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Artistically Speaking: Mario+Rabbids and Characterization

So recently, I’ve been trying to complete some video games on my Nintendo Switch to save space, and one game that I’ve decided to come back to was Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. I know, I know, the concept itself sounds pretty insane and don’t even get me started on the guns. But despite all of the abstract choices, THIS game has to be one of the most notable Mario games in the past century, and it wasn’t even developed by Nintendo. It was created by Ubisoft (and Ubisoft France respectively) as purely a game meant as a love letter to the Mario series. 

The first playable characters Mario, Rabbid Luigi, and Rabbid Peach looking towards an oncoming threat.

Regardless of where it came from, what makes this game so noteworthy? Well there’s plenty to talk about there but for today I think its biggest strength is its portrayal of the residents of the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi are main playable characters in the game, each with their own Rabbid counterpart who is also playable. And if you know those four characters, then you know how you’d expect them to act. Mario is a mainstay character, taking charge of any situations present with the utmost bravery. Luigi is entirely fearful of the situation that he’s in but still manages to put his foot down. Peach, while usually being kidnapped, is now fighting back with her own royal spunk. And Yoshi is willing to protect his home against any threats while spouting “Yoshiii!” gleefully. The ability of replicating personalities that perfectly fit these four who have not had much characterization in any of their mainline games is a feat in itself.

Mario, Rabbid Luigi, and Rabbid Peach celebrating their well deserved victory!
An awkward interruption occurs while Rabbid Peach is trying to take a photo.

But where the characterization really shines is in their Rabbid friends. They all are perfect dramatizations of their personalities and it’s ABSOLUTELY amazing! Take Rabbid Peach for example, the posterboy (or girl) of the game. She’s a sassy diva-like character who acts as if she’s got the world under her feet and is obsessed with her phone as much as she is with Mario. Her character makes for a very funny character to watch unfold as well as humorous just to see do anything. My favorite Rabbid has GOT to be Rabbid Yoshi, though. He acts completely primal and finds destruction to be a fun little game. 

What’s more is that you see this in characterization EVERYWHERE in the game, from the character menus, to their in-game animations. I remember this one moment in a boss battle where Rabbid Yoshi was captured and if I aimed at the boss who was holding him, Rabbid Yoshi would hold his hands up and I loved every second of it. It’s truly a gift knowing the Mario franchise and then seeing cute portrayals of these standard characters be given such life. And it’s not just about who these Rabbid characters are, but what these counterparts say about the originals that make it funnier. 

The team of Rabbid Mario, Rabbid Peach, and Mario discovering some treasure that gets added to the game’s gallery.
The victory screen after finishing a battle, with Rabbid Peach, Mario, and Rabbid Yoshi.

This game has been on my radar ever since I first heard about it, and while I was skeptical at first, it truly did surpass my expectations and I would recommend it to people who don’t usually play Mario games. It recently was announced that it would getting a sequel next year, so please, if you ever have the time, check this game out and play it. What I’ve talked about is just one small piece of the bigger pie here.

A special cutscene of the characters all together enjoying a job well done! (Spoilers… whoops…)

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Artistically Speaking: The Lovely Art of “A Hat In Time”

Platformers are games where the main appeal is moving a character in a space to get through levels. In this sense, think Mario or Sonic, where the focus of one is his jumps and the other is his speed. Sounds pretty simple and can be but it can also be much more memorable than that. A Hat In Time is exactly that! Taking clear inspiration from platformers that came from the 90’s, it’s a journey where you move a small kid known as Hat Kid through many different worlds to get Time Pieces, for Hat Kid to get home. The game was made by a small company named “Gears for Breakfast” who got crowdfunded by fans of the genre and while usually games that go through that process don’t end up that well, Gears For Breakfast followed through with their plans! The game isn’t perfect but the personality of the game shines brightly like a diamond in the rough. Through the logo alone, you can tell it’ll be a journey to be had.

Hat Kid enjoying the sights of what looks to be a new adventure!

The goal of the game is to collect hourglasses known as “Time Pieces” to help Hat Kid get home. First, you go through Mafia Town, a small island that is overrun with big burly men who constantly refer to themselves as the “mafia”. Their design is based on mafia men in Italian culture, albeit a very goofy interpretation of them. They wear an apron, blue suits, sometimes a red tie and they’re bald. They don’t do much to stick out from one another which may very well be the point, ringing true to an actual mafia. But they are nice ways to incorporate what an enemy is to Hat Kid. They tend to only bully the residents and Hat Kid in small ways but also are admirable in their own way, attacking you when you’ve attacked them and are willing to talk to you in some cases. 

