For the past 10 years, local artist Chris Olian, better known as the 8-bit Artist, has been dedicating much of his time to re-creating the images and scenes from many beloved video games. His pixelated art style not only makes the work instantly recognizable, but is also his attempt at capturing the feel of the game itself. Olian’s art mostly focuses on the classic 8-bit versions of games like Mega Man, Zelda, or his massive re-creation of Kefka’s Tower from Final Fantasy VI. As evidenced by his piece based on Shadow of the Colossus he also seems comfortable stepping out of the constraints of solely working with retro games.
Curious about how this art trend first started for Olian we sat down with him to learn more about his craft, inspiration, and the logistics of how he advertises his work.
Jesse Tannous: Tell me a little bit about how you got into doing these pixel styled art pieces in the first place.
Chris Olian: Way back in late 2004, my friend who was an artist asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I told her a Mega Man painting, but keep it pixelated like in the game. Long story short, she got busy and couldn’t do the painting so I tried my hands at it. Having no art/painting experience what so ever, it came out pretty bad. Refining my technique and coming up with better way to do things, each painting after that got better.
JT: How are you able to use these characters or the direct scenes from the games and sell your work without repercussions from the companies who own them?
CO: Fan art has been around for a very long time. I’m sure if Nintendo or another gaming company wanted to send me a cease and desist, they could, but they don’t because they realize its free promotion for their product. I was in Nintendo’s own magazine Nintendo Power back in I think 2007. If they were going to do something about it by now they would have. There’s also tons of art galleries, such as Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles that puts on monthly art shows dedicated to video games, movies and other pop culture. They are all using copyrighted IP. I did a painting from an upcoming Kickstarter game called River City Ransom: Underground and the developer of the game actually bought the painting to hang up in the office. The only instance that I know of with a company sending out cease and desists is Mojang with the Minecraft IP.
JT: Walk me through your process, how do you create these pieces?
CO: I’ll either get screen captures or use sprite sheets online. After that it’s just manipulating it a bit in MS Paint to get it exactly how I like it. After that it’s just simple math for the dimensions then I use a t-square, ruler and pencil to grid the entire canvas. After that it’s just looking at my screen shot and filling in the pixels.
JT: Where can locals find your work showcased now or in the future?
CO: Right now the only place is at Endgame on Mill Ave in Tempe. I will also be decorating the 8-bit Brewery that is opening up in Avondale AZ mid/late January. I will most likely be sharing a table with 8-Bit Brewery at the Phoenix Comic Con as well, but that is not set in stone yet.
JT: What have been some of your favorite games to draw inspiration from?
CO: The big 4 obviously: Mario, Zelda, Metroid and Mega Man. Also other games like Final Fantasy and even newer released games such as Journey or The Binding of Isaac.
Be it art, statues, or an extensive music collection we all have our ways of showing appreciation for our favorite video game experiences. If there is a particular video game scene you have been craving to hang from your wall, then the 8-bit Artist may be exactly what you have been looking for.