Ashley Thomas Interview

Ashley Thomas

Ashley Thomas on drawing since childhood, the ecological threat of heavy industry & working with broad themes like memory & longing.

How did you get into making art?

I’ve been drawing since I was a child. After high school, I thought about becoming a nurse for a couple days, but decided I should take an art course in college instead. It was one art step leading to the next and not ignoring my interest in art making.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on two tree drawings, a zine called Was It An Angel or Adrenaline?, and very slowly working on an animation. 

I’ve been thinking about nature and home and the threat of heavy industry.

Ashley Thomas

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

The tree drawings are inspired by two rotting ash trees in my yard. There are so many bird cavities in these rotting trees, and it’s hard to ignore the birds nesting and living there. I live in the “birdiest” city in the US, so I see many species of migratory birds. I also live in a city with a working bay and a possible future desalination plant that could negatively impact the wildlife here. I’ve been thinking about nature and home and the threat of heavy industry. I made a drawing about my family’s home, called Window View On John Street, a few years ago that was inspired by similar things. These tree drawings are possibly a continuation of that. 

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I do a bit of both. I’ll work on specific ideas or projects meant to be shown together, but as my drawings or images accumulate, they can fall under broader themes like memory or longing.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I converted my freestanding garage into a home studio. I work best in the evenings or at night when it’s really quiet. Because my drawing is tedious and I get distracted easily, I need a lot of concentration. There’s nothing romantic about my process; I draw section by section, left to right. I have to remind myself I’m not a machine that can pump out drawings, but I do try hard to motivate myself to keep going. The calming presence in my studio are my art books and a once feral, now tame studio cat.

Who are your favorite artists?

There are so many. I really gravitate towards outsider artists or artists that have a folk-naïve aesthetic. I really love Carmen Lomas Garza, John Dunkley, Mamma Andersson, Faith Ringgold, Niki de Saint Phalle, Consuelo González Amézcua, Charles Burchfield, Henri Rousseau, Margo Hoff, Jessie Homer French — I could go on! I also collect children’s books by amazing author-illustrators like Beatrice Alemagna and Ruth Heller.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

Art sections at bookstores and libraries, Instagram and Tumblr, and the rabbit hole of internet research.

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