(SPOT.ph) Our favorite '80s and '90s games like Space Invaders and Pac-Man didn't have the sleek and smooth digital rendering that today's video games have. Back then, an apple looked like a mosaic of squares carefully arranged in terms of color and position—otherwise known as pixel art, now gaining popularity again. And 21-year-old digital artist Adcel Villanueva is making use of this eight-bit computer aesthetic to showcase Philippine architecture, including an Ivatan stone house, a bahay kubo, and a bahay-na-bato.
"I love our heritage and I love showing it to people because it is our identity and it is unfortunately fading fast," Villanueva tells SPOT.ph. He took up architecture at the University of Santo Tomas and is one of the many students that defended their thesis and graduated in the middle of a pandemic. "I mostly get what I draw with my experiences especially with what I studied, architecture," he adds.
He showcases these works in his Instagram account @AdroitCell, which he started in December 2019—five years after he started doing pixel art because of his love for pixel-art games. “I just googled words starting with ‘ad-,’ then added ‘-cell’ because of my real name. Apparently, ‘adroit’ means good/skillful with hands, so I just went with it,” he says.
But before pixel art and video games, the architecture graduate had already fallen in love with the craft as child. He wanted to follow in his dad's footsteps, who he considers an amazing artist. “I wanted to be as good as him. I started following those Disney Channel character drawing tutorials and I even made my own little comic books that I stapled myself,” he shares.
For digital art inspiration, he looks up to Aeonix (@aeonixart), who “puts so much effort in his pieces and every detail is well portrayed,” as well as Paul Sabado (@sabadontt), the first Filipino pixel artist that Villanueva came across. “Finding him introduced me to other great Filipino pixel artists,” the young artist adds.
In the future, Villanueva plans to highlight more indigenous peoples' cultures, like Bontoc houses and Badjao settlements—from the north to the south. This way, he can use his art to “bring you back to your roots and make you warm inside.”