Kenichi Shinohara's Pixel Art Ukiyo-e (1987)

From LOGiN Magazine (1987, No 5) comes the story of 篠原賢一 (Kenichi Shinohara), a “cheerful uncle” from Hyogo Prefecture, who at the age of 60 years old began using an NEC PC-98 to draw pixel art reproductions of Ukiyo-e. He also printed them and made folding screens and kites! Just “for something to do”. I like his style! What a guy.

His process involved pasting copies of artwork from books and magazines to his monitor screen and then tracing them using the mouse. After that he would clean up, add colour, and after 4 to 5 days print it out on his NEC NM9900, check and repeat. Each piece would take 1 to 2 weeks of work.

This is pretty much the same process I used to create my 1-bit Woodblocks series, though with a more modern set of tools, and similar to what Susan Kare did for her famous MacPaint artwork.

Happy 100th

Given that this feature was published in 1987, when Kenichi was 64, that would make him 100 this year. Happy Birthday for your centenary, Kenichi, wherever you are! 🎂

The Setup

We can read that he used pixel art software such as Z’s STAFF, FUNNY and CANDY2. The kite goes further and advertises that its image was drawn using Z’s STAFF with Pluskit LEVEL 1, an NEC PC-9801E and printed on an NEC MultiImpact NM-9900 dot matrix printer.

Handily, many of these tools are referenced in a repeated feature about ASCII C.G. Tools Festival which ran from the middle of November 1985 to the end of February 1986. That feature was essentially an advertisement for Zeit software company and was sponsored by them.

We can see that Funny was a pixel art package, CANDY2 was a technical drawing app, Z’s STAFF was a pixel art app (Zeit’s most famous, in fact), Pluskit LEVEL 1 was an “image reader” software add-on. Interestingly, Pluskit LEVEL 2 involved an interface board to allow for direct camera input.

LOGiN 1987 No 5

Thanks to Gaming Alexandria for scanning the magazine and making it available at Internet Archive:

Learn how to use graphics tools from a jolly old man

Click the images below to see a zoomable, browsable version of the magazine.

Kenichi Shinohara's pixel art Ukiyo-e, page 1 & 2

Kenichi Shinohara's pixel art Ukiyo-e, page 3 & 4

Kenichi Shinohara's pixel art Ukiyo-e, close up

Kenichi Shinohara's pixel art Ukiyo-e, profile

Originally published: 2023-10-13
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