Hal Lasko at FITC Toronto conference

Today, I’m excited to announce that I will be attending the FITC Conference being held in Toronto, April 27th through April 29th. I’ve been looking forward to this event for quite some time now not only as web design professional but also on a personal level as an artist.

The FITC conference in Toronto is hosted by the company of the same name. Its moniker stands for Future, Innovation, Technology and Creativity and they are one of the leading creative companies in the web development industry. Striving to inspire and educate, FITC puts these conferences on all around the globe in the hopes of inspiring, challenging and providing networking opportunities for anyone who creates in the digital space.

This year’s conference will produce over seventy workshops and panels on everything to do with digital media … from freelancing to marketing; OpenFramework, to art and culture. If it pertains to digital media, they will be presenting it.

In addition to the workshops, this conference will feature speakers from all over the world who are experts in their respective fields and are eager to share their knowledge with us. Chief among these speakers are Stefan Sagmeister, Sougen Chung, Addy Osmani and the man I am most looking forward to seeing as an artist … Hal Lasko.

Hal LaskoHal Lasko who is affectionately known as Grandpa Hal is a 98 year old graphic artist who works in pixels using the program Microsoft Paint. Grandpa Hal creates the most wonderful art despite his eye condition called wet macular degeneration, a chronic eye disease which limits his center field of vision.

In his younger days he started out in graphic design by drafting maps for the military during World War II. After that he had a successful graphic design career with several companies before retiring from American Greetings, the greeting card company and continued to use paints as a creative outlet at home.

As Hal grew older, his eyesight began to deteriorate due to the macular degeneration. Obviously this would be devastating for any artist but for one in his declining years, it was particularly stressful. As an artist, he relied on his sight to help him create and could not imagine channeling that desire into anything else but, as luck would have it; this was not the end of Hal’s creative days.

Lasko was gifted a personal computer by his family on his 85th birthday. This computer came with a program called Microsoft Paint and it would allow him to carry on with his art in the most interesting way and in an entirely new medium.

Once Hal started to dabble in Microsoft Paint, he discovered much to the delight of himself and his family that his art career would continue. Thanks to the programs rather simplistic nature; Lasko could now create works of art made from pixels instead of paint but he was once again creating.

Pixel art is a form of digital art through the use of specific software where images are edited on the pixel level. Not all digital media is pixel art though (Adobe Illustrator users vectors), what’s most important is that the artist has control over the image at the level of each and every pixel.

When I am not building websites and writing code, you can find me at my easel. My current artistic direction is pixel art (my art website www.justinblayney.com), so you can see why I have an interest in Hal’s artwork. Of course this also ties in with web design and graphic design which is why Hal is at this conference.

Due to the medium, Lasko’s paintings often have a rather simple, kitschy feel … almost retro, if you will. This makes them quite popular among collectors. With bold, vibrant colors and a generally bright feel to his work, he has had a second coming of sorts in his career. Check out his website www.hallasko.com

Lasko feels that his art career was given a new lease on life and credits his creative outlet for his health and longevity. He creates and shares his work with the public in the hopes that he can convey the message that handicaps and age shouldn’t hold you back from what you love to do.

I admire Hal and study his work because the medium is so similar to my own and I am hoping to learn all I can during this opportunity to hear him speak at the FITC conference. His passion and drive to create beautiful works of art motivate me as well as help me to grow as an artist.

I’m quite looking forward to hearing him speak of his life and his passion for art. Studying his work, because we work in such a similar medium, has oftentimes encouraged my own. Watching what one man can do in the face of adversity is quite inspiring. It should be an inspiring, fun filled three days.