We recently connected with Ashley Surber and have shared our conversation below.
Ashley, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Learning the craft is often a unique journey from every creative – we’d love to hear about your journey and if knowing what you know now, you would have done anything differently to speed up the learning process.
Learning how to draw came first for me. I’ve always loved to draw and as a child it was a pastime and definitely defined as something you did for fun. I kept at it through high school, taking art classes whenever I could. I never considered it to be something you could do professionally until I started taking a few art classes in college. It was then I discovered it was an actual profession. I decided to change my major to fine art in drawing and painting and that’s when I started painting. I loved it! But I wasn’t great at it. My work was still heavy in drawing with washes of paint for years until I became more comfortable with the medium. I loved the versatility and richness of oils but they are a mess. Any oil painter will tell you they wish they weren’t. I’ve learned to protect myself over the years using natural cleaning solvents instead of paint thinner and always wear gloves! I love it though…that’s the thing. If you love something enough, you’ll find a way.
Ashley, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
It all comes down to the word silly…and being ok with that.
I paint penguins, mostly. I’ve always loved penguins because they are fancy but also incredibly funny. I feel a real kinship to them and I think that’s how they came to be the storytellers of my work.
As a youngster I was always asked a few standard questions…What is your favorite color? What is your favorite animal? What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s interesting how we sum up children but that’s a discussion for someone more qualified. My answers were always the same…pink, penguins and I don’t know. I might have even given a stock answer that an adult would find acceptable but in my head I was panicked thinking “I don’t know!” I spent most of my time daydreaming…beautiful, happy and funny things. It was a magical place in my daydreams. I always felt lighter and more joyful then. I was a silly-heart and that was bad.
I remember trying to stop daydreaming and focus. Pursuing worthwhile efforts and saving arts and crafts for play time. After years of all the right moves through college and still believing art is “silly” and not a real job I felt I didn’t know myself and I felt lonely. I started reaching out to galleries and entering my work in art shows around town. It was scary but it paid off. I started to learn the value of my work and that I had a place in the world through my paintings.
After years of honing my craft my work focuses on painting beautiful things and stories that are usually rooted in my everyday life. I love depicting characters as animals and setting the scene in unlikely places. It’s that dream-like quality I so loved in my daydreams. Nobody is upset when they see a penguin and flamingo sharing a conversation over a glass of champagne. I mean, it’s fabulous!
My work is silly. And I think it took a long time for me to be comfortable with that. Because silly is happy and joyful and fun and necessary. My work is an escape. It is something to experience that brings joy…and that is worth pursuing.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative in your experience?
Connection. It blows my mind that I imagine a scenario where three flamingos are GoGo dancers dancing to the music of a penguin singing in a twinkling landscape and so many people get as excited about looking into that world as I do! It there a better reward than that? It’s finding out there are plenty of people out there who love being surrounded by these fantastic moments as much as I do. It’s so cool.
Can you share a story from your journey that illustrates your resilience?
When I was in my twenties I decided to pursue art full time. I put together a plan and went to someone who is amazing at business and was told it just wasn’t possible for me. It was devastating and set me back a bit because I believed it. After that I sort of put those ideas aside and focused on my 9 to 5 but I just couldn’t stay away from my silly pastime. I started dipping my toes back into the art pool and it felt like home. I knew I could do it and it would be a difficult climb but it just felt right. Sometimes we need the naysayers to remind us we are the only ones who need to believe it’s possible.
- Website: https://www.ashleysurber.com/
- Instagram: ashleysurberart