ASHTON SHAW DESPOT

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Being a creative person is not an easy job. Many artists don’t have the confidence, or support to continue with their art, and a lot of them quit at early stages of their development. I always find it fascinating when I see artists that overcome that hump of mistaken beliefs and go for it. Most of the time it has to do with exposure and being inspired by someone or something that you can’t ignore. It is no mellow road, we all have to start somewhere, and putting ourselves out there gives us vulnerability to be criticized as well as acclaimed. So be brave, and “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” Don’t be afraid, know that you have a gorgeous and huge community of people that want to help. We were all helped once by someone, and like my professor used to say: You gotta give back. This is my way of giving back. Giving you exposure to others, and showing you that it can be done. Just stay connected with your heart, and persevere.

My featured artist, this time, is Ashton Shaw Despot. Ashton is a very inspiring impressionist painter based in New Orleans. Her paintings caught my eye while I was researching for home decor. Her work communicates in mysterious ways I have to say. They are bold, yet soft in a soothing way. They evoke nature, emotion, freshness, and a harmonic balance of color and weight. There is something nostalgic about them, actually more dreamlike. Her use of light is exquisite and her bold short strokes showcase her spirit and passion for what she does. Her work appeals to me in many ways, and I hope it does to you too. I knew I had to ask her for an interview once I discovered her work.

this is Ashton Shaw Despot From South Louisiana. Last child of three.

How did you know you wanted to be an artist Ashton? 

I knew at a young age that I wanted to create something beautiful for the world. I have always been fascinated by the delicate beauty all around us. But it took some time and encouragement for me to explore art as a career. I was first challenged in high school by two amazing teachers. They put the bug in my ear to make it a career and the drive in my heart to live life passionately.  In college I studied graphic design, but always took painting and sculpture classes as my electives. My painting and drawing teachers influenced me immensely and I am thankful for their critics and patience. But it wasn’t until I studied art in Ireland for a month that I knew I could make it as an artist. I created more than 30 pieces while I was there and I had gained excitement and joy like never before. 

Ireland WOW! Im so jelly… So how does it work? Tell me a bit about your creative process. Walk me through it.

My creative process changes with each project and I try to let everything develop organically. In college my professors would always stress “trust the process” which meant you had to explore and develop your ideas. Skipping steps never made the work better in fact it was quite the opposite. I usually make binders with inspiration photos including colors and compositions. I use a plethora of photos and sketches to come up with the final composition. It can change drastically too depending on the day or the mood I am in.

Do you search for inspiration? Does it come to you?

I search for inspiration in a number of ways just as the meaning of the word “search” expresses. I gather photos from life, magazines, books, Pinterest, Instagram etc. Honestly, I’m kind of a hoarder of images! If I am organized enough, I take these photos and categorize them in folders. Then, when I am working on a project that might have the particular subject matter, I pull the file. I also have files on my computer and in Dropbox. It is actually quite an organized mess. It works for me though. Then, when I am working on the piece, I let it develop organically. I often turn the painting several times to ensure the piece is balanced. I use the drips of water to determine shapes, and I don’t worry about it looking exactly as I had pictured it in my head. 

Your work is heavily inspired by pastel, and blue color schemes. Is that part of your aesthetic?

I love blues and greens. I think they are soothing and natural. I am most inspired by landscapes so it seems fitting to capture the colors of lush foliage, water and the sky above. I am also very intrigued by light and how it dances on the ground. I love pops of light pink and peach to express a warm glow. I hope my work feels dreamlike and warm, and I think soft colors work best in achieving this goal. 

A lot of artists never put their work out there because they feel it isn’t finished. How do you know a piece is done?

Honestly, a piece is never done. But sometimes you are happy with what you achieved in that moment.

You seem to be a pretty positive person, is there a personal or professional motto you live by?

I live by the words of Confucius. “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”

The artist road isn’t an easy one. Surely, there are some things you’ve learned along the way you can share with us?

The biggest lesson I have learned in life is that nothing can be planned. You will think you have it all figured out and something always surprises you. You must learn to be fluid like water and go with the flow of life. Enjoy everything you can, but also don’t be afraid to feel sadness and worry as they are just as real as any other feeling. 

In moments of self doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?

I turn to my friends and family. I have an amazing support system that builds me up constantly.  

Is there someone, in particular, you look up to?

I look up to my dear friend Amanda Judice. She was good listener, extremely kind and accepting. She had strong roots in faith and family, and lived in the moment always looking for the good in every situation.

What advice would you give other creatives trying to make it as an artist?

Follow your heart and never stop exploring. Get Up, Show Up, and Do Good Work. 

