A retrospect of Tommi Musturi aka Electric in the form of a small book. The title puts his past in perspective, where the slogan might have been ‘Death to all’ in the early 90ties, today it’s ‘Death to most’, a softer parodist reflection of his teenager years.
Tommi has without a doubt been one of the most talented creatives ever active in the demoscene, putting his mark on it from 1990 and later. Being the teenager he was, death metal oriented and with a morbid fascination, his work during those days were mostly according to this theme.
When he made his first steps to demoscene fame, his work wasn’t that outstanding, but it already revealed a bit of his potential. Being very productive around that time, the quality curve was apparent, with each publication he made atleast 2 steps. So it didn’t take too long for Tommi to find his place among the defining and most influential artists of the demoscene.
Right from the start of his scene career he was working with both computer / pixel graphics as drawing on paper. The by now known and respected Finnish school of ‘disk covers’-artists, a group of paper artists consisting of Junkie, Duce, Atte, and Azagthot among others, lead back to Tommi’s disk cover drawing days. Some are even active today. See a forgotten archive here.
Looking at his current activities and back, Tommi is a genuine creative soul, being able to adapt to different disciplines keeping a high standard. Like how he was partly responsible for the artwork of Habbo Hotel, graduated in typography, running a small type firm for a while and now runs his own comic and art publishing company, while producing his own art. Where he could’ve gone commercial at many places, he chose fun and creativity.
For Death to most he uses some of his old paper and pixel illustrations, giving them a colour retouch. It feels like a celebration of his childhood and creative naivety, embracing the charms of imperfection.
Here are a couple of pages from his book, some combined with the 90ties originals. Click on the images to see the full artwork.
As you can see, Tommi has kept his originality over the years, moving from 8bit computer limitations to working with silkscreen printing and its limitations. The forced choices inherent to that process are somewhat related to fighting the 8bit limitations.
Some of the older pixel work from Tommi, from the late 90ties to early 2000. Click on the images to see the full artwork.
Some questions and answers.
[8bit today] What were the reasons for creating and publishing this book?
[Tommi] Well, for the past few years I’ve wanted to do one small book for fun every year. I’m working on two quite big comic works that take few books and years to be completed. To keep myself motivated I have to do something else also. “Else” here means something not that much planned but merely improvised. I had been using some of these teenage images for flyers and ads and decided to make a small publication out of them so, through July 2008 I coloured one image per day and later made that into this small pamphlet.
There really isn’t any serious message in these pictures – that time the intention was only to make something shocking and make it as well I could. Anyway, these days those images look mostly funny. To not just destroy few trees to print a book for “fun”, I’ve explained myself that this book makes a small tour in the head of kid-teenager living on the countryside, mostly spending time drawing alone in his room. Well, that sounds quite sad actually, but it wasn’t. At the point where drawing is now also my work I very seldom get really excited about what I’m doing. I like what I do but the feeling is different – back then just getting some detail done better than before gave the kicks, these days I get the kicks out of bigger works but those still barely get me jumping around in my room. Back in the beginning of 90’s, everything was new. As I was working all the time, I could see the development myself. It was sort of magical to see I could actually draw something that I just two weeks before couldn’t even think of.
[8bit today] Did working with 8bit limitations form you as an artist? Is it something you embrace or something you try to fight?
[Tommi] Working with C64 made me some sort of “builder” when it comes to drawing. I include lots of details in my images still but that was also something I was into when I was a small kid – big detailed images where lots of things happened. This habit to “build” images is of course not always a good thing. That means my processes are very slow and I have problems to decide when the image is ready. Basically I tend to draw my images until there simply isn’t any white space left on the paper. What eight bits surely gave is nerves – I remember it took ca. 40 hours for me to finish one image on C64. Most likely I don’t have those nerves anymore but I still know I can very patiently push an image together.
What comes to limitations – I’m trying to get rid off every single limit I’ve got. That’s not just with drawing but in real life too. The main thing here is that this does NOT mean that you are denying something in your work, something in you. You can always go back to these old “styles” or whatever. It’s something you don’t forget. So, what I’ve done to break my limitations as an artist is that I’ve done a lots of very different things from classic painting to typography, from animation to performances, from comics to poetry, from music to improvisation etc.
Drawing on C64 was more practises on very specified and difficult technic than actually trying to express yourself. I mean, the themes and subjects of the images done on C64 scene were not as important as how well you could pixel it, what kind of new tricks you could present in the image and so on. When it comes to expressing yourself, trying to say something or deliver a messsage through your art, technic is just part of it all. One should be able to express her-/himself well with any equipment, platform or way of expression. That’s something I’ve been trying to reach and I’m very far from that still. Anyway, going that way is positive for everyone.
Most of the people who work with visual arts stick with the technic and build their identity as an artist around that. It’s not right, it’s not real and it hasn’t got that much to do with creativty.
The only some sort of limitation I don’t want to go back to on C64 or demoscene in general was the actual fact that if you draw an average quality image with a girl & big tits you’d most propably win the competitions, end up being number uno in the charts and so on. I liked and still like the scene when it comes to making something together, trying to push the limits of the platform and so on but I hate the sexist side and all that.
[8bit today] Apparently 8bit has reduced to a theme in your work. Is it one you intend to work with in the future? Or what are your plans?
Everything is possible.
At the moment I’m working very much on the field of comics. It’s not just that I’m drawing comics myself but also publishing, curating exhibitions and working in different organizations to get comic art the readership it deserves. There’s lots of interesting things going on there and as an art form it’s still very young – there’s new to be found still. The current projects (5-book series called The Books of Hope and 3-book serie on character called Samuel) will take three years to finish plus I’ve got quite a lot of ideas I’d like to try with. However, I’d like to also do a movie that’s almost written plus write some books. Let’s see what happens. What comes to my work with C64, it’s definitely not over. However, as I’m all the time working too much and done that since the first demos, time is the problem. What I’d like to do is make that killer demo with Extend that we’ve been speaking about for last ten years. That might be drunken bullshit but I know we can do it. As we already started to work on that couple of times it kind of bothers me every now and then. However, at this point we’re not in hurry anymore. I kind of like the idea that the whole Extend ends up in the same old people’s home and to code the final demo. So, beware. Might take 50 years still though.