I Like Making ASCII Art

This post was originally posted to Squidoo while I was writing there.
respectasciiartistsMaybe you have seen ASCII art and didn’t know what it was.

I make pictures using my computer keyboard – the characters of the keyboard, the text letters, punctuation marks and the numbers too. I enjoy ASCII art. Working with text to make a picture instead of words is like a puzzle, trying to fit the pieces into the right places and finding which text characters work best in which spaces.

I always thought I couldn’t draw so ASCII art became my outlet to put images from my mind into something I could show in print. (Because no one else can see all the stuff in your head).

My Experience as an ASCII Artist

1996 to Current

For me, ASCII art began in 1996 when I was new online and noticed amazing work done in keyboard text and used as signatures in email and online forums. I had to search to find the actual name, ASCII art. Those were the pre-Google days. I actually found it by asking someone on a website which was a one man project. I wish I still had the link so I could give credit to him. But, I don’t even know if the site is still active, or even still online.

My first ASCII art was a house with a tree and other touches added in. It wasn’t any house in particular so I had the freedom to create it however I liked. It did not turn out as well as I hoped. I was glad to have completed something in ASCII art myself but it wasn’t something I was going to show off.

In 1998 I found a group of ASCII artists on the newsgroups. You can still find those newsgroups, they were eventually taken over (and the archives kept) by Google. Take a look at Google Groups, search for ASCII art and you will find two groups in the alt and rec sections. There are actually even more ASCII art groups if you look for those in German and other European languages. Now and then I use a translator online because there is some really great ASCII art in those groups too.

I met several artists in 1998. My early attempts were given fair critics, some suggestions and only a little snickering behind the computer screens where I couldn’t see it. Joan Stark became famous for her ASCII art in those days. But, there were so many others who had wonderful ASCII art too. Joan was the most prolific and later, the most broken hearted as more and more of her ASCII art was stolen – credit for the work ripped off or claimed by someone else.

For a few years in between the late 1990′s and about 2010 I dropped out of making ASCII art myself. Most of the people from the group were also winding down. Our newsgroup was plagued with spam, our art was being stolen, some was taken to be coloured by people using IRC (Internet Relay Chat) but they also took the credit for our work off and claimed it was their work because they had changed it so much. Another problem was someone who took the art and perverted it into obnoxious jokes and then posted it to the group just to aggravate everyone. Myself, I was disheartened when a set of jack-o-lanterns I created was ripped off – a woman in Australia claimed them as her own. She even posted them to the ASCII art newsgroup and asked everyone what they thought of her great ASCII work.

At the end of 2010 something sparked in me and I once again took up ASCII art, just for myself. I had enjoyed it so much when I was just creating something for myself and then showing and getting feedback, tips and encouragement in the group. Almost no one was left from the group and I have only tracked down a few of them since 2010. But, I found it didn’t matter. My skill had somehow improved over the years, even though I had done almost nothing.

I began making ASCII art for holidays, like Christmas and Halloween and some which had very little (to none) ASCII art – like Groundhog Day. It became fun again and I didn’t mind working alone.

Lately I have been getting requests for ASCII art. I didn’t put my name out there so it was nice to be asked for something special. I have made ASCII art for a print literary magazine. They offered to pay but never did, so I won’t be mentioning their name. The rest has been freebie work and at least it’s honest freebie work. I have created ASCII art for a text based game and have a ‘contract’ to work on larger images for another game which wants ASCII art backgrounds. I’ve also created ASCII art for family events like a friend’s wedding, the birth of my sister’s first baby and my nephew, Zack, who started living on his own while attending his first year of university.

Doing More With ASCII Art

ASCII art in itself is nice but you can do things with the ASCII art you create. I’ve got a list of things you may not have thought of.

ASCII Art in HTML Source Code
Now and then if you look at the source code (the HTML code) of websites you can find ASCII art. Its like a secret surprise for those who dig a little deeper.

ASCII Art as Image Tags
If you know what the alt image tags are (and where they are) you could give this a try.

Passwords in ASCII Art
One line ASCII art can be used as a unique password.

