First off, happy new year! I just realised it's been just short of a year since my last blog post... I have reasons, honest! The main one is that a huge chunk of last year was spent moving house, meaning I had no workspace for beading for a fair few months. The hard work was worth it however, as I now have a fully functioning art studio / games room in the spare room. It's probably also in my best interest to acknowledge my wife here, who has graciously allowed my childhood to continue into my late thirties.
Pretty sweet room, right?
My new year got off to a great start when Vintage Is The New Old ran a profile on my artwork after one of their contributors commissioned some sprites from his favourite games. You can read the article here.
Last year I only exhibited at two shows - the London Gaming Market in April, and PLAY London in August. Again, this was due to the house move (PLAY London was the day before we actually moved house, just to make things that little bit harder). This year I vow to be at more markets and shows! I have already booked a stall at the London Gaming Market on March 17th - you can RSVP via Facebook here.
I have also (finally) updated my Etsy shop, CaveOfPixelsArt with new art for sale, and am running a special offer of 15% off all pieces until the end of January, so don't miss out on some tasty wall candy! That's a weird way to describe art, but I'm sticking with it!
Hello and welcome to my latest blog post! Firstly, a little something I'm fairly proud of... recently The Hubbub restaurant/bar/theatre in London kindly asked me if I'd like to be their first resident artist, so of course I accepted! It's a great honour to be the only artist to have their work featured in this awesome space.
It was my local bar when I lived in London a few years ago, and it was only after I moved away that I found out they were looking for more artists to display on their walls. I have my lovely wife to thank for that, as she is the one who spotted it when they put the call out on social media.
Since then I have had my art up in the venue a few times, and it's always been a place where my style and inspirations seem to be appreciated by the clientele. I'm looking forward to creating more pieces for the Hubbub, and will post updates whenever I have new art for their walls!
Until then, here are some pics of the latest art additions:
The Hubbub bar-kitchen is at 269 Westferry Road, London E14 3RS. More info can be found at their website.
My other update is that I am all signed up to be an exhibitor at this year's PLAY London event in August! It's a two day event featuring retro gaming, modern gaming, special guests, arcade machines and more. I can't wait to be there, it sounds like a great event! Check out my Events page for more info.
Recently I have been focussing on selling my art online through Etsy again, so here's a little plug for my shop. It's called CaveOfPixelsArt, and allows you to buy a selection of pieces directly.
Currently there is only videogame-themed artwork listed, but I intend to add a variety of pieces as I sort through my stock. Pixel art is only a hobby for me currently, so until it pays the bills I can only give it my attention on my days off from work. Stay tuned for updates!
This week I set up some artwork at the Hubbub Café/Bar in East London. My art will be up for all of February, so if you're in the area, please pop in and check it out! They also do awesome food, so I recommend stopping for a bite to eat.
The Hubbub is located at 269 Westferry Road, Isle of Dogs, London, E14 3RS.
The next London Gaming Market is almost upon us, and this time I'm fully prepared! I'll be taking over 100 handmade pieces of pixel art to the Market on 19 Nov, and thought I'd provide a preview of what I'll have available:
Frame sizes range from 18x24cm to 50x50cm. A few more pieces will be added to this gallery between now and the 19th, so do check back to see what's new! Also, if you'd like to see any other games represented, please let me know and I'll see what I can do!
Yesterday I made a pixel portrait that combined black and white for the skin tones with full colour for the hair and lips. I like to do this with certain portraits as the results can be quite striking. Here is the original picture, side by side with the finished pixel piece:
I originally planned to do the portrait in full colour, but wasn't satisfied with the skin tones in my design. Black and white skin tones generally look pretty good when using Artkal and Hama's range of greys (I use six shades between black and white), so I decided to go that route. I didn't want to lose the striking colour of the hair and lips though, so I combined the two.
Without editing the photo, a combination design like this isn't easily done in the Perler program (my design software of choice). I could have used a photo editing app on my phone to make the pic black and white, while including colour where I wanted it, but this can be a timely, tricky process when trying to do it on a small phone screen. For this reason I used a technique I have used in the past - making a colour design as well as a black & white design, and use them both. Here's what I came up with:
As you can see on the left, just changing the colours to black and white with the reds and pinks included too doesn't give the finished result I was looking for. As the design is based on a colour photo, the software puts some colours where I don't want them, as they are closer to the actual colour than a shade of grey is, for example in darker areas.
So with this portrait I worked from both designs, and also continually referenced the original photo to check where the greyscale should end and the colour should start.
As with all my portrait designs generated by computer software, there is an element of cleaning up by eye to be done. This usually means tidying up the eyes and mouth, and this picture was no exception. While the lips only needed minimal improvements, the eye in the original designs was a bit lifeless compared to the real eye in the photo. For some reason the whites of the eye were interpreted as grey by the software, the pupil was indistinguishable, and the iris shaped all wrong. It took some trial and error to get the right shade of grey (using white proved to be too jarring in this picture) and the right shape, but I think the final eye is a big improvement. She now looks like she's looking at something specific, rather than just vacantly staring into space.
From starting the design process to laying the last bead took about 4 hours. And this is the smallest size I make portraits in - had I been working at 30x40cm or 40x50cm it probably would have taken at least twice as long.
And for those of you wondering, the model is Sway Fierce, and a fun fact about her is that she likes retro gaming! Check her out on Instagram (@swayfierce).
Yesterday I made a trip to visit one of my favourite game dealers, Ally The Retro Hunter. Since I've been selling art, he's had a stall at most games fairs and markets I've exhibited at. He's bought art from me, and I've bought games from him, but we never get a lot of time at markets to chat, so it was good to catch up. Recently he was able to make the jump to full time games dealing, and has opened his own shop in Southend. There's something special about retro games shops, as there are so few in the wild these days, so I'm keen to support them when I can. So here's a little about The Retro Hunter shop!
