Fine Oil Paintings of… Video Game Art
James Barnett calls his style of fine oil painting “Fauxvism.” He likes his colors strong, as did the original Fauve artists of the early 20th century.
Q: Are any of these scenes from real life?
A: Unlike the painters whose styles I steal from wholesale, I don’t spend much time wandering the idyllic countryside. All of these views exist in the video games I painted from.
Q: The video games provide you with the scenes?
A: Yes, but they aren’t simple screenshots from reviews or websites. I walked around within each game until I saw a view worth taking a picture of (unfortunately, there are no “Scenic Viewpoint” signs in games). I positioned myself to create the composition from within the game, and that’s what I used as a basis for the painting.
Q: Are you going for a Van Gogh style in “Port Oakes,” with the boat scene?
A: Actually, I was going more for Maurice de Vlaminck [a charter member of the Fauves a century ago], but what anybody sees is their business, not mine!
Q: How long does the process take you? And what do you use?
A: Each one takes about 5 to 25 hours depending on size, not counting the time spent in-game stalking the elusive perfect composition. They’re all oil on wood panel.
Q: Some of them seem true-to-life in that they are recognizable. Does that mean we’ve come a long way from Pac-Man?
A: We have, but I get frustrated by three-dimensional games that slavishly imitate real life. You have teams of artists and designers; why just imitate normal old reality? Come ON, people! Do something weird! Games like Braid have expanded that boundary by introducing painterly artwork. Fortunately, even some 3D games have started to move away from representational rendering into more fanciful and interesting styles.
Q: So does some of this work approach that issue, of how much imitation games should provide?
A: I think there should be flexibility either way, and maybe you can get that from these paintings. But, really? Artists should just shut up and make pictures.
James Barnett is a painter and nerd and lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, where it is very hot in the summer but less so in the winter. Among other sites and publications, he has been written up in Wired magazine. His alter-ego, El Rey, can be found here.