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Pixel Jeff: Taiwan Pixel Artist

Living His Dream.

I was recently browsing Behance to look for inspiration. I decided to search for Pixel art because I know a lot of pixel artists use themes and colors that I like. One of the first pieces that caught my eye just happened to be by an artist from Taiwan. He made a piece featuring a neon-lit betel nut stand. I really liked the color and animation.

Here are a few other of my favorite pieces by Jeff:


I recently reached out to Pixel Jeff to ask a few questions about his work. Lucky for me he was happy to respond.

How old are you and what led you into making pixel art?
I'm 24. I just graduated from University and I'm serving in the Army now. I've been creating pixel art since 2014. Making pixel art makes me feel very happy! I just love it! It's interesting to be able to create art using a simple method such as this. Since I made my first pixel art, I've been studying 80's culture. I focus mainly on video games, movies and other retro stuff.

How did you learn?
I learned through YouTube tutorials by myself and then keep practicing. I use Photoshop to create the art and edit the animations.

Where do you usually get inspiration from?
I sometimes get my inspiration from other pixel artists whose styles and animation I like. But if I want to create my own work about Taiwan, I'll observe around some shops or streets near my home or in Taipei.

How long does it usually take to make one piece?
It depends on how complex it is. I'd say about 5-6 hours for one piece (including the animations).

What is your dream or plan for your artwork?
I've always wanted to hold my own art show and publishing my own art book. Those are two of my major life goals.

What are some of the most difficult things about being an artist?
Being an Artist can be really hard sometimes —like when you don't have any ideas for your concepts, have issues with your clients, or if artwork isn't a hit. But I would never give up despite all these difficult issues, you just need to face them.

What is the most rewarding and best part of it?
The best part of being a pixel artist is the joy of the journey. There're so many goals to achieve.

If you had a billion dollars would you still do your art? If not what would you do instead. If yes would you anything differently?
I think Pixel Art is part of my life now, it's my hobby and it's also my career. I would still keep doing pixel art and try to get recognized internationally, not only for the fame but also to prove that Taiwan has this kind of artists. I would encourage people to persevere in following their dreams. It's worth it.

Takeaway

I was happy to learn that Jeff gets so much joy out of his artwork and is living out his dream. In my photography I've been so focused on 'making it' that I've lost much of the joy that simply doing it used to bring.

Daoists often seek this feeling of '無爲' (Wu Wei), which is basically being in the zone or trying not to try. I feel like Jeff has a very Wu Wei approach to his work. He studied and works hard at what he does, but at the end of the day he seems to do it simply out of joy. As artists it seems like there is so much pressure to ‘make something out of’ our work and quit our day-jobs, but these pressures can rob us of the happiness art is supposed to bring. Jeff is lucky to experience both happiness and commercial success from his work, but probably because he never tried too hard or compromised to achieve the latter.

❤️ Go check out Pixel Jeff on Instagram! ❤️
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Ching Chao: Tattoo Apprentice

Support from her loved ones has been key.

I recently met Chao, a tattoo apprentice at a company in Shilin, Taipei. She was able to answer a lot of questions I had about how exactly one becomes a tattoo artist.

Backstory

Despite graduating from the best college in Taiwan and landing a cozy sales job shortly after college, Chao was dissatisfied. Her job wasn’t that bad, but she could feel something pulling her away. But to keep her parents happy she continued working.

In her free time Chao enjoyed watching Miami Ink and LA Ink with her boyfriend. Her fascination with the show and Kat Von D in particular inspired her to pickup drawing again. She recalled a passion for it in high school, but never took it too seriously.

This time she pursued drawing vigorously, quickly picking up skills from YouTube and deciding to focus exclusively on new school style. Supercharged with inspiration, Chao knew a career change was in order, but the road would be rough.

The Apprenticeship

The tattoo scene in Taipei can be quite shady. Many companies take shortcuts since it’s easy to avoid government regulations. Luckily Chao found a company that takes safety and apprenticeship seriously. But in order to get proper training she had to take a pretty raw deal: 2 years, no pay, 10-hour days with 4 off per month.

Her duties include:

  • Opening/Closing the shop

  • Handling booking/secretarial duties

  • Cleaning work spaces after the artists finish

  • Refilling ink and maintaining equipment

She took a loan from her sister in order to get started, and will be dependent on her boyfriend financially for the duration of the apprenticeship. She’s able to do a bit of tutoring on the side to pick up some spending cash though.

When she’s not maintaining the shop she’s allowed to learn how to tattoo. She gets most of her practice in before the shop opens and during downtime.

Perfecting The Needle

Before meeting Chao I always just assumed that tattoo apprentices just practiced on friends who didn’t really care about their skin. Maybe some actually do, but Chao’s process is different.

She spends most of her time perfecting her needle skills on fake skin. She practices shapes, letters, and lines in order to get command of the needle. She also draws full designs on paper regularly to keep fresh at that as well. I would best compare the process to a basketball player who can shoot 3-pointers, but needs to learn how to dribble perfectly. It doesn’t matter how well you can draw if you don’t have command of the needle once it goes into skin.

After she’s able to put her designs onto the fake skin with no issues then she will begin practicing on her own.

A Lasting Impact

Chao likes tattoos because they express individuality in a society that tries to make everyone uniform. She wants to give people freedom to express themselves and is excited about the idea of making a permanent impact on people. She cares particularly about empowering women through her art. She stated that women are often bombarded with expectations, and that she hopes to inspire other women to step out of the bounds of what’s normal and to let their pure colors flow.

What I Learned

I was able to take quite a few lessons and truths away from meeting Chao that I think are important to keep in mind.

  1. Inspiration is key.

    Without looking up to somebody like Kat Von D, Chao would have had no idea where to go or what route to pursue. As artists we need to constantly immerse ourselves in other art in order to be inspired and see new ways forward.

    Nobody does it alone.

    Chao would no be pursuing her dream right now if it weren’t for support from her loved ones. They are literally her lifeline while she is doing this. Supportive friends and family are often our biggest safety nets.

    You have to sacrifice.

    To have the life she wants she had to give up what she had. Chao has taken significant steps backwards in order to pursue what she wants.

    Practice practice practice.

    I was amazed at how dedicated Chao was to perfecting the fundamentals of drawing and needlework. As somebody who does photography and writes I quickly noticed that I do almost no drilling on my craft, and perhaps it’s suffering because of this.

    I think that Chao will have a great deal of success once she starts tattooing. It really seems to be a natural for her and I am grateful that I got the chance to pick her brain.

    ❤️ Go give Chao a follow on Instagram! ❤️
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