'The 8-Bit Art of Victor Dandridge' at ToonSeum puts forth a challenge

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The new exhibit at the ToonSeum, “Art-Bit: The 8-Bit Art of Victor Dandridge,” is a throwback.

Displayed around the 1,300-square-foot exhibit are 159 trading card-sized images of superheroes and various characters, from My Little Pony characters to the iconic “Pulp Fiction” character Jules, all drawn as 8-bit images — a term that describes 1980’s Nintendo-style video games — creating a “new movement of an old movement,” according Joe Wos, ToonSeum director.

The various cards are arranged randomly so museumgoers can challenge themselves to name each character and submit their guesses. The person who guesses the most correctly will win $500 worth of prizes in mid-July.

The images were created by Columbus, Ohio, native Victor Dandridge, who says that the idea to create 8-bit art came from “absolute fear.”

He’d always been drawing and he’d always been a fan of comic books, but he wanted something that would set him apart from his friends. He and his friends were going to a comics and games convention when he decided to try 8-bit art.

“So I sat down as a novice and thought I’d draw it out on graph paper and scan them on a computer and clean them up in Photoshop,” he said. “Well, that bombed. They looked atrocious.”

He tried redoing drawing in Photoshop and immediately found a way to shape his images in a square formation. After three days spent trying variations of his images, he ended up doing more than 100.

Now, he has more than 630 in his library.

“I’ve gained dexterity in terms of the visuals I can create. They were blocky when I started, like they were just one flat rectangle and they were colors, but now I can articulate limbs, movement, character personality,” he said.

Mr. Dandridge usually displays his work at various conventions, where people can gather around and guess which image is which character. Mr. Wos initially found him at a convention in Chicago. This will be Mr. Dandridge’s first exhibition.

“Excited is not even the word. I’m kind of taken back by whole thing — the surreal experience of going from working in my private studio to a full-on experience,” he said.

According to Mr. Wos, the diversity of characters in the exhibit has drawn children and parents alike.

“It’s interesting because we’re getting a cross section audience. Kids are getting into 8-bit art, and parents are in it for the nostalgia bit,” he said.

Mr. Dandridge also was commissioned to do an 8-bit drawing of an important Pittsburgh figure. He chose Mister Rogers.

“There was a connectivity to both Pittsburgh and my youth, and that's what the pixel art is — showcasing things that I’ve always loved,” he said.

The exhibit represents both his childhood and his growth as an artist. He hopes his audience also will see the exhibit as a throwback.

“What I want them to do more than anything is to smile to be taken back to old-school times where video games weren't a threat to the imagination,” he said.

The exhibit will run through July 6 and is sponsored by Schell Games, the game development company on the South Side. ToonSeum is at 945 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412-232-0199; www.toonseum.org. Adults and children 13 and over are $8, children over 6 are $4 and children under 5 are free. 

Kate Mishkin: kmishkin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1352

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