Maxwell Step is a Montreal-based artist whose medium is pixel art. He creates rich, colorful portraits of BIPOC. He was kind enough to speak with The BlkChain about his work and process.
You’re based in Montreal. What is the scene like for creatives in Montreal and Canada?
Montreal is a creative hub, a lot of talented people and creatives live in Montreal, and when it comes to Canada as a whole, most creatives live in the major cities Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.
You’re trained in traditional watercolor and graphite. When did you start making pixel art?
I started making pixel art in July 2019.
Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
I spend hours looking on Pinterest and listening to music to get inspired and then when an idea pops in my head, I write it down in detail.
What inspired the transition to pixel art?
I was watching an artist live streaming a drawing he was doing and at one point in the video, he zoomed in and you could see the pixels and then the idea clicked in my head to create portraits with pixel art!
Most of your work depicts people and is mostly portraits. Why is that as opposed to say, landscapes?
My work depicts mainly people because there is just something beautiful about capturing the essence and the likeness of people using a restrictive medium.
Tell us about your evolution as an artist. How do you work to improve on your craft?
I try to always draw every day and challenge myself by stepping outside of my comfort zone with my ideas.
What statements are you making with your art?
Most of the pixel artwork out there is not focused on portraits, let alone BIPOC, and I believe I am creating a wave of seeing people that look like me in pixel art. Who knows? We might see a major indie game with only POC as the characters!
The level of detail in your work is striking. How important is it for you to show that level of detail in your work?
It’s very important because I try to give just enough details to get a good depiction of the person without trying to go too detailed. I feel like if it gets too detailed, it loses its charm.
Can you walk us through your process?
For my conceptual work, I start with writing down my idea, then I sketch it out. Once sketched out, I get to create in photoshop
How long does it take to complete a piece?
It takes me 2-4hours, depending on the piece
What tools do you use in your work? (Software & Hardware)
I use Photoshop with a Wacom tablet
How has working with NFTs changed your work? Or has it?
Working with NFTs has pushed me to do more conceptual work as opposed to my usual portraits
What opportunities do NFTs present for artists that didn’t previously exist for them?
The opportunity to finally be free and supported creatively and financially and not just be used to accomplish someone else’s vision.
How are you planning on evolving as an artist? Will you continue with pixel art or branch out into other digital mediums?
I am planning on doing more animated pieces, but it will still remain in pixel art
If you work from photographs, what qualities do you look for in photos before you decide to make a pixel version? What types of photos work best?
I like photos that have a lot of contrasts and good lighting with the subject in a 3/4 view, those work the best
What advice would you give to other artists that are considering pixel as a medium?
Be patient! The more you draw, the better it gets!
How has it been for you in the NFT space?
It has been amazing honestly; I have received so much love and appreciation from so many people. It has been very welcoming!
Have any new opportunities come your way since you entered the space?
Yes, I have received so much commission work since entering the space.
“Brotherhood” is officially in The BlkChain collection. Can you tell me about that piece?
This piece essentially means that your brother is a reflection of you. Your brother is essentially another version of you genetically which is a strong bond. The subjects depicted are twins to reinforce that message.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I would like to thank you for taking the time to reach out to me for this interview, I truly appreciate it!