What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Colter Avara. I am currently a freelance illustrator, animator and designer. Most of my clients are mobile game and app developers!
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Oh man, I think I am pretty fortunate on that front. I spent several years working various IT jobs, unfortunately that isn’t crazy. Just boring. The craziest job I ever had was given to me by my dad. When I was a kid, I really wanted a video game. I think it was Sonic The Hedgehog 2 but I’m not 100% sure, I wanted pretty much every game. In an attempt to teach me about working for things in life, he told me that he would buy the game for me if I plucked every clover flower in our yard. Our yard was over an acre and full of mostly clover, just to give you an idea of what I was dealing with. It was crazy! I spent almost an entire week filling up drywall buckets with flowers. I don’t think either of my parents predicted that I would be so diligent, but the buckets of clover flowers and the swarm of pissed off honey bees told them otherwise. They had me stop at around 4-5 buckets. I earned the video game and possibly destroyed an ecosystem in the process. Sorry, to any honey bees out there. I’m probably going to get trolled by honey bees now.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I enjoyed working on all of my projects, but I had the most fun on the projects where I had a little more creative freedom, particularly on a social game that I worked on called, Rock Riot. It was a guitar hero style facebook game. The team really let me take the reigns creatively and the player community was really into it! That was the best part, seeing the players enjoy the items I had created. I’ll never forget the first time I saw players using the turkey guitar I made for Thanksgiving. That was hilarious.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am originally from Maryland and I am now living in Pennsylvania. My professional career started in 2008 when I worked with John Kricfalusi on The George Liquor Program. After that, a good friend and mentor of mine, Chris Georgenes, said I should apply for a job at Acclaim games and that is when things really took off.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I normally spend an hour before work figure drawing and life drawing as a warm-up. Then I usually fire up a podcast and get down to business. Most recently I’ve been listening to the Hardcore History podcast. It’s so good! Everyone needs to listen to “The Wrath of the Khans” podcast series! I’m also a huge fan of GiantBomb (video game website) and I listen to their stuff fairly often. It all depends on the project though. Sometimes when I am animating I need silence to maintain rhythm. Also, I do my best to focus, so I can finish up during regular working hours. I work from home, so it’s really easy to lose track of time and to overwork. I used to be really bad about that. Don’t overwork yourselves or you will become a hermit! Unless you want to become a hermit, which is pretty cool. My advice to future hermits..stock up on wisdom and intelligence, don’t worry about putting points in charisma or strength.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The best part about my job is that I am doing what I love. I get to create things for other people and I get to see them enjoy it (or hate it). As stressful as it can be, I feel very fortunate and lucky to do what I do.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I don’t like negotiating pay with my clients. A lot of them don’t understand how it is a legitimate career and assume that artists/designers are fooling people or that we’re a bunch of kids sitting around playing with crayons for a living. With that in mind, you really have to weed through a lot of grossness and disrespect. It can be stressful and disheartening at times. This usually triggers what is called artist’s guilt. That stuff is all negative poo-poo and if you truly love what you do, it doesn’t really matter in the long run! Just respect yourself and your career and you’ll be fine!
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
I use an Alienware Laptop and an Intuos5 for work and spend most of my time in Photoshop and Illustrator. If I am animating something I will either use Photoshop or Flash. I test things out on an iPhone and iPad throughout the day, since most of what I work on is iOS based. Because of the rise of iOS games and apps, I only use Flash to animate sprite sheets. I haven’t exported a swf file for work since like 2010. RIP Flash? I really want to get my hands on ToonBoom Animate, I think it costs like 5 billion dollars though.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most difficult part of the business for me, isn’t actually the business. It’s me. I think every artist deals with this, but impostor syndrome is something I have to swat away on a daily basis. I fight it off by constantly honing my abilities, but it’s kinda always there. I have a sort of love/hate relationship with it because it will ultimately make me a better artist, but will I ever truly be satisfied? Guys? Will I?
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I think that all of the people I’ve worked with are great. Every ui designer, animator, art director, developer, project manager .. they’re all stars to me. I’ve learned so much from all of them. In fact, I miss them and I miss working with them. I did work with John Kricfalusi, I guess that’s the kind of greatness you guys are looking for? Hehehe.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Awww man, life is tough for everybody. I’ve been through a lot of personal strife, but the details are irrelevant and negative. I try my best not to dwell on my past but the best advice I can give to anyone dealing with hardships is to persevere. Kick the situation in the butt cheeks!
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Yep! I’m currently working on a comic tentatively called “Orenda”, I plan on releasing that online in the near future. I’ve also got a few cartoon ideas that I may release as short cartoons online.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Hahahahah, tying a cherry stem with my tongue?! Can you do that, Mike? It’s not really unusual but I enjoy cooking and I think I’m pretty good at it. No one has died from my cooking yet. I’m still alive. I think?
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Figure out what it is you want, find your dream and strive for it, pursue it with unbreakable resolve. If you want to work in the cartoon industry or the game industry, research and learn as much as you can. Reach out to professionals and ask them for advice! Don’t be discouraged if they don’t respond or if they’re rude, it happens sometimes, but when you finally find the generous pros out there, it will pay off! Most importantly, keep creating things, keep drawing, keep putting your work out there. You’ll improve and you’ll also be ready to share your work when job opportunities arise. If you’re lucky, people will notice you and offer you the opportunities!
Great interview! I love your sense of humor (especially the clover-picking story) and your work! 🙂
Hehe! Thanks, dude!