Word Play with ASCII Art
Rebus Puzzles, also known as Wordies can be created with ASCII art.

Places to Find ASCII Art Online

Text art pictures created with basic keyboard characters in fixed width fonts.

Scoop.it: ASCII Art – An ASCII art feed from a variety of online sources and things I find myself and pick for the feed.

ASCII Art Universe – Very large (and still active) collection of ASCII art.

Chris’s ASCII Art Collection – Still actively maintained but a more selective collection of ASCII art.

ASCII Art Dictionary – My favourite ASCII art collection, the easiest to search, but not as actively maintained.

ASCII Art Groups

These are places to find other artists, as well as more ASCII art.

ASCII Art on Google Groups – Sharing and discussing the world of textmode art.

ASCII Art on Flickr – Post all your ASCII art pictures, artwork, or other multimedia illustrating the use of ASCII characters as artwork.

ASCII and Text Art on Facebook  For the expressive artist inside all of us.

ASCII Art on Facebook – Community page for ASCII art.

ASCII Art on Deviant Art – A place to add ASCII art.

ASCII Art Wiki – ASCII art galleries, resources and ideas. Focusing on ASCII text art but will include typewriter art and other typographic text based art.

These were comments from the original post on Squidoo. I couldn’t find a good way to import them but didn’t want to leave them behind. Right now the links to the images and profiles will work. I expect that will change when the entire site is due to be pulled offline in October, 2014.

  • DaveStone13 Jul 29, 2014 @ 4:45 pm
    I never knew this art style existed. Isn’t it cool there are so many great ways to great visual art?
  • thatgrrl Jul 30, 2014 @ 4:18 am
    I always like unique combinations of things and ideas in art. :)
  • thatguythatdoesthatstuff May 03, 2014 @ 9:22 pm
    I’m actually amazed my ASCII art. You have so limited a number of symbols to create with, and so few real options, but you can make a lot of great stuff if you know what you’re doing. Takes a little more dedication that I’d have the ability to put out myself, but I’m always interested in seeing it.
  • thatgrrl May 03, 2014 @ 9:27 pm
    It’s not really that hard to work on. Like singing and other forms of art you need to practice, get some experience and then it will click and you start to feel good about what you are creating and learn to get better as you go along. (Zack is great).
  • RenaissanceWoman2010 Apr 05, 2014 @ 6:28 pm
    I never knew what this art was called before now. It was interesting to learn more about this form of creative expression. My favorite is the dandelion. Love your creativity.
  • KitandCaboodle Apr 04, 2014 @ 2:44 pm
    Great digital art “drawing” and very unique!
  • thatgrrl Apr 04, 2014 @ 6:30 pm
    Thank you.
  • bloomingrose Mar 13, 2014 @ 12:34 pm
    Very interesting, thanks for keeping this art form going. Pinned to my board ” Art I love.”
  • thatgrrl Apr 04, 2014 @ 6:30 pm
    Thanks for the pin and the compliment.
  • flycatcher Mar 07, 2014 @ 8:33 pm
    Funny, I was thinking of ASCII art just today, trying to figure out if that might be a way to make a simple systems diagram to send to someone…. well, it’s a long story, quite dull, so I’ll spare you… The point is, synchronicity!!And now you’ve piqued my curiosity with the “Doing More With ASCII Art” links (thanks!), I’m off to do some learning.

