This Digital Artist Creates Museum-Worthy Video Game Illustrations

Orioto's piece "Chinese Street" based off the "Street Fighter" video game franchise
Orioto's piece "Chinese Street" based off the "Street Fighter" video game franchise
Courtesy of Orioto

Whether you enjoy bopping around as Mario or exhaustedly flopping like a ragdoll toward bed, there is a gaming experience for everyone. But separate from developing illustrations and animations for video games themselves, there are a number of cottage-industry artists making their own distinct pieces based on the games they love. One such digital artist, Paris-based Mikaël Aguirre, who goes by Orioto online, has taken an almost classical approach to creating fine art out of these games.

"There is something that fascinated me about the graphics and the way you could interact with something from someone else's imagination," Aguirre tells Mental Floss. "That's mostly what video games are for me, so by working on those memories I try to give them some sort of anachronistic echo in digital paintings."

Aguirre's love of video games began much like anyone else's, when he was 11 years old. Video games to him, more so than other mediums, have the ability to channel emotion in a particularly special way. He cites Final Fantasy VI—released in 1994 on the SNES—as his favorite game of all time. It left an indelible mark on him in both an aesthetic and poetic sense. Because of that, Final Fantasy is one of the big franchises he returns to for inspiration the most.

Orioto's piece "To Zanarkand" based off the video game "Final Fantasy X"
Orioto's piece "To Zanarkand," based on the video game "Final Fantasy X."
Courtesy of Orioto

The name Orioto, Aguirre says, is an homage to Japanese anime director Kōji Morimoto, whose career notably includes being an artist for the 1988 classic Akira and 2003's The Animatrix, which was inspired by the 1999 Keanu Reeves sci-fi flick The Matrix.

Aguirre also takes inspiration from less contemporary artists, like the 19th-century Russian figures Ivan Shishkin and Ivan Aivazovsky, or British landscape artists like Alfred Glendening, among others. He says some of his work—which includes more than 350 digital paintings covering the full spectrum of video game history—directly references those artists and creators.

Orioto's piece "30 Years of Mario" based off the "Super Mario" video game franchise
Orioto's piece "30 Years of Mario," based on the "Super Mario" video game franchise.
Courtesy of Orioto

But before his portfolio grew to what it is today—including illustrative work for media companies like Polygon and decorative commissions for the online entertainment company Kinda Funny (such as the background set it uses)—Aguirre started small. He began by playing around with Photoshop when he got his first PC in 1999, when he was 18 and had just finished his final exams for school. Five years later, he began posting some of his work on the online community site DeviantArt.

Orioto's piece "A New Sky" based off the video game "No Man's Sky"
Orioto's piece "A New Sky," based on the video game "No Man's Sky."
Courtesy of Orioto

"I never even studied graphic design, but I was curious and resilient!" Aguirre says. "Photoshop is like a giant emergent game where you can find many ways to reach a certain result."

He's certainly mastered the mechanics of Photoshop. Usually, digital artists make their work available in various online stores, and they can sometimes be found at gaming conventions like E3 and Comic-Con. Aguirre works independently, which allows him to freelance for companies, do his passion projects, and interact with his Patreon donors, who have the opportunity to vote on some of the art illustrations he'll do next, whether it's a piece based on Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice or a more obscure title like Ristar from the Sega Genesis days.

Orioto's piece "Journey's End" based off the video game "The Last of Us"
Orioto's piece "Journey's End," based on the video game "The Last of Us."
Courtesy of Orioto

Some pieces Aguirre are most proud of include illustrations based on Hollow Knight, Another World, Final Fantasy X, and the cinematic post-apocalyptic journey of The Last of Us (above) from developer Naughty Dog. In the future, Aguirre hopes to incorporate elements of French Impressionism in his pieces, and perhaps one day even make video games himself.

To get your hands on some of Aguirre's work, you can check out his store on Redbubble or subscribe to his Patreon.

