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Man opens art exhibition of pictures created solely using 'Excel'

A picture drawn by Tatsuo Horiuchi using Excel software, which took about two months to complete, is seen. (Picture courtesy of Tatsuo Horiuchi)

TATEBAYASHI, Gunma -- A 77-year-old man who produces art using "Excel" spreadsheet software launched an exhibition of his work here in September, attracting visitors from all over Japan.

    The man behind the project, Tatsuo Horiuchi, has become a specialist in this unique field, having studied both Excel software and art on his own after retiring from his technical job at a manufacturer.

    "I wanted to try something totally different to my previous line of work. Doing something that other people don't do is the secret to staying in good spirits," Horiuchi says.

    Normally, Excel is used for tasks such as creating graphs and carrying out tabular calculations. When drawing pictures in Excel, outlines can be made using the AutoShape function, and color can then be added to the areas inside the outlines. By combining the numerous components together, it is possible to produce pictures.

    According to Horiuchi, it takes about a month to create a picture larger than a size of 200 centimeters in width and 100 centimeters in height as several thousand parts are required.

    The innovative artist first started drawing pictures on his computer in 2000. While studying computers after retirement, he recalled a time when he saw a young employee coloring in graphs for some meeting documents. The recollection inspired him to draw pictures himself using Excel.

    However, he was a total beginner at both art and Excel. Therefore, he decided to set up some long-term goals. The first three years were set aside as a "warming-up period," during which he focused on simple sketches of flowers and vegetables using Excel. The next three years were devoted to finer detail, and how to put parts together.

    The turning point came in 2006. Horiuchi's eldest son advised him to enter a competition organized by the computer-related information site "moug." He entered and ended up winning the grand prize in the picture and portrait category. His ability had been officially recognized by this point, but Horiuchi thinks it took a good 10 years to reach the level where his work was worth viewing.

    At his four-day solo exhibition last month, about 250 people from areas such as Chiba Prefecture turned up to admire his work. In addition, the number of students at his local computer art class -- which he gives at a community hall -- has doubled to 20.

    Commenting on his post-retirement activity, Horiuchi's 72-year-old wife says, "He enjoys it, and it makes other people happy, too."

    Tatsuo Horiuchi looks up at his large work "Yume no Tomonoura" (Tomonoura of dreams) at his home in Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture. (Mainichi)

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