IN ANIMAL CROSSING, ARTISTS FIND A CREATIVE OUTLET AND A NEW WAY TO CONNECT

Due to the pandemic life as we knew it has been temporarily put on hold if not permanently altered. The art world has not been spared. As each industry slowly figures out how to adjust to our suddenly digitized, self-isolated world, many artists have struggled to keep their careers afloat and expose their work to new audiences while maintaining social distancing protocols
UK-based artist and illustrator Stephanie Unger creates playful, cartoonish imagery of animals and everyday objects from blocky, brightly-colored shapes, working with clients such as Puma, Instagram, T-Mobile, and Grinder. Dutch draftsman Timo Kuilder creates graphics for high-profile media firms like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Vogue, and Twitter. His work can be identified by its clean lines, limited palette, and emotive figures. Both illustrators saw most of their gigs get postponed or canceled once quarantine measures went into effect.
But instead of letting this sudden breakdown in cash flow send them into a panic, these artists began looking for new outlets to express their creativity. Enter Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Nintendo’s life simulation video game that has become a popular escape valve during self-isolation. The game for the Nintendo Switch system made its worldwide debut on March 20, just as most of Europe and the United States went into lockdown. The fifth title in the Animal Crossing franchise allows players to create a customized avatar and build the island of their dreams. Users can buy, sell, and design goods as well as explore other islands to interact with other players, all while building up a community of anthropomorphic animals.
What started out for Unger as a way to connect with friends quickly turned into a quest to see how much of her life she could replicate in the game, down to a virtual version of her studio. The artist set up a painter’s table in the corner of her house and offered to create simplified versions of her illustrations on commission, accepting Nook Miles or Bells (the two currencies in the game) as payment. After posting a screen grab of her animated workspace on Instagram, Unger received hugely positive feedback from her followers, which got her thinking about how she could further enhance her online experiment.

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