  • thatgrrl Apr 04, 2014 @ 6:33 pm
    People have used ASCII art to make diagrams. I think it makes them easier to read and understand than something hand drawn, but would take more time to create. Drawing it in ASCII forces a regimented design because most diagrams just use straight lines.
  • Pastiche Feb 26, 2014 @ 5:45 pm
    I remember the days of ASCII only email and messaging as well as documentation done using only ASCII characters and a word processor (we’re talking 1980s and onward …) when I worked for Digital Equipment Corporation. We had access to terrific online art produced programmatically that we could print on the big line printers from our computer workstations – mainly gigantic letters to make banners that were fun to post for birthdays and stuff. ASCII making a retro hit makes me feel a wee bit old, but also kinda smug.
  • thatgrrl Feb 27, 2014 @ 1:39 pm
    We may be the same generation. I remember the days of working for my Dad in his office of engineers. At that time Word Star was absolutely awesome, even if it did at times randomly lose files or have a temperamental fit with Windows DOS. I didn’t know ASCII art as a phrase then. But, I did see typewriter art and banners printed from the computer. I do miss the Dot matrix printer with the daisy wheel. Some modern stuff just doesn’t have the charm (or that noise) of the old tech gear.
  • nancycarol Feb 10, 2014 @ 11:23 pm
    Amazing!! I could never do this, and I didn’t even know what it was called until I read this lens. BTW, your comment on my lens about being the history buff contributor I took to heart. I edited the lens to show the links for my Facebook page and my blog for history and women in the military. If you have something that will fit, please feel free to come and post it on either or both.
  • thatgrrl Feb 11, 2014 @ 6:50 pm
    I’ve just been accepted as the Oh Canada Contributor. Once I get set up we can work together on a history project, combining our interests. I have only just read the email so I have everything to do yet. Anyway, I love history so it would be a great bonus to work with you.
  • ideadesigns Jan 13, 2014 @ 9:24 am
    I first saw these in a college class my dad was taking when I was young. It was impressive to me I think it may have been Garfield.
  • Desilegend Oct 24, 2013 @ 3:30 am
    That’s so cool. I never knew the term.
  • thatgrrl Oct 24, 2013 @ 3:45 am
    Took me some looking to find the ASCII term too. It’s not something you could just guess – unless you know a LOT about computers and technology.
  • ChocolateLily Oct 15, 2013 @ 10:12 pm
    I’ve seen these and think they are neat. I wouldn’t have the patience to do it. Good job!
  • thatgrrl Oct 16, 2013 @ 1:45 am
    It doesn’t take much patience. I’m not someone with a large supply of that. It’s more like working on a simple puzzle or fitting things into one bag at the grocery store.
  • nonya222 Oct 11, 2013 @ 8:08 pm
    I have always been impressed with this art form. Great lens.
  • thatgrrl Oct 12, 2013 @ 9:25 am
    Thank you :)
  • kiwinana71 Oct 11, 2013 @ 2:21 am
    I never knew how this was done before, now I know, I have seen a new art today and I like it.
    Thanks for sharing.
  • Susan52 Oct 10, 2013 @ 12:43 pm
    I’m a data processing person (now called IT person) from way, way back, so I’m familiar with ASCII art from the early 70’s. Love when I come across it now!
  • MarathonRunning Oct 10, 2013 @ 7:48 am
    Very interesting! I liked your work very much! My preterite is Train.
  • adventuretravelshop Oct 09, 2013 @ 5:16 pm
    I used this to help my dyslexic son learn the letters on the keyboard to help him type. It was fun.
  • thatgrrl Oct 09, 2013 @ 6:04 pm
    That’s a great idea. I hope it worked well for him. I did it backwards, learned to touch type and got so used it it that now, when I am making ASCII art I have to hunt and peck the type characters I want. Once my fingers aren’t hovering over the keys (ready to type) I lose sense of where they all are. :D
  • mbgphoto Oct 09, 2013 @ 4:21 pm
    Interesting
  • notsuperstitious13 Oct 09, 2013 @ 1:48 pm
    Never heard of this until now, and I like it.
  • skiesgreen Oct 09, 2013 @ 12:25 am
    Interesting hobby. It’s amazing what some people can do with a keyboard. Well done.
  • thatgrrl Oct 09, 2013 @ 1:14 pm
    Thank you. It’s been fun this year as I started getting a few requests which bring new challenges.
  • BearTale Oct 08, 2013 @ 5:26 pm
    I thought ASCII art was a lost art. Art was so cool when computers and the Internet were text-based. Thank you, thatgrrl, for a great trip down memory lane and for sharing your talent and creativity.
  • thatgrrl Oct 09, 2013 @ 1:17 pm
    ASCII art isn’t too lost. I’ve been finding new uses for it, especially as a lot of mobile software/ hardware makes text art more practical than the bigger (bandwidth hog) alternatives.

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