October 2021, Interview facilitated by Tracey Miller-Zarneke
What path have you taken to get to your current role? What are some of the challenges you had to face to get there?
For many years, I’ve been working as a graphic designer in corporate and nonprofit environments. However, I didn’t focus my studies on design in undergrad. I studied Computer Animation. Entry-level animation jobs were pretty much nonexistent where I lived. So, after graduating, I started my career as a graphic technician and just kept going! I later attained a master’s degree in Design Management. Now, over 10 years later, I finally moved in hopes of getting back into animation and learning more about the industry.
What is your favorite part of your role? And the most challenging part?
My favorite part about being a designer is creative problem-solving. Some people might see design as merely the icing on the cake. But it’s a strategic process and can also be very technical. My motto is design isn’t merely a service, it’s a necessary solution for communication. However, the most challenging part of design, generally, is making sure the initiative is reaching the right audience which can take a lot of analysis and research.
Please share with us a moment of exhilaration in your career.
In 2019, I decided to start animating again. It had been over a decade, so it took a lot of patience and relearning to grasp the latest industry tech. In 2020, I went all in! I asked my two best friends (Michael and LaToya) to help launch an animated series based on a character I had been developing for over 5 years. It’s called Tiny Fros: The Web Series. We call it a millennial animated dramedy about life. The storyline follows Frolana, a mental health professional, who struggles with relationships, career goals, and the infamous imposter syndrome.
Which school(s) did you attend?
James Madison University (JMU) and Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)
What is your earliest memory of being interested in animation?
Like many kids, I loved cartoons. But specifically, Disney cartoons. Around age 11, I took a family road trip to Disney World. As kids typically do, we played games and made up challenges to pass the time. One of the older kids, challenged me (dared me) to draw Mickey Mouse (because I said I could). I shocked them and myself when I realized I could actually do it. From then on, I made it a personal mission to draw all the Disney characters I could!
What is your favorite animated movie or animated character, and why?
My favorite animated movie is Pocahontas. I remember Pocahontas being the one of very few animated characters of color I had seen as a kid. I was also intrigued by the origin of the story because I grew up in Virginia.
Who or what inspires your work?
My work is inspired by everyday life (working, chatting with friends, running errands… just existing). Tiny FrosTM, for example, was created from a relatable, non-glamorized perspective of adult life so that anyone can pull inspiration from it. We balance a lot day in and day out. So, I use illustrated quotes to help spread some “you got this!” motivation to anyone that happens to come across my Instagram content.
Why is an organization like Women In Animation important to you?
WIA is important because it shines a light on the—often overlooked—women working in the animation industry. Knowing women exist in this space can inspire new generations of animators, character designers, background painters, etc., that only see it as a male-dominated industry. It’s grown way beyond that and it’s time for women to be equally recognized and represented as contributors.
What have you enjoyed most about being part of WIA?
Being a part of an organization like WIA has allowed me to experience expert panels; webinars; screenings; and ultimately, has provided a better understanding of how the industry works. These are all things I didn’t have access to before joining and are a great benefit for newcomers and professional development seekers.
I’ve also enjoyed helping WIA with designing newsletters and social media graphics. [Editor’s note: WIA is grateful for Erika generously sharing her talents with our organization!]