Wish You Could ‘Shazam’ a Piece of Art? With Magnus, You Can

Manuel-F-O/iStock via Getty Images
Manuel-F-O/iStock via Getty Images

While museum artworks are often accompanied by tidy little placards that tell you the basics—title, artist, year, medium, dimensions, etc.—that’s not always the standard for art galleries and fairs. For people who don’t love tracking down a staff member every time they’d like to know more about a particular work, there’s Magnus, a Shazam-like app that lets you snap a photo of an artwork and will then tell you the title, artist, last price, and more.

The New York Times reports that Magnus has a primarily crowdsourced database of more than 10 million art images. Though the idea of creating Shazam for art seems fairly straightforward, the execution has been relatively complex, partially because of the sheer quantity of art in the world. As founder Magnus Resch explained to The New York Times, “There is a lot more art in the world than there are songs.”

Structural diversity in art adds another challenge to the process: it’s difficult for image recognition technology to register 3D objects like sculptures, however famous they may be. Resch also has to dodge copyright violations; he maintains that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act applies to his app, since the photos are taken and shared by users, but he still has had to remove some content. All things considered, Magnus’s approximate match rate of 70 percent is pretty impressive.

Since the process of buying and selling art often includes negotiation and prices can fluctuate drastically, Magnus gives potential purchasers the background information they need to at least decide whether they’re interested in pursuing a particular piece. Just like browsing around a boutique where prices aren’t included on the items, a lack of transparency can be a deterrent for new customers.

Such was the case for Jelena Cohen, a Colgate-Palmolive brand manager who bought her first photograph with the help of Magnus. “I used to go to these art fairs, and I felt embarrassed or shy, because nothing’s listed,” she told The New York Times. “I loved that the app could scan a piece and give you the exact history of it, when it was last sold, and the price it was sold for. That helped me negotiate.” Through Magnus, you can also keep track of artworks you’ve scanned in your digital collection, search for artworks by artist, and share images to social media.

One thing Magnus can’t do, however, is tell you whether an artwork is authentic or not. The truth is that sometimes even art experts have trouble doing that, as evidenced by the long history of notorious art forgeries.

[h/t The New York Times]

'The Far Side' May Be Making a Comeback Online

tilo/iStock, Getty Images Plus
tilo/iStock, Getty Images Plus

For the first time ever, it’s looking increasingly likely that cartoonist Gary Larson’s "The Far Side" will be available in a medium other than book collections or page-a-day calendars. A (slightly ambiguous) announcement on the official "Far Side" website promises that “a new online era” for the strip is coming soon.

From 1980 to 1995, "The Far Side" presented a wonderfully irreverent universe in which hunters had much to fear from armed and verbose deer, cows possessed a rich internal life, scientific experiments often went awry, and irony became a central conceit. In one of the more famous strips frequently pasted to refrigerator doors, a small child could be seen pushing on a door marked “pull.” Above him was a sign marking the building as a school for the gifted. In another strip, a woman is depicted looking nervously around a forest while cradling a vacuum cleaner. The caption: “The woods were dark and foreboding, and Alice sensed that sinister eyes were watching her every step. Worst of all, she knew that Nature abhorred a vacuum.”

Unlike most of his contemporaries, like Berkeley Breathed ("Bloom County") and Bill Watterson ("Calvin and Hobbes"), Larson has resisted reproduction of his work online. He famously circulated a letter to "Far Side" fan sites asking them to stop posting the single-panel strips, writing that the idea of his work being found on random websites was bothersome. “These cartoons are my ‘children,’ of sorts, and like a parent, I’m concerned about where they go at night without telling me,” he wrote.

Many obliged Larson, though the strip could still be found here and there. That he’s seemingly embracing a new method of distribution is good news for fans, but there’s no concrete evidence the now-retired cartoonist will be following in Breathed’s footsteps and producing new strips. ("Bloom County" returned as a Facebook comic in 2015.) The only indication of Larson’s active involvement is a new piece of art on the site’s landing page depicting some familiar "Far Side" characters being unthawed in a block of ice.

Larson’s comments on a return are few and far between. In 1998, he told The New York Times that going back to a strip was unlikely. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Never say never, but there’s a sense of ‘been there, done that.’” In that same profile, it was noted that 33 million "Far Side" books had been sold.

[h/t A.V. Club]

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