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Some people think that digital art is a shortcut to making oil paint. Think again. Boston-based illustrator, designer and artist Pat Hines is a master of Microsoft Paint. From portraits of Bill Gates to serene landscapes, Hines has gotten a lot of rightly deserved hype around his work. Referred to as the “high realist” Paint artist—his artwork is work. He has devoted 15 years to making digital art on the program, and each piece takes anywhere up to 20 hours to complete.
As a master with the mouse, these digital paintings are more than a labor of love. They’re symbols of an era, as Microsoft recently announced Paint has been discontinued. Will we have Paint artists in the future? It feels like program and its users could be a relic of the past. Hines took some time out to chat about his latest novel, illustrating with a mouse, and his favorite online tools for art-making.
How did this all begin?
Boredom and desk jobs—I was working an overnight shift at a Boston hospice in 2002. Facebook and YouTube didn’t exist yet, and I don’t enjoy Minesweeper or Solitaire, so I turned to Microsoft Paint to pass the time.
Do you actually draw with the mouse or do you use a tablet?
I’ve tried using the tablet, and have experimented with Microsoft’s Pen, but when it comes to my MS Paintings I only use the mouse.
Is Paint underrated?
I think especially in the last few months with the announcement that it was being discontinued … a lot of people are realizing just how beloved it is as a program. However, many professional digital artists and illustrators have told me I’m wasting my time with it, so it’s definitely underrated in that world.
What version of Paint do you have?
I use the Windows 10 version (the final one, I guess) for coloring, and a much earlier version for line art. I’m not sure exactly which version this is because I’ve transferred it between so many computers, but it has to be from around 2000 or so. I love the Windows Vista version, it’s my favorite one, but I couldn’t get it to work on my current computer.
What do you think of Paint being discontinued?
At first I was a little panicked, but when I heard they were making it available as a free download, I relaxed a little. I have my various versions of the program anyway.
Can you tell me more about the graphic novel you wrote and illustrated?
It’s actually not a graphic novel. That’s been widely misreported, and I’m partly to blame because my style looks very comic booky. The book is just a regular prose novel with a bunch of illustrations. It’s a comedic adventure, mixing everything from 80s comedies like Caddyshack and Animal House to the horror movies of the same era, to stuff like Harry Potter. It took two years to write and a year to draw all the illustrations (all of this while working a full-time job).
What is the plot or storyline of Camp Redblood?
The story concerns a new camp counsellor named Steve Clarkson. He’s forced to take revenge on a rival camp after they viciously prank him and his campers. Steve’s a really meek guy though, completely out of his depth, so he enlists the aid of an older Scout group led by Leigh Carter, Camp Redblood’s resident badass. Together, they plan to infiltrate an event at the rival camp and exact their revenge. It’s very R-rated in terms of language and some subject matter, but very fun. It’s a book I would have lost my mind for when I was a teenager.
Do you have a really steady hand? How long did it take you to master Paint?
I actually don’t have the steadiest hand, which is one of the reasons I gravitated to Paint. For my line art I use the line tool, which is very forgiving. It’s taken me about 15 years to become as proficient with the program as I am now, but I still wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it.
How long does it take you to make one image?
If it’s one of my Camp Redblood illustrations, it takes anywhere between 10 and 20 hours. If it’s one of the paintings, like my piece for The Force Awakens, it probably takes between 20 and 40 hours. That sounds like I lot, but I imagine it’s not terribly different from some painters who work with physical media.
What is the hardest thing to do with a mouse on Paint?
I’d say drawing hair and water.
What will you do next, art-wise?
Right now I’m halfway through my second Redblood novel, so I’ll be creating illustrations for that. I’m working on a few other projects as well, creating concept art in Paint. I’d love to do an exhibition somewhere, but haven’t put any work into creating prints. Time is always a huge issue.
You recently tweeted to the artist who uses Excel to make art. I was wondering if you think you’ve started a movement? Or at least brought the medium into the spotlight?
I doubt I’ve started a movement. I mean, ‘Jim’ll Paint It’ has probably been at this longer, and other artists made a splash with the program before I did. I definitely think I’ve helped bring some spotlight to Paint, though, which is great. I hope aspiring artists see work like mine, or Hal Lasko’s pieces, and realize that it’s not the medium you use, its how much time you put into it and enjoyment you get out of it.