E3 2013: The Art of Punch-Out!!

Tiger Balm and Mr. Pecs

E3 wasn’t about just the digital side of gaming. Sometimes, people like to commemorate our favorite pastime with something a little more physical and concrete. And Vancouver native Michael Edward Miller is attempting to put his spin on the “Are video games art?” discussion by putting his time and energy where his mouth is.

Just across the street from E3 was a little art show:

I saw the sign.

You walk inside are are immediately awestruck by the enormity of the things decorating the walls. Standing at 7’5″ tall and 6′ wide, the giant pixel art canvases are meant to strike you with their scale as much as Little Mac must have been the first time he stepped into the ring against Mr. Sandman. Soda Popinski. Mike Tyson. Every character from the game is represented, including Mr. Dream and Mike Tyson facing each other on opposite walls of the entryway (“I’d never hear the end of it if I didn’t include them both!”). The in-game character portraits are here, too, at a modest 34.5″ x 36″, with Little Mac himself gazing out the window, inviting you to come inside with that childlike enthusiasm that hides the fact that he could knock your block off.

Each piece was done over countless hours with a mixture of technology, handmade stencils, and gallons upon gallons of spray paint. My favorite part by far was really getting up close and seeing the different textures of the black paint, the sharp corners, the pixel-by-pixel matching delivering me right back to my childhood… It’s weird how nostalgic Generation Y has already become. Most of us aren’t even 30 yet.

I got to talk to the artist a bit, too, which was cool. He told me about how his pop art is clearly an homage to a thing he loves, but how he worried that Nintendo’s lawyers might have tried to shut it down. He did get a phone call from Nintendo the day after his first show, in fact. Here’s the rundown he gave me:

“Hi, is this Michael? This is Nintendo.”

*Michael freezes up, starts to panic*

“Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble.”

From then on, the rest was history. Turns out that the Nintendo higher-ups actually wanted to come see his work. The Vice President of Nintendo Canada stopped by, told him how cool he was, you know. The usual. That worked out in more ways than one, actually, because he also happened to be at E3. So when Michael showed up to check out the Nintendo booth for a few hours one afternoon, of course he was invited into the VIP area. It’s a tough life, it seems, being a starving artist. ;D

(Notice how I omit the 16-hour days, the maxing-out of every credit card he had just to get his work to LA, and the sheer logistical nightmare of running your own show and getting dozens of 45-square-foot canvases  from Vancouver to Los Angeles. Besides that, though, no problem!)

Enjoy a couple shots from the show, and you can check out his site if you want to commission him to draw you some Cheep Cheeps or something like that.

Poppin' sodas.

Skinny, Mustachio, and Laughin' Sally.

Glass Joe/MacGuyver?

Hey look it's Bald Bull!

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