Articles, Blog

Patriotic Pixel Art Animation with MS Paint

February 14, 2020


Hey there folks! This week, I’m re-creating a pixel art animation
that I made in a High School Computer Programming course 19 years ago. Last week, a new subscriber named Ryan Wequ
leave a – I think that’s how you pronounce that – he left a couple comments talking about
fooling around in Paint back on his parents old Windows 98 computer. And that got me thinking about this computer
programming course I took back in 2001. A few months ago, another subscriber, TheObliviousMarshmallow
I think it was, asked me when I started creating art in MS Paint. And yeah, that’s a complicated question. I mean, like Ryan, I was fooling around in
Paint since I was a kid. First in Paintbrush and then in Paint 95. When I was a freshman in high school, I used
MS Paint to draw some maps for an RPG my friend and I were working on. However, when I think of the first time I
really drew anything of any kind of artistic significance and quality in Paint, I think
it all started in this computer programming course. Now, you may think that programming and Paint
have nothing in common, but hang in there. This is going to be a long story. And in the end, I promise, everything will
be explained. Well, not everything. But I mean, you know, during the video. Anyways! I don’t want to brag here, but I’ve always
been a little bit gifted when it comes to computers. Back in 1996, when I was in 6th grade, I taught
myself how to write HTML, and I even dabbled a bit in Javascript. And come to think of it, I think I might have
used MS Paint back then to create a star field for a Star Wars fansite on Geocities back
then. But that doesn’t really count. Anyway, in 1999, I was a Freshman in high
school and I was desperate to take some easy classes that wouldn’t have any homework. When I saw a computer programming course available,
I jumped at the opportunity. You can’t take a computer home to do programming
at home. So yeah, no homework in that class! In the course, we learned QuickBasic, or Q-Basic;
which was already obsolete as it pre-dated Windows, but it was where our school started
us. Our teacher, Mrs. Tenpas, was a tyrant straight
out of Texas. If our work was done, we were expected to
sit there staring at this relatively simple code and double, triple, quadruple checking
it for errors, even after we were done working on it and we had everything going and working
just fine, until everybody else finished. No talking. No note passing. I don’t even think we were allowed to turn
our heads more than 5 degrees; which she would interpret as cheating. And if she thought you were cheating, you
got an instant zero on the assignment. Which, eventually, happened to me. Now, I confess, I wasn’t above cheating
when I needed to in high school. I had written extremely tiny German vocab
words on a scrap of paper too small to be suspicious, I glanced over at a classmates’
geometry test when I could… for all the good that did me. I still barely passed. Anyway, the important thing here is that I
only cheated when I needed to because I didn’t prepare or just had a lousy teacher and had
no idea what I was doing even when I tried to prepare. This programming course was so stupid easy
that it was painful. I didn’t need to cheat and I didn’t cheat. Cheating would have been more work, and why
would I want more work for myself? Anyway, when I got the assignment back with
a big Texas-sized ZERO on it with a note, “see me after class”, I thought I must
have turned in the wrong assignment or just totally misunderstood what the assignment
was. And to be fair, I was so bored in that class
that I barely paid attention. So, I did as the note said. I went to go see her after class and so did
another student; who I knew to be a really good if not straight-A student himself. She then tore us new buttholes for cheating. And when we protested, she said our code was
EXACTLY the same; which in all her years of teaching this course; I don’t know how long
that was; but it had never happened unless someone was cheating. And to be fair, she did state this rule on
the first day of class – that if any of us had exactly the same code, she would know
that we were cheating. It was one of her many, many, many rules about
cheating. But here’s the thing. We sat with our backs to each other on opposite
ends of the room. This was before cell phones, and text messaging,
and instant messaging. Not to mention that we didn’t have Windows
on these computers, so we were limited to only to MS DOS and what we could create in
Q-BASIC. Now, I pleaded my case, that there were only
two ways we could have cheated. First, was that one of us would have had to
of taken the time to write the code by hand on paper, and then pass it as a note through
more than half of the students in the room- any one of which might have cried foul because
if they got caught with that note, they would get a zero on the test, too. And then the other one would have to open
the note, type it out exactly the same as it was written without her noticing. The other possibility, and the one I argued
was more plausible, was that one of us was possessed by a demon! They rotated their head 180 degrees Exorcist
style, and then used their perfect demonic vision and photographic memory to capture
everything on the other student’s screen – again, without ever noticing it. Anyway, she didn’t much care for my sarcasm
