Ashley shares insights about his work, professional life and approach to illustration. If you’d like to see more work from the artist, check out his Instagram.
Could you tell us a little bit about your professional career?
I moved from the United Kingdom over to Amsterdam last February after working in a fashion house for the past year. I spent a lot of my time designing licensed work for Disney, but I’d rather keep those memories locked away next to my nightmares in pursuing an actual creative career. I felt I needed a change in scenery and lifestyle. Since moving to work in-house as an illustrator for The Next Web I’ve definitely found what I’ve been seeking since graduating university with a degree in illustration. And hey, living in Amsterdam isn’t too bad either, it’s Amsterdam after all.
I’m blessed to be given freedom not many designers find where I’m free to explore illustration and design with a strong creative pull. My ideas are valued, critiqued, and brought to life in a way no other company has offered me. Every designer wants to feel as if they’re growing so I’ve definitely found what I can only describe as sacred ground… Believe it or not The Next Web didn’t even have to pay me to say that.
How did you get into illustration and graphic design?
I was introduced to the arts from a very young age. My mother is a graduate from St. Martin’s studying fashion but alternatively pursued a career in illustration. I’ve always looked up to my mother’s work and it definitely shaped me into who I am, and what I do today. To date I’ve quite literally followed in my mother’s footsteps.
How would you describe your approach to design?
My approach to design is to create something which stops people to think and question what they’re looking at. With my older work it was a lot more simple with its dark and intimidating themes, but now the real challenge has been thinking of how to achieve similar results on a more commercial scale. Unless there’s a surge in companies like Google and Facebook wanting skulls and animals with multiple eyes plastered across their websites I’ll be sticking to achieving a more clean and accessible style.
How long does it take to grasp the basics of illustration?
Grasping the basics of illustration can vary on what you want to achieve as an illustrator. Some people do it for fun, and others want it to put food in their mouths. And guess what? I love illustration, I love to eat, and I’m pretty average at everything else, so it wasn’t a difficult choice for me. The basics are simple. Don’t stop drawing.
Each morning I sketch. I sketch my thoughts, dreams, and ideas of anything I think could be something visually pleasing. The basics of illustration is having passion and drive. In my opinion an amazing illustrator has to go through the phase of having zero self esteem. I’m far from reaching the level I want to achieve in the future as an illustrator, but feel as if I’m crawling in the right direction. If I was to look at my work from an evolutionary point, I’m still a long way from becoming a human. I’ve only just dragged myself out of the water being a weird looking fish wondering what is going on.
All my work has a ‘shelf life of love’. I’m heavily critical of myself when it comes to design so no matter what I create I always find flaws and errors which lead me to absolutely despise whatever my brain produces. I wouldn’t say this is a negative though as it definitely fuels my motivation to improve and create something new which I won’t hate for hopefully a couple more days… Or hours.
Do you still create works by hand?
Throughout university, working at various design studios, and my freelancing I would sketch directly into photoshop. At the time this helped me get to the grips with a graphics tablet. I still remember the first few weeks feeling like hell. It really felt as if using the tablet was like shaking hands with a cat. Only since moving to TNW have I been moulded in putting pencil to paper once again. I feel it’s really helped improve my work, and feel less like a robot. Although it’s had a strong impact adapting my style, I never show off my sketchbooks. I actually class them as an insecurity. I’m very much the type of illustrator in that you’ll only ever see my finalized work… And perhaps a burning pile of paper and broken pencils behind me.
What are some of your interests outside of graphic design?
Collecting records and luring cats into my apartment.
Who are your biggest influences?
My biggest influences sway from illustrators to musicians. My biggest influence over the past two years is a drone musician by the name of Tim Hecker. He creates vast landscapes of sound which don’t rely on tempo, but layers. I never feel rushed or distracted when listening to his music. This has aided not only my creativity, but my anxiety too. Anxiety can be deeply challenging when it comes to freeing your mind to fresh ideas, and has always been a destructive factor when it comes to my work. I’m thankful to have his music as a beautiful medicine to my mind.