If you’re an ‘80s baby or a ‘90s kid, there’s a good chance you hold fond childhood memories of rescuing Princess Toadstool in Super Mario Bros. or thwarting Dr. Robotnik’s schemes in Sonic the Hedgehog. Thanks to one West Philly man, old-school Nintendo and Sega fans can mount those grainy (yet charming) memories on their walls, realized as handcrafted paintings.
Local artist and classic game enthusiast Adam Shub, 33, recreates characters and environments from many of his (and your) favorite Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo titles just as you remember them — pixel by pixel. A freelance graphic designer by day, he goes by Squarepainter when he’s painting painstakingly accurate portrayals of gaming’s finest from a bygone era. He even posts timelapse videos of some of his artwork, like Final Fantasy’s Black Mage, to his YouTube channel, bringing the little wizard to life one square at a time.
His speed painting videos come in anywhere between one and three minutes, but Shub says the real-time process can take up to two hours. And although he creates a grid on his canvas to guide him, his process isn’t simply a color-by-numbers.
“I have my gridding structure and my size structure, so I know exactly how high the canvas is going to be and exactly where everything is going to sit before I start painting,” Shub said. “I create my map before my painting, and … I deconstruct images, I move stuff around, I recolor stuff, I redraw stuff — especially with 16-bits because, when you blow stuff up, it looks really odd — so I have to lessen the color in certain places and bump up the color in other places, and change and redraw sprites. I’m always doing little custom tweaks to make it more of an art piece.”
Shub brings Squarepainter to convention floors when he can, most recently in January at MAGfest. As a one-man show, he says the preparation required to display and sell his work at a multi-day event can be hectic.
“There were some times, even getting close [to the event], I would paint for 12 hours straight,” Shub said.
He also sells his paintings directly through his social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where you can simply message him about your interest in purchasing one of his works. And, if you want to see his paintings out in the wild in the coming weeks and months, he’ll have booths at upcoming local shows South Jersey Geek Fest and J1-Con Music Fest.
As for his connection to Philadelphia, Shub has been visiting family here his whole life, and he moved here two years ago after a short stint in Austin, Texas. His favorite video game is Earthbound, and he says the Fishtown Barcade is his favorite of them all.
“I’ve been to every Barcade in the Northeast, and the one in Philly is the best one as far as video game collection, selection of beer, and all the games work,” he said, chuckling.