The title card of every level shows a bit of personality of Hat Kid and the situations she gets in to.

On the note of designs, Hat Kid’s is a very unique one. She wears a mostly purple attire which definitely helps differentiate her from other 3D Platformer mascots. A top hat with a coat, it has a distinct yellow cape and an oversized zipper, beige pants and little brown boots. If you weren’t really looking at her, it would all feel natural. But that’s the brilliant part, none of what she’s wearing feels out of place, despite her being a female. Often in cases like these, the main female character has a bow, a dress and other accessories that make her feel like a little girl. But Hat Kid feels comfortable to look at while not wearing traditionally known female clothing. And just like most of the other designs within this game, it portrays exactly who that character is. Like Mustache Girl for example, she’s a small girl in the game just like Hat Kid, which makes you feel safe but when she decides to fight against you for the rest of the game, you realize she’s the exact opposite of you. She has the same distinct yellow features as you but wears red to signify her more oppressive and rude undertones.

After the first boss, Hat Kid and Mustache Girl convene with one another as the Mafia runs away.


I’m only talking about the character design but I promise there is so much more to love about this game. From the worlds, to the music, to the even cuter details down the line, it all comes together all to help you love what many loved about older games before it. And I’m so happy this game is much more than just a homage. 

A little collage of stickers I collected of Hat Kid and me making her look like a worn out crazed old lady.

Artist Spotlight: Caitlin Burks

Caitlin Burks is a Sequential Arts major at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. She was born and raised in Denton, North Carolina.

Every since she was little, Burks has always been drawn to art. She began considering art as a possible career when she was in middle school and learned about the behind-the-scenes of her favorite shows like Adventure Time and Invader Zim. “I poured over hours of animatics from [those] shows,” says Burks. “[I was] trying to understand what made them so great.”

Besides animation, Burks explained that she is also heavily inspired by graphic novels and comic artists. Two of her personal favorites are comic artist Jeff Smith, who worked on the fantasy series Bone from 1991-2004, and Tom Siddell who is the creator of Gunnerkrigg Court, a science-fantasy webcomic. “Both series were available at my local library when I was a child, and I quickly became obsessed with them due to their great detail and masterful storytelling.” Burk exclaims. She also takes inspirations from Greek Mythology, poetry, and her daily life that she spends with friends and others who support her and her work.

Burks’ future goals include getting a job in character design or storyboarding, or perhaps even as a comic book artist. She elaborates that her biggest dream would be to work as a showrunner in television animation.

“As an artist, I am fueled by the desire to tell stories and connect with other people through the power of storytelling.” She explains. “It would mean the world to me if a message, experience, or emotion I was trying to convey through my work touched at least one person’s heart in a meaningful way. I believe that in the end, all we have as humans are the bonds we make with one another, and that telling stories is the most impactful way to create them.”

You can find Caitlin and her work on her Instagram below:

https://www.instagram.com/historicalneon/

Artistically Speaking: How Vivo Takes The Spotlight

Animated movies usually grab my attention out of all other types of media. There is usually just a lot more to love and observe the ways different animation studios create their movies to make them special. At least that’s how I approach them, and most of the time, I’m disappointed. The overall stigma with cartoons or anything animated is that it’s targeted at children, making it hard to watch these shows/movies without cringing from the lack of effort put into making them more entertaining than just a bunch of moving colors. And there are a LOT of movies that come off as only generic, so unless it’s established with a popular property or a well known studio, I stray away from it. 

So when I initially saw Vivo, I looked away without a second thought. From the art style alone, I felt it was going to be another forgettable animated experience. But weeks later, I was watching Youtube and a song caught my ear. It was a small snippet with a catchy tempo, and when I looked it up, I was surprised to see it came from Vivo. That night I decided to take the time to see what this movie had to offer, and as you can probably tell from the title, it blew my expectations out of the park. But maybe I should explain what “Vivo” is…

Vivo is an animated film named after a kinkajou travelling with Gabi, a rebellious child who wants to help Andres, who is her relative and also the person who takes care of Vivo, send a love song to his old friend. A simple story that really brings together a mix of short but lovable moments and most importantly, music! The story takes place in the Caribbean region, Havana, Cuba and Florida, and hones in on the importance of its culture to the music. But regardless of all of the details, I have got to tell you which ones I love this most about this film.

