Well, yesterday the unthinkable happened. I managed to accidentally destroy a finished bead picture, just prior to ironing it. Over 2,000 beads, and about 5 hours' work down the drain. My Nicki Minaj portrait went from this...
Basically, I had removed the picture from the pegboards using masking tape, and was just touching up the image - correcting the odd out of place colour and repositioning beads that had shifted. I turned to switch on the iron and boom, beads everywhere. Part of the tape had stuck to my elbow and sent half the picture over the side of the table and onto the floor.
It's like it happened in slow motion. After a few seconds of shock, the the sinking feeling of having wasted hours on something pointless surfaced. I decided life's too short to try and re-sort the beads into their colours, and just poured them all into my box of randoms. Damn. I guess Nicki Minaj was never meant to be. Maybe the fact that I had to tinker with it so much in post-production was a sign. I was never fully happy with the computer's choice of colours for her skin tones, but by the time I could see the bigger picture it was too late to change it all. And the fact that the program completely ruined her perfect teeth only made things worse - I had probably spent an hour or so correcting them before I trashed the whole thing.
The lesson here? Never place all your trust in a computer program to create a bead pattern. Nothing beats the human eye for creating art.
Oh, and be careful not to ruin hours of hard work with one second of carelessness.
P.S. I've since got back on the horse, and my next project will be treated with more care than a newborn human baby! And on the upside, I now have a great example of what not to do, to add into my beading guide!
As an active pixel beader, I'm always checking out other peoples' work, and seeing what's popular in the world of fusebeads. It became very clear early on that one category dominates the world of beading: NINTENDO. Specifically, 8-bit Nintendo sprites from the beloved NES console. Super Mario, Zelda, Mega Man. These three franchises must have spawned more beadsprites than all the other games combined.
I must admit, they're a great starting point. While my first sprite wasn't from these games, it was a NES sprite, as they're generally quite simple. I did eventually get round to making some Mario sprites, with the theme of one per game from his first appearance on the NES, to his last 2D appearance on the Gameboy. It was a fun one-off project for myself. However, in the year or so I've been beading, I've seen enough of these to last a lifetime:
Just a few of the many Mario sprites out there. There's nothing wrong with them - the sprites were skilfully created by the wizards at Nintendo - but there's so much more out there for a beader to play with! I've seen Etsy shops that solely consist of Nintendo sprites, on magnets, earrings, keychains, selling for a pound/dollar or two each, and it just makes me think - surely there's more to life than just churning out the same old sprites over and over like a production line? I've done the odd commission piece for someone, but these days I'll only accept the job if it's something vaguely challenging or interesting to me.
I think I'm past the point of ever doing a Mega Man sprite. First of all, I've never been a big fan of the games. Possibly because I was never very good at them. Secondly, everything you could ever imagine has already been made into Mega Man sprites. You're familiar with the sprites, right? Here's a reminder:
Pretty basic stuff right? Surely there's not much room for variation? WRONG. There are Street Fighter Mega Man sprites, Ninja Turtles Mega Man sprites, Zelda Mega Man sprites...
The list goes on. It's actually quite impressive that these characters can be so quickly identifiable, despite the set sprite format, and the small number of pixels. Anyway, my point is, that these little sprites are good for practice when you're starting, but they've kind of been done to death, so move on and challenge yourself as soon as you can. Bead bigger, more detailed sprites, or even create sprites yourself. Use computer software to turn photographs into bead patterns and turn that pattern into an actual piece of art. The results are hugely satisfying when you push yourself and create something that didn't exist before. I don't claim that most of my work is completely original, but I try my best to bead sprites that I haven't seen beaded before, and bead photographs after I've manually adjusted the light and colour settings to my preferences. Maybe one day I'll have the time and inclination to create my own pixel art from scratch, until then I'll be choosing the most interesting projects, and making sure I put as much of myself into them as possible.
For instance, with my latest little project, while I can't say that I invented the Sega font, I took the time to use an online font generator to get the words "MAN CAVE", then manually draw that writing in pixels on my iPad, before finally beading the pattern. I can honestly say I've never seen a sign like the one I've created for my Man Cave. Computers are probably always going to play a part in the creation of my bead pieces, but this isn't a bad thing, as I'll always try to get the most imaginative/interesting results out of them.
For more info on creating pixel art, I highly recommend Retronator's blog post: No bullshit pixel art tutorial. He even breaks it down into bitesize videos here.
More shoutouts! I've stumbled upon a couple of interesting documentaries that are in the process of being made, and wanted to share them. Both are related to the Nintendo of days gone by - the NES era!
