Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A fairly gay Q&A with Aedan Roberts (aka the artist behind the 'Nüdtendo' portrait series)

Although scores of people have produced illustrations, paintings and other pieces of art that depict Nintendo's characters in various states of undress, few have done so with the kind of whimsical verve that's on display in each and every one of Aedan Roberts' "Nüdtendo" portraits.

You see, all 18 of the portraits Roberts has completed so far render the Japanese giant's extensive stable of colorful protagonists and cohorts as both naked and, to varying degrees, surprised and embarrassed.

Roberts recently agreed to answer a handful questions about what prompted him to start the series, why he decided to focus on Nintendo characters, how many more he plans to produce and much more.

The Gay Gamer: When did you start creating these "Nüdtendo" portraits, and what prompted you to do so?

Aedan Roberts: I began creating this series back in the summer of 2012. Up until that point, all my gallery work was intentionally devoid of work that contained other people's intellectual property. I was still trying to figure out a way to do it without falling directly into the "fan art" category while also doing something fun and original.

At the time, I was doodling some of my favorite characters and was up to Mario. I tend to draw my characters naked when I'm working out their proportions and then add the clothes in a later version. But before I could progress, my boyfriend stopped me and told me I had something with this stout, squat, embarrassed creature I had just doodled. So I finished him up, painted him, and then did another two vignettes (Link and Samus). The results were so popular that I decided to go whole hog and make it into a series.

The Gay Gamer: Why did you decide to focus on Nintendo characters?

Aedan Roberts: The decision to concentrate on Nintendo characters was both because I love the long, storied history of Nintendo intellectual property and because it gave unity to the project.

I grew up as a fan of Nintendo. Our very first console was an SNES and from there I have owned every single generation (barring the Wii U at the moment). I have such an emotional attachment to these characters, and if I was going to create a satire where I reproduce a famous series of characters, I wanted it to be these.

The Gay Gamer: Was your plan all along to create a series, by the way, or did that just come to you after you'd made a few?

Aedan Roberts: I decided to turn it into a full-on series after the original three proved to be so popular. I then gave myself a goal--52--that I don't know if I'll reach, but I'll definitely try.

The Gay Gamer: Can you tell me a bit about how they're created? Based on the descriptions you've included on your etsy shop, I'm guessing they're paintings? Regardless, what kind of process do you go through to produce them?

Aedan Roberts: Each character is drawn out so I can translate it into my style. After that, I try to make sure the proportions are in line with the previous characters and then I re-draw the sketch onto hot press watercolor paper. I then glue the paper to a small wooden board, paint the character and then place the board into a custom-painted shadowbox. The color of each shadowbox is made to coincide with the character within. That way, when the shadowboxes are placed together, it forms a pixel-like color grid.

The Gay Gamer: How did you decide which Nintendo characters to include in this series?

Aedan Roberts: The characters chosen to be part of the series are a combination of my favorite characters, other, more obscure ones I reminded myself of through research and suggestions from patrons.

The Gay Gamer: How did you decide how each character would react to finding him- or herself nude?

Aedan Roberts: They're all based on my perception of how each character would react if they were to find themselves naked in a nightmare. Some are obvious--Mario and Peach looking embarrassed--while others are a little harder to figure out. For example: would Luigi be scared or intrigued? He's an odd one, but eventually I landed on slightly bemused. And then there are those who would react with pride or joy, like Wario and Tingle. Tingle has always seemed to be a relatively creepy, odd character. I felt it was far more in line with his character to be happy at his sudden nudity, and the same goes for Wario.

The Gay Gamer: You mentioned in your interview with Matt over at Boy Culture that your aim with these pieces is for them to be more silly than sexy. Can you tell me a bit more about that? Why is that the case, or why is it important to you?

Aedan Roberts: I tend to find that a lot of satire dealing with iconic characters warps them into something grotesque or outlandish--more often than not taking a character not known for sexual appeal and creating something X-rated or bloody. I find that kind of satire hilarious, but I also feel like it's the easy route to take. 

Instead of doing that, I wanted to concentrate on a more light-hearted feel that would take these characters out of their comfort zone without subjecting them to overt amounts of hyper-sexualization. I would interpret them through my own personal style and then render them naked. Instead of centering in on the sexuality of that context, though, I wanted to emphasize the embarrassment anyone in contemporary societies all over the world would feel--abject horror , or in the case of a few, sheer delight. It becomes more personal and in my opinion a lot more relatable--and ultimately more human.

The Gay Gamer: Do you have any particular favorites so far? If so, which ones, and why? (Note:
 my favorites are Wario, Tingle, Peach and Link.)

Aedan Roberts: My favorites so far are Tingle, Daisy, King Boo and Kirby.

The Gay Gamer: Can you give me or my readers any hints as to some of the Nintendo characters you're still considering for this series? Also, if you're willing to share, are you considering any particularly niche-y ones--like the Balloon Fighter, or maybe one of the Ice Climber characters?

Aedan Roberts: I have a really long list--after all, there will eventually be 52--but I [already] have the sketch work completed for a number I've yet to release... [including] Lyndis from Fire Emblem, Bowser, Ganondorf, King Dedede, Midna, Navi and Olimar.

I also have sketch work done for both Ness and Lucas from the EarthBound series, but I am treading very carefully here and want to work a bit longer on them. So far are they are the only human children I've depicted and, as such, I need to make sure they don't come off as too traumatized. It's a very thin line between a silly satire and something that would induce real, visceral discomfort, so I want to get it right.

The Gay Gamer: Have you ever considered making a similar series using the characters of other companies' games, or does that not appeal to you as much?

Aedan Roberts: I was thinking if I wasn't completely burned out on the concept after I'm done with the Nüdtendo series, I'd love to try my hand at other IPs, like Square Enix, Pixar, Disney or Blizzard, but only time and my attention span can tell.

See also: 'King Boo's balls and Birdo's bits'

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