AuthorTopic: finding a balance, and where pixel art stands.  (Read 8744 times)

Offline Seefour

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finding a balance, and where pixel art stands.

on: February 09, 2016, 12:41:12 am
I would just like to take a moment here and share my thoughts.  As someone completely new to art, I feel that I had pigeon holed myself into being a "pixel artist".
It is the style I want, so the hell with everything else right?

no...

About a week ago, I reluctantly decided to do something I should have done from the beginning.  I put a pen in my hand, and sat in front of a piece of paper, and started drawing basic lines, shapes, and forms.
I hooked up a cheap drawing tablet and began to invest time in front of the computer drawing as well, freestyle.  At first, I got juvenile looking shapes and wobbly lines both on paper and on my screen.  but as the hours past, things started (and continue) to improve for both my regular drawing, and pixel art.

I understand a big part of all of this, is finding something that works for the individual.  But even this seems kind of a blurred line.  With all kinds of information available on the internet, and kind of a green and naive view about everything, it seems pretty easy to fall into "you have to do it like this" mentality.

So, what it boils down to is this -

Where does pixel art stand in the spectrum?  If i strictly draw and sketch the old fashioned way, will my pixel art improve at the same rate as well?
right now i am pretty content pixeling way less than I draw.   Should I pixel more?  are traditional art and pixel art apples and oranges, or granny smiths and red Delicious?






Offline Atnas

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Re: finding a balance, and where pixel art stands.

Reply #1 on: February 09, 2016, 04:29:18 am
First, welcome to Pixelation!  c:

When you create any representative art there are a few basic things that influence the result.

Firstly you have a mental library, a catalog of models in your brain, which is how you understand an object or form to be.

At the beginning we understand very iconic models of objects, this is symbolism, the impression of a thing.
This is where you draw almonds for eyes, or triangle noses, feet that are pointing towards and perpendicular to the camera, the list goes on. 
Spotting these are really fun, it can appear subtly in even your favorite artist's work (not by choice) :crazy:

As we study, we update our mental model, and we drift from our shorthand of the object towards a better understanding of how it works/exists and how it's constructed.

Through drawing we investigate our hypothesis on how well we understand a thing, and can see where it does not match up to real life.

Construction and the ability to represent what is in our mind are iterative processes that simply require work. Along with this, is the study of light, and how to render, of materials; the fields you can choose to study beyond simple construction are numerous.

Past the more scientific/analytical fields of representative art are combinations of mental factors which are far too complicated to generalize, but very fruitful to analyze and dissect on your own. These are your interests, your desires, your personal feelings. The expression that comes about through reflecting on what parts of reality you want to represent, or have a certain fetish for, will be your inherent style. This is where you will find yourself purposefully creating a shorthand for a construction, essentially deconstructing the real thing to communicate it how you want it to be seen.

On to pixel art..

Pixel art is a medium, if you evaluate each pixel in a piece of artwork, it is pixel art. This means that we will usually be working with smaller images, because it's too much of a task to check every pixel at very high image resolutions.

For Pixel art, it is more forgiving than other mediums, because it hides the artist's hand in a way like no other medium. You are working with literal "picture elements", the rawest form of manipulation available.

Pixel art itself has certain techniques that you can use to represent things in a smaller space, and it's essentially all math. Once you learn these relationships and patterns, pixel art is simple, almost automatic. However, that is just the beginning, like learning to hold a paintbrush or pen. There are many other occurrences in pixel art that are still emerging, being discovered, and researched by artists every day. Optical illusions, new ways to hide the pixel, optimization of clusters within pixel art, just check out the Ramblethread to see some loose thoughts by some members here. Pixel art is a very new medium.

There are very many talented pixel artists. But they might not be skilled artists in the general sense of the word. You may find as your critical eye develops that some of the impressive pixel artwork you once thought was amazing now has serious flaws in fields you have studied. Pixel art has a way of masking the artist's drawing ability, because it is sometimes very far from drawing. For instance, their idea of what a hand looks like may be very off model from the real thing (assuming they were aiming for a realistic hand), and they represented their idea of a hand beautifully, to the degree it is impressive, but it still communicates the wrong forms.

There is a beautiful flipside to this: because a refined pixel art process is far removed from drawing, it is easy to simply take our mental model of construction and lighting, and render them onto the canvas without flaws in our hand's execution. You do not have to struggle with paint, or ink, or graphite, or even fine motor control. You can endlessly revise without fear of destroying undoable aspects of the work, like the energy found in brush strokes, or even the physical integrity of paper.

