Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I know where the Wain grows

No this is not my entry into some upcoming showcase of art by psychotic people, this is my first try at doing a portrait of Shockwave in that ever so elegant and sophisticated of artistic mediums-the Lite Brite. The fascinating thing about Lite Brite is anything you attempt to draw with it will look sort of pretty, no matter how much of a horrible distortion of reality your picture actually is. I learned this after talking much crap about Hasbro's Transformer Lite Brite patterns and deciding to make better ones. I tried developing a process that would allow me to completely render existing images into Lite Brite format in a way that doesn't require additional white line drawing to complete the picture like Hasbro's refill patterns do. In the process I learned Lite Brite is a tough medium to master and working within the limitations of its canvas resolution and available color palette is a pain in the butt. I also learned what toy robots must look like to someone on acid.


I figured it would be easy enough to make the pattern. All I had to do was take an existing picture of a robot and then overlay a dotty grid on it of the same resolution as my Lite Brite. Then I'd recolor all the dots in based on what Lite Brite pegs I had and use the finished grid as my map. But since my grid wasn't the exact same dimensions with the exact same space between pegs as the actual Lite Brite, my final product ended up looking really bizarre. There are other factors and considerations that also make the end result very different looking from any mapped out plan. The biggest is that Lite Brite is a three dimensional medium. The viewer's perspective shifts ever so slightly from the top to the middle to the bottom and it affects how the shape of the pegs is perceived and the negative space between them. My peg map assumed a direct head-on view of only the peg tops and close up this isn't at all what you see. From far away like across the room it looks a lot better. Another big limitation is the color palette. I only had eight colors to work with from the modern refill packs plus some dark purple pegs I had from older sets. There's not a lot of shading or light effects that can be accomplished unless you paint the pegs like the guy who made a Lite Brite picture of his naked mom and dad. I'm not that dedicated, though. I only want to do pictures of naked toy robots and thankfully they lack the subtleties of tonal shading that Lite Brited human genitalia require.

Step 1

Step 2
Step 3
Step 4


I realize I made a lot of mistakes in the process but I think I know how to correct them. Subject matter and framing also play a big part in the ultimate success of the renderings. Considering the colors available (red, yellow, orange, pink, blue, purple, green and clear) there are a number of characters like Bumblebee and Optimus Prime that I think I can make recognizable renderings of. And I'll need them to be as recognizable as possible because at this stage my final pictures look less like illuminated paintings and more like those crazy stereoscopic eye puzzles you have to stare at all cross eyed for twenty minutes in order for your brain to malfunction enough that you can see a picture. So I'm thinking of doing Bumblebee next. However if any mental health professionals out there would be willing to pay me I am open to doing GoBots on commission.

1 comment:

Shawn Robare said...

This reminds me of my days playing Mario Paint on the super Nintendo and trying to make Star Wars and Marvel comics character portraits in the custom stamp mode. Very similar process.

I have to say that I think you did a pretty great job of capturing Shockwave, and I think it was a stroke of genius using the Robot Heroes packaging as reference...


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