Thursday, January 2, 2014

Kelly's TBP 2.13: Pictoplasma

[I started this post in March 2013! Not long after that, I got a new computer and was just plain lazy about photo management. Finally worked it all out, so I'm publishing at the end of 2013 beginning of 2014...]

Dear Jenny,

Bill gave me this book, Pictoplasma, several years ago (Eight? Nine? It's crazy how long I've been letting some of these books languish on my shelves unread!) (Guess that's the point here, right?) He bought it for me because I like illustrations and characters and he was spot on -- this puppy is right up my alley. I was especially drawn to the "cute" characters, although there were plenty of non-cute guys in here, as well.

This book was published in 2001 and I thought it would show its age, but I was happy to see that, for the most part, it did not. I poked around and found that there have been a couple of updated versions since then, including the most recent, The Character Compendium, in 2012.

One especially great part of this perusal was that I took the time to look up a lot of the artists I'll show you below... some have disappeared, but some have really gone far and have some great stuff -- there were some "falling down the rabbit hole" moments for me here. Good thing you're on spring winter break -- care to take some time in the rabbit hole with me?

The book was divided into five chapters: Free Hand Drawing, Pixel, Vector, 3-D, and Encyclopedia.

Chapter 1: Free Hand Drawing

As you'd suspect from the name, these are illustrations drawn by hand -- definitely the most organic of the illustrations in the book.

I frigging love this dancing cat -- he's about 1x1" and totally jamming to his headphones:
He's attributed to someone/thing called "Virushead," but I couldn't really find anything about that on the Internet. Sooo... moving on...

This other kitty also cracked me up. He's Snowcat and he's super cute.

The way his ears are drawn reminded me of a pretty hilarious web comic called Simon's Cat. Have you ever seen it? If not, be prepared to waste some time laughing your butt off at these films (if you don't have a whole day, two of my favorites are Cat Man Do [which appears to be the very first one] and Double Trouble. I seriously laugh out loud when I watch these -- he really nails cat behavior!)

Anywhooo... back to the book!

Chapter 2: Pixel

The pixel characters can be so interesting because sometimes they ask and answer the question: What is the barest amount of information we need to recognize something. Behold...  Pixelized Scully and Mulder. Ha!

Craig Robinson is the artist behind Mulder and Scully as well as hundreds of other pixelated famous people. Have you see his work before? He had a book called Minipops in 2004 and there's an app too. If you've got some time, check some of them out -- really great stuff.

While you're there, take a look at the rest of his portfolio -- super diverse and interesting (warning: giant rabbit hole at that link. Seriously huge.)

Just a few of my favorites from his site (although it's hard to pick -- this guy is prolific and brilliant): Beastie dots, Five answers to the same question, How I will catch Jon Bon Jovi (hahahahaha), On this day (combining things that happened on the same day but different years), Batman and Robinson ("One panel cartoons of [the artist] hanging out with the Dark Knight"), and this little project: photos of misspellings of "Craig" on his coffee ("Wreck" -- HA.)

Ok! Gotta be done with Robinson there -- I could talk about that guy all day.

Moving on to someone else here... sometimes pixel art acts like pointillism: hard to recognize the photo at first, but then, at a longer glance, easier to see what is going on. Like this guy, riding his magic carpet:

That's by a guy named Christof Täschler  (looks like he does a lot of UX Design work now, so his portfolio isn't quite as fun).

And I thought this was just a really neat way to use the pixels -- the different treatment in the "hair" vs. the faces is great:

(Click to see that one bigger -- the hair is fun.) The artist is listed as "Fake ID, LLC" which gets some... unusual hits. The URL listed in the book is not longer valid and the one other company going by that name doesn't seem to be doing this.

Chapter 3: Vector

Let's move on to the vector -- the smooth evolution of pixel drawings. Overall, these are probably my favorite kind of illustration.

Oopsy, I said the F Word cracks me up:

Here's where I went down a yet another rabbit hole... tracing the illustrator of Oopsy Daisy. The company listed is Cosmic Debris, but if you try to find *that*, you get directed soundly to Emily the Strange, who seems to be the most popular character to come out of that particular collaborative.

Not to be deterred, I kept looking and I'm glad that I did. The actual creator of Oopsy Daisy (and Emily the Strange) is Brian Brooks. In 2006, this really interesting article ran in the East Bay Express all about him and his relationship with Cosmic Debris and his art. Here's his site to see more of his portfolio, although it's mostly paintings (vs. illustrations).

