Anya Butler

The young artist Anya Butler is about to live her California dreams for real, She tells us why the US appealed and how she hopes her career will pan out long-term

Talented Bromsgrove School pupil Anya Butler has successfully bagged herself a place to study animation at the prestigious California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) which has been a dream for years for a number of reasons, not least because of its close proximity to LA, its impressive alumni and the college’s founder Walt Disney.

Anya explains: “Alex Hirsch, the creator of my favourite kids’ TV show Gravity Falls, was the reason I discovered the school but other notable animation alumni include Tim Burton, John Lasseter (founder of Pixar), Stephen Hillenburg (creator or Spongebob Squarepants), Pendleton Ward (creator of Adventure Time) and Pete Docter (director of Monsters Inc). The list goes on!”


On a Californian family holiday aged 15, Anya toured the school and was instantly blown away and two years later the application process began which was pretty intense. “I had to create an online portfolio which demonstrated a variety of skills and ideas – mostly life drawing – which came to 32 pieces. This included a demo reel of my current animations.” There was also a sketchbook to submit which Anya drew in almost every day from September to December as well as school transcripts, at least two letters of recommendation, a statement explaining her interests and aspirations and a short video introduction. Anya had no free time to speak of, but she says it was worth it.

Since announcing to the careers department in year 9 that she would like to go to CalArts, the school’s backing has been significant allowing Anya to use the art department facilities whenever she needed to, supporting her when juggling homework with portfolio preparation and hiring her to create posters for school events and artwork for the school magazine. Anya says: “Although I did the research and preparation myself, I knew that if I ever had any difficulty the school was right behind me and I had plenty of people to talk to.”


On hearing she had been offered a place, Anya couldn’t believe it. She remembers: “It was midnight when I found out and I woke up all my roommates because I couldn’t keep the news to myself. I felt ecstatic!” It’s a big move but one that Anya feels prepared for, in part thanks to a summer school she attended at CalArts last year. “It is a little daunting – it’s a big change from the English countryside. The overall feeling is excitement though. I’ve been dreaming to be accepted into CalArts for over five years.”

Anya takes inspiration from many places and often refers to childhood experiences including her upbringing in rural England as well as a Soviet cartoon she used to watch with her Russian mother. As well as her hero Alex Hirsch, she is also a fan of the artist behind the identity of the band Gorillaz, Jamie Hewlett. Anya says: “The blending of mediums fascinates me and I love the cartoon members of the band. They are effortlessly able to adapt to changes within the real world and therefore feel as real as you and I.”


While Anya’s focus is animation and she enjoys character design and storyboarding, she doesn’t have a specialism within that field yet and is keeping her options open trying as many different genres and techniques as possible. Her future goals are clear though. Anya says: “In the long run, I’d like to create my own children’s TV show. However, on a grander scale, I hope to inspire as many young people as I can to be better people. I want my work to encourage free thinking and open mindedness. In general, I’d like to create work that has a positive impact on people and society.”