I love Ashlie Blake's relationship to her art. How it motivates, helps, and nurtures her. How she gives it the space it deserves, and claims it proudly as her own. That alone is something that inspires me. Ashlie's art is not only uplifting and bright, but amazingly beautiful!
Thank you Ashlie for taking the time to share your experiences, art, and insights!
1. What is your earliest memory you have of creating?
With a pencil I drew a backwards three, got everyone's attention in the room and said "Look, I drew! I'm an artist!"
2. When did you realize you were an artist, writer, creative etc.?
There was never a moment when I made the realization "oh, I'm an artist!". It's something I've always wanted to be and always said I was going to be from a very early age.
3. Why do you create? How would you feel if you could not create anymore?
I create because there is no other way of life. It's who I am and who I must be. Not to mention a great source of good mental health! I am a better me, when I am creating.
4. Did you create before you had children? After? How has becoming a mother changed the way you create?
Oh yes! From toddler-hood to high school I primarily drew in pencil. Then High-School gave me the opportunity to to take an oil painting class, and that changed everything. Oils became the art of my early 20's. In my mid to late 20's my art was about acrylics. In my late 20's and these first few years of my 30's I have explored mixed medias. Recently I have simplified to just watercolor, heavy bodied acrylic, micron pen, and pencil. Being an artist has a lot to do with reinvention, personal growth, and evolving over time.
5. What does a typical day/week look like? Are you a morning or night person? Do you stick to a schedule or create whenever you can?
Most of my days are about running my youngest to pre-school and back home, doing errands, housework, homework with the two older boys, and more. BUT every moment in between is spent on artwork in my studio or wherever is convenient. Especially mornings, it's my most productive time. I am not a schedule type of person. As hard as I try to be, it just never works out... and so I fit my work in wherever and whenever I can. My kids have never known a mom who doesn't create, and so for them, art is just a way of life. It's just what mom does :)
6. Do you ever involve your children in your art? Can you talk a little about your creative time together? How do your kids inspire you and help your creative process?
I don't involve my children in my art because I am so particular about what I do, but I do provide them with art journals/supplies/paper that they can utilize whenever they hang with me. They cut and paste, color and paint making robots, cats, and whatever their imagination desires. My kids fuel my inspiration by just being who they are, kids. They make me laugh, warm my heart, and equally drive me crazy... lol. I wouldn't say they exactly help my creative process, but I love sharing with them what I do and how I do it. It's really cool when I see the pride they have for me, or implement things they've seen me do or taught them into their own artworks.
7. What is the most challenging thing about being a mother and an artist? How do you handle those challenges?
The most challenging thing about being a mother and an artist is the pull I feel to create. I crave to be in my studio (like all the time). I would paint all day if it weren't for my mommy/house wife responsibilities. Thank goodness everyone is understanding of a sink full of dishes, simple dinners, and having to hunt for socks in the laundry pile. Also, I have a really awesome husband who nurtures my creative passions and knows a better me is a me that creates... so that is a super big help. When the balance of being mom and an artist becomes off kilter, it really screws me up. I feel haphazard, off, and edgy. To handle that challenge I strive to make more time for painting. To just get into the studio with or without kids just so that I can make something. I often bring my work right into the living room, watercolors are easy to do while we are watching t.v. or hanging out. My art goes where I go when I can't actually devote time in studio.
8. You wrote a blog post about depression and how it has affected you, how it still does, and how you manage it. Do you feel that creating art helps you manage your depression? And do you feel that creating art helps you to handle some of the challenges that motherhood can add to that?
Art is a huge part of managing my depression. It's the routine of painting every day and having personal deadlines that keeps me positive, uplifted, and motivated. It's when I'm idle, that my mind wanders and my depression has the opportunity to dig it's claws in. Once it takes hold, I find it is difficult for me to pull out, so you see my art is essential to my mental well being. That and good anti-depressants. Art helps me in every way handle the challenges that motherhood add to my life. I find that when I don't paint enough, I tend to be increasingly inpatient. And of course a lack of patience + kids = chaos. Painting is a good stress prevention.
9. What have you sacrificed in order to make art? What have you gained?
I really don't feel that I have sacrificed a thing and that's because I allow myself the time I need for my art, and the time I need for family too. Weekdays are for art. Evenings and weekends are for family. When the whole family is home, the family is a whole. It's our family dynamic to be together, it's the way that works best for us. Sometimes I get upset with myself for not painting on weekends, but to be honest I don't want to. With my husband and kids is really where I crave to be. Two days off gives me time to recharge. My husband and I are both self employed, and so the weekends are really an important time to spend time with kids away from laptops and paintbrushes.
