The Marshlands by Emma Ashby

Hidden Treasures #2

Hidden Treasures #2

On October 6, 2017 will be the opening of my solo exhibition at Nahcotta Gallery in Portsmouth NH. I have not had much time to write over the last few months because all my spare time between teaching workshops has been given to creating artwork for this show. I have called it 'The Marshlands' because this series of paintings was inspired by the amazing landscape of East Anglia, UK, where I grew up. With the salt marshes, the crumbling sandy cliffs and the misty estuaries, it is a place of raw, unspoiled beauty. 

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There were times when I thought this series would never come together, but now with over 40 works to display, I couldn't be happier with how it has all turned out. There is a cohesiveness to this body of art, in color, imagery and subject matter, that I could only have dreamed of when I began in January.

One of the things I am most excited about is the use of dried clay in many of my paintings. I love the fact that part of the very earth I am trying to portray has become an organic part of the art itself. Wax and clay makes for a wonderful marriage, with the clay absorbing the wax, and the wax filling the cracks in the clay to create unique patterns and an archival piece of art. It took a lot of work and experimentation, but I am thrilled with the result. It's one of the reasons why encaustic is such an interesting and stimulating medium to work with; it's versatility makes for a constant journey of discovery.

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If you are in the area, then I do hope you will join me for the reception on Friday night, October 6, 6-8pm. The artworks will go online for sale at Nahcotta.com a few days before the show opens and the exhibition will be running for the month of October. In the meantime, here is a video preview I did, dedicated to our beloved boxer, Bella, the best artist's dog ever, who sadly died as this series was completed. Let me know what you think. I'd love to hear from you!

An Emotional Connection with Art by Emma Ashby

Suffolk Seashore 48 x 18"

Suffolk Seashore 48 x 18"

The opening night of the Portsmouth Arts Tour was a great success. It’s always a little nerve-wracking before any show. Wondering if people will like your work. Wondering if anything will sell so you can pay for all the materials and frames you bought to put on the show! Thankfully this was one of the best openings I’ve had yet, with a number of larger pieces being sold.

But why was that? It was interesting to hear from a number of people about the emotional connection they felt with my work. It confirmed to me how important it is to have an emotional connection myself with the art I am creating. When I feel under pressure to create art just to make money, I find it very counter productive and it leaves me feeling profoundly dissatisfied. It’s when I feel a heart connection to the subject that I am painting that I am most satisfied. It’s like I can feel the pleasure of God in it.

I particularly felt that connection with my most recent series of encaustic paintings based on scenes from my childhood, in Suffolk, England. Growing up, I don’t think I really appreciated the beauty of where I lived. It was on a trip back to England in October that I was really struck by the atmosphere and beauty of that unspoiled countryside. It was like stepping back in time to old England, like a scene from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. It was the heart connection that I made with my surroundings that inspired me to create some wintery scenes of the Suffolk marshes and seacoast that I remember so well. 

It was those Suffolk paintings that probably drew the most attention at the Arts Tour. Someone said they felt drawn into one of the paintings and could look at it forever. People spoke of the emotional connection they felt with them, without really understanding why. I wonder if what they were feeling was my emotion, the emotion that went into those paintings? I don’t think it was any coincidence that most of them sold on the opening night. Unfortunately the photographs here may not convey what I’m talking about in the same way, so you’ll have to take my word for it!

Art can never be just a business for me. I have to paint what I am experiencing or I’d rather not paint at all.

Suffolk Fields

Suffolk Fields

Suffolk Marshes

Suffolk Marshes

Encaustic and Textiles by Emma Ashby

Eco Colour by India Flint

Eco Colour by India Flint

India Flint is a fabulous artistic dyer and colorist who has really inspired me over the last couple of years. In her book, "Eco Colour - botanical dyes for beautiful textiles" she explores 'the fascinating and infinitely variable world of plant color' using a variety of techniques and recipes. With my own background and training in textiles, I have been intrigued by the marriage of fabric and wax in my encaustic artwork. Printing my own fabrics using India's techniques has added a whole new dimension. I might spend days printing onto silk using leaves and vegetation, though the process of color transferal can sometimes take weeks or months to complete. The result is yards of fabric containing often surprising shapes and patterns in beautifully rich and natural color tones.