The music is a big part of my love for this movie. This is one of the few animated musicals that every piece astounds me. Every major song from “One of A Kind” to “Inside Your Heart” is a complete masterpiece from start to finish, and they ALL are catchy as hell! There’s hardly a place in the soundtrack lacking emotion and fun, and for that I commend it. Not only does the music sound great, it always fits right into the situation that’s going on within the context of the movie. And both the visuals and the music carry one another very well, especially when the characters are singing. For example, Gabi’s song “My Own Drum” is the perfect encapsulation of her character. Before that song, we only met her a few times and don’t know much about her other than her wanting to take care of Vivo. But with the song she sings, we get to see how she sees the world. Through a dream-like sequence, we see digital visuals around her to represent the music she’s into and having her and Vivo have big parade balloons to show how much she values their friendship. And you also learn about how reckless and what she’s insecure about. It’s done so cleverly too, she slides in the line “I’ve got my own seat on the bus, I’ve always been a “Me” not an “Us”. Giving the audience just a little more history on who she is. She also feels entirely organic the entire way through. She feels to be one of the most human adaptations of a child in media I’ve ever seen, which is so impressive.

An interesting concept this movie has is that Vivo can understand humans, but they only hear monkey sounds. However, whenever Vivo is singing with anyone, they can understand each other and talk to each other perfectly. There aren’t any clear acknowledgements of it and it isn’t even a major part of the movie, like there isn’t some weird magical spell but it just happens. At first glance, this seems weird, but I believe this is a signifying detail that when there’s music, Vivo and his comrades are speaking the same language. Which is just a brilliant detail to have. They could’ve easily made the generic excuse of Vivo having the ability to talk, but made this decision instead. 

While overall the story itself isn’t as compelling as the music, it definitely holds its weight to where each song matters just as much as they should. A lot of qualities this movie has are all inspiring and I find myself re-watching some parts of it casually just because they really catch your eye. So I highly recommend this movie to anyone for any children and just anyone who loves animated movies. Y’know… like me!

North Poll: A Hallmark Special

As some songs would have you believe, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year (ahem! That should be October!). As someone who grew up with Christmas as a big holiday in our household, I have noticed how much Santa and his friends have developed over the years. You have the timeless, classic Coca-Cola Santa, everyone’s favorite space ranger: Tim Allen Santa, Rankin-Bass Santa, and the literal circle that is the cutesy, cartoony Santa. It is so strange and existential to think that Christmas is such an old holiday now, that people have been imagining what Santa looks like for years. For all we know, the man could look like anybody or anything. Maybe he isn’t even a man (but I won’t get into that).

It has made me wonder what Santa is most popular here in 2021. Out of the three people I have asked, they all love the timeless, classic look of Santa that we would see on the Coca-Cola ads. However, my favorite is the cartoon Santa that is so circular, his limbs shouldn’t be functional.

I have created a poll (The North Poll…. get it?) that I think would be fun if people could answer so we can see which Santa will survive this Christmas.

To access the poll, click the link below! Thanks and have fun!

https://linkto.run/p/JUD3YRYX

Cover Photo by Susan Comish

Breaking Down Art History: Holy Hands and Feet

The Foreshortened Christ by Andrea Mantegna features exactly the title of the painting: a foreshortened Christ. Christ lays with a cloth draped over him with the holes in his hands and feet exposed as his mother and Saint John. The painting is enveloped with dread and sadness as we watch the Virgin Mary mourn the death of her son. However, though an emotional painting, there seems to be a lot wrong with it compositionally. Christ’s feet are much smaller than what is proportionally correct – but Mantegna did this on purpose as he knew the feet would cover much of his body, and he wanted to show viewers the entire thing.

Like may representations of Christ, there are holes in his hands from where he was positioned on the cross. However, this would not work in practice. The bones in our hands are not strong enough to hold us up, even with nails in them. It would most likely be that Christ was probably nailed in his wrists, as that would hold him up better than having nails in his hands.

Credit: KLEINER, F. R. E. D. S. (n.d.). Gardner’s Art through the ages: A concise global history. CENGAGE LEARNING.

