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The best tattoo there was…

and the best tattoo there ever will be.

Well well, here’s something I never expected to happen. A few weeks ago, I was asked if a couple of my custom WrestleFest character designs could potentially be used for a tattoo – Bret and Owen Hart, to be precise. Of course, I said yes; it’s beyond flattering that somebody wanted my art to be quite literally a part of them.

And sure enough, earlier today I received this:

How cool is that!? My thanks to Ajay for being mad enough to want this and for going through with it. I still can’t quite believe it!

Pixel Dailies on Twitter got all seasonal recently, prompting followers to create a “set of ghosts”, with a 32×32 pixel restriction for each piece. Here is what I came up with in response to said prompt – significantly enlarged, obviously. The small size was an interesting challenge; I thought about going all Pac-Man and cutesy but, seemingly, everyone else beat me to it. So, I used a brightness jitter on my pixel brush to create a reasonably spontaneous noise effect which I thought would work on small spectral spookies. I’ll let you be the judge. See it with your own eyes.

Where ghosts are concerned, I’m a bit of a sceptic I’m afraid. Those “paranormal investigation” shows do not help the cause, with the likes of Most Haunted eliciting more hilarity than concern (I’ll never forget that Mary loves Dick). But who isn’t fascinated by a good ghost story, especially at this time of year? I remember people saying the middle school toilets were haunted, which – shock horror – led to a few people claiming they saw a man by the washbasins. One said he looked scruffy and “like he was from the 1800s”. Perhaps it was the caretaker? I never went in, not because I was scared or anything, of course not. And there was another time where our dog became agitated, barking at seemingly nothing, and then refused to walk past the spot where this bizarre turn occurred. Who knows what he might have seen? Bad dream or something more?

I’m sure it’s nothing…

Would you enter a dungeon to play a game devised by these two?

I hear that the new The Crystal Maze has been axed by Channel 4 after only three series. I must confess I stopped watching it about five episodes in, feeling it was not made for me. It doesn’t sound like it ever improved, and indeed the trajectory of viewing figures suggested it wasn’t made for lots of other people also. Going celebrity only for its final run was the final straw. It’s a frustrating misfire; the first episode back in 2017 drew one of the biggest audiences of the year for Channel 4 and the opportunity for something special was obviously there. Oh well! At least we still have the original series, and that was actually quite good.

With that mindset, you can understand why, on hearing of its termination, I produced this. Here’s a pixel art portrait of our mellifluous maître-d to the Crystal Maze, Richard O’Brien and his Mumsey (Sandra Caron) from days of yore. The style is loosely based on the RetroMania characters I worked on. Neither look particularly like their real-life counterpart – I’ve tried Richard several times in pixel and have yet to perfect his unique visage – but the “eclectic” outfits were fun to work on. I wouldn’t want to complete a sprite sheet of either, though!

On a completely unrelated note: did you know it’s once again possible to access the Classic Editor, free of blocks? Maybe it has always been there, I’m not sure, but I thought if anybody out there is still annoyed by them then you might want to know. In your admin, go to Posts and note the ‘Screen Options’ tab in the top-right corner. Change to Classic View. You’ll then get the little ‘Add New’ button with the drop-down menu which allows you to select the Classic Editor. Hooray!

Ditherless is, of course, a small village in central Norfolk.

(Gotcha! It’s not really.)

But rejoice, for here is the “quaint cottage” I mentioned in my previous post – I think it’s rather quaint enough, don’t you? This was attempted in a similarly simple way as those trees, trying to avoid dithering and instead simply layering colour to suggest shades and highlights. It still took a few hours, but far fewer than it might had I been hatching and checkerboarding all over the place to capture variation in tone, like I have in previous pixel parties. There’s nothing to say I won’t revert to those methods in the future – or perhaps adopt a mixture of the two – as always, it depends on the subject. But it’s interesting to note how they inform the overall style.

I wouldn’t mind a cottage like this, just saying.

I was messing around with a pretty pixel landscape which didn’t get very far, so I decided to start all over again. Taking on board the lessons learnt from an earlier exercise, I just focused on a single element to begin with, seeing where that took me. It was greenery, again, but not confined to conifers this time, I can coniferm.

Attempting to cut corners actually seemed to pay off; I created a round scatter brush and started layering up colour very quickly, trying not to overthink. I like how they came out: fluffy, with a more painterly, dreamy quality than I’m used to. This might be the key to some bigger and better pixel landscapes as the style probably lends itself to a larger scale.

The quaint cottage I originally planned for the scene didn’t materialise – not this time – but last night I didn’t even get past the hedgerow, so I’m branding this a success, whether ya like it or not!

