Hearts for Hardware

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.

Hearts for Hardware: On the Go

"Mobile Gaming Lv.1" 9x12" oil and acrylic on panel sold

"Mobile Gaming Lv.1"
9x12" oil and acrylic on panel

For many, it is probably hard to imagine not being able to play video games on the go, but for some of us older gamers, there were many years of waiting for this innovation.

Sure, there were attempts before, including early LCD-based machines where you could swap out games, like the Microvision. But between too-primitive technology (Game & Watch) and onerous game changing (Microvision), it took awhile longer before we could fulfill our childhood dreams of gaming anytime, anywhere.

And so I included "Lv.1" in the title of this painting, because really it was here that what we now call mobile gaming got going. 

The original Game Boy was of course behind the times at release too, evidenced by the fact that the backlit, color, 16-bit Atari Lynx released only a few months later.  But power consumption (and Tetris) probably won that battle, especially as Nintendo was coming at the end of a very successful home console start, whereas Atari was already an also-ran by 1989, after nearly a decade of domination.

"Mobile Gaming is Evolving!" 9x12" oil and acrylic on panel sold

"Mobile Gaming is Evolving!"
9x12" oil and acrylic on panel

Before too long, the hardware began to evolve, first in greater portability then by finally adding color. During this time, handheld gaming became a major business, and the meteoric rise of the Pokémon franchise provided the first major franchise launched on a handheld device.

With my paintings of these, I sought to call back to Tetris, which powered the initial rise of the hardware. I don't like showing game graphics on handheld screens in this series, and prefer not showing game labels, but the Tetris shapes provided a great compositional element.

By the end of the Game Boy Color era, Pokémon had become a major force, and the cartridges themselves began to change, introducing colors and then clear varieties, which I included here to show the evolution of the entire product line.

Though I didn't paint the interim Pocket hardware at this time, you can easily see where it might fit in this series given the way the images have incorporated on these evolutions.

The titles of these two paintings also call back to Pokémon, evoking the constant finding of primitive creatures and over time watching them develop into more powerful forms. I can't always find these kinds of hardware-to-experience hooks, but when I can they are some of my favorite aspects of this series: using the paintings to evoke these other aspects of gaming that are tied to the hardware.

See more from this series at Hearts for Hardware.

Gameplay: A Tribute to Video Games

Notable mostly for me, today is the 12th anniversary of my blog. I always count election day as the official anniversary day, having launched on an election day here in the USA.

In the news, I have two paintings in a group show, Gameplay: A Tribute to Video Games, over at Helikon Gallery in Denver, CO, running through Dec. 10.

This makes the second gallery show which has hosted works from my Hearts for Hardware series. The first was my solo show at Krab Jab Studio a little over a year ago. In both cases, I did not pitch being in the shows, but was asked to participate, which is extremely gratifying.

My work hanging @helikongallery through Dec.10, opened last night #art #videogames #retrogames #gallery

A photo posted by Randy Gallegos (@randygallegos) on

As regards the art itself, I consider these opportunities to be a win for the series in general. One of the things I wanted to do with this series was to elevate objects which are normally kept firmly on the side of entertainment, frivolities, even toys, to the status of Art in some small way. This is one reason I haven't gone for fun, jokey gags but have treated them as straight, serious still life paintings, though admittedly the site hosting them is a bit intentionally retro. It's a reason I have not portrayed people playing the hardware (something I've been asked to consider a couple of times). So, all this tells me that I am on the right track, and this encourages me to continue on with the series.

In any case, "Motion Control, At Rest" and "Master Gear" are both hanging at Helikon in Denver. They also are stocking a few of the giclees of other images. If you are around, stop by and see the show. If not, and if you are interested in purchasing the works, drop them a line!

Still and Not-So-Still Lives

I've greatly enjoyed painting still life paintings the past couple of years, and have endeavored to make them a more regular part of my work. They are great as experiment labs and also low-commitment ways to explore lots of subjects. Lots of happy accidents can happen, and they also result in art that is a bit affordable, at least when contrasted with more full-sized, fully-realized studio paintings.

Traditionally, the subject matter for still life paintings tended to revolve around common objects found in the pre-industrial age. Because that consisted of centuries worth of paintings, the objects portrayed in those paintings became synonymous with still life painting: flowers, food, small household objects, etc.. And since those objects still exist, they still provide good subject matter for still life paintings. For instance, my painting of mistletoe painted during the past Christmas holiday season was received well by the jurors of the Oil Painters of America, who selected it for their Annual Salon. It will thus hang and be available from May 13th, 2016 at the exhibition held at Southwest Gallery in Dallas TX.

"Come Here, You" 6x8" oil on linen sold

"Come Here, You"
6x8" oil on linen

But still life painting has and should continue to include new items and objects, as new items and objects are created. I'm not one who thinks the old should be abandoned, but definitely if new things come up, artists should paint them! To that end, my Hearts for Hardware series has been my contribution to the broadening of the scope of still life by including these modern objects.

"The Standard: True Colors" 8x16" oils over acrylic on canvas sold

"The Standard: True Colors"
8x16" oils over acrylic on canvas

But what of objects that aren't portrayed as being still? While any artist could observe objects in motion, and through repeated observation could try to cobble together the impression of motion, now with photography we have lots more options. By combining photographs with imagination and having the objects present to work from, there is also I guess what one might call not-still life painting.

"23d" 8x8" oil on masonite  Available through Every Day Original

8x8" oil on masonite
Available through Every Day Original