and we were both given detention. Well, I was FURIOUS! If you want to piss me off, accuse me of something
I didn’t do. I went home that afternoon and immediately
told my mother that I needed her to drive me to school on Saturday for detention because
my psychotic teacher was accusing me of cheating. Well, the next day came along and I’m mostly
over it at this point. I’ve spent the past 24 hours cursing this
woman to my friends, my girlfriend, and just about anyone who would listen. Then, 5th period rolls along, and I walk in
Mrs. Tenpas’ classroom and immediately I freeze in horror! It’s every 14 year old high school student’s
worst nightmare: My mom is there. I’m mortified. I am beyond mortified. Words cannot do this feeling justice. I don’t even think I acknowledged her. I just walked in, sat down in front of my
computer, and started work on the next assignment. I couldn’t really hear what they were talking
about, but a few minutes after class was supposed to start, my mom finally walked out. And Mrs. Tenpas then proceeded to tell us
how to do the next assignment; which I was already halfway done with. When she finished her lecture, as everyone
starting, she then walked up to me, gave me back my test, and this time it was marked
with a 100, and she whispered, “don’t worry about Saturday.” You know, I have another video I want to do
where I talk about this a little more, but I gave my mom a ton of grief growing up. And I’m sure it’s only natural for teenagers
to be embarrassed by their parents, but my mom always, ALWAYS, had my back. I got really lucky to have such an awesome
mom. I just didn’t realize it until I grew up. Anyway, around this time, I was thinking I
wanted to go to art school. However, later that semester, my art teacher
took a few of us to the school of the Art Institute and the American Art Academy in
Chicago. And at some point, I asked the forbidden question:
how much is tuition? And the answer was north of 100,000 dollars
(USD). NOPE! [laughing] Nope no no no no nooooo no
no no no. No. This was a really valuable trip for me because
I realized two things. First, I realized that if I wanted to be the
kind of artist that excelled at a program like this, that I would need to start using
heroin and start tripping, like, daily. And yeah, not only do I hate drugs, but I
hate needles even more. Second, I realized that if I did this, I would
be a starving, broke artist. I convinced myself that I needed to change
my plans a little bit. I decided to instead focus on computer animation. CGI was all the rage in 1999 and there was
a huge demand for anyone who could model anything in 3D. Unfortunately, my advisor was an idiot and
had no idea what CGI was. He signed me up for a plethora of regular
art courses; which I still enjoyed, but it wasn’t what I wanted to learn, and of course
more programming courses because Programming 3 focused on principles of animation; which
I was skeptical about, but whatever, I’ll take it. Now, my school actually did offer CAD courses,
including one that taught 3D Studio Max; which was exactly what I wanted to learn. But I didn’t find out about that until the
last semester of my Junior Year. Anyway, I took Programming 2 my Sophomore
Year; which taught us VisualBasic; which was a bit more relevant than Q-Basic and, again,
Mrs. Tenpas was a complete tyrant, but I played by her rules and aced the class without any
problems. Since this was a Windows thing, we had access
to Minesweeper on the computers; and that made the class more bearable as I was able
to spend all my free time mastering minesweeper! And I am an expert at minesweeper today! Anyway, all I really remember about this class
is Minesweeper, to tell you the truth. I still know Visual Basic well enough to be
competent in VB.NET; which I use on occasion when I needed to when I was at my last job
developing some automation tools. But yeah, really it’s minesweeper I remember
from this. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t take Programming
3 my junior year. There might have been some pre-requisite class
I had to take first, or it conflicted with another art class. But at the end of my junior year, I stumbled
into my first CAD [stands for Computer Aided Design/Drafting] course. And FINALLY, after 2 years, I found the courses
that I wanted to take. I canceled my other classes and completely
re-planned my entire senior year around CAD. I actually still have nightmares that I didn’t
properly cancel my international law class because I was a week into it when I switched
to another CAD course. Anyway, one of the few courses that I didn’t
cancel in my first semester of my senior year was Programming 3. Not because I was dying to take it, but because
I think it overlapped with the one pf my basic CAD courses that I had already taken. Again, Mrs. Tenpas was teaching the course. And for the life of me, I can’t remember
the name of the software or code we were using. Probably because it wasn’t hugely popular
and partially because it was late 2001, so my memory of this is a bit vague after all
these years. But essentially, we were creating sprites
in the Windows 98 version of MS Paint and animating them by writing code. I think it was most comparable to a Flash
animation that we had to program ourselves. Now, at this point, everybody in the room
has had Mrs. Tenpas at least 2 times before. She also taught typing 1 and 2. Which there was no amount of money you could
have paid me to take. As I recall, she had as much of a reputation
