms with 3 very big pixels, 4 smaller pixels and 5 very small pixels, of the same colour, attached to each other, clearly comparable to the other area made of 5 very big pixels, 2 smaller pixels and 4 very small pixels.

In the result this doesn't matter, without the grid overlay it's just continuous space in either case. but in the process it is quite convenient more than might be expected.

That voxels can have unique sides as much as a wholesome colour. makes for an interesting mechanic.
You can shade an object by wholesome voxels, or shade it by-side of voxel. You can and will even mix the two techniques within the same image. wholesome voxel colourization helps hide the cubic form, it becomes a blob of colour, instead of a volume-object by itself. This keeps the viewers attention on the overall form of the object that this voxel is part of; it suppresses corner noise that distracts from the actual object that the cubes combined are meant to describe. However, by-side colourization is just as useful, as there are just as many situations in which the emphasized "edgy-ness" is important part of overall definition of object. You want both. you have both.

This project is no "2d versus 3d", it merges both realms seamless, and what perspective is chosen, is decided on the fly; it is possible to just ignore 3d, make classic 2d sprites on the wall and convert it directly into bitmap, voxel for pixels on assumed full frontal. There really is no downside to this, and it can operate in a mode such, you wouldn't even realize you are not using classic "MS paint" instead of staring at a wall straight, within 3d space. You can easily ignore that, it's just an option that 3d is always just around the corner. Whether it has all the features you expect from mature 2d tools, is just a matter of effort and time.

However, I consider the development of this tool as something else than piling up all kinds of features and options. The goal is to produce a tool that is very directed in its design; that the usability design itself helps strongly define the core identity of the art, and serves as basis, as a point of orientation, like pixel art is in itself. A dedicated design towards the lean spirit of the basic combinatory problems in grid space. and that most of the effective workflows can boil down to surprisingly little but versatile functionality, that is playfully re-purposed towards the tactile situation, and thus highlights the spirit of the art instead of detracting from it.

General Discussion / Assimilation of Art
« on: May 30, 2014, 08:15:43 pm »

I am RAV. Lower your quarrels and surrender your gallery.
I will add your creative distinctiveness to my clusters of cubes.
Your culture will adapt to service me. Resistance is futile.

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