This said you probably won't find many artists who don't draw or blob out their work before they begins the process of evaluating and refining the pixels.

--------------

To your final question, and TL;DR (please do read,  :P )

Pixel art techniques are few, and simple to learn. General art principles make up the vast majority of a work's success. You can draw/paint 90% of the time, pixel the other 10%, and be way better off for it. Drawing and painting update and refine your mental library, and will directly influence how well you can create pixel art in the future. Closely watch the work of a new pixel artist who is already a magnificent painter, it will be telling in their work just how much of its merit is general artistic skill and how much is pixel specific skill.

Offline Wes

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Re: finding a balance, and where pixel art stands.

Reply #2 on: February 09, 2016, 04:55:24 am
ok so here's my take on it:

so pretty much everybody comes to pixel art from a games background but a lot of people here have backgrounds in "real art" too. eh don't get me wrong i've been drawing my whole life but never with the level and dedication of some of these guys. personally for me I'm not an artist first. i'm a game designer first. pixel art for me is a means to an end. i've never really made a "pixel art piece" like some of the gorgeous pixel paintings you see around here. i make sprites and tiles, and I approach pixel art with the mindset that everything needs a function or purpose. otherwise, like if your goal is just to make beautiful art or be "an artist", then you're probably better off doing something in glorious hd instead anyways

Offline Atnas

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Re: finding a balance, and where pixel art stands.

Reply #3 on: February 09, 2016, 05:14:47 am
@Wes: That's another great perspective, and perhaps one that I overlooked a bit too much in trying to break down the relation between general art and pixel art... ignoring my own perspective as well.

I'm mostly a commercial artist, at least when it comes to pixel art, and I need to do things within a certain timeframe according to a budget. I can't afford to seek the best representation in every piece of pixel artwork I do. Where the balance comes from (and why pixel art is still hugely relevant beyond fads) is in how well it masks deficiencies, or straight up encompasses them with the correct approach due to how large a pixel is relative to the thing you're making at small resolutions.

If you imagine a loose sketch, containing multiple lines representing a single contour, each one is an approximation at the correct line. Once you pick a single line from the bunch, you could give off a worse impression if you select an incorrect contour.

In low res pixel art, because lines and shapes are so relatively huge and simplified, it can encapsulate a lot of that guesswork into a single definite line or contour, and make things drastically more efficient.

Ultimately, finding your personal balance depends on how you want to use pixel art.

Offline Gil

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Re: finding a balance, and where pixel art stands.

Reply #4 on: February 09, 2016, 12:21:31 pm
I've seen people practice just pixel art for years and I've seen people practice fundamentals for years, then try their hand at pixel art. The second category always has the best results. I'd say for an optimal result, Atnas is about right, 90% art fundamentals, 10% pixel techniques for your practice.

Why do I say art fundamentals instead of just drawing/painting/digital painting? I've seen the same issue with people practicing manga for years. It's not really the medium that matters, but the subject matter. Starting with simple shapes is good, moving onto anatomy is good (even if you don't plan on drawing realistic people, studying anatomy is THE best way to understand contours, volumes, value, etc). One major point, I feel is important: when practicing, don't focus on "finishing" your sketches. I see Youtube comments on art videos all the time of people saying "I have the hardest time finishing my sketches" and that's probably problem number 1. You shouldn't try to finish your sketches, you should be focusing on the task at hand. If you are studying contours, shading those contours won't help much. Taking the time it takes you to shade those contours to make another 2 contour drawings however, that will give great results.

Offline Helm

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Re: finding a balance, and where pixel art stands.

Reply #5 on: February 09, 2016, 01:38:07 pm
Pixel art is something you can get the handle on in 3-6 months if you come to it with solid fundamentals. Learning to draw what you see instead of what you thought you saw, conveying volumes and textures and their interplay with light will take a lifetime.

If you can help it, go 90% fundamentals 10% pixels.

Offline yrizoud

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Re: finding a balance, and where pixel art stands.

Reply #6 on: February 09, 2016, 02:52:58 pm
Practicing other art forms / techniques "on the side" is not only a mean to improve your technique(s), it can also help a lot with motivation.
Pixel art is known to be time-consuming, and early bad decisions are unforgiving. I find it a real breath of fresh air to sometimes doodle with watercolor or india ink, even though I suck royally at it and don't take them seriously enough to learn.
Software which mimics traditional arts tools are very handy for this, since you can go wild, you don't pay for the art supplies :)

Offline Seefour

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Re: finding a balance, and where pixel art stands.

