Geek Chic

If you dig old-school comics, retro-games and nerdy nostalgia, Ninjabot offers a go-to wonderland

He’s 31 and from Seattle. She’s 24 and from Argentina. Together the artists—engaged couple Arnel Baluyot and Estefania Rodriguez—are based in Las Vegas and work jointly under the name Ninjabot. The duo makes appealing pop culture-infused prints and posters by combining bold design and elegant rendering.

“We love illustration,” Baluyot says. “That’s the part we really get excited about. I think it shows in our work.”

Their art also features vintage style and a cheeky mashup technique. Take, for instance, Ninjabot’s cool Mario Girls pinup series. It thrusts the video-game plumber’s girlfriend, Princess Peach, into a noir context replete with bikini and handgun. Or consider the hilarious “Alfbacca,” which presents a hybrid of Chewbacca and the TV-comedy-sitcom space alien Alf. The most elegant Ninjabot concoction is their Star Wars stamps collection, which imagines what George Lucas’ characters would look like on U.S. postage.

The duo also cleverly reverses negative expressions such as “Butter Face” through visual puns. In this case, the Ninjabot couple offers a stick of bright yellow butter with a feminine face that includes red lipstick and a winking eye, hearts floating above her. It’s a face so golden and sassy that you might just find yourself impulsively purchasing a poster.

“We specialize in fun, cute and geeky art,” says Baluyot, who has been participating in First Friday for the last 10 months. “This has been our dream, to work for ourselves and make the work that we want to make.”

The process is pretty straightforward: First, Baluyot and Rodriguez brainstorm. (The partners met while studying graphic design at the Art Institute of Las Vegas, so they are practiced collaborators.)

“We shoot each other’s ideas down if they’re stupid,” Baluyot says. “Then we go into the sketching phase, drawing everything by hand.”

Next, they scan the sketches into a computer and use them for reference. Then they build the actual design in Adobe Illustrator. Depending on the piece—for instance, if images require texture—they apply Photoshop. To keep things local, Ninjabot always prints with Las Vegas Color.

The Ninjabot booth is often jammed with families because there’s plenty of stuff for kids’ rooms. Adorable posters of owls, penguins and hippos are for sale, and the big chocolate-cookie buttons look good enough to sink your teeth into.

But prints, posters and buttons will soon be only half of what Ninjabot does. They recently unveiled iPhone cases (in partnership with East Coast company Case-Mate) and are now selling plush toys, which Rodriguez stitches.

And the couple has big expansion and touring plans: They’re selling works at the two Maximum Comics locations in town. They’re already booked for three major comics conventions this year—Long Beach, Calif.; New York; and San Francisco. But they don’t need to travel far to satisfy their geeky tendencies.

“We love First Friday and the people we meet there,” Baluyot says. “Turns out there are plenty of geeks in Vegas for us to keep happy.”

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