for being a tyrant in those classes as she did in the programming courses. But here’s the thing. She softened up quite a bit for this course. I suspect that if we had been with her for
2 or more courses at this point, she knew that everyone in the room actually wanted
to be there, or at least learn what she was presenting us. So, the first 2 weeks of the class were literally
an introduction to MS Paint. This was probably when I learned how to master
the curve tool; which by far the most important tool in creating my unique style. I also remember her saying that if you try
to type in a text box and you can’t, it’s probably because you are using the selection
box instead of the text box. And I remember saying under my breath just
loud enough that I was a little worried that she might have heard me, like, “How stupid
do you have to be to do that?” And In the 19 years since then, I’ve done
it exactly 4 times. I keep track of it now. I am that stupid from time to time and every
time I kind of laugh a little bit. Anyway, this was the class where I really
learned how to master MS Paint. I think the low resolution sprites; which
were only half as big as the sprites I’m creating here; only had like one black pixel
dot for their eyes. And that would eventually evolve into my comic
characters of today. And this class was great! It was the first time I had really been given
the freedom to tell a story through my art using animation. And granted, we were limited to only a loop
of a few seconds, but I had been introduced to an entirely new way of creating art and
expressing myself. Unlike the previous programming courses; which
were formatted to make us write code that would accomplish various tasks in a very regimented
way: create a calculator that will print the number of days a person has been alive in
this format… or create a program that will group these numbers based on factor X and
add them accordingly. These were the kind of things that we had
to do, and it was all just very regimented. There is a right way to do it, and everything
else is wrong. This course gave us the freedom to use the
principles of the code we were learning and then create something unique with what we
had learned. Mrs. Tenpas taught us enough to accomplish
each assignment, but for me, I had a new artistic medium and I was going to apply what we were
learning in ways that went beyond just the simple assignment parameters. And I think it was for this reason that Mrs.
Tenpas finally took an interest in me as a student. I mean, yeah, I was crazy fast at completing
the assignments before, but there was no real freedom to go above and beyond the parameters
of the assignment. With animation though, I was finally free
to use code creatively! And she absolutely loved it. Now, when we were programming, she would frequently
pull up a chair next to me and ask why I was doing what I was doing; what I was trying
to accomplish; and not because she was hounding me to work harder or because she was looking
to see if I was doing anything wrong, but because she had a legitimate interest in how
I was approaching problems in unique ways. Our relationship had done a complete 180 in
a really short period of time. Now, late 2001. We all know what happened. After 9/11, I was determined to join the military
after graduating; and with the exception of Mrs. Tenpas, literally every teacher I had
was against me enlisting. I was too smart to join the military, I would
be wasting my talents, I would get myself killed. Just about every excuse that you could think
of, I heard. And it would be several weeks, maybe even
months before my parents would end their opposition towards it. Even my girlfriend at the time broke up with
me because of this. Mrs. Tenpas was the first, and for a while,
the only supporter I had in making what would prove to be the most important and best decision
I’ve ever made. Anyway, our first assignment after the terrorist
attacks was to create an animation celebrating a holiday. Christmas was probably the most popular because
it’s easy, everybody knows the symbols of Christmas. I remember a couple girls I think chose Valentine’s
Day. But, filled with patriotic vigor, I decided
to create something for Independence Day. Now, it’s kind of hard to compare my work
to that of the other students 20 years after the fact and without any files from back in
the day. But to give you an idea of what was expected
of us, the next best animations besides mine were using like floating hearts scrolling
from side to side and a Christmas Tree with oversized blinking lights that was animated
by flipping itself horizontally in a loop. No, mine was going to be EPIC! There were going to be marching soldiers,
and people waving in the streets, a hot girl in the window, and fireworks galore! The background was going to have layers of
hills and trees and more houses! And it was going to bring American folk art
to life! Now, to be honest, I don’t remember this
in crazy amounts of detail. I remember that one of the houses in the background
had a picket fence; which tells me that I either drew the background at a higher resolution
than I drew this one, or the houses were a lot closer to the front. I really wish I had my original files, but
they were all kept on a Zip Disk… because this was 2001 and that was the technology
of the future. And because those zip disks were so expensive,
I didn’t get to keep it. And even if I had, I wouldn’t have a zip
