About the Cover: State of Play

Balls, balls, balls.

To tackle the March issue’s theme of games and sports, Brooklyn-based artist Cari Vander Yacht dug into one of the most iconic competitive devices: the ball. Here, she gamely answers some questions about how she came to focus on this most essential element.
Central to all of the concepts Vander Yacht presented was the goal of depicting “organized pastimes,” and not solely sport or athletics—hence the variety of imagery: from billiards to video games to board games.
The pitch for what was to become our final cover was fun and visually dynamic, but originally began with a football—easily recognizable, but perhaps misleading. Vander Yacht opted to begin with a blank, general-purpose sphere instead, as well as adding the Nintendo-ish cube and a 12-sided die to broaden the scope.

What kinds of visual treatments first popped into your mind when you were given the assignment for our March cover? My head went immediately to sports imagery—I obviously have a bias toward jock-ular things when it comes to games. All my initial thoughts were blood, sweat, and tears. Obviously there’s more to games than that, so I had to do a little course correction. I had all these lofty ideas of doing something cerebral, but I’m such a literal person, I immediately gravitated to the tangible elements of games.

How did you end up landing on the Russian-nesting-doll concept that you decided to move forward with? The nesting dolls are such a nice visual device, and they have a nice tension in animation with the reveal. I wanted something that would be satisfying in motion but also work well as a still image, and luckily my brain dragged up the nesting-doll idea from the favorites pile. It’s a nice way of equating each of the games, too, showing that they have a commonality even if they play out in very different ways.

How would you describe this treatment to someone who hadn’t seen it/wasn’t able to see it? Balls in balls in balls in balls!

The next developed sketch, now in color, was very close to final. Vander Yacht made some small changes and adjustments before moving forward with final animation.

Are you yourself a fan or player of games or sports? I wish I could say I was, but the only game I actively play is solitaire on my phone. It’s a good way to pass time on the subway. Games tend to bring out a vicious competitive streak in me; I try not to show it, but all my atoms point to winning at all costs. So I tend to gravitate toward things like solitaire and yoga, for the sake of humanity.

The subject of sports and games is such a broad one. Did you find it too unspecific or at all intimidating? I liked the broadness of the topic, [which] meant I couldn’t approach the idea directly from either a sports or gaming perspective. That made it a fun challenge.

How did you decide which sports and games to represent in the cover treatment? I wanted to invite everyone to the party! But mostly I picked the good-looking ones. I kicked out the football because football gets too much attention. I like drawing basketballs more, anyway. Definitely soccer, because it's the most popular sport in the world and my childhood sport of choice. Others I gravitated toward because, to me, they balance on the line between sport and games, like bowling and Ping-Pong.

I actually found myself wavering at the golf ball, since I feel it’s become so intertwined with the presidency. But I kept it in for that reason, too, even if I’m the only one who puts that weight on it.

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