Interview with SerenaAzureth

Today is my second interview that I have conducted. Thank you very much Serena for agreeing to do an interview.
Serena is known around our little company as one of the top people to do flat ironing with her projects(which you will see later). It really gives it a much different look and I wanted to interview this great artist!

When and why did you start doing Bead Sprites?
I started Bead Spriting about 2 years ago this past May. May is the season for Anime Conventions here in the Midwest, and when I attended ACen (Anime Central) in 2008, there was a booth there selling bead sprites. I went nuts and bought every single Chrono Trigger bead sprite they had. I thought they were the neatest arts and crafts thing I had ever seen. I asked them if they could make other characters and they gave me their website. I showed a bunch of friends the sprites I had boughten, and by the next week, we compiled a list of sprites I was going to commission them. I was about to do so when I decided to do a search google search for "Bead Sprites," and that's when I saw Doctor Octoroc's stuff. I couldn't believe my eyes! I was amazed by all the different things that he had made that I decided to go out then and there and buy my first mix bucket of Perler beads from Michaels and try to make all the sprites my friends and I were going to have summited to that website and had someone else make. I desperately wanted to practice Bead Spriting and just hoped some day I could make stuff as cool as Docs. ^.^  

What has been your favourite project to do?
My favorite Project has got to be my ongoing piece " EggShell Wars ." I found the original pixel art (done by pixeljoint.com's Orkimides) 2 weeks after I bought my first mix bucket of Perler Beads and promised myself I would someday make that beast, frame it, and hang it on my wall. I regret though after 2 years I have yet to finish it. It's about 45% done and sitting in a corner under a coffee table waiting for my attention. LOL. Someday, someday...

What has been the most challenging thing about beading that you have found so far?
The most challenging thing for me is to keep a bead sprite (especially a large bead sprite) from warping while I am trying to flat-iron it. It can be a hassle with how slow I have to take my flat-ironing process to keep everything nice, even, and flat because if I mess up, the whole thing is ruined and I have to scrap it and start all over again. This happened a lot to me when I was first trying to perfect my flat-ironing technique, and only once on a big project this past year. :mad: So frustrating. 

Do you have any favourite coloured beads that you like to use?
I LOOOOOVVVVEEEE getting my hands on any color fuseable bead from any brand so I can try and have the widest color-palette range. It can be so frustrating when you run across a sprite you want to make and one of the colors used in it does not match up with any of the beads available.
I think in general I like using Perler Periwinkle and Perler Blueberry Creme a lot in my sprites as they can be used as a blue tone, a substitute for a purple tone, or a substitute for a grey tone. A bead that can fill in 3 gaps in a color palette is mighty nice in my book. ^.^

Do you focus strictly on bead art or are you involved in making things from other mediums?
Bead Spriting is my Hobby, my day job is actually as an Animator so I'm quite versed in many different artistic mediums. I find it nice to sketch, digitally paint, and animate all day long and then come back home to a giant pile of beads waiting for me to make them into something. :D

When people come to your house, is your creations posted around? If so, what are people's opinions of them?
I thumb-tack every bead sprite I finish up on my home-office's walls to try and keep them out of my way until they are either sold or given away. My favorites I usually have framed or mounted and put up all over my home. My friends laugh at how often I switch around all the sprites since they truly are ever changing. Almost everyone who has seen my stuff up in my home always wonder where I get such interesting art. It's fun to explain to them how I make it all myself. 

Do you prefer to make old school video game images, anime/cartoon or do you make images from other sources?
That's kind of a hard question. It honestly depends on what mood I'm in. I have so many folders on my computer filled with pixel art I usually just open up one of them and browse around until I see something that screams "Make me now!".

What made you decide to do all flat ironing on your bead sprites?
When I first started ironing, all my bead sprites were inconsistent; some of the holes would close, some would stay open, and I couldn't stand how that looked. I decided I liked the look of the sprites that had more "fully-closed holes" and tried to make all my sprites like that. Eventually that became my thing, especially as I made bigger and bigger sprites and it became harder and harder to fully iron them. Also they are extremely durable when flat-ironed and I could chuck any of my sprites against a wall (and I have) and never worry about bending or breaking them. 

Since beginning flat ironing, has your technique improved any? Have you found any easy tricks that you can share?
My technique has improved greatly from the beginning. I can flat-iron my bead sprites down enough that they look like a solid sheet of plastic so all the definition and bumps of beads are completely gone. I've had quite a few e-mails recently of people asking "where do I get my square beads from since all they can find are round ones." I assure everyone they are the same beads, it's just the way I iron. :) I'm also glad I don't warp or melt my pegboards anymore. It was a pain in the butt for me to realize I threw out a whole bag full of boards just because my technique wasn't refined enough yet.

I wrote up a tutorial a while ago which can be found here about how to do my flat-ironing technique and I still hold true to that. It really is all about practice, patience, and learning the best settings and positioning of your iron since every one of them is different.

I think the one thing I would add is from time to time, if a hole in my bead sprite just WILL NOT close, you can flip over the bead sprite, take the tip of the iron (without the paper in-between the iron and the bead) and push it against the back of the bead that won't close up so some of the plastic starts melting up out of the hole. Then let it set for a moment, flip the sprite back over, and melt the nub of melted bead that came out of the hole down so it is flat and matches perfectly with the other beads. 
You have recently been posting a lot of ATC cards that you do on Swap Bot. Where has your inspiration come for when you are making them?
A lot of them I have had to make up on my own, and by that I mean the pixel art was drawn up by me as well. An ATC is just so small (2.5in X 3.5in) that it is hard to work off of any sprites already made since they just don't fit right in card form. Sometimes I still find original pixel art done by artists that look wonderful on an ATC, but I truly find it fun to just doodle with the beads and see what I can come up with. Part of the challenge.
What was the hardest piece for you to flat iron?
That would definitely be the Sonic the Hedgehog GameGear Logo I made as a commission.
At the time, it was the biggest piece I had attempted to flat-iron and I tried to melt it waaaaayyyyy to fast and the whole thing warped and distorted. The plastic itself even bubbled in some areas. There was no way I could give that to someone who had paid me to make something wonderful for them, so I had to chuck my 6+ hours of work and start over from scratch. The second one turned out fine since I slowed down and took my time with the ironing. It honestly just happens sometimes though. The ironing is the hardest part of bead spriting and if you get it wrong, your whole project can be ruined. 
You use Hama midi beads and minis, which do you perfer to use?
I love the the final product that mini beads give you when you use them since sprites show up much clearer when the beads are smaller, but the color palette is extreme limited and most sprites just could not be done without using all the colors you can get from multiple companies with the Midi sized beads. Overall the answer would have to be the Midi sized beads unless more companies other then Hama decided to make mini sized beads. ^.^
What is the largest piece you have ever done?
That would have to be EggShell Wars . Even in its unfinished state it is around 4 ft. long and will be over 8ft. when done. That bead sprite is a monster. @.@
How do you make the edges around all your pieces flat?
When I'm done beading my sprite, I put a row of clear beads around the edge of the sprite, outlining it. I then flat-iron my piece and when that is all said and done I take a pair of really sharp scissors and trim off the clear beads around the edges. That layer of clear beads keeps all the edges of the bead sprite square so only the clear part distorts a bit which doesn't matter since it will be cut off anyway. In theory you could use an exacto knife to cut off the clear beads as well, I just find the plastic too tough to get through safely with the exacto knife and end up cutting myself. Really sharp scissors works better for me.

Serena gave a really great interview and I hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I did. Please be sure to check out the links she provided, as they are great images she's done and a tutorial that I have even used once or twice.
Thanks again Serena!

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