By now it’s obvious the internet is a chaotic place. The world has been connected, and now that a global population has come online — via cheap broadband and cheaper cellular data — there is so much more noise online than ever. That, combined with the proliferation of instant global news and social media, has made online a uniquely exhausting place to be. It’s hard to find a quiet place in the din.
Recently, I ran across one of those quiet spaces where I least expected it: on Instagram, on @lunumbra’s page. There, Micah Yates, as she’s otherwise known, uses acrylics to paint the backgrounds of Pokémon cards and takes video of the process. The results are astonishing.
Yates paints around 10 cards a week — about 16 per month go to her Patreon subscribers, she says, and the rest are commissions (though she sells any extras on her Instagram sales page) — which means that she’s painted around 1,000 cards in the two years she’s been doing it professionally. (And because each card takes around two hours to paint, it means Yates has spent at least double that time doing the physical work of painting itself.) Her practice started, she said, after she got into Magic: The Gathering. “ Browsing the internet looking at MTG cards led me to the artistic practice of card altering and how artists would extend the artwork of those cards to make them unique and stand out,” she told The Verge in an email. “Already an avid Pokemon fan, I looked around to see if anyone did the same thing to Pokemon cards and sadly, I found nothing.” As an art student in printmaking and color theory halfway through college at the time, she figured she’d just make her own.
The response, naturally, has been overwhelming — in both directions. “I get a few ‘Oh no you’ve ruined a Pokemon card’ comments but most of what I hear is praise,” Yates writes, noting that her fans especially love the first generation Pokémon. “I’ve had my account just a little over a year and have recently reached 144k followers with hundreds of positive comments during that time that I am insanely thankful for,” she continues. “I wouldn’t do what I do if it didn’t make someone happy.” The card alters also serve a secondary purpose, as Yates is an aspiring background artist.
What really gets me about Yates’s work is how meticulous it is; her work clearly comes from her love of Pokémon. That’s something I relate to. It feels nourishing to watch someone who’s talented create for the sheer pleasure of making something. As the online din has grown louder, spaces like Yates’s page have become rarer and rarer. We need more of them.