With the recent release of PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale, artist Aled Lewis was commissioned to create a collection of works inspired by the characters. We sat down to talk to him about the processes involved in his work and more specifically this latest collection.
Aled Lewis has a very unique view on art and his work has a wonderfully playful humour to it, lifting characters out of their usual surroundings and placing them in completely different, yet equally natural ones. Having been asked to create the visual imagery for a one off billboard campaign for PlayStation, he took some of the key characters from the new game and placed them in iconic film scenes with his pixilated 8-bit style.
You can see the works below the interview and for a brief amount of time they are also on display in very large format on billboards above Child of Jago on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch. Here we get a small insight into the thought process that links each character to each film setting and how gaming went from a guilty pleasure to a professional necessity.
Pixelation is a style that you’ve been working with for a while. When and where did that style develop for you?
Yeah, I started out doing Pop Culture imagery, but through T-shirt design, and it wasn’t pixel art style to start with but it evolved into that when I realised that I could do it with the software that I had. I loved it so much; it had that nostalgia element for me. I gave it a try and started playing with it for a couple of weeks and then started making a couple of pieces and that’s kind of how it started, three or four years ago now.
Your work often takes classic gaming characters and takes them out of their natural environment. Is this the first time that you’ve done this with film specifically?
I guess not, because I did some pixel art for a Pop Culture show in New York for Gallery 1988 that was a Shawn of the Dead poster, but it had Ed (Shawn) in a Streets of Rage kind of scene, so it had that old 8-bit look. So no, it’s not the first time I’ve done it, but it’s the first time that I’ve really kind of focused on film and video games together.
Were the characters and films obvious choices for you? Is there any meaning between each partnership?
Yeah I guess so. The main one, the one that’s on the billboard with Karate Kid, there was that element of the underdog that I wanted to convey. With Sackboy being probably the smallest character in the game and Kid Kratos being more than a man, being kind of a God character, this huge dude, it kind of made sense to set these two off together. Visually, it had the most humour in it. Also, in the context of the film Karate Kid, Daniel LaRusso is the underdog fighting the Cobra Kai dude, so there was that kind of parallel between the two and that particular pastiche.
With the Fat Princess, that scene there, that iconic scene of Rocky on the steps, that’s him just finished this massive training montage workout and I just thought that the idea of her doing that montage, let alone jogging up the steps, was a funny thing. The Rachet and Jak thing, there’s this rivalry in gaming between PlayStation fans, the fans of the two games kind of battle each other, so I thought it was neat to have that Mexican Standoff scene in Resevouir Dogs where they’re facing off against each other and one thinks that one is better than the other, it kind of seemed like a good balance to use for that. Over all I just wanted this idea of combat and battle and victory and challenge.
How do you usually approach creating a piece of work?
What I actually do is sketch, but I sketch now digitally, straight onto the screen with a tablet. But it’s important at the very least to see if something works compositionally, just to start at that point, to start sketching really quickly to see if you can put the important elements that you need in the right place.
It’s probably slightly easier in this example because the scenes are already built for you, but I had to fit it to a slightly wider format for the large one, I had to switch them from a landscape to a portrait orientation for the other posters as well, so there were challenges. I had to kind of recompose the original compositions. The sketching part is for building, just building that image first off and seeing if it’s going to work.
Must be quite interesting going from a hand drawn sketch and then almost undoing that when you pixilate the finished product.
Yeah definitely, there’s definitely a kind of degradation I suppose. What I tend to do is sketch first of all, build it up, draw it. This is just how I personally work with pixels. I haven’t taken any lessons so I don’t know how other people do it, but what I tend to do is render the sketch in a high resolution and then literally just shrink it down, and then with that tiny image I work at pixel level to make it look like what a pixel sprite will usually look like. You’re right, there’s a bit of reverse engineering going on.
Are you quite a big gamer yourself?
Yeah I love games. I spend a lot of time and money on games, but I love doing it, it’s kind of become what I do. Where I used to feel bad for spending a lot of time on games, because it’s not central to everything I do, my work, that guilts gone now, it’s a pleasure. I write it off as expense [laughs].