While still in college, April “Pinkie” Davis started Pinkie Toons Studios, focusing on character design and television animation. Davis has an incredible dynamic style with a good sense of form and proportion, and she has already put her skills to use in concept art and storyboarding. Additionally she has just launched her webcomic Armada’s Rebellion which explores contemporary human rights issues via anthropomorphic themes.
Z | A lot of the character designs that you do are humans or animals in addition to some anthropomorphism. Do you consider yourself a furry or just an artist who does anthro themes?
PT | I absolutely do consider myself a furry. It’s something that’s always been very personal to me. I’ve been in the fandom for about 10 years. Although as far as the professional art world goes, I’d rather that they just assume I draw anthro characters.
Z | How did you get into furry?
PT | I was watching My Strange Addiction with my mom when I was in middle school. There was this episode that showed a girl who was addicted to being in her fur suit and she wore it everywhere. She’d be in public just sitting at a cafe and wearing her fur suit. She also explained what a fursona was and a lot more about furry on TV.
My mom’s reaction and my reaction were very different. We looked at each other and kind of thought we’d have the same reaction. But her reaction was, “oh my god, that’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.” And my reaction was “oh my god, that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!” [Laughs]
So my parents actually knew about it from the very beginning. It was a little bit weird because they knew as much about furries as I did. Starting off we both had the same amount of information. I knew it was what I wanted to do. I wanted to make the fur suit, I wanted to make a fursona. Pretty much immediately I was on FurAffinity, literally later that night.
It was like an epiphany for me, “This is amazing; I love this!” That show is supposed to portray people as weird, like they’re freaks. But I was like, “Wow, this is so fun!”
Z | It’s interesting to think about that, how ten years ago the media always presented furries as being weird and very out of the ordinary. As someone who got started that way, how have you seen the media’s portrayal of the furry fandom changing over time? Does it seem much different to you today?
PT | I don’t see as much shock factor pieces anymore. I feel like people have gotten sick of it. It’s like an old joke. It’s old news. They’ll move on to a different weird internet thing, and have a different reaction.
I think like the most current thing I’ve seen in popular media is that they treat furries more like real people now. They try to bring light to it. So it’s actually very positive. I’ve seen a lot of a shift from “point and laugh at these people” to “that’s a little strange, but I’m interested.”
Z | As far as your background goes, do you have any formal art training?
PT | I’m currently in college. I originally went to school to be a cosmetologist but I left that and completely quit everything so I could do art full time. Right now I’m going back to get my degree.
It’s unusual because everything in my life has gone out of order for me. I went back to school so I could get more professional jobs after my degree. But now that I’m here I’ve started to get more professional jobs while still studying, based on the work I’ve been doing for my degree.
Right now I’m working on a pitch for a TV show that I did character designs for. One of the producers reached out to me via email after having been discovered on Twitter. I’ve sought out a lot of professional animation jobs on my own but I’d get rejected constantly. When I did start to find things everything was coming to me from Twitter.
Z | Do you mostly connect with your fans and clients through Twitter?
PT | I actually have more of a following on Instagram. Although Twitter has been more lucrative because people buy more art that way. Instagram seems more of a younger audience, people who are more like fans who look up to you and really like your style. So I don’t get a lot of business there. Occasionally I still draw in people but most of my customers come from my website or Twitter.
I find that interesting because there’s no good tagging system on Twitter. I’ll be on all these websites like Tumblr and Instagram and put all these tags on for people to find me. But even though Twitter has a hashtag system, you can’t put a paragraph’s worth of tags on a post where they’re out of the way. You have to put it all in your tweet, and then it’s kind of off-putting because people don’t want to be retweeting something that’s just a whole list of hashtags.
Usually if it makes sense with the caption, I’ll just put one, and that’s all I’ll use. But other than that, it’s very interesting how a lot of my attention comes from Twitter, and I’m not actually actively trying to put it into tags for people to seek out.
Z | Do you do any streaming?
PT | Yes, I do. I usually stream on weekends. That’s a good place for me to do a lot of sales and answer a lot of questions. It’s also quicker for me, because I’m really fast with commissions, but the back and forth with customers can take forever for me. So if I have them right there and I can just ask them, “Is this good?”, pretty much all of my pieces take an hour to two hours. So I can pump out a bunch of things if I just have people in the Twitch stream and I’m just constantly taking commissions.
Z | Can folks find you at cons, as well?
PT | I pretty much always go to Anthrocon. That convention’s very special to me and I can always get into that. I also go to cons that are local to me on the east coast.
The amazing thing about Anthrocon is that you can enjoy just being in Pittsburgh. It’s so immersive the way everybody gets excited about seeing the furries. It kind of goes back to what we said about how people perceive furries. Pittsburgh has never been negative towards them. They’re so accepting. It’s a completely different experience from what I see everywhere else.
Z | Do you consider art to be a full time job? Of course you’re still a student, so that’s really a full time job in itself. And you’ve also got your professional projects. But is furry art a main source of income for you?
