Hearts for Hardware: Intelligent Design

Growing up, I had an Atari 2600 as my first home console (not counting a Radio Shack Pong clone). When the next-gen systems started appearing, I went with ColecoVision. So I never owned an Intellivision, which launched remarkably earlier than I remember. I did know someone who owned one, an adult--a married adult! I was young and games were new--I saw plenty of adults playing at the arcade, but never knew an adult who owned his own console. So when he was talking to my dad about how he had bought an Intellivision, "It stands for Intelligent Television," I heard him say with an air of knowledge, having thoroughly imbibed the advertising slogan, I thought he was the coolest adult around. I think in those years I may have played on an Intellivision exactly once.

"Intelligent Design" 14x18" oil over acrylic and leaf on panel Sold

"Intelligent Design"
14x18" oil over acrylic and leaf on panel

The system also lasted far longer on the market than I remember, undergoing hardware revisions during its ten-year production run.

When commencing the art for this hardware, which was pre-commissioned, I had to think about how to portray it. For all of these consoles, I have painted the controllers are separate pieces from the hardware, often creating compositions that hang together.

The Intellivision however is one of only a couple of systems where the controllers nest into the hardware, and so portraying the console faithfully would seem to include showing the controllers. Having one or both dangling off via cables into other paintings seemed unattractive. So I decided to make the console painting self-contained, and paint a controller separately. I actually painted the controller first, since the console was pre-commissioned and I needed to test the approach a bit first.

"Intelligent Design, P1" 8x10" oil over acrylic on panel

"Intelligent Design, P1"
8x10" oil over acrylic on panel

I have never worked with metal leaf before. It is a material that seems to have had a significant revival in the past decade or so. When used well it makes a lovely effect in original art, but I have also kind of avoided it because it is simultaneously very tempting to let the leaf do the heavy lifting on a work--since it has such wonderful material properties, it seems like an easy way to create ooh-aah factor on its own, apart from any vision the artist might bring.

But as I just said, it can be used well, and I hope this might be one of those times. The system's design includes a sort of fake gold metallic look, to accompany the faux wood. While it would also be quite simple to have just painted it to look realistic, it seemed to me that this was a place where I could use metal leaf directly in those areas, and then paint a bit on top to replicate the sheen. I think it worked well. I also let little slivers of leaf poke through the background--since one of the benefits of leaf is the way it constantly changes appearance depending on the ambient light, I thought this might be an occasion to let a little of the material's natural wow factor to shine through, so to speak.

In the end it was a fun experiment, and is one I might use in future Hardware paintings when metallic surfaces were employed. Additionally, one of the difficulties I've faced with this series is that even though the handling of the paint has generally been much more painterly than my usual works, people often still think they are photographs at first glance! So finding ways to make a painting read more as a painting while still being accurately representational is important to me, going forward.

Lastly, the title here is really meant to be a bit of a joke. While sporting some neat ideas like nested controllers and a side-loading cartridge slot to keep the immediate aesthetic undisturbed, the controllers were among the least-ergonomic ever created. Looked cool, certainly, but ugh. I mentioned I'd only played this maybe once as a kid, but upon getting a system in to paint, I also had some fun with it and confirmed this.