While a demo of Lab Zero Games’ action RPG Indivisible was available for people to play in the exhibit hall at Anime Expo 2019, its lead animator and art director Mariel Kinuko Cartwright was exhibiting down in Artist Alley

She shared a booth with her husband, fellow artist Tyson Hesse. They previously collaborated together on the animated trailer for Sonic Mania. Cartwright’s credits go even farther, including work on games like Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know!, Cryamore, Silent Hill: Book of Memories, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game

In between promoting her art and selling her work, Cartwright discussed her career with Cliqist.

Mariel Kinuko Cartwright’s drawing of Indivisible‘s protagonist, Ajna.

Zero Origin

Cartwright has been with Lab Zero since its inception. She explained that the studio was founded when the original developer of Skullgirls, Reverge Labs, was laid off. Cartwright stayed with the group that became Lab Zero after Reverge’s departure. From there, she became Lab Zero’s lead animator, and was primarily responsible for overseeing all the animation in Skullgirls.

“I animated a lot of it myself,” Cartwright said. (Her work on Skullgirls even included animating taunts.) She added that she also collaborated with contractors and made sure everything was quality work.

Skullgirls has been recognized for its beautiful 2D animation, and undoubtedly players are looking forward to more of it in Lab Zero’s follow-up Indivisible. Cartwright even spoke about the animation in Skullgirls for GDC 2014

An excerpt from Cartwright’s in-depth GDC 2014 talk on Skullgirls.

Teamwork and Technical Work

Cartwright’s Anime Expo booth showcased various pieces of her art, like prints, stickers, and comics. According to her website, she’s drawn covers for Invader Zim and The Amazing World of Gumball

She noted that there are differences between working in comics and in games.

“Working in games is a lot more collaborative,” Cartwright said. She added that working in illustration and comics feels more straightforward.

In contrast, Cartwright shared that there’s a different mindset for games. She said that there’s more going on, with having to figure out what is working, what doesn’t work, and seeing more things come together. 

Indivisible has a large and varied cast.

Cartwright added that game work is also more technical in a way. But it’s these differences that make working in games appealing to her.

“I like not just drawing, but being more technical too,” Cartwright said. She added that she enjoyed working with story, levels, and “definitely [the] collaborative aspect” in game development.

“While I like illustrating on my own, [I also] like working on something so complex that turns coherent in the end,” Cartwright said.

Cartwright’s illustration thanking Indivisible‘s backers.

Indivisible will be available on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam on Oct. 8. Lab Zero says that it will be released on Nintendo Switch soon, but they have not announced a date yet. 

Alyssa Wejebe
Alyssa Wejebe writes about games, reads about games, and plays them too. RPG, hack-and-slash, and fighting games are some of her favorite genres. She loves nonhuman characters. One of her earliest gaming memories center around battling her grandmother and younger brothers in “Super Bomberman 2” on the SNES.
Alyssa Wejebe

@AlyssaWejebe

Freelance writer/editor with a focus on games, and other areas in arts and entertainment. Bylines at @Cliqist, @NewNormative, @TechRaptr, @ArtStationHQ.
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