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Thank you Ashton for your words, and we wish you the best pursuing this road. Inquiries about Ashton paintings can be made on her website: http://ashtonshawdespot.com

Lisa Congdon | Artist & Illustrator

One of the reasons why I started blogging and decided to keep doing so has a lot do with the satisfaction of discovering and sharing. I get excited about many things, and finding awesome people that inspire me is one of them. This week is Lisa Congdon. This super cool and positive woman came to me through a book called "Whatever You Are, Be a Good One" (100 Inspirational Quotations Hand-Lettered by Lisa Congdon) I found her book at Target and thought Hmm...I might keep this.. and so I did! Her selection of quotes was excellent, and her style was so different and eclectic.. Something I haven't seen much of lately. When I looked her up, I found out she is actually a big deal! Her clients range from MOMA!!!, Harvard University!!!, The Land of Nod, Martha Stewart Living, I mean.. BIG DEAL! and her website is so cute full of random illustrations on the corners, just full of life. Turns out she had a late start in art, which I found surprising considering how young she looks! but oh well! Didn't matter to her, she is super successful and full of life. Her work is bright, fun and so friendly! She has a shop online, books, wallpaper, gift wrap, prints, and a ton more... Make sure to check her out and read her blog. I read a couple of her posts, and I just love how honest and humble she sounds. She is inspiring in many ways. 

ARTIST HIGHLIGHT

I am extremely excited to finally bring another Shine Bright post; this time featuring the GRRREAT Ashley Castro. One of the cool things about working at Hobby Lobby is that you get to see a lot of talented people, Ashley is talented for sure. Her illustration skills as well as her passion shine through, this is why I have asked her to share some insights of her design and some thoughts. Enjoy & make sure to check out her work afterwards!! 

For me, enjoying what you do no matter what, is fundamental to having success. What do you think you enjoy the most about being a designer?

I've always been a quiet, introverted person. I didn't have a lot of friends growing up because I moved around quite a bit since my dad was in the military so I used art as an escape. Eventually art became more of a passion rather than a hobby. As I gained more skill, I fell more in love with it because I could be more expressive. For a long time I was super shy about sharing my art with people but my family gave me a lot of encouragement. People started recognizing my talent and asking me to do things for them which made me feel good. It's an amazing feeling when someone loves your art so much that they want you to do things for their wedding, business, etc. The fact that I get to live my passion every day and make people smile by sharing it with them makes me happy. That's what I enjoy the most. 

Recently I have noticed a lot more clients enjoy authenticity over clean minimal designs, and you do a lot of that type of work. Why do you think the market for hand drawn art has grown so much?

I think because it's so unique. Each piece of art is different as each artist has their own style. I think it's a nice break from the polished 3-D looks that we used to see in advertisements, commercials, etc. Almost anyone can do digital artwork these days with the millions of apps out there, but hand drawn art is more personal. In the graphic design world, trends are constantly shifting but it seems like hand drawn designs have stuck around for awhile. For every artist who enjoys it including me, I hope it sticks around forever.

Do you feel like this is kind of your style? 

I'm still learning what exactly my style is. I can say that I love to do hand drawings with a little mix of digital illustration. I sketch out a piece, scan it into my computer, manipulate it a little through Adobe Photoshop, and then finish it in Adobe Illustrator.

...And what inspires your art?

Mostly artists I follow, life events, and music.

Any favorite artist? How about illustrators?

I have so many favorites. The main one I can think of is Chris Piascik. He's the first ever illustrator I began following when I was just becoming more confident in my art. When I saw his art, I thought to myself, wow...this is what I want to do. His art is imperfect but it's so awesome and he just makes it his own. He has a style and he has a certain look that I like. He inspired me to find mine. There's Chris Piascik and then there's Rhianna Wurman aka Ellolovey on Instagram and Etsy. Her art is so adorable and she is such a lovely human being, I can't help but admire everything she does which also made a huge impact in me finding my style as well. 

It might be silly, but I have to ask... What's you favorite and most hated color?

I love Black! I know that's not really a color though so if I had to pick one I'd say teal, and I hate all things orange.

Some designers have a weird design process. Any quirky facts about yours?

I have to listen to music while I draw or work. I love music almost as much as I love art, so if I'm not listening to music while I work sometimes I feel like I'm not doing my best. I think it's because I think a lot and music helps me focus. It also channels my emotions depending on what I listen to. 

You have quite a bit of freelance work don't you? Many designers struggle finding clients, how do you find yours?

Mostly word of mouth. I'm blessed to have great friends who do amazing things like photography, own hair salons, and who are just so anxious to share my art with other people because they love it that much. It usually starts with them. I started up an etsy shop and I post a lot of my work on social media as much as possible. Hashtags will become your best friend if you're trying to reach out to people on social media. As far as finding freelance, I've heard of some really cool websites out there that are specifically made for artists looking for freelance. One that I know of for sure is Odesk.com

Are you currently working on something?

I'm currently working on wedding invitations for a friend of mine, 2 tattoo designs for 2 different people, and Christmas projects that I'll be giving away as gifts. 