Breaking Down Art History: Michelangelo the Sculptor

Michelangelo Buonarroti is perhaps best-known for his paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but Michelangelo’s true passion was sculpture. One of his most iconic sculptures is his statue of David, but his David, while being a very beautiful piece of sculpture, does not amount to the sheer power and emotion of the Pieta. The Pieta shows a young Virgin Mary holding the limp body of Jesus Christ in her lap. Michelangelo’s remarkable craftmanship with marble shows how heavy the scene is but using such large folds in Mary’s drapery and by making the weight of Christ feel very heavy, such as the burden of losing a child.

So why talk about this piece?

The Pieta got a lot of backlash at first. Why is Mary so young? Why is she so big compared to Christ?

According to Fred Kleiner, “Michelangelo explained Mary’s ageless beauty as an integral part of her purity and virginity.” Christ himself also appears very beautiful as he seems to be peacefully asleep than dead. Michelangelo also made a point to make the wounds at his hands and feet barely visible.

As for Mary’s size, art historians have theorized Mary acting as both a mother and a throne. In many paintings and sculptures, Mary has always acted as a throne for a young Christ, just like the Morgan Madonna from Auvergne, France. Here, Michelangelo capitalizes on that by making her so large.

Breaking Down Art History: What’s that thing?

Hans Holbein the Younger was one of the leading artists of the Holy Roman Empire who painted The French Ambassadors using oil and tempera paint. The French Ambassadors depicts Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve standing on either side if a shelf with an array of many different objects, all with meaning behind them. There is a lute with a broken string that symbolizes discord and religious strife. The crucifix that is half hidden behind the curtain encourages the viewer to think about death and the idea of resurrection. One object so strange is one that can’t be correctly seen from a frontal view.

What is that large, dark shape diagonally placed at the bottom of the painting?

If you look at the painting from its side, you will find out that it is a skull. Holbein and many other artists typically put skulls in paintings to symbolize mortality or memento mori (remember that we die).

But why distort it?

According to Tim Brinkhof, the skull is distorted to be kind of hidden in the image — as if death can sneak up on you at any time. The act of distorting an image like this is called an anamorphic image, implying that it is distorted in a way in which it can be viewed from a certain angle.

Besides the odd rendering of the skull, everything else in the image is placed perfectly. The lute and floors are both in perfect perspective, and everything was painted and planned so carefully and meticulously.

Credit:

KLEINER, F. R. E. D. S. (n.d.). Gardner’s Art through the ages: A concise global history. CENGAGE LEARNING.

Brinkhof, T. (2021, October 2). Optical illusion: Why Hans Holbein hid a creepy skull in “The ambassadors”. Big Think. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from https://bigthink.com/high-culture/optical-illusion-hans-holbein-skull-ambassadors/.

Breaking Down Art History: Lectures of Fidelity

Giovanni Arnolfini and His Wife is a painting by Jan Van Eyck during the Early Renaissance period in Europe. The painting depicts Giovanni Arnolfini, the Lucca financier “(who had established himself in Bruges as an agent of the Medici family),” along with his second wife, whose name is unknown (Kleiner). It is implied that the couple are taking their marriage vows, as we see Arnolfini raising his right hand. It is also noted that every object represents something to do with the setting. For example, the dog represents fidelity, representing faithfulness and loyalty. There is a tiny statue on the bed of Saint Margaret, who is the patron saint of childbirth. It appears that the wife is pregnant by the way she holds her drapes to her stomach, but she is not. What is so mysterious, is the placement of the mirror and the words that are written above it.

What does it mean?

Art historians have speculated that “the room in which Arnolfini and his wife stand in a public reception area, not a bed chamber” and that perhaps “Arnolfini is conferring legal privileges on his wife to conduct business in his absence” (Kleiner). In the mirror, we see the two people, one of which must be Van Eyck himself, as above the mirror, the writing says “Johannes de Eyck fuit hic” or “Jan van Eyck was here.” According to Fred Kleiner, this signature also “underscores the painter’s self-consciousness as a professional artist whose role deserves to be recorded and remembered.” Still today, this painting carries a lot of mystery, as we do not know the name of his wife or what action here is really taking place.

KLEINER, F. R. E. D. S. (n.d.). Gardner’s Art through the ages: A concise global history. CENGAGE LEARNING.