I have been using this printed silk as a base layer and starting point for a number of my 'Pond' series of paintings. The pattern and color provide inspiration for the artworks that I create. Sometimes I will scrape back the wax to expose a small portion of the beautiful fabric imagery underneath. I am currently working on a new series of these Pond encaustic paintings for the Portsmouth Arts Tour. I will keep you posted!

A detail from my latest encaustic painting in the 'Pond' series.

A detail from my latest encaustic painting in the 'Pond' series.

Monet's Pond at Giverny by Emma Ashby

Monet's Pond, October 2015

Monet's Pond, October 2015

My encaustic paintings are an abstraction of nature, in which i use the color, translucency and texture that wax provides, to try and create an atmosphere that expresses what I am seeing, or rather experiencing. Ponds and blooms have featured a lot in my work over the last couple of years, especially since I moved to my new studio that has a view of a pond from my window. The shifting light during the day and the changing seasons throughout the year have provided endless inspiration. Then, last Fall, I had the good fortune to be able to visit Monet's famous pond and gardens in Giverny, France, the subject of so many of his paintings. Thankfully, it was off season and we got there before the tourist buses all arrived! It was stunning. Everything I had hoped for. The colors, the hues, the reflections, the blooms! I took dozens of photographs. Of course none of them could do it justice, but they have helped to fuel my recent work.

A number of these paintings will be on display for an exhibition called 'Beauty of Color', a two person show with Patricia Kaufman at Bowersock Gallery in Provincetown, MA. It opens Friday August 12th and will run through August 24th.

Fallen Flowers #1 12x12 

Fallen Flowers #1 12x12 

When Deep calls to Deep by Emma Ashby

"Rage" Encaustic on panel, 24 x 24 inches

"Rage" Encaustic on panel, 24 x 24 inches

I have always been drawn to the ocean, pulled in by its beauty and majesty. When Nahcotta Gallery first asked me to do a series of encaustic artworks on the ocean, I found myself wanting to portray the two elements that I so love. There is the peaceful tranquility of the seashore with the gentle lapping waves and breeze in the sea grass that so calm the soul.

"Dunes of Gold" Encaustic on panel. 12 X 12 

"Dunes of Gold" Encaustic on panel. 12 X 12 

But then there is it's strength and uncontrollable fury. As Robert Frost put it, "Someone had better be prepared for rage". Frost's poem, 'Once by the Pacific', so wonderfully conveys in words what I was trying to express with encaustic that I have used certain phrases from his poem to name some of the stormy artworks in my series. I shall be exhibiting at Nahcotta Gallery in Portsmouth NH with two great artists - Amy Brnger and Kathleen Robbins. The  opening reception is on Friday July 1, 5-8pm and exhibits until the end of the month. 

Once by the Pacific

by Robert Frost

The shattered water made a misty din.
Great waves looked over others coming in,
And thought of doing something to the shore
That water never did to land before.
The clouds were low and hairy in the skies,
Like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes.
You could not tell, and yet it looked as if
The shore was lucky in being backed by cliff,
The cliff in being backed by continent;
It looked as if a night of dark intent
Was coming, and not only a night, an age.
Someone had better be prepared for rage.
There would be more than ocean-water broken
Before God's last 'Put out the Light' was spoken.

Making a Living from Art (part 2) by Emma Ashby

I consider myself very fortunate to live in the great, art-loving community of Portsmouth, New Hampshire!
Beautiful shot of downtown Portsmouth by my friend Philip Cohen of thedailyportsmouth.com

Beautiful shot of downtown Portsmouth by my friend Philip Cohen of thedailyportsmouth.com

With the support of my friends and community I have enjoyed some success locally, having been accepted in several juried exhibitions, sold quite a number of artworks and been nominated twice for the “Spotlight Award” for ‘Outstanding Abstract Artist’. It has enabled me to get my work into a number of different galleries, in New Hampshire, Cape Cod and Florida. All very encouraging! However, my percentage from the sales barely cover the material costs and renting/running a studio. Encaustic is not a cheap medium! Was this something I could actually make an income from? 

