Sunday, May 20, 2018

DIY Pixel Art for our School's Maker Faire

The sixth annual Maker Faire was held at my school last week, and I was urged to have a display.

For me, "making" is personal, and intentional, and inspired. I won't equate it to the work of an artist by any means, but I find it hard to create something for the sake of creating something. I mentally went down the list of anything I may be able to bring in to display at our Maker Faire, but I could only come up with stuff that's currently being used and not very interesting (furniture, planters, etc.) or Halloween props.

I nearly went with Halloween props...

And then I ran across a piece on display at our local Woodcraft. It was a pixel Mario, made like an end-grain cutting board where all of the wooden pieces were glued together, and different types of wood were used to create the different colors. The artist also used a router to round over the edges of the pieces, making them dimensional and amazing.

I was inspired.

This discovery occurred with five days left before Maker Faire, so I had to find a quicker route to create a similar effect.

I had the idea to route a grid onto some plywood I had on-hand, but I didn't have a router bit that was appropriate for this project. The next best thing was to use my Dremel to route the grid.

This wasn't my proudest Dremel moment...

See how the lines are wonky and how I completely went off track on the hat? Even with an edge-guide, I was unable to get the clean lines that I wanted.

As you see, I decided on an edge-guide with my circular saw. This got the job done so much more quickly, and the lines were significantly better.

Next step was to cut out the overall shape with the jigsaw. I cheated and found Perler bead patterns which helped me with pixel placement, an idea I stole from my crocheting groups (we do Corner-To-Corner crochet, and instead of graphing our pixel layout, we use Perler bead patterns or cross stitch patterns).

Here's the pattern marked (yay, Bingo Doppers!)

And then it being cut out (sped up 300%)

Here's the piece cut out.

THIS is where I had to waste time, deciding what to do next.

Painting this was going to be time-consuming, and I had to decide on a process that was going to be doable with two days until Maker Faire (all of my spare time up to this point was spent working on getting these grids made, shapes cut out, and everything sanded and prepped for paint). Fortunately, I follow Handmade with Ashley on Instagram and remembered that she had dome some pixel pieces last year (if I'd have remembered that sooner, I couldn've just followed her tutorial and been done!). I asked her advice on painting, and my takeaway from that conversation was the trying to paint between the pixels and getting straight lines was not something I should attempt with so little time to finish.

My idea was to leave a black base coat showing between the pixels, but painting the colors over black didn't work, so I lightly rolled on white primer, trying not to press firmly so it wouldn't leak between the pixels.

It worked like a charm, allowing me to simply dab paint onto the pixels, and if I didn't press too firmly, it didn't go between them. Whenever it did, I touched it up with a black sharpie, and no one noticed the error.

Another route I took was to paint the black base layer, tape off the sections I wanted to keep black, and then use spray paint.

The T.A.R.D.I.S. is my absolute favorite, though I've had the idea recently to paint a few more squares black, creating the effect of the door panels.

If you look closely, I didn't do the black basecoat on the stormtrooper (thinking that since the stormtroopers are white, the basecoat on this should be white). I really think I'm going to have to repaint that, as it just doesn't have the same effect as the black between the pixels. Also, I'm seeing that an additional coat of pain is needed in a few spots on nearly all of the pieces, so some touch-ups will need to be made until these are officially finished, but I can't guarantee any of that will be gotten to with haste.

Now I need to find a lot of wall space that can accommodate these large (2'x2', or 2'x 40" for the T.A.R.D.I.S.!) pieces of art.

All in all, the kids loved coming up and chatting about my display, and I loved having them (I don't know how much I'm allowed to talk about their pieces, but we did have some media outlets there... if I find a link to some articles, I'll share.... at very least, I'll say mine was one of the least savvy displays there!).

Inner geeks, glorious makers, I hope you enjoy these. I know I sure do!

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