If you were part of the Nintendo generation - and I mean the original NES - then you probably have some classic 8-bit images burned squarely into your brain - Mario, Link, Goombas, Simon Belmont, Mega Man, and even Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog, to name a few. Like most of the Nintendo generation, local artist Erik Orr has grown up with those images and adulthood hasn’t stifled his passion for the games he played when young. Lucky for us, Orr is a talented artist who now spends his time creating some great 8-bit character art, as well as some awesome comic and pop-art themed pieces as well.
Originally from Washington D.C., Erik moved to Louisville with a friend from the area after finishing at George Mason University. “I hadn’t planned to stay in the area,” he said, “but then I met my wife and got a good job and here I am!” When he’s not working as the graphic design manager for Job News or spending time with his newborn son Eli, Orr takes commissions and preps pieces for display at Revelry Gallery, where he recently completed a show called “Old School Cool.” The materials consisted of black and white images of famous pop icons from the 40’s forward painted on brightly colored backgrounds. “I really love anything to do with pop art, really,” Orr told me.
Hunter S. Thompson
Orr doesn’t just produce prints of video game characters in pixel form - he’s also pixelated celebrities like Dolly Parton, and draws inspiration from his day job as a graphic designer. “I spend a lot of time blowing up images in Photoshop and staring at pixels,” he said. “And it just kind of went from there.”
When Orr produces 8-bit cutouts, he starts with a large piece of plywood that he covers - by hand - in ½ inch grids. “I try to fit them all in like Tetris pieces, then I outline the individual characters.” From there Orr cuts them on a saw, primes them and re-grids the individual pieces so he can start filling them in. “I can get one piece done in a day or two, but it’s hard to saw how fast I complete them,” he told me. “I work in an assembly line and knock out twenty at a time.” A comic book piece starts with a silhouette projection to get an outline and moves forward from there. Most of his work is done on plywood, so the saw is a constant fixture.
But what about his spare time outside of art? Is Orr as big a gamer as his art portrays him? “I used to be, but now with my son being around I hardly have the time. In a few years, though, I’m sure he’ll be playing right along side me,” he laughed.
Toad, as appearing in Mario Kart
You can check out more of Erik Orr’s work at his blog (linked above) or at Revelry Gallery in Nulu.
Photos courtesy of Erik Orr
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