Feb 9th – Pixilated paintings

February 9th – Pixilated paintings




past tense: pixellated; past participle: pixellated

  1. divide (an image) into pixels, typically for display or storage in a digital format.
    • display an image of (someone or something) on television as a small number of large pixels, typically in order to disguise someone’s identity.


Michael couldn’t spell ‘Pixellated’. He couldn’t spell a lot of things: spelling wasn’t his strong point. He knew a lot of stuff, was practical, understood things, but he couldn’t spell. This made school a problem.

They’d given up on him by the end of primary school. So he had, in turn, given up on them. It was only fair. Michael and the academic way were two very different worlds. He turned up, did what he had to do, dis his homework (more or less on time), failed some exams, scraped through some others, and generally let the world turn around him without bothering too much which way it spun.

He was a genius at Art.

However tedious the rest of school life was, the Art room was a sanctuary. His Art teacher, having been a bassist in a chart-scraping band at the dog end of the 1980s, and knowing what it was like to live outside of the bubble, even if only briefly, indulged him. Michael, from the age of eleven, produced works of beauty.

The Art budget was cut, the school prioritised Maths and Science, and Michael’s Art teacher was shuffled off to pastures new. At the age of fifteen, Michael gave up on Art at school, along with all of his other subjects. What was the point?

One Thursday afternoon, sat in front of a careers advisor with the imagination of a turnip, Michael had an epiphany. He was only half listening to the woman in the blue jacket in front of him as she wittered on about BTECs and being a lumberjack. (A lumberjack? Seriously?)

He knew what he was going to do.

He was going to paint.

Armed with a simple palette, a bank of images on his phone, and a set of flat ended brushes, Michael spent the evenings and nights of his GCSEs painting. The exams were irrelevant. What was relevant where his canvasses: empty buildings, bus shelters tucked out of the way, a motorway underpass, a building site. In simple blocks of colour he recreated masterpieces, adding his own touches here and there, a mess of squares seen from a metre or two away became Botticelli’s Venus, rising out of a plastic sea. The Mona Lisa smiled enigmatically down from a multi-storey car park.

When a pixellated Starry Night, Van Gogh’s fields replaced by broken circuit boards and broken phone screens, was cordoned off, cut down, and placed in a street art exhibition in The Tate, things started to change. Michael was astute enough to make the right moves.

A few emails later, (badly spelled, but who cared?) Michael had himself an agent, sworn to secrecy, and a few months later a pixellated Night Watch hung in New York’s MoMA, the concrete wall of the tennis club purchased and replaced, to everyone’s delight, including Michael’s, who was rewarded handsomely for his efforts, and Michael’s agent, who was rewarded only slightly less handsomely herself.

Michael signed his work ‘Pixilated’. He still couldn’t spell. And he really didn’t care.


Inspired by a prompt from here

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