disk player anymore. But anyway! However different the background looked, I’m
quite confident that my sprites are more detailed and better animated here. What I do remember is that I animated the
soldiers in that piece so they were marching from left to right, kind of insinuating that
they were going off to war. And I wanted it to be reminiscent of those
old World War I propaganda films where a parade forms down the street and able bodied men
just run behind them on a whim and walk together to the local recruiting office. Now, I’m such a better artist now, and I’m
sure that I’d cringe really, really badly if I saw any of it, but compared to what my
fellow students were doing, this was absolutely insane! This was such an ambitious undertaking that
I was coming in after school for one or two hours a day to work on it. During this time, Mrs. Tenpas and I began
talking more about politics, religion, and the military. She was not just a teacher at this point. She was a true mentor. You know, looking back on it, I really was
blessed to have quite a few good mentors in high school. Unfortunately, while many of my other mentors
were pretty much universally respected, Mrs. Tenpas still had the reputation of an iron
fisted tyrant. And maybe she liked that. I mean, when it came to kids screwing around
in class, it never happened anywhere near the same level in her classroom as it did
elsewhere. And really, could you blame her? She had tens of thousands of dollars of equipment
in her room and 20 or so pubescent idiots hopped up on hormones thinking they knew everything
walking in every hour and a half. Yeah, she ruled with an iron fist and put
the fear of God into us, but I don’t think I remember anyone who gave a crap getting
anything less than a B in her classes. She got results and taught us what she said
she was going to on day one. Anyway, that December, the school decided
to put on some sort of like a Secret Santa thing where the students would volunteer to
get gifts for the teachers and the teachers would try to guess who their secret Santa
was. And it was the very end of the last day of
signups, and I walked in the office. I wasn’t going to sign up for this. I just- I knew about it but I was there to
make copies for one of the clubs I was in, and I happened to see the signup form. And I was like, “Huh? I wonder who was not picked up yet.” You know, “What teachers don’t have secret
Santas yet?” I went through there, you know, kind of laughing
at the names. “Ha! Big surprise!” “Yeah, that guy’s a jerk!” You know, that sort of stuff. And then, towards the bottom of the list,
it was in alphabetical order, I saw Mrs. Tenpas’ name. And suddenly, I felt like a jerk. Even though this was towards the end of the
semester, it was the first time that I contemplated how radically my views on this teacher had
changed from my Freshman year. It also got me thinking that behind the jerk
facade of some of these other teachers, there was probably a decent person there who, for
whatever reason, either lost their passion for teaching or their patience for asshattery. Anyway, I picked up her name. Realizing that my relationship with her was
somewhat unique, I decided to approach the secret Santa thing like a girl. I don’t remember any of the gifts I got
her, but they were all based on subtle things I learned about her this past semester, but
always with a girly twist in some way. Finally, they had the secret Santa reveal
party thing, and I was in luck because I was probably one of only like three guys that
participated and those other guys were picked right away. Plus, I think typing was like the one class
that almost all of the girls in the school took, so she had all of these other people
in there at some point or another. I was among the last people that were figured
out, and she absolutely lost it when she found out it was me. I got a huge hug and tons of questions about
how I knew what to get her. And I couldn’t help but make a sly remark
about whether she was accusing me of cheating by having someone else to do my shopping. Anyway, we had a good laugh about that, and
I thanked her for all her help, especially with supporting my decision to join the military
– at this point my parents were finally coming around to the idea. And she said she was really happy for me and
asked me to stay in touch since this was going to be my last semester with her. Anyway, the next semester, my last semester
of high school, I spent just about the entire day in the CAD lab on the opposite side of
the building and on a different floor from her classroom. And before I knew it, the semester flew by
and I was eventually on my way to Lackland Air Force Base for Basic Training without
really seeing her too much again. Years went by, and I actually pretty much
forgot about this class. When I got bored of Minesweeper on the military
computers, I eventually started drawing little single frame comics about each night’s mission
in MS Paint; and this eventually turned into a webcomic in 2005. In 2007, I stopped the webcomic and began
re-imagining the entire story as a crazy comic book adventure. Finally, in 2014, I finished The MSPaint Comic:
Volume 1. And last year, at some event I was doing,
either late 2018 or early 2019, someone asked me at some event, “Where did you learn to
use MS Paint like that?” And suddenly, Mrs. Tenpas’ Programming 3
class popped to mind. And I realized, “Oh man! I have to give her a copy of this! She’s going to flip out!” That night, I went home and I searched for
