Reclamation by Emma Ashby

rec·la·ma·tion | \ ˌre-klə-ˈmā-shən

‘Beauty Waiting’ 18x48” Encaustic and Clay

‘Beauty Waiting’ 18x48” Encaustic and Clay

I recently finished the last painting for my solo show at Nahcotta Gallery in August. When completing a series like this, 38 paintings in all, I feel depleted, like I’ve discharged myself, a part of me now in those paintings. It’s a hard feeling to describe, as I sit surrounded by all this art, the result of many months of painstaking work. I am left wondering if I have managed to portray the emotion that I felt when I was moved by these landscapes, the moment when I was struck by such beauty.

That was certainly my hope for this series, called ’Reclamation’. It was inspired by my coastal walks. I wanted to capture the beauty of those walks, with storms rolling in, or windy sunny days when the intense colors of wild flowers peep through the grasses on the sandy cliffs. It’s about capturing the beauty that is all around us, and comes from a passion to keep, protect and care for what we have been entrusted with, before we lose it.

‘Across the Way’ 18x48” Encaustic and Clay

‘Across the Way’ 18x48” Encaustic and Clay

Through these paintings I wanted to give nature a voice. Reclamation comes from the Latin word ‘reclamare’ - to cry out against. I feel like in many of my paintings the colors are crying out to be noticed, to make us stop and think, to take time to appreciate and safeguard what we have been given.

‘Distant Storm’ 24x24” Encaustic and Clay

‘Distant Storm’ 24x24” Encaustic and Clay

Opening on August 2nd, 2019 at Nahcotta Gallery, 110 Congress St, Portsmouth NH 03801. Nahcotta.com

The Untrodden Path by Emma Ashby

After the Storm - 18x48" Encaustic and Clay

After the Storm - 18x48" Encaustic and Clay

An artist I greatly respect once said to me, ‘you will come to a point in your art career where you will reach a crossroad. At that crossroad you can either decide to carry on producing work that is familiar and safe, that you know will sell; or you can try the untrodden path and create work that is different to what you’ve done before, maybe commercially risky, but which gives you life.’
I have great admiration for the artists who tread that path; like going from realism to something more abstract. In my home town just recently, I was very provoked to see a successful and well established artist do just that as she experimented with new styles and mediums. I am sure it took a lot of courage.  

I myself came to something of a crossroad last year when I was invited to have my first solo show in a commercial gallery. Of course, I wanted my work to be well received and for people to like it enough to want to buy it. Like any artist, I wanted the validation, not just for myself, but for the gallery who had taken a chance on me!

But at the same time, I knew in my heart that I wanted to create a body of artwork that I felt excited about and emotionally connected to. I tend to lose that connection when I feel like I am just churning out the same work, reproducing the same images that have sold in the past. It may be sellable, but I take no pleasure in it, it leaves my work feeling dead, and that’s not what I wanted for my first solo show! I am sure this must be a dilemma for many professional artists - take the safe path, the familiar path, the same old path that yields no secrets and requires no risk. Or take the untrodden path, the uncertain path, the path of discovery?

Beyond - 18x48" Encaustic and Clay

Beyond - 18x48" Encaustic and Clay

I knew which path I needed to take for this solo show. I decided to produce a body of landscapes - something I had only recently begun experimenting with. I also began exploring the possibilities of using clay, and introducing it into my encaustic paintings. This was all uncharted territory for me and as I began to work on this ‘Marshlands’ series of artworks, I knew it meant letting go and not worrying about whether the show would sell or not. Instead, I allowed myself to enjoy the process and be much more concerned with capturing the beauty of the landscapes that I had grown up with.

Thankfully the show ended up being a success; not just because the paintings sold, but because of the people who seemed to be moved and to have felt an emotional connection with them. That is always the most humbling thing for me.

What if the show hadn’t been a success? What about my next solo show, now scheduled for August 2019?

All I know is I need to keep walking that untrodden path. Because if the day comes when I am no longer excited by what I am doing, or have lost the emotional connection to my work, then I will know the time has come to hang up my blow torch!

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. 

shutterstock_404968129.jpg

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.

IMG_6024.jpg
IMG_6757.JPG

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