Any future plans you look forward to? Any short term goals?

I look forward to growing more as an artist. I'm always learning new techniques. Wherever that leads me, I'm sure I'll enjoy it. My short term goal would be to find time in my day to do a small doodle. I kind of lost that since I've been so busy working on other things for people. I don't want to lose me-time completely. 

Well, THANK YOU THANK YOU for taking the time to share all this awesome information with me, I am sure a lot of designers will find it helpful and inspiring. Any last advice you can give them? 

Be yourself and don't compare your art to other artist's. One of my art professors once told me, "Art doesn't have to be perfect." It has stuck with me and I tell myself that each time I get insecure with my art or mess up on a piece. If you're a perfectionist like me, this will be a good reminder as well because it will help save you a little time. - haha. 

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ARTIST HIGHLIGHT

I believe that every artist is like a raw diamond. Even though some remain hiding, and some shine like no other, they are all beautiful and unique in its own way; this is why i believe they all need exposure. I've decided to make a contribution to our community and expose as many artist. This wee I can. This week's highlight belongs to my dear friend Brittney LeighAnn. I met this sweet lady at a 2D class in Mississippi, and since then I've admired not only her work, but her capacity to be everything she can and want to be. Her inspirations go wider than the sea and her creativity runs wild. I love seeing all the ways she expresses her art, and I cannot wait to see what the future waits for her. I asked her three questions about her work and creative process and here it is what she had for us. 

1.  What do you enjoy most about creating a piece of art?

I love that I can start with or without an idea of what the end result will look like. It is both a conscious and serendipitous process simultaneously for me. Whether its a color palette on a page made with acrylic paint one day, and the next day on the adjacent page a collage with bits of fabric and paper; then the discovery that certain elements compliment and harmonize with each other on both pages and inspire a new piece of color-paint-collage bliss; this is why I keep creating. It is experimentation, discovery, and perfect happiness tied into one. It may be a photographic frame one day, and a video composition the next. So many things to create, and always so little time. Just like any day-to-day routine, there is this literal need to create something. To evoke or express something as vague as a concept or an emotion. I actually keep a notebook in every drawer in the house for when ideas come (I have tallied 6 notebooks thus far, not quite every drawer but I daresay I have run out of notebooks). There has always been this urgency to record thoughts, ideas, and feelings; oh the joys of creativity!

2.  What inspires you?

I could probably rant on for hours. It sounds cliché to say the “world around me” but this is rather relevant; colors, textures, lines; all of the proper design elements I suppose. But mostly, I am obsessively nostalgic. I had a girl tell me, “Brittney, I feel like you should have been born in another time” and this rang so true to my essence. I immerse myself in museums and antique shops, I read history articles and historic costume books and fictions for the thrill, and cannot find enough BBC period dramas to watch. Although I like to pull inspiration from all different eras, I would most certainly go back to the Edwardian/Ragtime era (1910ish-1920's) art noveau/joy epoch art movements. I would definitely put my hair into the Gibson Girl bun and drink coca cola from a soda fountain if this was acceptable . I cry every time I watch Titanic because the colors and details of the garments are so beautiful, and I watch behind the scenes videos about the cast and hair of Mr. Selfridge, and have watched pretty much every directors commentary for my favorite films to gain insight into the spirit of the times. I am somewhat of a nerd I suppose.

3. What is your advice for every raw diamond out there?

Start Somewhere; give yourself time to create. As I am sure any creative would agree, there have been weeks, even months where I felt I was creatively stagnant and uninspired, and had this anxiety hanging above me like a dreary raincloud preventing me from trying something new; fearing it would not turn out the way I anticipated ( if I even had the faintest of ideas in the first place). It was not until I began creating this routine; waking up at 5am every morning, before the sun, before the majority of the world was awake-before school and work, and life really. And I would get up and make a cup of coffee (or a soup bowl of coffee for that matter, I drink more than I should) and block off just 1 hour to create something. Weather it was tearing up scraps of water color painted paper and ink markings and collaging them, cutting a linoleum block to print make, or merely dreaming up ideas with a pen and paper,gathering inspirations for a photography project, or trying a new process like embroidery or beading unlikely materials;such as paper. This creative “play” and mental reflection and time, forced me to try something, whatever it was. To create for the sake of creating. No pressure. No anxiety. Sometimes I absolutely loved what I created. Other times I hated what I created. And most surprising, and yet usually most of the time-something that I thought I hated ended up being a piece that I loved months, even years later; incorporated into another project, with a revised color palette or composition, or even just left as is. The important thing is to simply give yourself time. If you are not much of a morning person, be a night owl and give yourself this creative time. The worst that can happen is 1 hour turning into 2, or 3, and you miss class because you are too deep into your project. (and yet this has happened multiple times.)