Recently a poster on a neighbourhood noticeboard caught my attention. It’s an advertisement for the Navy Open House (which has since come to pass). I didn’t exactly care for this event, but for the next few minutes I found myself being mesmorised by the ad.

The artwork in the ad was so impressively done that I ran home and did an extensive google search for the artists behind it. It’s entirely done in pixel art, a highly challenging and tedious form of digital illustration where the artist has to literally draw out the image pixel by pixel.

This is the pixel art done for the Navy Open House event. The team of pixel artists behind it are Ari, Thalia and Sokkuan. Can you imagine the amount of work and level of detail that goes into this? Be sure to enlarge the image and scrutinise every little detail!

Navy Open House 2007 Pixel Art
Click to enlarge

I contacted Ari for an interview regarding his work. It’s a rare opportunity because I have never come across a pixel artist based in Singapore! What an honour that he kindly obliged to my interview!


Veron: Can you tell us a little more about pixel art?

Ari: Pixel art was originally started during the dot com boom, when the technology of the internet was still in it’s infancy. [Thalia and I] were doing pixel art back then, when we were living in New York, working as web designers in 1998.

The technical constraints of the 256 web colours and bandwidth restrictions (resulting in file size constraints) pushed designers to invent an illustration style that uses the pixel itself as building blocks. Antialiasing (automatic blurring of image edges to make them appear sharper), which is commonly used in print media was deliberately ignored to make the file size smaller and graphics seem to pop-out more on screen.

The result is a very subjective illustration style, and eventually a new sense of aesthetics which rely on colour, simplification of objects, pseudo-physics logic, subject matter choice, and a sense of humour.

Navy Open House 2007 Pixel Art

Click to enlarge

Veron: How do you start with each piece of pixel art? Is there a photograph to follow or do you draw it out of visualisation/imagination?

Ari: From measurements. We measure the actual objects (approximation) and applied a consistent scale throughout the entire illustration. It’s kind of like doing a technical drawing, or blueprints to architects. The most basic unit being the pixel, is multiplied to the size that it’s supposed to be printed at. Think of it as playing with Lego blocks. The trick is, there’s no perspective or vanishing point since it’s an isometric pixel art.

Navy Open House 2007 Pixel Art

Click to enlarge

Veron: Do you actually draw it pixel by pixel for the entire image? Is there any special pixel art software that you use to speed up the process? What software do you use? Are there “stamp tools” that allow you to quickly create multiple objects (for eg. Human figures)?

Ari: No we draw everything pixel by pixel. Sounds tedious, and it is, but working on the computer also means that duplications can be done easily.

Veron: Whoa! That’s pretty hard core. How much time did you and your team members spend in total for the pixel art poster?

Ari: 3 people, about 3 weeks.

Veron: How do you divide the workload among the 3 of you?

Ari: Person 1 did basic landscaping, while Person 2 did the ships and medium size objects and Person 3 did a directory map. Then everyone did many, many people everywhere.

Navy Open House 2007 Pixel Art

Click to enlarge

Veron: Is pixel art your favourite form of art?

Ari: No, not really, since I don’t really have a favourite art form per se. Pixel art is just a style of illustration. It’s good for executing certain ideas, but it’s not applicable everywhere all the time.

Veron: What is your occupation? Are you working as a freelance illustrator or do you work/own a design firm?

Ari: I run a small studio called Pericraft together with Thalia. (pericraft.com)

Veron: Any other things you would like to add?

Ari: Thanks for introducing yourself to us as well :)


There you go! I hope this helps to raise the awareness of pixel art in Singapore, because I rarely see this unique and cute form of digital art being used. In fact, the only example of pixel art I’ve seen in Singapore (other than this navy open house poster) was the one used in the Singapore institute of management ad campaigns.

All artwork was done by Ari, Thalia and Sokkuan. All images have been taken from IROIRO and Organisation of Illustrators Council.)

Veron Ang