I don’t know where this came from, but I am certainly not opposed to happy accidents or a modicum of inspiration coming from seemingly nothing, which certainly appeared to be the case here. Indeed, that may be abundantly clear to you already.

On a vein not too far removed from my recent posts, I was simply playing with blocks of colour – green blocks of colour this time around. I just started copying and pasting, layering them beside one another, and then it hit me. Conifers. I love conifers and their sturdy, jagged charm, and wanted to see if I could abstract one in pixel using these strips of colour in different ways.

It was more fun than it may look, actually, trying to capture the different species and their marked variation in shape, some slender, some rather rotund. As you can see, I did start to lose some of that abstraction as I went on, experimenting with levels of detail. But I took these and used them as a template for the landscape, which isn’t anything amazing but I’m quite liking how the conifers came out, and the way the different patterns and styles overlap.

Good little experiment though, and much like my recent designs a reminder that sometimes dialling down and focusing on something simple can kickstart productivity. If you have a problem, well, call the copse.

I’ve done lots of pixel art, to the extent that it now seems to have become that thing that I do. While it’s pretty restrictive in some ways – not in a negative way, either – it’s not often that I’ve gone down to the extremes of just two colours with the medium. This grimy urban scene is not so much 8-bit as 1-bit.

With the liberation of not having to worry about selecting colours or palettes, it was an altogether enjoyable exercise, as indeed most design exercises are; the less preliminary panic, the better. The only frustrations came in the nighttime conversion, with the street lights not coming out particularly well. But I do enjoy the side-by-side visual.

This being said, I did use the darkest and lightest colours from the legendary Game Boy here, as well as its screen dimensions. Hopefully my attempts at dithering would give a satisfying result were it to be shown on the handheld.

It rather forces a more stylised approach this way, and I like that. I need that! I’m intrigued to try it again and see how I could get on with a more rural setting. If anything good comes of it, you’ll be the first to know!

Back when I was picked up to work on RetroMania Wrestling, I thought I’d better start practising pixel art. I even devoted an entire category to it on here, as those were the days when I would actually post semi-regularly.

This compelled me to go back to the very process which got me the job – where I took sprites from WrestleFest and tried to turn them into people who weren’t featured in the original game. So, to round things off, here are a selection of practise runs ranging from 2018 to just a few months ago. It was quite fun trying to capture the various likenesses and outrageous costumes – one thing that has dawned on me is that whilst pixel art might look simple on the surface, there’s actually scope for a lot of detail.

As I’ve said before with these, they are NOT RetroMania sprites, sorry if you find this and it gets your hopes up. Most of these guys are off the table for the game, unfortunately. It’s just for practise.

One month on from release, it seems like the game has gone down pretty well, with an 88% positive rating on Steam and various 4-star reviews elsewhere. Yay! I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

Thanks to John Blaze for the much needed inspiration with these and, indeed, for recommending me for the RetroMania job in the first place.

Well, it’s out on Steam anyway. Console releases are to follow, but shouldn’t be too long coming. Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be RetroMania if everything went smoothly.

Also, if you happen to have $800 to blow, you can get the RetroMania IIrcade cabinet!

Anyway, yay! It has been fun binging on gameplay videos over the last few days. All I really did was the character sprite art, but, in the days leading up to Friday’s release I found myself feeling quite nervous for Mike as this was really his baby; it has been in the works as a commercial entity for just over two years, but prior to that he’d been working on it as a hobby for several more. I am thrilled to see the reaction has been mostly positive, and hopefully that bodes well for future content – more superstars, more match types and more playability. With a community behind this game, the sky really is the limit. Or, at least, the skies not patrolled by WWE or AEW.

If you think you’re up to the challenge, grab RetroMania Wrestling and let the team know what you think!

Yet more pixel play. This is what I do now, it seems.

The urge took me to have a go at a signature Norfolk round-tower church… but I don’t think that’s what we ended up with. I’m not quite sure what happened, it just came out that way and I just rolled with it for now. There have been too many false starts and abandoned projects of late; I’m just happy to have completed something. Perhaps that explains the elevated colour of it – euphoria!

The church here is loosely based on one in the village of Acle, which does have a round tower, though the belfry is octagonal. I would pass it every day on the way to university, now a decade ago (where on earth has the time gone?) It was nice to see it looking pretty in the morning sun, or dusted with snow in winter; whatever the weather, the church was a pleasant landmark, reassuring me there was still plenty of time to daydream. Of course, autumn and winter saw it cloaked in darkness on the way home. The winding ride between those little villages was quite something at this time of the year – at least for those who weren’t snoring – maybe the odd flicker of civilisation in the distance, but mostly just black. It’s incredible to hear stories from grandparents and their friends who would walk or cycle back and forth in the pitch-dark depths of winter without a care in the world. Different times, I guess.