First up, The NES Club - a documentary born out of a dare. One NES collector attempts to get the full NES game library in 30 days, without purchasing any of them online. The trailer explains it better:
As far as I can tell, there is no website dedicated to the film, but you can get updates on their Twitter account (@PyreProductions) and Facebook page (The NES Club), where Rob informs us (as of March 4th) that "The NES Club - A Video Game Documentary is in "Alpha" right now. A handful of screeners have gone out and we're awaiting feedback". It is due to be released later this year, I look forward to seeing it.
The other documentary is called The Power of Glove and is about - you guessed it - the Powerglove. I've never owned or used a Powerglove, but I've heard the horror stories and want to learn more about Nintendo's most infamous accessory. This doc doesn't seem to be as far along in the production stages as The NES Club, but they have put together a nifty little trailer on their website, thepowerofglove.com. You can follow their Twitter (@ThePowerOfGlove) and Facebook (The Power Of Glove) for updates, but they've gone a little quiet in recent months. I hope everything is still underway, as I'm interested in backing their Kickstarter campaign when it starts, and I just really want to see the film! The stuff about hacking the glove and using it for other things is fascinating to me. I've also offered my support by Tweeting them to ask if I bead the following picture, would they show it in the documentary?
I think it would be awesome, even if it was only on screen for a second or 2 - I'd be honoured! I'll let you know if they get back to me...
So yesterday my Gameboy Camera and Printer arrived, along with a box of paper rolls for it. Imagine my excitement as I opened these goodies! I didn't realise that the yellow camera came with the printer order, and I'd also ordered the boxed red camera. Whoops... so now I own 2 Gameboy Cameras... oh well!
I would have fired it all up straight away, but the printer requires 6 AA batteries, which I needed to source, so I came back to it later, batteries in hand, pixels in my brain.
It doesn't take long after switching on the camera to realise that this software is a bit of an anomaly for Nintendo. By that I mean it's pretty weird. Some guy in a Mario suit makes an appearance on the title screen, making some random jerky movements with his arms like a malfunctioning robot.
Creepy shit huh? Well it just gets more random after this. There are various games you can play, which I'm not going to get into, as I'm only really interested in taking photos with this thing, and they're pretty weird. In the camera settings there are various contrast, brightness and palette settings you can play with, but to be honest it's a little tricky to get pics looking how you want them, especially as the screen isn't backlit. I was squinting away at it for ages, but maybe it's easier on a Gameboy Colour or Advance? I don't know, I've only got an OG phat Gameboy, so that's what I used.
First off I tried to take some pics, and kept getting presented with this asshole below, and a message saying "Not enough frames!"
I didn't know what the F that meant, so after a bit more playing around, I realised it was because all the picture slots were full. I have no insturctions for this thing, and nowhere online explains the "No frames left phrase". Anyway, I found out you can only save 30 pics, and whoever previously owned my camera had left all his pics on there. Thanks a lot! And why couldn't they have used a clearer phrase like "No more space" or something? So I went to the Album section and deleted all 30 of the pics on there, which was a painfully long process. Can you select all 30 pics and delete them all at the same time? Of course not, you have to view each one and delete it individually, which involves FOUR button presses, and an irritating animation and tune each time. FML. And there weren't even any pixellated amateur porn pics left on it either.
So, about 10 minutes later I had cleared some save space and was able to take some snaps. Like I say, finding a decent picture setting takes some time, so after I'd sorted that, I took a few selfies (sorry), and a pic or 2 of the dog, because why not.
Getting these pictures off your Gameboy isn't a simple process. The link cable that connects the GB to the printer doesn't connect to a computer. Apparently there is a rare cable that will go from GB to PC, but you need a special emulator and to be running Windows 98 or something to get it all working. Now I'm committed to this cause, but I'm not that committed. My first port of call was to fire up the printer and see what I could get out of that, and maybe scan the pics if they came out well.
It was surprisingly easy to set up for printing. Just connect the cable, turn the printer on, make sure the paper has been fed through, open an image on your GB and hit print. About 30 seconds later your image will be printed. Unfortunately...
