This artist creates incredible Australian vistas… in Microsoft Paint
When it was revealed earlier this year that Microsoft could be killing off its beloved Paint program after 32 years, the internet exploded with nostalgia. Long remembered as the tool for young artists to create their kindergarten masterpieces, the news was lamented as the final death for a long-treasured 90s relic.
Thankfully, the news wasn’t true. Even better, the public outcry enlightened the wider internet to some of the absolute heat that’s being created with the beloved old tool - like Sydney’s Xing Lin, for example. A high school (yes, high school) student, he’s been pushing the limits of the program to create incredibly detailed artworks based on Australian landscapes. It’s as if someone made an 80s computer game set in 2017 Australia, and it’s completely mind blowing.
"I find ordinary day-to-day moments very beautiful. Things that many people might find unattractive or don’t think about – like highways or public transport" he says – an approach that is clear at first glance of his work. "I'm inspired by things I find beautiful in everyday life, especially in the mundane."
He recounts trying the pre-installed Paint program to pass the time in his Dad’s office after school…and never stopping. "I find a bit of a thrill in creating with the simplistic functions. The lack of features (that might be present in more advanced programs) forces you to think outside the box in achieving some of the effects I want, so I take a bit of pride in knowing the unique quirks of MS Paint.”
Xing’s creative process isn’t unlike that of many other creatives, but his method of achieving it is a little different. "I start with the outlines of the main elements. I focus on the perspective of the drawing, because getting the perspective right is one of the most important steps for the finished image to look good. Once the outline is done, I start colouring the picture, which is the most fun and satisfying part of drawing, because you can see the picture start to come together.”
Dropbox is lucky to play a small part in this journey of creation, as an automatic backup for both completed pieces and works-in-progress. “[My Dropbox] automatically syncs from my computer's file explorer to the cloud, so I can save from MS Paint or other applications directly to the cloud, and it's always up to date. It's very helpful because I’m a bit absent-minded, so I forget to back-up my files sometimes.” He also uses Dropbox Paper to collaborate on ideas and projects with friends. “It shows where each member of our team contributed, as well as where edits were made in real time, which helps us address issues together and complete everyone’s goals.”
Through using MS Paint, Xing also found a community of like-minded artists with a taste for nostalgia. "Paint is as ubiquitous as Windows itself. A lot of people would have likely used it at some point – especially during childhood like I have.” He shares his work through his Tumblr, as well as on messaging boards and on sub-reddits like Sydney or MS Paint. “I think that this nostalgia and simplicity is what makes MS Paint its own genre, because the process is just as interesting and relatable as the end result.”
So what could other aspiring creatives learn from what is likely one of the more patient artists around today? "I think it’s very rewarding to take an interest in your own everyday life and to learn a bit more about the things you might not think about all the time. I like to research about things like the meaning of the symbols on power poles or the history of the bus companies I travel on, because it makes all parts of everyday life so much more exciting. I think that if you find every day a thrill, you can find a lot more inspiration to create art from your own experiences."