PT | Yes, I would consider it a job. I’ve been trying to move more towards doing things that are good for my portfolio and also professionally. A lot of times I’ve been trying to incorporate more human art and different characters that aren’t necessarily anthro. What gets people to pay for things is fandoms, though. I very rarely get commissions of people wanting like just a drawing of themselves, though it does happen.
I’ve been trying to get a little bit away from that, but pretty much all my income just comes from furries. Everybody wants me to draw anthro characters all the time. And I don’t think that’ll ever change; I don’t think I’ll ever stop. A lot of it is actually still good for my portfolio. I’ve just been trying to push doing a little bit more professional things that would appeal to people hiring, especially in TV animation.
Z | So in the future do you see yourself work more for a studio or doing animation?
PT | Yes, my goal is to eventually end up at a studio. I think one day I would like to eventually end up in Burbank, CA. I’m from California originally; that’s home for me. So it’s not like a huge leap. For a lot of people it’s like “oh, big scary city! Must be tough to move out there.” But for me, it’s just going back home.
Z | It’s great to have the furry community as a backup source of income. You know that you can take bigger risks and if things don’t work out it’s not the end of the world. You still have something to fall back on.
PT | And I’ve had the most supportive people, too. I’ve had some people who will just toss me money for things I want to practice on. I’ve had some really great people on Patreon. I even have a few patrons who will consistently be like, “Oh I want to see you do this project” and just throw me like fifty bucks to work on it. That really goes a long way for me.
Z | What are some of the things that have inspired you as you’ve been working on your projects?
PT | My biggest inspiration comes from western TV animation. For me it’s Don Bluth, old school Disney, Looney Tunes, those kinds of more traditional 2D animations. That’s pretty much where all of my inspiration comes from nowadays.
Z | It seems like there’s also a very 90’s cartoon vibe too. Stuff like Invader Zim with a very dynamic kind of line to it. Are those things you’d consider to be an inspiration as well?
PT | Yeah, that’s another one of my favorites!
Z | You had talked before about looking up to artists within the furry fandom as you started to explore anthro art more. Do you have any furry artists that you’d say really helped shape your work?
PT | Yes, and I know this is really old school—one is Eric W. Schwartz. I stumbled across his webcomic, Sabrina Online. I obsessively read from the beginning of it, from 1996 to the current day. I still follow up on it today, and I support him on Patreon, so I see his comics as they go. Early on, I pretty much copied his style exactly. Because I was young! If you go back to all my really early art, it all looks like bad Eric Schwartz art. [Laughs]
Z | You had mentioned doing some work for a digital magazine as well. Is that something you can talk more about?
PT | I actually do a lot of different zines, including ones that are printed. A lot of times it’s a smaller thing where they gather a bunch of artists. I’ve been a part of a Naruto one, I’ve been included in Gummy Guts, and a few others.
A lot of times someone just announces on Twitter that they want to produce one, and artists sign up if they’re interested. Sometimes it’s for charity. Sometimes it’s for profit. When it’s for profit it needs to be split up the profit between artists, so there’s not always a lot left.
I’m also a graphic designer and I have a Photoshop certification. So I helped my friend with one where I did the cover. She didn’t know how to do typography or set it up for print. So I formatted it with bleeds and everything so she could print it. And it was for my friend so I didn’t want payment for that at all.
Z | Hopefully that pays off down the road for you too, in a “pay it forward” sort of way.
PT | Thanks, I do enjoy doing it now just for fun and maybe a little bit of exposure and experience. But I don’t see anything huge coming from them. It’s just something that I enjoying doing and at the same time, creating work for my portfolio.
Z | I’d just like to follow up with one final question here, and that’s where do you see yourself in the future? What do you see for the future of your practice or for yourself professionally.
PT | For the future, I see myself working in TV animation. Probably pre-production, visual development and storyboard art. I would like to learn more about character animation, and to do in-betweens as well. I would like to end up permanently working in television animation, and possibly one day movies too. But for that happen a lot of things also do have to change about the animation world. There are very few 2D animated movies being produced today.
For the immediate future, I’m still focusing on my education. I never want to stop learning things. I want to learn 3D, I want get better at everything I can within the industry. Even when I’m working in it, I always want to continue to improve.
Z | Can you tell us more about your web comic, Armada’s Rebellion? I know it’s something you’ve been working on for a while.
PT | It’s a sci fi webcomic where the characters are all anthro. It’s based in a post-human post-apocalyptic setting. There was a crisis—not explained in the plot yet, but part of the background lore—which resulted in wiping out humans. So in the setting, which all takes place in Africa, the smartest races are the anthro African animals.
It involves a race war between the predators and the prey. The prey had been kept by the predators as livestock, but their intelligence has reached a point of sentience. So they’re rebelling.
I haven’t revealed a lot of the plot yet. But they have weapons and mecha left behind from the human military that they use to fight each other. They want to rule what they call New Africa. The hyenas are very strong and building their own empire. While some prey creatures like zebras are trying to defend their race and trying to beat the oppression of the hyenas.
Eventually as I continue to develop the plot, it’ll be more of a theme of community and coming together. It also touches on things like things like minority groups and animal rights. At the beginning it’s all focused on the war, but eventually it’ll get more into the rebellion part where it’s more about coming together as people.
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