Yeah, that's the output of all my hard work. On the left is my sleeping dog, on the right is my handsome face. Obvious, right? Neither pic is done justice by these half-assed efforts. So, again I resorted to the Internet for answers. Turns out, my printer is probably fine, it's the paper that has gone past its sell by date. See GB printers don't use ink, they're thermal printers that only work with thermal paper. Like a lot of receipts used in shops. The paper needs to be fairly new to get a decent printout. There was me thinking I'll get the official Gameboy Printer paper to be on the safe side, and that's exactly the stuff that doesn't work anymore as it's so old! So, if I want decent printouts, I've got to get new thermal paper that is 38mm wide. But, the basic problem with thermal printing overall is that the pictures fade over time, until the paper is blank again. It's true, just check any really old receipts you've got that were printed this way. So I may just not bother using the printer but have it sitting looking pretty in my Games Room/Retro Morgue. Anyway, the other method of getting pictures is scanning the Gameboy screen directly on a flatbed scanner, one of which I happen to have. So here are the fruits of that labour (same pictures as above):
I think you'll agree, they're still not amazing, but passable for a bit of fun, or a Facebook profile pic or something. And for the record, it's a lot easier sorting the brightness, contrast etc out in a computer program after you've scanned the pic than it is trying to set it right on the Gameboy before you take the pic!
So there are 2 lessons to learn from this informative essay on Gameboy photography:
1. Do plenty of research online before you invest in 16-year old technology.
2. Check your Amazon order fully before buying the same thing twice.
Cave of Pixels - I make stupid purchases so you don't have to.
So, the other day I joined Tumblr. I know - Facebook, Twitter and Instagram clearly weren't fulfilling my social media needs. As it's basically just a blog site, I was just going to use it to post pics of my creations, and pimp out this site, as well as my profiles on Etsy, Facebook etc. However, it wasn't long before I realised Tumblr has an even better use - it's a total goldmine for pixel art. I spent hours last night just browsing through it all in amazement, and saving pics that I'd like to bead at some point. I like to give credit where it's due, so here are a few of my favourite artists, and samples of their work. (Links to profiles in titles).
Brenton Powell Design
His pixel art seems very basic, but he captures the essence of each character so well.
The clue is in the title with this one - pixel art of movie posters. I like that he also chooses movies you wouldn't normally associate with this kind of art.
Mike V Design
My Mickey Mouse sprite was a MikeV design - he mainly seems to do Disney, which these days includes Marvel and Star Wars.
Varied pixel art style and subjects, including animated GIF's. Well worth checking out!
Just look at this Hot Fuzz/Final Fight mashup. Isn't it beautiful? This guy is amazing!
He has a great variety of pixel art pictures and animations. I of course prefer his Nintendo stuff!
That's right, I'll be snapping like it's 1998 before you know it! These short-lived accessories pre-dated camera phones, but were also fairly pointless at the time, as all you could do was print out tiny pixellated pictures on thermal paper. Well, fast forward 16 years (has it really been 16 years since 1998??) and now I want them more than ever.
All in the name of creating new and interesting pixel art. Look at some of the pics others have created using the camera:
Neil Young's album cover for Silver & Gold was even created using a Gameboy Camera, FACT.
These beauties are fairly cheap on eBay and Amazon, so consider this retro swag ORDERED! I'll let you know how I get on with this old technology!
Yes it is. After a little deliberation (I have a penchant for snap decisions), I've decided to go pro. Yes, I'm going to sell out and sell some pixel bead art on Etsy. I've been thinking about it for a while, and was encouraged by my first sale, which came about on Instagram. For the record, if anyone gets the chance to deal with @snaps_uk_steelbooks, do it - she was a great first customer!
So, please check out my Etsy store: CaveOfPixels . The first item for sale is my 8-bit Godfather piece. As much as I love all the pieces I've created so far, my games room is rapidly running out of wall space, and the wife will only stand for so much of my hobby to dominate our walls! So I'm going to continue to make pieces for me, and pieces to sell. Hopefully I'll get some custom orders too, let's see how it goes.
So, in light of this new direction, I've decided to focus my website more, as well as the social media I use to promote it. This means a rebrand! All the big companies do it, so why not me?
I'm sure I'll be bigger than Apple by next year. But seriously, this site started out as a place for me to self publish my reviews of retro games and videogame movies, then I discovered beading and developed a small obsession, and now I'm focused mainly on that, so a title more befitting the theme of the site seemed to be needed. So, say goodbye to the Cave of Monsters, and hello to the Cave of Pixels!
Here is my new Twitter name: @caveofpixels
And Instagram: @caveofpixels
And Facebook: Cave of Pixels
So if you haven't followed/liked yet, what the hell's wrong with you?! This is all good stuff and you need to get involved! Thanks :-)
And now I will continue to go through my site, fixing all the links that broke when I hastily decided to change everything! Oh well, I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it...
My name is Iain and my addiction is making pixel bead art. My main inspirations are comics, video games and movies.