Gonna try an old 2000-era forum discussion here. I have a question and I'm hoping for some longer answers than what Discord usually provides.
What kind of relationship do you people have with the limitations of pixel art? I mean everything from low resolution and low color count to choice of software and tools.
Do you see the limitations as obstacles that force you to be creative in order to overcome them and realize your vision (working against limitations) or does PA make you change your style and content to make the most of the medium (working with limitations)?
Personally I've been moving from the former to the latter and I often see pixel art that makes me ask "Why didn't you just choose a different medium". But I don't think one approach is better than the other, and I especially don't think that ever artist sits down and thinks about this (I rarely have). But if anyone has thoughts about this, I'd love to hear something like a pixel art philosophy.
TL;DR: Are you pixelling characters / animations / landscapes / mockups because they work well with pixel art and because limitations are instrumental to what you're trying to achieve, or is the subject / motif / vision more important than the medium?
i definitely work against limitations lol i rarely give myself limitations of any kind! size, colour palette, etc. etc. i don't do it. if i want something to be big, i make it bigger and if i want something to look small, i make it smaller.
however, i've recently gotten better at making smaller sprites and smaller textures. but even so, i don't give myself any limitations!
I usually like to give me small limitations, like the resolution and the color number (usually 61 or 512)
I think there lies value in both approaches. A bit off-topic, but it's similar to the top-down or bottom-up philosophies in software development (where you either start with the most elemental modules and forge them together to create an application or vice verse). Like you stated both have their pros and cons and there none of them is better then the other. I think you really have to think about what your motivation is and want to do, learn, and with what outer-limitations (time, money, ...). E.g. if you're just starting out, limitations can be really useful to help you learn basic concepts and they flatten the learning curve. Again an analogy from IT: A terminal where you enter commands may be the most effective/vast/powerful method of steering your computer, but without knowing all the commands, syntax, pitfalls, and concepts behind them you are left completely powerless. For a person that just started using computers, the graphical user interface (GUI) where you use your mouse to click icons and buttons and just use the keyboard for text-input is much more easy to understand. Even though GUIs are generally less powerful/effective then shortcuts and commands are. Back to the topic: In the same way PA WITH conscious limitations (predefined color palette, small resolution, simple style) is in my eyes the better way to start learning PA and get nice results. Afterwards, when you have learned the basic concepts and "rules", you can broaden your horizon/limitations and work in a much more free way to create even more impressive art and develop an own style. So adopting and dropping limitations along your journey to pixelart mastery is a way of "calibrating" yourself to strike the balance between ultimate freedom/own style and simplicity/feasability, nice results and coherency.
I myself had a similar issue: I started out with only the limitation of a small resolution, but quickly found out that I don't get nice results (partly due to not-fitting and too many different, but close colors). I had to learn that completely removing details is part of the magic of pixel art, you can't just try to squish everything onto the canvas no matter how small. Like when you draw a human on 32x32, Just drop the nose, fingers, even the eyes if necessary and just concentrate on the torso and main limps. Also, you really have to get creative, for example with colors, if you only work with 4 colors (like the nostalgic Pokemon Gold sprites I adore) you really have to make the most use out of them, exploring techniques like AA and dithering. Without starting small I would've needed more time to understand this, simultaneously moving to a bigger resolutions helped me achieve nicer art much earlier. And some kind of motivational payout, a feeling of success is important too, so yeah.
Restrictions summon creativity!