The move to leave my part-time job in retail to become a ‘professional’ artist was a big one. I knew it required devoting a lot of time and energy, not just in constantly developing a body of work, but in teaching others as part of my strategy to become more visible and to earn a living. It also meant being prepared to promote myself every chance I got to remain competitive in the art world. Self promotion is not something I am very good at! Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband who was trained as a graphic designer and who has helped me to construct a website, get on social media and produce videos, all of which have proven essential to increase visibility and create awareness. I am so thankful that I have someone to help me with this important side of the business. I know some artists who are great at it, but not me! Teaching others, on the other hand, is something I love!

I realized that while there are many artists teaching encaustic in other parts of the country, there are still relatively few in New England, which presented a great opportunity to educate people about this medium, and the interest has certainly been growing! What has been encouraging though, is that the majority of people who have registered for my workshops have done so because they were interested in my art and not just the medium. Since I started my workshops and advertised them on social media, I have had people come from as far afield as California, Hawaii, Canada and even Dubai! Who would have thought!

It’s been over two years since launching my art as a business. I am still learning along the way, and there have been the inevitable struggles, but I haven’t looked back. While continuing to exhibit and stretch myself as an artist, I am also teaching six different classes and have a core of students who regularly book in ‘studio time’ to come and use my studio and equipment to work on their latest creation. I am enjoying the new relationships I am forming and loving this new season in my life. The United States is known as the land of opportunity. I can honestly say that coming from the UK, I have found that to be true!

If you are interested, here are a couple of blogs I found helpful about what it means to be a professional artist:

http://joannemattera.blogspot.com/2011/09/marketing-mondays-who-is-professional.html Joanne Mattera Art Blog

http://www.finearttips.com/2011/02/when-are-you-ready-to-call-yourself-a-professional-artist/ Fine art tips from Lori McNee

 

 

Making a Living from Art (part 1) by Emma Ashby

I had no regrets in laying down a successful career in fashion and textile design in order to raise four children. However, twenty years later, I found myself in a bit of a quandary. I needed an income, but was out of touch with the world I had left behind. Was there a way for me to put my previous training and creativity to work?

My love for the arts was fostered in me at a young age by my mother, who would regularly take me to London to see inspiring art exhibitions at the Royal Academy and the gorgeous window displays on Regent Street.

It led to a BA degree in Fashion Design and then a Masters degree in Textile Design at the Royal College of Art. My career was launched creating freelance designs for fashion brands such as Missoni and Aquascutum. I was then invited to become a full time knitwear designer for Jaeger in London. It was work that I loved. Overseeing the creative process from concept to final production was of great interest to me, even though the work environment at times was not too dissimilar to 'The Devil Wears Prada’!

Part of my portfolio from my Jaeger days.

Part of my portfolio from my Jaeger days.

Twenty years and four grown children later, I found myself in a different country and a different season of life looking for ways to put my creativity to work. The opportunity came while volunteering my time for a local non profit organization that worked with the homeless in New Hampshire. It was suggested that I might create a series of mixed media artworks to be displayed in Starbucks to help raise awareness. I agreed and called the series "Heartwork"

A detail from my 'Heartwork' series

A detail from my 'Heartwork' series

In this series I enjoyed experimenting with print and fabric, as I had done at college years ago. I wanted to create more three-dimensionality to my art, so I tried dripping hot wax onto the surface. This was how I inadvertently discovered "encaustic". A friend, seeing my use of wax, gave me a book about this ancient medium. I had never heard of encaustic before, but quickly fell in love with this amazing art form. I made a trip to R & F Paints in Kingston, NY, the mecca for all things encaustic at that time and over the last eight years have taken classes from some of the best. 

But was this something that I could make an income from? 

Stay tuned for the next installment!

Oceans Twelve by Emma Ashby

The sea is a popular subject for artists working in encaustic. The fluidity and translucency of the medium lends itself well to the subject matter. It was 2011 when I first created a series of twelve 'Oceans' encaustic artworks for the Enormous Tiny Art Show at Nahcotta Gallery in Portsmouth. People seemed to like them. People love the ocean. I love living by the ocean - the rhythm of the waves and tide has a calming influence on the soul. At the same time the power and the ferocity of an ocean storm can take your breath away. I shall be attempting to convey both aspects in a new series I have been asked to do by Nahcotta for a three person group show this July. I'll let you now how I get on! Here are some initial works in progress with a short video teaser. I will probably make a proper video of the series before the show.