See The Cubist-Atari Versions of Your Favorite Pop Culture Icons

When artist Adam Lister walks down the street, he tends to see the shapes behind the storefronts and pedestrians and trees. Sometimes, after a long day at the studio, he even dreams in geometric patterns. It’s not surprising that Lister is a devotee of cubism or, for that matter, 8-bit video games–the art form’s lowbrow equivalent.

Lister choses popular subjects–from Darth Vader to Walter White to Klimt’s The Kiss–and recreates them in this 8-bit-inspired, fusion cubist style. “There’s such an overload of imagery, especially online and on TV,” he says. “I want to break [the image] down and simplify it, to get rid of all distractions.”

But each watercolor is also a kind of game that Lister plays with himself: how little visual information can he include and still have the painting “read.” For example, the original image might have seven or eight different flesh tones, but “I’m breaking it down to one or two,” he says.

Some of Lister’s subjects are immediately apparent. Others–like Willy Wonka–might take a moment to decipher. The paintings are “in that in between moment before the image is really clear,” he explains. “It takes time for the viewer to register and interpret what it’s supposed to be.” Which is half the fun.

The Americans is from a new set of 83 paintings that I’m working on.”

Lister says that color plays a huge role in providing clues about the image, so his newest project is a series of paintings based on black and white photographs from “The Americans,” by photographer Robert Frank. “It’s a whole new challenge to get it to read as a person, building or flag if you’re not familiar with the image,” he says.JM