Reply #7 on: February 10, 2016, 07:04:18 pm
Thank you all for the wonderful insights :)

Offline Cyangmou

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Re: finding a balance, and where pixel art stands.

Reply #8 on: February 13, 2016, 02:07:54 am
I think pixel art is a medium.
Like watercolors, pencils or crayons it comes with it's own limitations.
And pixelart also has some unique workflows to it when you should apply what technique to be "effective" in a professional sense

The question is what does pixelart what other mediums don't?
-no gradients: pixelart don't has "true" gradients. It's mostly a style with flat colors, without any subtle color change, stuff like dither is an approximation.
-limited palettes: with limited values and ramps,pixelart forces you to think really a lot about color usage
-limited resolution: can heavily impact the detail, can also get used to hide stuff effectively. YOu have to think about how to represent something with a limited space. The choice of resolution for pixelart is really a critical one which has maybe the biggest impact on any piece of pixelart.
-very strong angles: pixel art usually is very angular, because only straight, 45, 2:1 and 3:1 lines tend to look clean
-no line thickness/weight: because outlines will most likely consist out of  1px thickness, you can't apply subtle changes in line thickness to support weight
-no soft/hard edges: this can get in your way if you want to have a lense-focus on something. Pixel art stays usually always crisp&sharp
-great for animation: because pixel art is so simple and clean it's great to animate with and the more painterly approach makes it imo superior to any line approach in this
-great to recolor/edit/copypaste together: this can mean a ton of output with fairly minimalistic input. For projects like games this is something which musn't be overlooked.

All those things have absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the pixelart.

In fact is that you can learn/practice some things really good with pixelart , like recognizing angles, making beautiful balanced palettes, or even deconstructing stuff to make it work with just a few dots of color.
Stuff like proportion, exact lines, gesture and more are incredible hard to learn with pixelart, because the medium excludes a lot of those aspects.

Like with every artform pixel art will improve with general understandment of the medium.
But like with every medium there is a lifelong experimentation involved in how to construct and deconstruct things with it to make it work.


If you practice quick line sketches with pencils, that's usually more effective, because lines are faster drawn with pencils.
But as soon as you want to think about how to represent something you know how to draw with pixels, you have to switch to pixelart.
Animation studies, color palette studies and ofc. how to interpret stuff just with a few pixels you could do really efficiently with pixelart.


It's important to find a good balance between pixel art and other mediums. Nail it down where it brings you forward and where it hampers you. Do the stuff where it brings you forward and the stuff where it hampers you, are maybe bette routsourced to other medias for practice-purposes.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2016, 02:10:22 am by Cyangmou »
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Offline Friend

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Re: finding a balance, and where pixel art stands.

Reply #9 on: February 15, 2016, 06:22:05 pm
I'm glad cyangmou described what pixel art does over other mediums, because i found previous answers a little to implicative that pixeling is more a "style" that is achieved through rote mathematical and mechanical "pixel pushing". 

This, of course, is not true, and though there are pixel artists who do treat pixel art more in this way, but I believe the best pixel artists seek to do something special within the medium.  Basically, as a separate medium, a pixel artist should develop an artistic touch or eye for the medium, similarly to how an ink artist's "touch" will derive its artistic poignancy by emphasizing or thinking critically about how they can take advantage of the unique aspects of the medium.

For example, this piece by Thu brilliantly capitalizes on the low res of the medium, an attribute which typically means implying certain details or features is often more effective than trying to fully recreate something.  10 pixels may create a super realistic ear, whereas actually trying to draw an ear may turn out ineffective.  (Being able to make a beautiful ear in 10 pixels is not just a matter of whether you can draw a beautiful ear, a fundamental artistry, but whether you can imply it in a handful of squares, and thus requires pixel artistry.)  Notice the crystals below.

Another great great aspect of low image size typical to pixel art is that every "pixel", like an "atom that makes up all matter", is given meticulous care, and is really the only digital medium that can claim this attribute.  The benefit of this attribute is of course a usually unbeaten sharpness, but also the ability to reach an unbeaten level of control, because it goes deep all the way to the most basic unit of digital art, the pixel.  Notice also the pixel clusters and how being controlled on the most basic level affects its visual quality.



This piece works as a great piece of not just art, but captivating pixel art, because it capitalizes on the medium.

It is good advice now to focus mostly on art fundamentals, but if you decide once youre a solid artist that you want to be a great pixel artist, I think it is erroneous to say that it'll take a few months to master.  I believe being a great pixel artist too is a long term endeavor.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2016, 06:28:36 pm by Friend »