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Lucas Rgznsk talked about the production process behind his voxel & pixel pieces, discussing the charm of these approaches.
My name’s Lucas, I am a 34-year-old French guy, living in Brussels for almost 10 years now. I started as a freelance graphic designer in 2018. Before that, I worked as a stagehand in almost every concert hall in Belgium for six or seven years. So that’s was quite a change. I have absolutely no artistic background whatsoever so this is a new world for me. My biggest project to date was a Pixel Art job at Ogilvy & Social.lab and Fanta. I had to design and create assets for an advertising campaign involving a couple of mini-games. That was really fun to do.
I’ve been playing video games since I was 5 or 6 years old. We had NES and Master System at home and I have already been obsessed with that little dots, even if I had no idea that they’re called pixels. I remember spending a lot of time pausing the games, frame by frame, just to look at the animations. That’s probably the first reason why I chose pixel art: I love the way it looks.
But I only really dig into that around 2016. I got injured and, basically, I couldn’t walk for almost half a year. That’s at that time I came across the work of Dani Olive. I was amazed by how good he was. So instead of losing my mind staying at home doing nothing, I started studying pixel art. At, first this was just for killing time but weeks after weeks I couldn’t stop. I was really into this. I’ve made a lot of mockup during that time.
The next step was, logically, Voxels. Like a lot of other voxel artists, I first saw the work of SirCarma on Twitter and I thought “Damn! That’s fantastic”. I started to look around and that’s how I found MagicaVoxel by ephtracy. I think that the thing I love the most about voxel art is how good it looks and how simple it’s to understand it. Basically, if you’ve ever touched a set of Lego in your life, you already understand voxel art.
Also, I really love the simplicity of these mediums, no need to have a high-end PC to make it work (if you have Paint, you can already make pixel art) and MagicaVoxel is absolutely majestic, it’s completely free, very powerful and very easy to use.
Pixel and voxel art share the same DNA. A single pixel or a single voxel can be enough to express an idea. You can literally create a world in a 126x126x126 box. It’s one of the things I like most about it. Each pixel/voxel has to be there for a reason. So I always try to do more with less.
Usually, I always start my scenes directly in MagicaVoxel. I know that some people make sketches before they start to get a more precise idea, but I don’t. I do a lot of fan art but for this particular scene [Frozen Forest], I really wanted to go for something more personal. I wanted to see if I could tell a story with characters of my own. And I also wanted to mix pixel art and voxel art in the same project. I first created the character sprites in Aseprite before importing them into MagicaVoxel. For trees, I first drew their silhouette in 2D and painted over it to give it the volume I wanted. Overall, there must have been about ten trees that I used as a base before duplicating them and then modifying them one by one. There’s also a lot of render testing to find the right light and colors.
For me, the lighting is extremely important when I do an illustration. It’s one of the first things I put in place before I really start working on a scene. In general, I place an element that vaguely resembles what will be the main subject and then adjust the light and camera angle. Adding depth of field helps a lot too. I also find that voxel art is never more beautiful than in isometric view, but that’s purely subjective.
At first, I thought nostalgia was the reason for the pixel art revival, but nostalgia doesn’t explain everything. Moreover, this style has always been there. It may have been a little more discrete with the arrival of 3D games in the mid-90s but it was still there. Some of my favorite games are from that time: Metal Slug, Street Fighter III, Suikoden II… Digital distribution platforms have clearly allowed this style to come back into the light. Maybe, at one point, all these indie games were a response to a certain degree of frustration on the part of the players for whom AAA games were going in circles. Maybe it’s just because it looks cool. Maybe it’s because it’s cheaper to produce. Maybe it’s all that at once.
I work with Aseprite. I always start by making a silhouette with a single color to check that the sprite works well and can be understood just by its shape. The biggest challenge for me is to avoid overdoing it. I have been working with the same color palette for a long time, but I still tend to add more and more colors and sometimes you have to set limits to avoid making the whole thing unreadable. For pixel-art, as for many other art forms, “more” is not necessarily “better”.
What’s the secret?
The secret is…. that there isn’t one? It’s a lot of work but I think the most important thing is to have fun when you create something. Don’t do it for others, do it for yourself. Try new things, fail, try again, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. There is a huge community ready to help you. Oh and don’t bother looking for a style, it will find you sooner or later.
Lucas Rgznsk, Pixel Artist / Voxel Artist
Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev
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