Pixel by Pixel. That’s how Hal Lasko made his masterpieces. Each one, tediously and lovingly crafted on a decades old software program, some taking hundreds of hours to complete.
It’s hard to believe his pieces, that many say resemble classic 8-bit video games, were created on Microsoft Paint. But the program would end up being a saving grace for a lifelong artist who refused to let a major disability stop him from creating and eventually sharing his love of art with the world.
"Grandpa Hal", as he was better known, did all of his work despite challenges that could’ve ended his passion for painting. In his later years, he suffered from wet macular degeneration, an age-related, chronic eye disease which severely limited the center of his field of vision. It was a formidable handicap for anyone, but especially someone who'd made a living off his artist's eye.
Long before age began to take its toll on Lasko, he'd enjoyed a successful career as an artist of a different sort than what he became. He started out as a graphic designer, working in the military during World War II drafting maps and eventually retired from American Greetings in the 1970s.
Throughout it all he would paint at home to satisfy his artistic urges, but the older Lasko got, the harder it became for him to paint.
That all changed for Hal when his family gave him a computer as an 85th birthday present. His new PC came loaded with Microsoft Paint software, a program developed in the 1980’s. In today's “Age of the iPad”, the program is more kitsch than cutting edge, but its easy interface and pixel precision allowed Lasko to journey down a new artistic path with a style many consider “retro cool”.
With help from his grandson Ryan and his friend Josh, Lasko has shared his work and story with the world with the making of “The Pixel Painter”. With over 3 million online views, the documentary became a viral sensation, touching the hearts and “spray paint cans” of art lovers everywhere. In his last year of life, Hal sold his first piece of artwork, had international gallery showings and was featured in MIcrosoft’s 2013 Super Bowl commercial. He passed away just shy of his 99th birthday in 2014, leaving us with a legacy that passion knows no age, and for Hal, the proof of that is surely in the pixels.