quite a few hours and I hit a lot of dead ends… until finally! Finally, I found her. Unfortunately, it was in an obituary in a
church newsletter. Carol Tenpas of Midlothian, Texas had passed
away a couple years earlier. This was the third reason why I wanted to
recreate this pixel art project from my Programming 3 course – as a tribute to a mentor. I’ve been beating myself up over this for
the past year and the comments from TheObliviousMarshmallow and Ryan kind of inspired me to create this
in honor of her. So thanks, guys. Hats off to you. It’s also a chance to ask you if you ever
had any mentors like this when you were in school… and if you did, have you kept in
contact with them? Because, I would like to know. Let me a comment and share it with us. I’ve kept in contact with most of my mentors
over the years; which is why I really can’t believe I let this happen. If you’re not keeping in touch with your
mentors, I do really hope this inspires you to reach out to them. So, anyways, let’s talk about the art here. This recreation is more like a revisiting
of a past project. Whereas before, the soldiers were being drawn
as though they were going off to war; which was where I was when I created it; now the
soldiers are going from right to left, implying they are finally coming home. Welcoming them home are several sprites, the
kids based on friends of mine from the Air Force. I’m sure you probably recognize the Matt
character if you’re a fan. Also there is a saluting veteran, tearing
up just a bit as he remembers those who have passed on before him. Although the hair is similar to Kevin’s
character in The MSPaint Comic, it’s actually a sprite of the Grandpa Tracy character, who
you’ll meet in The MSPaint Comic: Volume 2. Loss is actually meant to be a subtle theme
of this piece. The soldiers “coming home”, the old veteran
remembering his fallen friends, and the gold star flag, calling to mind that our real home
is with God in heaven and we don’t all leave to go there at the same time. But while that might suck for us without them,
in the background, fireworks are exploding in the sky in celebration. Reminding us of our victory through Christ
and the knowledge that we’ll all be together again if we just have faith. Hence the church and the home in the background. I really like how this turned out, especially
the sprites. I specialize in high resolution pixel art,
so the fact that these sprites turned out as well as they did is really a pleasant surprise
for me. I expected that to be a complete disaster. Anyway, if you’re new to the channel, thanks
for watching. I do a variety of art projects like this,
but instead of telling you how to create what I’m creating, I prefer to share the motivations
and thoughts that inspire my art with the hope that it might inspire you as well. If that sounds like something you might be
interested in, then I hope you consider subscribing and hitting that bell icon to see my future
videos. As you might be able to tell, I did cheat
a little bit and use Adobe Photoshop and Animate to make this happen. But, as much as possible, I tried to use the
Windows 98 version of MS Paint, just like we did in the class. However, the XP version is my default program
for these file types and they are so identical that I did catch myself a couple times using
the XP version of MS Paint. Although I don’t really do tutorial videos,
if you have any questions about how I did anything in this or anything I do in any of
my other videos, please feel free to ask in the comments below. One of the great things about having a small
YouTube channel is that I get to interact with my subscribers a lot more personally
than a channel with millions of subscribers. But before you ask, to be fair to me, this
is my first time using Flash or Animate. I downloaded it just for this project, so
I may not be the best person to ask, but I will do what I can. And hey, before you go, on the left is a playlist
of my other pixel art timelapse videos. And on the right is a video that YouTube thinks
you’ll like based on all of their nerdy computer science stuff. Either way, I think you’ll have fun. Thanks for watching.

2 Comments

  • Reply Ryan Wequ February 12, 2020 at 6:53 am

    Awe thank you so much for the shout out! And the Wequ thing is from my high school days also. The wequ bit was just me hitting random letters on the keyboard needing to label something. Pretty sure it was in a spreadsheet assignment. For some reason it stuck with me, and when I made my 2nd email ever I decided to put those letters into it. So I turned it into my internet calling card. Even the old account of mine on My Space uses the Wequ letters. Personally I'd always pronounce it in my head as "We-Que" but honestly I like your attempt at saying it more. Enough about my rambling, your story was very touching. I'd love to one day have an art piece commissioned by you in your style. Thank you for your service and working along side my countries service members. Cheers from Canada! 🇨🇦

    Thanks to Social Media I feel lucky enough to be able to keep in touch with my drama course teacher. Also for a period of 3 years after leaving school I kept encountering my 4th grade teacher, Mr. Allan.

  • Reply Kevin Tracy February 13, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    Tell me about your high school mentor(s)! Do you still keep in contact with them?

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