Hungry to find out more about Michael Azzi a.k.a. Michafrar? Well we have the unedited and extended version of his interview with The Game Fanatics. He speaks in-depth about influences, art and working in the gaming world.
Why are you so drawn to pixel art and animation?
As a child, it was always magical to be able to replicate graphics from an NES or Super Nintendo as I grew up with those consoles. If you ask most animators, they will often tell you what got them to make animations is their fascination for cartoons as a child. And I feel the same way, both for regular 2D animation and pixelart!
You also have a degree in Pedagogy (if I understand correctly it’s a degree in the theory of teaching) What made you decide to settle into freelance art?
Yup, it’s a scientific word for teaching. When I left high school, I didn’t know what to do with my life. I studied to be a language teacher for 3 years, and then got a job. It was technically a temporary job, but I essentially got fired even though most of my fellow teacher colleagues and students wanted me to stay. I just wasn’t good at keeping discipline. Being a school teacher felt mostly like babysitting, and my methods were more creative (which my colleagues commended, but the principle not so much).
Rather than finding a new job and start all over again (new school, new colleagues, new kids) I simply said “*@%# it.” I risked everything on freelance art, I don’t regret it. It’s more fulfilling and I had already done commissions in the past.
What are your biggest influences past and present in terms of artists, games and other media?
This continuously changes depending on what mood I’m in and what each artists’ strength is. I’m currently fascinated by my close friends’ regular 2D illustrations, the animation and timing of my friends at Studio Yotta for Flash animation and Konjak’s subpixeling and bright colours by Cocefi for pixelart.
Game wise I’ve always loved from Ace Attorney, Ghost Trick, Professor Layton, Nintendo games and PlayStation classics. Just name a game, and I could probably give my thoughts about it. It could last a few seconds, or hours depending on what game it is. I do want to see a return of 3D platformers; they’ve influenced me as a kid. As an animator, I want to see my character move around the scenery and explore.
The indie game art scene is sort of exploding, you work with Normal Boots and the JonTron Show perhaps most notably. Are there any other ventures you’re currently working on/with?
I’m helping out the indie game “Cryamore” on the side. It was a Kickstarted game and I currently do character animation. My friend Temmie Chang also joined the team briefly. I’d like to make my own thing one day, but I’ve learned from others that it’s not an easy task to take on; may it be video animation or game development.
You’ve worked for WayForward Technologies as well, can you talk a bit about your work with them and what roles you took on?
I’ve only worked for 2 Adventure Time games: “Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know,” and “The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom.” I was a character animator. The tasks ranged from enemy animation, to NPC’s and a few actions of playable characters. I mostly did animations with only a model sprite to work with and occasionally some clean-up that other animators had roughed out.
You also have a large following is there anything you would like to say to upcoming artists in the indie/animation/pixel art world about getting started and making connections?
Be curious! Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and imitate other styles. Observe real life as well and take inspiration from it. Act motions out. Collaborations also help you get out of your comfort zone. Try something new with every drawing.
I’m gonna be blunt: 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. I got to meet a lot the people prior to 2012. A few of my friends know me from 2004! Today, I got to meet a lot of people through mutual friendships. I’m not a big fan of how people desperately try to get close to their inspiration. Just be nice and friendly, don’t try hard to be witty or thinking twitter is a comedy contest. I never ever tag my work as “#animation #gamedev #pixelart #artistsontumblr, “ because I don’t like doing it, but I can kinda understand where people are coming from. It’s hard to get noticed.
Just remember that as artists, animators and game developers, we don’t have to be anonymous anymore like in the 80’s or 90’s where you were just a name in the credits or a random portrait artist on the streets. We have the internet, and this is the greatest time to be creative and make content. You now have an identity <3
Your pixel animations have a lot of life to them and they certainly have more depth than the regular 8/16 bit art you typically see. Is there a skill, talent or natural ability you can attribute to being so on point with your motion work?
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. So is it easy being trilingual? Depends, if you’re already bilingual, not so much. If you only know 1 language, then it will be much harder. My answer is the same for art, really.
But if you know how to draw somewhat well, the others won’t be a big problem, more of a hurdle. So make drawing your native tongue.
You’ve got a compendium coming out, Pixel-Logic, did you want to talk about content and what we can expect from it and where/when we can get it?
Yup, that’s my Pixelart tutorial book. My inspiration is the Animators Survival Kit by Richard Williams so I wanted a make a tutorial where you have more images and less text walls. Everyone skims tutorials anyway. I’m about halfway through Pixel logic. There are about 125 pages with 6 chapters now. I’m aiming to have about 10 chapters in total, but it could change. I hope to be done by next year, but I’m sure I’ll go back to older pages and improve them.
Are there any upcoming projects you’re working on that we can hear about?
I want to show my own character through a video or a game, I don’t know yet. But After Pixel Logic, I definitely want to focus on my personal project.