The early console games of the SNES and Sega Genesis strike a nostalgic chord with fans, there’s something in the bit animation and MIDI instruments that’s reminiscent of eating a peanut butter sandwich on your neighbour’s couch and staying up until 4:00am. Pixel artist and animator Michael Azzi or as he’s better known Michafrar doesn’t leave that feeling in the past, he brings it to life and gives it motion right before our eyes.
We were lucky enough to snag an interview with Michafrar who has being working professionally in the field as a freelance artist since he graduated from university – with a degree in Pedagogy. After seeming to not really fit in with the rigid structure of institutionalized teaching he decided to follow his dream, “Rather than find a new job and start all over again – new school, new colleagues, new kids – I said *@%# it! I risked everything on freelance art.” It paid off, his fascination with creating SNES and NES inspired art has landed him some great positions working for game studios, indie developers and content creators.
If you’ve ever watched the popular Youtube channel JonTronShow you may recognize his work, his animations are featured in the beginning of each recent episode. He’s added his talents to such games as Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know and Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom. His job on the team was to add motion and clean up character animations for the game’s enemies and NPCs. This kind of pixel art can be tricky to pull off, it takes a deft eye for movement but Michafrar’s explanation of the process was quite original, “I see art techniques like languages. Doing pixel animation is like being trilingual: you have to be able to draw + you have to be able to animate + you have to be able to do pixel art.” Perhaps that’s what gives his work such depth and what creates such a charming and lively animation.
Gaming and freelance work is a hard avenue to break into and whether you’re animator, coder or writer it’s hard to find a working relationship with colleagues that produces strong results. We asked Michafrar his thoughts on how to evolve as an artist and first and foremost? Be curious! Don’t be afraid to act out motions, try out new styles and move outside your comfort zone because it’s all a learning experience. But never doubt the power of teamwork, he also gave some pretty sage advice when it came to the topic of working in a group or with others.
“Be genuine! Don’t go for ‘connections;’ stick with friends or acquaintances you really click with. This doesn’t mean talking all the time and being clingy. Just genuine friendship even if it may feel distant at times… Just be nice and friendly, don’t try hard to be witty or thinking twitter is a comedy contest.”
This is true of all artistic work, being genuine is so important. Michafrar’s be yourself attitude is one that any content creator should adopt because at the end of the day? It’s your vision and your work and you have to love it, so you do you!
With his career only cresting the horizon Michafrar has a lot more in store, he continues to work as a freelance animator and artist. He’s also been devoting his time to the developers of the indie RPG of Cryamore and he has a new Pixel Art tutorial book coming out soon! Pixel Logic – as it’s called – will focus on creating your own pixel art and animations, with the idea of learning by seeing, “I wanted a make a tutorial where you have more images and less text walls. Everyone skims tutorials anyway.” Beyond the book Michafrar/Michael Azzi has some dreams/plans for releasing content in the form of animations or games but he’s still working out the details, we’ll just have to be patient and wait to see what he does next.
For more on Michafrar stay here on The Game Fanatics where we’ll be posting an extended version of our interview. Visit his Tumblr or you can check out info on his book Pixel Logic! We’re excited to see what he has planned for upcoming projects and we can’t wait to see what he brings to life next.