Technology

Microsoft Paint: The man who makes art pixel-by-pixel

Of the millions of doodles, sketches and clumsy photo edits created in Microsoft Paint over the past 32 years, there are likely few - despite any claims made by the creator - that can be called bona fide works of art.

As Microsoft prepares to remove Paint from its operation system by default, and instead make it available for free in the Windows Store, one amateur artist is lamenting that masses of young people could miss out on the opportunity to play around with the iconic program.

US illustrator Pat Hines works exclusively with MS Paint (he says he "sucks" at Adobe Photoshop and other such programs), and taught himself to get the best out of the simple graphics tool while working as an overnight security guard at a hospital.

Bill Gates holding an ipad featuring Bill Gates holding an ipad, and so on Image copyright Pat Hines
Image caption The man who made it all happen: Microsoft founder Bill Gates
Picture of Bill Gates in progress - with much of it left unfilled by colour Image copyright Pat Hines
Image caption Pat starts with a basic line drawing

Pat has self-published an e-book set in a 1980s summer camp, with all illustrations done on MS Paint.

He told BBC Local Radio he uses several different versions of the program, which was launched in 1985, on old computers, including one previously owned by his parents.

He says the process is time consuming, but relaxing and "almost like meditation".

"I wouldn't say it's easy, it definitely takes quite a while. It could take upwards of 20 hours [of work] for just one piece," he adds.

But why does he use it?

Paint, he once wrote, is "the one medium where the end result always lived up to what I had in my head".

Cover of the e-book Camp Redblood and the Essential Revenge showing a bus driven by rebellious young campers driving through a security checkpoint Image copyright Pat Hines
Image caption Pat's e-book Camp Redblood and the Essential Revenge revolves around a feud between two rival summer camps

Much of Pat's other work incorporates characters from popular TV shows, comic books and films.

Those who doubt he really uses only MS Paint should zoom into his images in detail, or check out pictures where he shows certain works in progress, he says.

Campers seen running amid chaos at the summer camp Image copyright Pat Hines
Image caption Pat's book has gone through lots of different drafts
Camp Hellblood Image copyright Pat Hines
Image caption He has more e-books planned

Pat says anyone who wants to master MS Paint needs a lot of free time - something that he had in the early 2000s when his only other option for distraction on long night shifts was playing Solitaire.

He says it's hard for him to transition to more sophisticated graphics program.

Art Awakens contest submission Image copyright Pat Hines
Image caption A Star Wars fan art contest submission

"I draw basically with the mouse and it's very different from drawing with a pen or a stylus. It's just fundamentally different," he says.

But he also appears - like countless others - to have a distinctly emotional and nostalgic connection with MS Paint.

"I've always loved it and I've tried moving on to other programmes but I could just never connect with them."

Harry Potter seen standing outside a tent in a forest at night, as a glowing Silver Doe approaches Image copyright Pat Hines
Image caption A moment from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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