It’s my pleasure to introduce you to the work of artist/designer Christopher Pace. Like other artists I’ve spotlighted in this feature, Chris makes portraits of people on the subway. His process, though, is unlike that of anyone I’ve interviewed before. Chris’ portraits are digital, made pixel by pixel on his phone in a video game-esque style.
Here’s more about the artist in his own words:
Where are you from? How long have you been in New York?
I am originally from New York the state, but have been in NYC for the past 15 years. Moved out here for school and stuck around.
Why do you do portraits of people on the subway?
One of my favorite classes when I was a student was location drawing, it was always interesting (and pretty challenging) to draw an environment that was alive, and had little if any idea you were there. Drawing people on the subway is an extension of that. As for choosing who I draw a portrait of, sometimes a person will just sit down and I will think “wow, I need to draw that guy/girl”. It could be anything, nice clothing, interesting face, hideous hairstyle, not too much rhyme or reason there.
What is your process like? How long does each piece take you?
Pixel portraits are kind of new for me, so I am still feeling this part out. They’re all done on my phone while on the train, using a program called TinyPixels (unsolicited plug, it’s actually a really well-done app). I start with a quick sketch using some ugly color on white, and create a few swatches of any of the standout colors in the peoples’ outfits or skin tones, stuff I might otherwise forget. This part is usually really rough, especially in pixels; only I know what the different pieces are. Then I slowly work back into it laying in color and shading. The ads or maps are usually the very last piece, they’re usually whatever happens to be around me when I get to that part. I actually have as much fun with the tiny ads as the whole rest of the piece.
Because I do them pretty much only on the train (about 30 min back and forth) and sometimes I have to focus more on holding a rail or eating a bagel, a piece can take me upwards of a month and a half.
Why do you use pixelation in your work?
I grew up with Nintendo and SNES, so the small sprite thing resonates with me, but I was always very struck by the pixel work in Roberta Williams and Lucas Arts adventure games. They were great examples of illustrators given the restrictions of VGA graphics and they were able to create amazing pieces within them. I’d say that these pieces are in homage to them, but it really wasn’t so conscious a decision.
What is your art/design background?
I went to art school, and have a degree in interactive media, but have always had a huge interest in traditional design and illustration, so I love to explore where those places can overlap. I recently started an interactive design shop called Charming Robot with a friend of mine. Outside of all that, my own illustration happens in my free time, wherever I can grab it. Like on the train.