I was impressed by the size of the shop and the amount of stuff for sale. Most retro games shops I've been to in recent years (not that there are many around these days) tend to be much more compact, with little of interest (to me anyway) actually on display. This place isn't like that, and after seeing the amount of stock out back that hasn't been sorted or just won't fit out on the shop floor, I'd definitely recommend asking if there's something specific you're after - chances are it just hasn't made its way to the shop floor yet! There were so many consoles and games in the store room, it was like an Aladdin's cave for retro gamers - I would have loved to sit in there all day and sort through it! For example, there were two Virtual Boys sat around in the back. I'd never played one before, so Ally Kindly let me have a go on one.
I'm not going to lie, I couldn't get the hang of it, visual-wise. There were a few seconds when my brain managed to interpret the images as one 3D scene, but then my eyes lost it again and I was trying to play tennis with two overlapping images in my vision. Not ideal... I soon gave up and decided I'm glad I never bought one of these curiosities, even being the Nintendo fanboy that I am. I have my 3DS and I'm more than happy with that!
The store has loads more to keep retro gamers interested though, including a few playable arcades, and of course plenty of games and consoles, as well as old board games, toys and action figures.
There's also a little bit of my pixel art on display in the shop (the framed Mario piece), with maybe more to come!
So where can you find this den of geekiness? The address is: 1172 London Road, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, SS9 2AH. You can also find him on Twitter (@TheRetroHunter) and Facebook (@TheRealRetroHunter). If you're into retro games and/or toys, this place is well worth a visit!
Tomorrow marks the start of my latest exhibition at The Star Pub in Dorking, Surrey. For the month of October, a variety of my artwork will be on display and available for sale. Please take a look at the Event page on Facebook here.
Here are some of the other pieces that will be available:
Hi pixel fans, it's high time for another Cave of Pixels update, so here goes! What have I been up to then? Well, I arrived back in the UK last month, approximately 10 days before the London Gaming Market, where I was set to have a stall. Some frantic beading later, I was ready and set up!
It was another great market, organised by Replay Events, and I was pleased to shift two thirds of the artwork I took. I'm already looking forward to the next one in November!
Having designed a lot of portraits while I was away, I was keen to get started on them. I made a few of my favourite models:
As you can see, Charlotte was happy to receive hers in the post! If you want to find these ladies on Instagram, their usernames are @charlottesomething , @dani_divine and @shellydinferno .
The rest of my work has been portraits, with a view to exhibiting in The Hubbub again. Here's what I've done so far, with more in the pipeline...
Enlarge the Ali one to see the level of detail involved, despite only using 7 colours. An eye for detail and plenty of patience is essential in this game!
Although it was the simplest design, the Hulk one was particularly time consuming because I realised about half way through that the shade of dark green I was using was too dark. The pic below shows the darker green in the top half, and the lighter shade in the bottom, which allowed the detail to show through better. It was a painstaking process, but I went back and replaced the darker beads.
I've also been fixing some older pieces I made, but never got round to presenting properly for one reason or another. For example, the Disney Princess Leia used to be mounted on a painted canvas that had been battered and dented in storage, so I decided to frame it instead.
The Avengers portraits had just been sat around unframed for ages, so I decided to make some comics collage backgrounds for each character to mount them on. I hope you'll agree this has made them look pretty good!
Another cool thing going on right now is a little exhibition I have at The Star pub in Dorking, with a superheroes theme. The awesome team at Game Over Gaming have organised this for me. Here are some pics:
The bead train never stops! Stay tuned to my social media for daily updates on my pixel art! Find me at @caveofpixels on Twitter and Instagram.
I’m still here, pixel fans. My lack of original output over the past few months can be attributed to my job sending me somewhere that makes it inconvenient to bead. I was home for a couple of weeks, and managed to make a few new pieces (as well as come oh-so-close to completing one before running out of beads, like a NOOB), but it’s back on hold again until I’m back in the country in July. I have been reposting my work on social media to keep me in the game, but I much prefer it when I can drop new pics and blow minds!
I have recently secured a stall at the London Gaming Market on Sunday 23 July. I get back to the UK around the 13th, so that will give me roughly 10 days to churn out as much games-related pixel art as possible! I usually aim to take about 80 pieces with me to fairs, as that’s about the maximum I can load in the car. I’ve got maybe 10 pieces right now, so I will have to be pretty productive upon my return! Those who have been in touch about commissions, I haven’t forgotten about you! Due to my low stocks for the LGM, I’ll have to hold off on the commissions until the fair is done.
Other than the LGM, my art will potentially be on display at The Star pub in Dorking, Surrey at some point, and there may be scope for another stint on the walls of the Hubbub pub later in the year. I will post updates as I have them confirmed. Of course, none of this can happen until I get home and get creating… I have plenty of ideas lined up ready to go though, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in again! My creative genes have been suppressed for too long, I really miss beading out here.
When home the other week, I did get some inspiration from a couple of books I recently bought. One was called the 8-Bit Art Book, and is pretty much what it sounds like – a coffee table book featuring art and screenshots from classic games, with a brief bit written about each game too. This was good, if a little light, reading and art-wise. The other book was one I had backed on Kickstarter last year: The NES/Famicom Visual Compendium by Bitmap books. This book has a lot more in the way of writing about the system and games, and each page features awesome screenshots, many of which have formed the inspiration for pieces I’m going to make for the LGM in July. There are also extended pages featuring maps, full levels, fan art etc. The presentation is excellent and overall it’s a great book for retro game fans.
My name is Iain and my addiction is making pixel bead art. My main inspirations are comics, video games and movies.