Pixel Perfect Part II: An Interview With Maya Pixelskaya

Apr 18, 2013 // dawgtanian

Hi everyone, Dawgtanian here, and I’m back with Part II of my interview with the lovely Maya Pixelskaya! The pixel artist from Spain showed off her jaw-droppingly cool Street Fighter converse trainers in Part I , this time she’s here to talk about her inspirations, as well as the processes involved when it comes to creating her incredibly detailed, pixelled pieces of art.

1)      How do you choose which art work to base your designs around? There are lots of Street Fighter references, is this a particular favourite? 

I always carry a notebook with me in which I draw and jot down new ideas for designs. They may come up while playing a certain game, reading an article, reminiscencing  with friends or just daydreaming in the train. They keep piling up, I wish I had the time to make them all!

Street Fighter is indeed a favorite of mine. Growing up in the 90’s, you had to live in a cave in order not to play SF2! Children from my generation spent all their pocket money trying to beat Mr. Bison with every single character, and I was not an exception. But I also loved watching the big kids play for hours and hours. I was mesmerized with the backgrounds in the game; some were beautiful, like Dhalsim’s or Ryu’s, and others were plain crazy, like Edmond Honda’s Japanese bath/Sumo ring or Vega’s “Mesón de la Taberna” (something like “Tavern’s Restaurant”… being Spanish myself, it all looked particularly funny to me). 

As I say, Street Fighter has been part of my life ever since I can remember. When I started taking violin lessons, one of the first songs I learned on my own was Ryu’s theme! So it’s only natural that I wanted to use it as an important subject when I began my career as a retrogame artist.

2)      Do you work mostly from the 16-bit era? Have you ever tried painting something less ‘pixely’?

 I love the 8-bit and 16-bit era because its limitations brought out real genius, but I’ve drawn, painted and studied art all my life, so pixel art is the “new” style for me! Videogame-wise, though, I don’t feel as inspired by new releases as I am by the oldies. Don’t get me wrong; I love new games! But I’d probably use an indie game as inspiration before a blockbuster. Games like Limbo, Deadlight, Super Meat Boy, Sworcery, Fez… They explore new aesthetics and I don’t discard the idea of making something with them as subject.

 The new Street Fighter games are something I also want to paint sometime; the mix between 3D graphics and traditional Sumi-e drawings is beautiful and inspiring to try new techniques!

3)      What is the process involved in starting a piece from scratch, can you show us how you made the Street Fighter triptych?

 The process varies depending on the medium used, but all my pieces begin as a quick sketch on paper, and then pass on to Photoshop. There, I make countless mockups using a digital drawing tablet and modifying screenshots. In order to take those, I have MAME always ready, and replay the game multiple times. 

In the case of Converse shoes and ties, once I decide on the final design I sketch it on the fabric using a chalk pen. I make very rough sketches, just to keep the proportions; I prefer to rely on my instinct to make the details instead of following a drawing. 

Once the sketching is done, it’s time to mix the colors and start to paint! 

The Street Fighter II triptych was much more complex to make. First, I spent many days making the Photoshop composition, altering sprite proportions and trying hundreds of possibilities. Once I felt it was ready, I had to find the adequate canvases for it, and start measuring and drawing guide lines with colored pencils, which took me around a week. Even though the final lines of the building were hand painted without the aid of a ruler, I needed to maintain a perfect verticality, so making the guides right was vital. 

After that was taken care of, the fun part began! Four months of intense pixelling, weekends included! Needless to say, I enjoy what I do immensely and I find it relaxing. I actually needed extreme concentration for some delicate parts in which the slightest rattle of the chair would have ruined my brushwork, so I sometimes sat on the floor for extra stability!

As a curiosity, I can tell I never wear any kind of overalls when I paint. I work with my normal clothes on, even while mixing the dozens of different colors these paintings have (just the blond guy’s skin alone has six different tones, all mixed from zero using primary colors).

Making this triptych has been an intense journey; it is my most ambitious piece up to date, and I’m really happy with the result. If you want to see how it turned out, stay tuned to Capcom-Unity!

One again, a tremendous thank you to Maya for taking time away from creating pixel perfection, to allow us a glimpse into her wonderful retro-inspired world.

Make sure you take a look on Maya’s website: www.mayapixelskaya.com

or on her facebook page: www.facebook.com/MayaPixelskaya

Part III of the interview continues soon…