Hal Lasko is probably the most famous 98-year-old who joyfully spends more than 10 hours per day just clicking at a mouse. While many members of his age group idly sit in front of a window, Hal paints on Windows 95—the computer.

Hal is also legally blind.

He is affectionately known as “Grandpa” or the “Pixel Art- ist,” to millions, after a video of him at work surfaced online. Shot by his web designer grandson and an art director in the United States, the nine-minute video went viral just days before Hal’s 98th birthday.

“When I lost my eyesight, I thought my paintings days were over,” he says in the video.

He developed the eye condition in 2005, called wet macular degeneration, which causes him to lose eyesight. It is rel- evant to note that most people who are legally blind – about 80 percent – do have a degree of vision, experts say. That allows Hal to use the computer to zoom into the image and focus on one patch of blocks at a time. With what could be seen as a disability, Hal’s deteriorating eyesight, is in fact, an asset. Zoomed in, his pieces look like blurry, fragmented

colors, but once zoomed out, their brilliance is revealed. He doesn’t rush or try to use shortcuts—each pixel has equal weight in his masterpiece. He is a patient man.

That footage in the video shows Hal patiently gazing into his computer, examining the pixels he was actively morphing into a single picture. Once satisfied, Hal takes the final im- age of a space-themed print to the local print shop, to cre- ate physical copies. The video provides some insight from Hal’s family members, too, as they admire his persistence to create art despite his disability, and maybe even because of it. Viewers responded by sharing and sharing the video. It seemed that they also admired Hal’s work ethic and creativ- ity. His video earned the prestigious stamp of approval from the Vimeo Staff, the video-sharing platform, and it was a huge hit on social media networking.

But, creating art and spreading the joy is nothing new to Hal. He has been an artist his whole life, but during the last 15 years, he switched mediums. Born in Ohio to Austrian im- migrants, Hal was one of eight children. He was a typogra- pher who drew letters by hand, but then World War II broke out. During that war, he served as a weather maps drafter for bomb raids. After his return, he designed greeting cards for a living. He has since officially retired, but currently con- tinues to work on his digital art. He thinks about painting constantly, he says.

His recent style is reminiscent of the artist Chuck Close, who also uses tiny frames to create a larger, more cohesive overall illustration. Several unrelated websites, providing tu- torials on pixel art, sprung up after Hal’s video. Hal is seen laughing and smiling throughout his video.

While most artists stay away from pixilated images, Hal thrives on them. He manually creates the shading of the ob- jects by using a dithering technique, which combines two digital colors to make them appear lifelike. The process is duplicated over and over and over. Hal’s use of electronic brushes on Microsoft Paint uses digital art on raster graph- ics software, which means that he uses digital boxes to cre- ate color on a limited-capability computer screen. Despite the tedious repetitiveness, Hal is grateful to be able to paint at all.

On his personal website, eight physical paintings made from the printouts of the pieces are sold for $98 (SR 367.50), in celebration of his 98th birthday. He often chooses themes from nature and his titles are as optimistic as his outlook. The pixel paintings sold on his website have names such as “Looking Up” and “The Thriller.” A 10 percent portion from the profits goes to Veterans of Foreign Wars, an organiza- tion that helps U.S. veterans in need. Each print takes 3-4 weeks to deliver and is sold on 16’’ x 20’’ rag paper and hand signed by Hal.

The beauty in the simplicity of Hal’s pixel artwork has been appreciated. What perhaps is most extraordinary of all is that Hal makes Windows a cool thing to look into.

For more information on Hal’s pixilated pieces, visit:

www.hallasko.com