Spend a few minutes with these paintings by Ashmae, a contemporary artist and writer currently working in Palo Alto, California. I’ll bet you can’t do it without cracking a smile. Tucked in between the images you’ll find a few questions I posed to her, along with her answers.
Lori: Do you like to paint from life, or photos, or from your mind’s eye?
Ashmae: I paint from life as much as I can, but because I have young children, I’m frequently painting late at night, so often I refer to photos. I do love to work from the imagination as well.
L: Is there anything about your work process that is especially difficult, or especially enjoyable?
A: When I’m making art, I am truly enjoying myself. I love the act of making something, especially something that is colorful, happy and fun. Making the actual paintings and adding color to a piece is so fun to me.
L: I’d like to know how time spent on painting works into the rest of the family routine, and how it fits with your other priorities and responsibilities.
A: Sometimes I paint with my kids, but it’s not the most productive. Sometimes I don’t paint for months at a time because I live in a small house and my studio is my kitchen table. It is important for me that my kids see me investing time into projects and ideas that I care about. For now, I have to keep painting in a way that is fun, low-pressure and a happy thing. I have other jobs that I work at, and at this point in time, I don’t want to make painting another job or something that causes me a lot of stress.
L: I read about a project you did while in college in which you chose 100 random names from the phone book, and sent each person a painting of yours. You enclosed a stamped envelope inviting them to send something (not money) back to you, and you included this lovely quote by Luciano de Crescenzo:
We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.”
I’d like to hear more about that, and about whether you got responses back from any of the recipients.
A: I did love that project. It was one of my favorite investments in college. I did hear back from a few people. One family sent me some drawings that all the kids had done; someone else sent me a box of some of their favorite things, and another person sent back a stack of photographs. It wasn’t a huge success in terms of people responding, but that wasn’t the purpose. I just wanted to send some things out into the world.
L: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
A: If you have thought about making your own art, but feel too cautious or self-conscious about the product that will come of it, I would stress the importance and joy that can come from just experimenting and playing with both our hands our our minds. We often have such a high bar we are working toward and we don’t tend to give ourselves a break. Be kind to yourself, put on some good music and ask yourself to go to the most honest place you can in order to create.
Two more images for you–the first (coincidentally) of the place I got married:
and the second a family portrait that will help us ring in the Christmas season: