"Blelelele! Look at my TONGUE! It's a long slug tongue! Blelele! Oh, what is this I see before my GIGANTIC eye? Christmas pixel art? By the power of Samson, that is what it appears to be! You must have been controlled by the power of the behemoth! Diablo! Beelzebub! I summon thee! What arcane power did you bestow upon this art to make it so sweet? Goodness gracious, blelele! My tongue salivates like a Pavlov Puppy thinking about how wonderful you made this; is that a little white love heart in front of Scuttlebutt's eye? Is that a bigger golden heart coming off of Herp Derp? The power and the glory! My HOOVES! Oooowww...my horse! I give this artistic creation five flopple-tongues out of five! Blelelele!"
I think one of the best advice I can give to a fellow pixel artist is to mindful of the size you're working at.
One of my particular dislikes about 'bigger' pixel art is that many of them have disproportionately thin lines. If outlines are super-thin, I find that they start becoming lifeless. Working larger also gives you more work manually perfecting your lines to be clean and smooth. At some point, you're probably gonna want to learn how to draw without depending on lines at all for the sake of learning how to do realism. You can thicken your lines but styles with weighed outlines done in pixel is much, much more difficult to execute than keeping with clean lines.
Working smaller also gives you less work and it's easier to execute, but be aware that dithering becomes less effective at smaller scales because pixels start becoming bigger and more prominent.
Couple of things to be aware of:
The little shapes surrounding our characters. Just be sure to ask what is it that these little bubbles and dots are exactly doing. I think we've already gone over how they were never important for pixel art
And, lighting... something that isn't special to pixel art but shared across many other arts:
And be aware that areas of flat color are very good at conveying a flat area. Your shading and highlighting should not hug the edges. Highlights should be much more spread out on fur; if we kept them as small as what we have here than you wind up drawing a shiny piece of plastic. I think the easiest approach to shading I know of is picturing what you're drawing as if you're a light source. You shade areas you do not see if you are a light source. Highlights are more difficult to explain, but highlights show up on planes (flat areas) that are angled just enough to directly bounce light from the light source like a mirror. Texture can easily influence how large highlights are - the smoother, the smaller the highlights.
Lastly, I like how you seemed to have gotten away with giant fat pixels for that yellow heart. Usually, having inconsistently sized pixels is unimaginably ugly, but you seemed to have successfully bent that rule here. Most likely because that little heart is very separate from everything else here.
So again, biggest piece of advice I can give... see what happens if you try working smaller. It's much easier to create a sort of aesthetic that feels like pixel art (not that I follow this advice myself all the time). Having very large areas of solid color isn't that great at it.
Gah, you and your free gifts! Now I feel guilty that I have no artistic ability, and thus cannot return the favour. However, if you can forgive me for my lack of talent, I want to say that this is a really lovely piece of pixel art, and I hope that it helps you get one step closer to bringing in a butt-load of extra commissions. You're a wonderful friend for doing this. Gotta admit that my favourite part is Scuttlebutt's glorious mane - like liquid gold it flows. Beautiful! Oh, and that little love heart speech-bubble thingy is adorable.
Psh, don't feel bad! Just advertise the hell out of my New Years' contest when I open it, then we'll be even stevens I mean, you don't have to do anything for me.
Ahaha, I'm so glad you like Scuttlebutt's mane- I was a little worried that the chunks (? There's a proper name for them but it eludes me right now) would look funny, but if you like it, that makes it okay. I sure do hope Rannie likes it as much as you.
That New Years contest sounds like good fun. When it comes around I'll be sure to put up a journal on Ponies-for-Everypony advertising it. I might need to advertise a few others to avoid favoritism, but I'm sure your contest would be at the very top of the list (with a suitable description explaining why people have to enter!).
Scuttlebutt's chunks are funky monkeys. I have it on good authority that Annie does indeed like it, too ! I'm sure she'll reply when she gets on the PC next time.
Wonderful stuff - how did you know I like big butts and I cannot lie? Herp Derp also looks like she's about to drift off to sleep, which is again, something I enjoy doing very much! Marvelous crafts(wo)manship, FDP, you fantastic fish, you!