Silicon Prairie News

Old-School Style: Omaha artist draws 8bit caricatures live at Big Omaha

Omaha May 9, 2013 by Riane Menardi

Big Omaha has gone 8bit. The annual event is nearly one day in, and even at this highly innovative tech conference, there's still room for old-school style—and Adam Nielsen is proving it.

Nielsen is one of this year's Big Omaha artists, live-drawing (yep, that's right—live-drawing) caricatures of the 14 speakers while they're on stage. Images from his computer are projected onto a wall in the event venue so audience members can watch the illustrations in action. Each 8bit drawing takes about 20 minutes, giving Nielsen time to finish each one before the speaker leaves the stage.

"It actually takes longer than you would think," Nielsen said before the event. "I'm trying to capture the person and some of their personality."

Nielsen is the creative director at the Omaha-based GoodTwin, a four-person digital agency that designs for the web and mobile. He started drawing 8bit versions of his friends as a way to step back from stressful design work and have fun, while getting inspiration.

Eventually, with the help of his team, his 8bit work turned into 8bitOmaha.com, where virtual characters roam the screen, and their owners can access them using Twitter. The best part? It's all free, and just for fun.

"We don't want it to be something that we're really monetizing or trying to use to even promote our studio," Nielsen says. "It's just something fun. It's a good break from the daily stuff that we’re working on."

Once he visualizes the 8bit version of someone's face, Nielsen looks for clothing and unique accessories that define a person—like hats, cameras or tattoos. "Being able to pull that kind of stuff really takes it from being a standard character that someone looks like, into where you can really pick them out," Nielsen said.

During Big Omaha, audience members can request to have an 8bit version of themselves created through 8bitomaha.com, however Nielsen doesn't have a timeline for when they'll be completed, since he works on the illustrations sporadically.

So how does 8bit design spur innovation? For Nielsen, it's a project where design meets technology—with a dose of underground art in the mix. He said while art doesn't need to solve a problem, design does. And as Nielsen is a digital designer and technology lover, this project lets him to explore those crossover moments.

"It's fun to me because I'm a trained traditional artist as well as a designer," Nielsen said. "So this is kind of street-art-meets-technology. And it's a way to facilitate that."

Look for Nielsen's Big Omaha speaker caricatures on his Twitter stream, @AdamNielsen, and visit 8bitomaha.com to see more 8bit characters and request one of your own.

Big Omaha is a two-and-a-half-day event that aims to inspire, educate and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the heart of the Midwest. Produced by Silicon Prairie News, it's part of the Big Series, the nation's most ambitious events on innovation and entrepreneurship.

 

Credits: Photos courtesy of Adam Nielsen

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