Nacho Rodriguez: Finding Catharsis through Pixels

Victor Rodríguez, also known as Pixel Nacho, is unapologetically a geek. He loves video games, Star Wars, and anime. It is an intrinsic part of who he is, and by extension, his art. Starting out mostly creating fan art for his growing following, Rodriguez’s work has recently begun looking inwards. A Venezuelan exile living in Uruguay, he has found that the experience has left scars and art, particularly a new project involving gods, has been a healthy way for him to drain them. Cathartic even.

A little tribute to one of the best electronic duos EVER: #Daft Punk, PixelNacho, 2021

Rodriguez has been fascinated with the concept of pixel art since he was a little kid. He remembers his brother coming back from a meeting of geeks who used computer consoles to make art and bringing back a floppy disk with pixel art on it. The colours and the creepy and playful imagery of it mesmerised him. Rodriguez was originally a graphic designer but he remembers starting to make pixel art somewhere around 2014. Not having access to many resources, he would use software like Microsoft Paint. He liked painting square by square, even now, the minimalism of pixel art and the possibility of achieving a lot with very little is what keeps drawing him to this medium.

Untitled, PixelNacho, 2020

Years later, after he left Venezuela and settled in Uruguay, he decided to fully commit to pixel art. He said, “I’m not going to do this to look for jobs, but for myself and feeling good.” It was to his surprise that it succeeded, and he found himself with a growing following on social media. His brightly coloured renditions of video game characters and strange creatures resonated with people. Gifs of his creations flourished and several of them are available on GIPHY. Rodríguez describes the process as, “Making something move that you don’t expect to move and make it without limitations.”

Untitled, PixelNacho , 2017

Rodriguez estimates that he’ll probably be doing pixel art, which he defines as “Pointillism with a click”, for a long time but his pixel art has and continues to undergo a lot of change. His desire to go beyond creating work that adheres to video game standards have led him down different avenues hoping to achieve a work of art in itself as well. He has begun working with 3-D art, which alongside animation, he believes may be the next step for art and himself, as it combines multiple elements he loves like pixels, silly/creepy things, animation, colours, and the video game aesthetic. Looking into and trying out abstractionism, science fiction, and surrealism (taking inspiration from Salvador Dalí, whom he has admired for some time) are also roads he is considering going down in the future.

Es viernes y el pixel lo sabe jajajaja, PixelNacho, 2019

The subjects and themes of his art have changed too. While he thinks drawing fan art is a good way for artists to learn various techniques, he’s found himself gravitating away from trying to please followers and towards expressing his personal “haunts” in pixels, several of which have to do with him being exiled from his home country. Politics is not a frequent theme in Rodriguez’s work. He’s drawn a skull wearing a cap with a red star on it that resembles Fidel Castro and serves as a stand-in for socialism but his art tends to be more cryptic than explicit. The use of colour is realistic. There’s nothing explicit to suggest exactly what Rodríguez was thinking of when he created it, and this is the way he likes it. The pieces in an ongoing project are still cryptic, but he takes a different approach. Square by square, he creates as he hasn’t done before, in a deeply personal and involved way.

The homeland, Socialism, and Death: in that order, PixelNacho, 2019

He hasn’t created much work with political commentary before, and emotion hasn’t had much influence in his work either. Until now. For example, “The God of the Hunger of the People Who Walk the Frontier'', an entry in Rodriguez’s god series, is inspired by the hardships experienced by Venezuelans who escape to the border with Colombia, particularly as the title points out, hunger. It shows a gigantic humanoid figure with a loaf of bread for ahead. This piece tackles a serious subject but the artist’s video game influence is still visible in the bouncy motion of the figure. Illustrating how he created one of the pieces in the series, which he plans to consist of 50 to 60 anthropomorphic gods, Rodríguez said that one thing he did that diverged from how he usually would do things had to do with colour. Usually, he would decide on a colour palette before starting to pixelate. With this piece, he colours as he pixelates, letting his emotions take the rein. Rodríguez counts himself fortunate to have been able to escape on a plane when that hasn’t been a choice for many. “It’s something that makes me sad and the only way I have to express that is through pixel-building and making pixel art,” he says.

Gad, PixelNacho, 2021

His favourite piece, which he says he holds very close to his heart, combines his feelings of nostalgia, being an exile, and heritage. It depicts the Turpial, Venezuela’s national bird, which Rodríguez employs to symbolize Venezuelans. He adds that Venezuelans, as the screaming bird in the picture, are noisy. Very noisy. Rodríguez adds that he is proud of being Venezuelan and that this piece is a reminder of who he is and where he comes from.

Rodríguez teaches pixel art online on Creana and said he wants to raise awareness of it in his home region and encourage others, especially those who don’t speak English, to try it out. His advice to young artists? “Do what you like, do what you love, and make money out of it. It’s very important to make money out of the things that you like.”

Follow Nacho on Instagram: @Pixelnacho.