joe palfreyman

He calls himself photocopier—but his art on Canvas is all original

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Sometime in early 2002,  8-year-old Joe Palfreyman, of Manchester, England, was an eager computer nerd who wanted to break into the video game-making community.

With his own copy of Game Maker, a game development application, ready to go, all Palfreyman needed was the right pseudonym.

“I wanted a name that other people didn’t have,” Palfreyman told the Daily Dot. “I wanted something different but I didn’t have a great imagination so I looked at a printer in my room and thought, ‘photocopier.’”

Since then, Palfreyman, now 18, has continued to use the pseudonym on imageboard communities like Canvas. Ironically, though, “photocopier” today is known for doing the exact opposite of what his name suggests.

In about four months, Palfreyman’s eclectic collection of original Canvas art has been stickered more than 28,000 times. Stickering is the site’s internal scoring mechanism which determines what posts are featured on its front page.

Palfreyman first heard about Canvas back in September while surfing 4chan, an imageboard created by Canvas mastermind Christopher “moot” Poole. When he finally started playing with the site, Palfreyman didn’t quite know what to make of its patchwork of random images. But one thing was clear: the community was a vast improvement from 4chan, he said.

“You have to work through a lot of on-the-edge stuff to find the occasional thread that’s really funny on 4chan.  And as time has gone on, I think it’s gotten slightly worse,” said Palfreyman, whose favorite Canvas sticker is the Number Oneocle. “I think Canvas’ community is really a breath of fresh air. With the option to post under your name or anonymously, you can get to know people and what they like. I think you get to know people a lot better and they are generally a lot nicer than the 4chan community.”

Canvas is unique in that it allows users to upload photos and alter them using editing tools built into the site. Users can also remix (in other words, alter) existing images on the site by adding text, for example.

One of Palfreyman’s finest moments on the site happened last November when he took home first place in Canvas’ first official drawing contest, beating out more than 300 other users. Palfreyman’s illustration of a whale jumping out of the water to eat some cookies has collected more than 1,500 stickers and won him a print of his art shipped to him in England courtesy of Canvas.

“I really wanted to go for it. I thought I’d spend time and carefully draw the landscape first, then the whale,” said Palfreyman, who also created a GIF animation of the work of art in progress. “I took a day and I did it on and off. I did it a piece of a time and looked at various pictures of whales on the Internet.”

Growing up in Manchester, art and creativity was a a huge part of Palfreyman’s life. When he wasn’t doodling, Palfreyman admired the design work of his mother who worked in advertising. Today, Palfreyman’s art admiration extends to Vincent van Gogh, Chuck Close, and Francisco Goya.

But for everyday inspiration, Palfreyman looks no further than Canvas where, thanks to an Internet Relay Chat room set up on Rizon, he has gotten to know power users such as enin.

Palfreyman plans on majoring in mechanical engineering at Liverpool University next year. In the meantime, he’s happy to be using his new Wacom Bamboo tablet to create some cool art for an engaged community.

“I think it’s great the way the staff works,” Palfreymen said. “That they’re willing to listen to what you say to them. That’s a really positive thing in a website.”