We delve into the world of ‘fan art’, conventions, and more in our interview with talented artist Ashlee Casey
A number of years ago I stumbled across the impressive art of the lovely and talented Ashlee Casey and struck up a friendly correspondence with her via social media. Over that time I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her art grow into something of a phenomena as she began selling her creations at conventions and meeting some of the people who’s very likenesses she so captivatingly portrays in her work. In my experience I’ve found her to be one of the most friendly and down to earth people that I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with, so I appealed to her to do an interview with us, to which she readily agreed. We delve into her world to learn what she’s all about and discuss the experiences she’s had and people’s reaction to her work, and what her hopes are for her future.
Tell me about yourself and your background, and what some of your interests and hobbies are.
Well, right now I work as a cashier. I’ve lived in the same little South-East Texas town my entire life – same piece of property actually. I love hanging out/taking camping trips with my friends, playing Fallout, doing conventions, and taking care of my plants… I basically have a garden in my room, haha. I study up a lot on WWII, really the 20s-60s in general fascinate me. And I have a really spoiled cat.
Now let’s talk about how you first became interested in creating art.
I grew up watching a lot of PBS as a kid, which had a lot of art happening on it…I remember drawing a lot in Elementary school and having classmates asking me to draw things for them. Then when my parents decided to homeschool me that gave me even more time to dabble with it, and in our local homeschool group I met my best friends who are also artists. What really got me to focus on art was when I was about 11-12, I started developing chronic arthritis in my knees, that made playing outside and those kinds of “kid things” hard to do…so I started studying anatomy, the classical artists, and cracking down on portraiture.
What does being creative mean to you, and what sort of things inspire you as an artist?
Probably just the freedom to create whatever you want, to be kind of boundless in that sense. Inspiration can be found in most anything if you look at it the right way. Seeing people do what they love, whether they’re successful at it or not, is really inspiring.
Do you have any formal training, or are you entirely self taught?
I’ve had a couple art teachers over the years, but all of them ended up telling me they couldn’t teach me anything… so I guess I would say I’m self taught? I’m a really hands on person, I can’t follow instructions well. It’s hard for me to learn how to do something unless I fiddle around with it myself.
Is anyone else in your family artistic or creative?
Yeah! My mom and dad used to sketch, my uncle used to do portraits, one of my grandmothers is a wonderful seamstress, and my late cousin was a cartoonist. As much as my family doesn’t want to admit it, they’re a pretty creative bunch.
Can you describe to me some of your creative influences?
Leyendecker, Waterhouse, Memento Mori items, Bryan Fuller, Jim Schaeffing, Euclase, medical illustrations, Nicola Samorì, and so many more…I could go on and on.
Let’s talk about what motivates and inspires your work.
Honestly I just do what makes me happy. Art’s been my outlet for stress and escapism from whatever life’s throwing at me.
And what creative routines or rituals do you have, if any?
I usually just hope for the best, haha. But music is almost always playing, different music for different moods…though The Dead Weather, Timber Timbre, Black Angels, Fever Ray, First Aid Kit are my go-tos at the moment.
Do you have a favorite work of art that you’ve ever created?
Oh man. I guess the piece I did of Merle sitting in the car surrounded by walkers will always have a warm place in my heart.
What is your favorite medium to work with? And are there any creative mediums that would you like to pursue but haven’t yet?
As much as I love the resistance of a brush or pencil on paper, I really love the freedom of digital art. You can have whatever size canvas, you have unlimited color palette, and it saves you a lot of money over time. That being said, I’m dying to try oils.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about being creative?
My mom always tells me to not be afraid to do anything and never stop learning, there’s inspiration in everything…I think that’s as good as it gets.
And what advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Practice, practice, practice. It’s pretty broken record sounding advice, but it’s what you have to do! Just like playing an instrument or learning a new language, you have to immerse yourself in art in order to get better. And it’s totally okay to not be happy with what you’re doing, but the key is to turn that into determination to better yourself. (And if you’re like me that’s a pretty endless supply of determination, haha)
How have other people responded to your art?
