Andy Rash interview

Roses are red, violets are blue, this is Springleap & here’s another great interview! Happy days to you, wherever you are on Planet Interweb – today’s fresh serving of tasty design comes with a very distinct 8-bit flavour, courtesy of the man with a pixelated plan, the one & only Andy Rash! If you’d read our recent piece on Pixel Art, you’d know who Andy is, but for those who don’t, Andy is a respected author and illustrator, with a knack for creating pixelated portraits of famous characters – real or imaginary. His work on Iotacons has seen him become something of a cult figure for lovers of 8-bit art, who regularly sending him weird and wonderful fan art from all over the world. We were lucky enough to shoot a few questions across Andy’s bow, and he was kind enough to share his insights with us. Read on!   Andy Rash interview   SL: Hi Andy, and thanks for giving us the time for this interview! OK, so straight off the bat – please introduce yourself by letting us know who you are & what you do, in your own words.   AN: Hi! Thanks for asking. I’m a freelance illustrator and children’s book author. I’ve illustrated for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, The New Yorker, and Wired. I illustrate children’s books as well as greeting cards, game packaging, and some other stuff.   SL: You’re an accomplished illustrator, with more than a few editorials – and children’s books – produced over the years, with which you’ve enjoyed success as an illustrator and storyteller. Congrats on that, but could you tell us how your 8bit iotacons came about, and how something that’s quite removed from your usual line of work has become such a smash hit?   AN: I used to draw on Atari home computers back in the eighties using a palette of four colors and a joystick. Iotacons are high-def compared to those things. A few years ago, I decided to see how low rez I could make a portrait. I started with Star Wars characters because I knew I could rely a great deal on costumes to differentiate the characters, but then the portraits started getting bigger when I took on presidents and senators. Modern senators pretty much wear the same thing, so I had to work harder to get their faces right. I posted them on a blog and they got reshared by one of the stars of Mythbusters, and also some political web sites. After that, the iotacons have been shared more and more. I’ve created iotacons for magazine illustrations, music packaging, and books.     Andy Rash interview   SL: Since your iotacons have taken off, quite a few fans have been inspired to make use of your lo-res character portraits in various media. Can you name some of your favourite fan creations?   AN: People send me photos of quilts, snowglobes, Lego models, and cross-stitch. I try to share as much on the blog as I can. It’s very flattering. The biggest iotacon fan art was definitely done by Invader, the anonymous street mosaic artist featured in Banksy’s movie Exit Through the Gift Shop. He put two of my iotacons on the side of a London parking garage. The figures must be at least twelve feet tall! I guess that one is my current favorite because it is so visible.   Andy Rash interview   SL: You describe your iotacons as ‘extremely low resolution portraits’ but could you give us an idea of what your process is, and what tools you use to take them from idea to finished article?   AN: The process is pretty mundane. I look at photos of celebrities and try my best to create a very tiny digital portrait of them. The only tools I use are a computer and a mouse. Like with any caricature, it really helps if the subject has something weird about them like a bushy monobrow or googly eyes, or a very recognizable outfit.   SL: 8bit art has a big following on the net, and there are a number of other artists who make use of the medium – could you let us know what other 8bit artists’ work you rate highly?   AN: Christoph Neimann does many, many things well, and among them is pixel art.   Andy Rash interview   SL: Lastly, when you’re busy creating in your workspace, could you let us know what might be playing in the background?   AN: I usually listen to NPR or podcasts while I’m working. But sometimes I’ll listen to music. Tom Waits and They Might Be Giants are my long-time favorites.   Andy Rash interview   A million thanks to Andy for this great interview – to see more of his work, you can check out his illustration site, and of course if you’re a diehard bitmap fan, there’s the all-important Iotacons blog. Still not satisfied? Aha – we have a real treat for you, if you’re a lover of make ‘n do: Andy’s Iotacons have been added to Cubecraft, with their own section, so they can be made into pop-up pixel art cards. The first one to go up was of Louis CK! Get ‘em here.   (all designs © Andy Rash)

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