Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

Create Pixel Art with Pix Brix: Great Wave Off Kanagawa Review

Aveline has spent the last several weeks creating a pixel art reproduction of Katsushika Hokusai’s famous woodblock print The Great Wave Off Kanagawa. (Do you think Hokusai realized we’d still be obsessed with his views of Mount Fuji all these centuries later?) With 13 different shades of blues, greys, and browns, she’s brought Hokusai’s masterpiece to life — I love it so much.

[Disclosure of Material Connections: I received a complimentary Pix Brix: The Great Wave Off Kanagawa from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this post. All opinions — and photographs! ;) — are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.]

To create this incredible pixel art, Aveline used Pix Brix. These pixel puzzle bricks were totally new to me!

Pix Brix are interlocking plastic cubes which can be used to create pixel art.

We got our pixel art kit from Timberdoodle — it contains just the right combination of colors to recreate Hokusai’s Great Wave.

Pix Brix are mini single-piece 1×1 plastic cubes, and so much different than I thought. I had a bunch of misconceptions about Pix Brix, and was pretty confused about how they could be used to build anything. (You, too?)

Let’s tackle those myths!

Myth #1: Pix Brix are off-brand LEGO bricks.

While the circles on the top of each Pix Brix are compatible with LEGO, they’re not LEGO dupes. Pix Brix have ridged sides, unlike the smooth sides of LEGO bricks. Instead of interlocking only by stacking — or sticking on a base plate — Pix Brix actually slide together side by side. This means they can be used to build 2D scenes without a base-plate.

Yes, I know. That concept baffled me at first, too. But look! Here’s what the right edge of the Great Wave looked like when Aveline started to build.

(Pix Brix can also be used to build 3D scenes, since they have both interlocking sides and stackable tops and bottoms. To build The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, though, Pix Brix are used in their 2D capacity.)

Myth #2: Pix Brix are another type of diamond painting.

I truly did get this set confused with color-by-number diamond painting, those craft sets where you dip a small tool in wax, pick up a tiny gem, then press it into place on the colored template. While you can use a Pix Brix tool to press the individual bricks into place, you can also simply use your hands (try that with diamond painting and see how far you get, haha!)

Myth #3: Once you assemble the Pix Brix project, you can’t use the bricks again.

Unlike diamond pantings, art you create with Pix Brix is completely reusable. You can assemble and disassemble The Great Wave off Kanagawa as many times as you want. You can also use these bricks to create any other pixel art scene you can dream up!

Myth #4: Pix Brix are similar to perler beads.

Thankfully, Pix Brix are not like perler beads, because those little melty, messy, spillable, ironable perler beads are the bane of my existence.

So it’s not LEGO, it’s not diamond art, it’s not permanent, and it’s not perler beads. (Yay!)

This Pix Brix kit from Timberdoodle lets kids create a pixel art replica of Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa.

I love this particular artwork, and have a large print of it in my office.

Throughout the years, we’ve studied it often (check out the picture books Hokusai: The Man Who Painted a Mountain and Shipwrecked!: The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy.) We’ve also recreated it in many different art mediums, so we were excited to recreate it in pixel form, too.

The project looks super impressive and even complex, but it’s definitely a suitable project for younger kids: Timberdoodle includes Pix Bix: Great Wave off Kanagawa in their Fourth Grade Curriculum Kit. (Aveline is 12 and in 6th grade.)

What’s included in a Pix Brix set?

Inside the Pix Brix: Great Wave of Kanagawa box, you’ll find

  • 4,187 total bricks in 13 different colors
  • a unique placement tool (“PB tool”), and
  • a full-color pixel grid to use as a guide.

There is no baseplate, since the bricks have an interlocking side design which doesn’t require one. And as the full-color guide is not to scale, it cannot be used as a paper template. I actually love that guide can’t be used as a base template, though. It makes the set more challenging. This way, the student has to interpret and replicate the grid, rather than simply place matching bricks on top of an existing color image.

There are a lot of bricks. A lot. An impressive amount. As in, over four thousand.

The 4,187 bricks arrive packaged in plastic bags which aren’t resealable, so you’ll want a handful — okay, a baker’s dozen — of ziploc bags on hand when you open the box, to keep the thirteen different colors separated.

Since it’s not super easy to dig into bags as you’re building, I recommend using also using an egg carton to separate out a manageable working number of bricks. Once you have your work table and some kind of of sorting system, it’s time to go to town on these bricks.

The four thousand bricks, once assembled, will create a Great Wave off Kanagawa pixel art scene that’s two feet wide! The completed art work is 24 ½” by 16 ½”.

It’s an involved process, but the results are so satisfying.

Pix Brix: Great Wave of Kanagawa is a great match for kids who enjoy geometric art.

Aveline — a great lover of tessellations, geometry, and building toys — really got into this project. For her, the process of placing bricks into the grid was extremely relaxing as well. It’s a soothingly repetitive process.

And it took her a surprisingly long time to finish building this pixel art rendition of the Great Wave. I love that! I appreciate hands-on activities which aren’t finished right away after unboxing. And the best kind of toys are building toys, because they can be used over and over again. Since the Pix Brix cubes simply slide together, they can slide apart, too. Although I offered to help Aveline hang up her finished art, she’s planning on taking everything apart, and creating original pixel art next!

The NEW Timberdoodle homeschool catalog with all sorts of new fantastic finds will be released in late April 2023! Are you on the mailing list?

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