Breaking Down Art History: Three’s Great, But Four’s a Crowd

After the death of Marcus Aurelius’ son, Commodus (r. 180 – 192 CE), there was civil conflict, and a general named Septimius Severus became master of the Roman world. His family portrait was painted with tempera on wood and it features himself, his wife, Julia Domna, and his two sons, Geta and Caracalla. What makes this piece so interesting is the use of gray in Severus’ hair, showing him in his later years (something that was not common in the art representing rulers; usually sculptures and paintings showed rulers in their prime). It is also interesting how there are only three faces shown in the painting when there is supposed to be four.

What happened to Severus’ son, Geta?

In 211 CE, Caracalla succeeded his father as emperor, he had Geta killed and his face erased from the portrait, damning him and his memory forever. According to Fred Kleiner, “the Severan family portrait is an eloquent testimony to the long arm of Roman authority, which reached all the way to Egypt in this case.” He implies that Roman Government used damnatio memoriae (or damnation of memory) as a political tool, symbolizing the great power rulers had over their own people.

Credit: KLEINER, F. R. E. D. S. (n.d.). Gardner’s Art through the ages: A concise global history. CENGAGE LEARNING.

Breaking Down Art History: Woman as a Spectacle in Art

Mary Cassatt was an American Impressionist in the mid 1800’s. Her subject matter mainly included women in leisure activities, or sometimes in the privacy of their homes living a domestic lifestyle. In one painting of hers, The Woman in Black at the Opera, Cassatt’s subject is a woman dressed in black using her Opera glasses to view the opera taking place on stage. In the background, we can see a man using his opera classes to gaze at the woman, making her his spectacle. Not only does he make her the spectacle, but we, as viewers, gazing upon the woman, are also partaking in the same activity as the man.

What is the point of all of this?

Well, according to feminist theory, “Man has put himself at the center of the universe as the only real subject, the only true thinking being, while woman is an object to be admired, feared, used, simply looked at, or ignored” (Venturino). We can argue that the woman here is there to be admired by the man in the background, as it is implied by patriarchal society. Rather than focusing his attention to the stage, his eyes are focused on her. According to Whitney Chadwick, author of “Women, Art, and Society”, “Feminist theory has often held to the premise that the viewing field is organized for a male subject who exercises power through looking, and in this way, asserting visual control over the objects of his desire (usually female).”

Not only does Cassatt’s painting feed into the patriarchal idea as the woman as a spectacle, but it also delves into the realms of a consumer-oriented society. We as viewers are also staring at the woman, who is just enjoying her time at the opera. During this time, the focus of leisure activities in art were becoming what people wanted to see more of, thus causing artists to produce more of what people wanted to see, rather than what they themselves wanted to create.

So, what should we take away from this?

It is important to understand the background of the artworks that we admire. What inspired the artist? Why did the artist paint this? During the 1800’s, it was restricted for female artists the hang out with their male colleagues, so many of the famous female Impressionists, such as Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot, typically only painted other women or women with their children. It is important to understand that, because of these restrictions, it influenced what those like Morisot and Cassatt painted, why they painted it, and who was to admire it.

Credit:

Chadwick, W., & Frigeri, F. (2020). Women, art, and Society. Thames and Hudson.

Venturino, S. J. (2013). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Literary Theory and criticism. Alpha, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Social Geometries Exhibit

Back in October of this year, the Greensboro College art department showcased artwork done by artist Kenn Kotara. Kenn Kotara is a mixed-media abstract artist based out of Asheville, North Carolina. The name of this exhibit was, Social Geometries, as it was a continuation of his exploration into the anthropological quality of Braille and the consideration of metaphorical implications to human interaction. Creating a visual representation of the braille language he portrays the concept that even though we may be able to see something that is in front of us, our pre-existing beliefs and biases impair us from understanding what we really see.

Kenn Kotara’s installation piece. Layed across the floor, each golden piece of paper is indented with Braille lettering.
Braille on thin steel sheet
Braille on painted canvas

Instead of just having a flat sheet of paper on the wall with braille on it, he chose to dance between both two and three-dimensional spaces. His use of different patterns and colors on paper, wood, and or steel really brings out an interesting texture in his work. Because of the texture being so visually appealing in these works, it feels as if each piece is inviting you to come and take a closer “look” at them.

Kenn Kotara does hold local and out of state exhibitions of his work and if you are curious to know more about him and his previous works, you can check out his website https://www.kotarastudio.com/