I feel by creating art full time I have gained so much knowledge and exploitative experience. Through trial and error, other artist friends, and frequent painting I am on an accelerated path of growth. The more time you can devote to passion, the better you become at what you love. And it's not just about knowledge, but skill. What I was doing 10 years ago looks nothing like what I create today... and that's because being an artist is an ever evolving journey. I am just now feeling like my style has a presence of it's own and represents me and what I do. I look at my work and say to myself "self, that looks like you". It's rewarding to get to the point where your work is cohesive, and that is definitely something I have gained from being an active participant in my daily creative practice.
10. It says on your website that you have been spending the last few years building an online presence, and are now focusing on getting your artwork out into your community. Can you offer any advice or tips to other creative mothers just starting out? What are some things you are doing to get yourself out and into your community?
Be fearless. Getting turned down isn't as bad as it seems. It doesn't mean your not good at what you do, it just means that one person didn't care for it... and guess what? Not everyone will. Seek out opportunity, hell... go ahead and ask for it. You would be surprised just how much my career has grown because I simply asked for things (or help). Send emails and letters to places/things/ and publications showing your interest to become involved. Tell them about yourself and what you do. Doors will open. Don't let doubt hold you back. No one knows how your feeling inside except for you, so put your confident face on and point your chin upward. Being a successful artist involves determination and hard work just as with any other career. You have to be an active participant in your goals/dreams, for those endeavors to reach fruition. Be passionate about what you do, and don't be afraid to talk about it or your process.
I am just starting to get my work out into the community. The past several years I have worked on getting published in magazines such as Somerset Studio and building an online presence. Now I am ready to step out and show publicly. Taking the time to build my community online gave me the support and encouragement to go local. Right now I have a solo show in a local cafe. I created 43 paintings for the space which also includes my first ever open reception. The whole process has been about learning. About myself and about what it takes to prepare and set up for a solo show/open reception. I decided with this show to give to a charity that's near and dear to my heart, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. When seeking out a more public presence I really thought that's what I wanted... but in doing so, actually physically experiencing it... I realized that I don't. That I am happier just creating and selling online. Sometimes you have to really go through a process to figure out if you liked or disliked it and whether you want to make it part of your future. Spending too much time worrying about where to show next really holds me back from just getting my hands covered in paint.
11. Where do you want your art to go over the next few years? Goals?
I just want to paint and offer it online to those who want to give it a happy home. I am content with where I am right now and what I am doing. In the next week I will begin a 100 miniature painting challenge where I will be working on 100 small pieces geared towards exploration and personal growth. These pieces will be for sale in my Etsy shop and the whole experience will be shared on my blog and Instagram. The theme of my 100 pieces will be shared as I begin the challenge on March 15th.
12. Do you have strong connections with other artists/artistic mothers in your area? If so, how did you foster these connections, and how do you continue to make them a priority? If not, what do you think needs to change/happen concerning women, mothers, and the art world?
I have a few artist friends yes, but for the most part I am a lone wolf. My best friend is a talented fiber artist and we talk regularly about all things art and art business. It's the same with motherhood. I have a few close art moms but not many. I really prefer having a small intimate circle of people in my life. Connections in the art world are all about personal preference. Us artists tend to be quirky and some folks just don't get it. The ones that do though, are keepers. I'm extremely kind and loyal in my relationships, but I am flighty and I forget things a lot. I'm like a distracted butterfly only coming down to land ever so often before quickly lifting back off into flight.
13. Finally, name an artistic mother who inspires you. Why and how does she inspire you?
Every single mom that was and ever will be actively creative and passionate about their talent. Because multi-tasking isn't easy. Because being a mom and making things with your hands is epically awesome and a challenge. Because we, they, you are working hard to succeed in being something more than yourself by bringing beauty to the world, your neighborhood, and your own home.
I'm no longer doing Creative Mothers interview, but this will remain as an archive. Thank you for all of the love!
About the Series
Let's face it, being a mother can be the most challenging, and the most rewarding thing. Being a mother who needs to be creative can be even more challenging, it can even feel lonely at times.
So let's dig deeper into the lives of creative mothers, share their amazing work, and get some insight into creating while parenting. Hopefully, inspiring other artistic, creative mothers, and women who may one day be mothers themselves, along the way.
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