The amount of support and love that I’ve gotten over the years has been what’s kept me going. From my parents, my family, my friends, to complete strangers… it’s been an outpouring of support. Although once in a blue moon I’ll get someone who’s vocal about disliking the style, or an accusation of tracing/photomanipulating. But honestly those are so few and far between.
Let’s talk about the term ‘fan art’. What does it mean to you, and how do you feel about it as an artist?
It’s an apt description. Sometimes people try to tack on negative connotations when they call someone a “fan artist” but I don’t think it makes you any less of an artist. Art is what inspires, what makes you feel…and fan art is definitely of both those things.
You have an art store on society6, what can you tell me about that?
It’s pretty cool! I’d love to become self sufficient, but it’s pretty hard when Society6 offers so many great options – plus they do all the packaging and shipping for you. I’ve gotten to personally see some of the items from my shop over there and they’re such great quality.
Selling art created from licensed material is a controversial and sensitive topic of late. As an artist selling fan art, what are your thoughts and feelings about this topic?
It’s certainly a legally grey area, that’s for sure. But I think it really does help certain franchises. In my experience I’ve gotten so many people into movies and tv shows through selling artwork, and then they go on to buy merch, attend cons, ect. But I definitely believe if you’re told to stop, or the creators have said “don’t sell fan art” don’t do it, be respectful of that.
Have you ever encountered any backlash from selling your fan art?
I haven’t, thankfully!
You’ve attend several large conventions and often sell some of your artwork at these, what have those experiences been like for you?
There’s been some ups and downs, but as far as meeting people – and as astounding as it is – fans, it’s been ridiculously cool.
And you’ve also had the opportunity to meet some of the people whose characters you’ve created art of, what were those experiences like, and what kind of feedback did they give you about your work?
Man, they’ve been so kind and supportive…for instance, Michael Cudlitz is the reason why I even started tabling at Walker Stalker Con (It was a “because you told me tooo” Patrick Star moment). They’re all the absolute best.
Recently you participated in a movement called #artvsartist, what can you tell me about that?
It’s such a neat little trend! There always seems to be a bit of the artist in what they create, and it’s a cool way to compare the artist to their work, and to see the person behind canvas.
You recently announced that a work of art you created of actor Norman Reedus will be featured on the cover Iron & Air Magazine. How did that come to be?
I was actually at work when I got the messages from Adam Fitzgerald, he’s the editor in chief over at Iron & Air, and he explained he wanted actual artwork for the interview since this issue focuses a lot on art and such. He had looked around and really liked mine…So we discussed everything, of course I agreed. A while later he dropped the bombshell that they’d like to use it for the cover, so could they… I stared at my phone for probably 20-30 minutes before I could muster up the brainpower to say “yes”.
You got to meet Norman Reedus and discuss the project with him, what was that like?
I saw that he’d been put on the roster for a con in the area, so it was just a stop by his table kind of thing. He’s so great…he popped up to hug me and held my hand after finding out who I was, and freaked out because “we’re doing a magazine together!!”, haha. Something that really struck a chord was his concern over where the magazine got the art, and after going through years of having my art posted everywhere and even sold without my consent…it was mind-blowing to have Adam reach out to me, and then seeing Norman had been worried over it too. Just all and all, it’s been such a cool experience. I’m so grateful and it’s given me a bit of hope.
And finally, where do you see your work taking you?
Oh gosh. Honestly, I’d be grateful if it took me anywhere! I’d love to do art for tv/film, I’m not exactly sure how to get there, but that’s the dream.
I’d like to thank Ashlee for taking the time to do this interview with us, as I’ve found it to be a delightful and inspiring experience. I’m beyond excited to see what she creates next and wish her the absolute best in all her future endeavours!
Those interested can explore Ashlee’s art on further on the following social media sites: tumblr, instagram, facebook, twitter, deviantart and purchase prints at society6. Additionally, you’re able purchase a copy of Iron & Air magazine featuring the her portrait of Norman Reedus here.
Image credits: Ashlee Casey