Art: Dead Pixel Designs launches first products on Zazzle

Every now and again I get an email from custom merchandise webstore Zazzle letting me know that someone online has bought one of my custom designs. Through our danimations Zazzle store we sell the occasional Supermarket T-shirt or Lateral Movement merch (an experimental screen cultural event Emma Sterling and I started this year). Moreover, we used the service to make one-off promotional objects for ourselves, to avoid the unattractive upfront costs of bulk ordering custom designs from a traditional printing business. I recently decided to make a concerted effort in getting another Zazzle store off the ground, with pixel art as the unifying theme.

Since I’ve been busy producing pixel art for a range of applications this year (gig flyers, a Merge Magazine editorial spread, animations for theatre and favicons for websites) I thought I’d create a store specifically to host my lo-fi wares. The result? Dead Pixel Designs. Combining a love for cartoons, animation, retro computing and pure colour, the store will be a growing source of lively pixel-based designs. The designs currently feature on apparel, mousemats and binders… and Zazzle provides every end-user/designer with an ever-growing range of products to treat as custom canvases. Some of the wackier ones include skateboard decks, aprons and even pet clothing. Each product can feature either printed or embroidered artwork, depending on the item. Designs can be prepared to templates offline and uploaded, or individual elements can be arranged live on the website, making the experience enjoyable. The designer’s desired royalty is then set, and the item described, tagged, categorised and listed publicly or privately in the Zazzle marketplace. The store owner can then draw upon a range of powerful tools to promote his wares, like the embedded widget below.

More advanced Zazzle features include easy integration of stores with Google Analytics, allowing the gathering of statistics following each visit your store receives. Zazzle also publishes a Site Builder application, and provides further support for web developers to hack, adapt or build from scratch entirely new applications or webpages through which to sell their goodies. If you or someone you know is sitting on some creative merchandising ideas but doesn’t want to commit big money to buying a bulk order (and having to fulfill orders yourself) I strongly recommend you give Zazzle a shot.

Dan Monceaux

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Illustration: Merge Magazine gets pixellated

In the latter half of 2008, I caught wind of a new player on the Adelaide street press scene. That player was Merge Magazine, brainchild of two passionate and engaged young twenty-somethings, Josh Fanning and Owen Lindsay, each with a burning desire to support home-grown culture. Differentiating itself from its competitors with its heavily pictorial and colloquial journalistic approaches, its content and form are rich in creativity and make for an enticing monthly read.

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Image from the fictitious game 'Job Hunt'... more images on Flickr

Having enjoyed the editorial support of Merge during our recent Adelaide Fringe ‘Basement Beats’ season, I was flattered to receive a phone call from Josh asking me if I was keen to deliver some cover art (in a similar style to the pixel art on the Basement Beats poster) for the May 2009 edition. From my perspective, it really was a dream brief. They wanted a colourful retro pixel-art aesthetic, reminiscent of mid-late 1980’s gaming. The content of the illustrations has to run with a feature story about job hunting in a digital world, and difficult economic climate. ‘Super Mario Brothers’ was toted as a starting point, and a few rough sketches provided to me sewed some further ideas about ‘power-up’ items, social climbing and pursuit of the dollar as possible sub-concepts.

I turned the job around as quickly and as best I could, and was delighted last night when I rolled up to Adelaide’s Festival Centre to catch a gig and my eye was snagged by a pile of Merge mags screaming ‘pick me up’ with some familiar pixel flair!

My first illustrated cover for Merge Magazine
My first illustrated cover for Merge Magazine

Merge frequently impresses me with the unusual cultural crevices it crawls and peers into, and the much needed spotlight it turns on Adelaide’s emerging cultural movers and shakers. It’s a pleasure to be supported by such a great team, and to have the opportunity to contribute to a genuine stimulating force in the local scene.

Since the mags themselves don’t sit on the street for long, the Merge boys have been sharp enough to publish an identical digital edition of their mag (also free to obtain) so for anyone with a passing interest in Adelaide, I recommend you scoot over to Merge’s website and cop a taste!

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Animation: Classic techniques are alive and well

My recent absorption into the world of Twitter has led me to some interesting places, and among other things, rekindled my passion for the animation artform. Emily Dodge, animator and blogger at ReelAlive has posted a few beautiful discoveries on her site, two of which I will repost here. Coming from the font of creativity that lies in Europe’s outer reaches, these two films are wonderful examples of storytelling without the need for dialogue or verbal comprehension of any kind. They are beautiful, illustrative, poetic and captivating… as you will see below.

It is rare to see an animated film told in a single character’s POV. The above work uses this technique to great effect.

The element that makes the above animation so lyrical in my opinion is the artist’s observational skill. Subtle details turn the loosely sketched children into flesh and blood, perhaps even more palpably emotive than their ‘real life’ counterparts. We are blessed to see contemporary animation that harks back to the analog age and delivers so deftly!

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