"The Future Looks Viral" is a weekly series where we profile the people behind an innovative, new online project, be it a parody Twitter account, web series or interesting Instagram profile. They all have one thing in common: the potential to go viral."
Modern pixel art is just one of those things that immediately inspires nostalgia. By evoking the video games of yore, contemporary 8-bit works are usually crowdpleasers, from 8-Bit Cinema to the "Digital Estate Planning" Season 3 episode of Community.
Pixel art is mainly known for its simplicity, but Barcelona-based illustrator Octavi Navarro has added a level of complexity to the genre with his imaginative work on the Tumblr "Pixels, Huh?" Growing up, Navarro played LucasArts graphic adventure games (The Secret of Monkey Island was his favorite). His love of these games, along with a desire to try to create something completely different from a series of acryllic paintings he had just completed, inspired Navarro to try pixel art.
"I've always felt great admiration for the artists who worked on video games in the '80s and '90s, as the technical barriers of the time required them to use large doses of simplification and abstraction. So I was very interested on exploring this field," Navarro said in an email. "That said, I don't consider 'Pixels, Huh?' as an attempt to faithfully recreate 8-bit or 16-bit pixel art, but to develop a unique style by mixing my own painting techniques with some of the limitations of that era."
Navarro uses Photoshop and his Wacom Intuos 3 tablet to create his pieces, many of which feature "pictures of a particular moment inside a great narrative arc," as Navarro puts it, that you could spend hours analyzing.
"I think the most interesting part of the creative work, rather than the technical side, is the ability to tell stories that go beyond the piece itself," Navarro said. "For this reason, I like to let the viewer fill in the gaps with their own ideas: 'Why did this happen?' 'What's the motivation behind this character?'"
Check out some of Navarro's work below, along with his own interpretation of the pieces.
The Tip of the Iceberg
"Definitely the favorite among many people, and the one that has given me the most compliments. The idea of the city-submarine is inspired by Jules Verne's Nautilus. I wanted to show this kind of secret elitist society living in luxury and enjoying masquerade balls, totally oblivious to the problems of the real world. I bet that between its inhabitants we could find many of our politicians."
"This is undoubtedly the most complex composition I've ever done in a pixel art illustration. The limited color range was also a challenge. But as in all my works, I find that the little stories and enigmas are the most interesting things: How did the car go off the road? Why did the girl go out of the car? Is she dead or just vanished?
"I had the idea of this illustration in my mind since well before starting the blog. Maybe that's why it's the least complex in terms of narrative, but I have a special affection for it. I like the atmosphere and the simple representation of the daily life of these citizens of the future."
Close the Gates!
"The siege of a medieval castle, fierce dragons, magic, goblins, a terrified royal family... I think somebody could easily do a videogame with this plot. Technically, it's the most detailed and complex pixel art illustration I've done so far. I was a little afraid that it would be too confusing, so I had the challenge to draw a "clean" scene with all that detail."
"I really fancied to do an adaptation of the mysteries and legends surrounding Area 51. A secret government facility built under an unsuspicious desert landscape, where the remains of a crashed UFO are investigated... I thought this was a great idea for a nice artwork."