This next illustration came from Cosmic Debris, as well -- a division called Yum Pop which seems to be defunct now:

(I like the coffee flexing his muscles.)

This next guy is great -- his caption says "Shit, the wrong one" and he seems to have some sort of little kitty on his head... perhaps "driving" him?

That artist is François Chalet.  It looks like his website is now dead, but he posts new stuff on his twitter account.

Love the hair and the smile on this dog:

That artist is Konstanze Läufer-Wiest  Not a ton of examples of her work on that site, sadly. But what is there is fun.

And finally, this smiling girl makes me happy:

This gal is attributed to the design group Rinzen. The navigation on their site is truly bizarre (hover over the colored lines at the top, then realize that there are tiny, hidden, clickable squares up there, indicating content. What?) but I did poke around a little. I love some of their word designs like Frankly! and Solar Powered. There's more to see, but I didn't poke around too much -- that navigation is really tiring.

Chapter 4: 3D

This was by far the most dated section of the book -- I think because 3D rendering is a technology that has come so far in the past decade. (Think about what Pixar has done during that time, right?) So a lot of these pieces definitely screamed "Cutting edge in 2001" to me. That being said, here was one that mad me laugh -- remind you of anything?

[Whew! I'm slowing down here... do you see why it took me nine months to finish this post? Let's wrap this puppy up...]

Chapter 5: Encyclopedia

The final section was fantastic -- one theme, several drawings. For instance, here are the bunnies, bees, bears and dogs... so great!

(Click to see that larger -- I especially love the 3rd bunny from the left. Ca-yooot!)

Aaand... final random thoughts...

All of this happened right at the same time I discovered the app iMadeFace. Immersed in illustration as I was when perusing this book, I felt like it that sort of related to a lot of this -- it's an app used to create a cartoon version of your face. It's surprisingly fun.

Bill's version of me is on the left (this was from March -- funny how different my hair actually looks now. I should have him do another one!)  And I did the version on Bill on the right (he's not nearly this mean looking, but it was the best I could do with the options - Ha!):

(We are very serious.)

And my final note (this time I mean it!) is that from the Pictoplasma website, there is a link to the Pictoplasma Etsy shop which has tons of great stuff... this guy cracks me up, the heart factory is adorable, this print is fantastic, and I just love these tentacles (no, really!)

Whew! This post took me forever to get published. Since I actually perused this book in 2013, I am going to keep it marked as 2.13. And I am going to re-visit the TBP list in 2014 -- third time is the charm, right?!



  1. That was a superfun post to read! It took me a long time to read it all---so many fun things to look at! I have to say, I don't know if I have a favorite. The flipflopflying site might be my favorite. That was really interesting.

    Overall, another thing that was sort of interesting in general is that so much of that art (especially the stuff from Comic Debris) seemed really familiar, but I had never heard of the studios and/or artists before. So that was sort of cool to see where all that comes from.

    Pixel Mulder & Scully FTW!

    All of the cat ones, of course, are great. Especially Cat Man Do--it's so Malia! She's definitely the one who will jump up and wake me up in the morning, use any tactics necessary.

    And I am downloading the iMadeFace app right now! That seems like fun. Although I don't think I've ever seen Bill glowering like that, but I like your blue eyes quite a bit ;-)

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this post -- it took me so long to write it! It's stupid, but I did a *lot* of research about all of these artists. The book was a good starting place, but there was a lot of befriending Google here. I agree with you that so many things looked familiar, but artists don't really get their due, right? I guess if you follow that business, you probably recognize people, but for the general folks, the work is certainly unsung.

    My *only* problem with Mulder and Scully is that she is a *lot* shorter than he is... he could have cut a few pixels off of her for more accuracy. Heh. But I do love that it's easy to ID them with just the barest minimum of representation. If you check out the other Minipops, there are a bunch of super fun icons there that make you say, "YES!"

    I think that eye color on me is just a *bit* overly flattering on my husband's part -- they're not quite *that* blue, but he kept saying, "They don't have the exact right color..." (I think they have added more options since we did this almost a year ago -- I should check it out again!) As for never seeing Bill glower like that... after today's repeated snow-blowing, I definitely saw that face. Heh.