Briefly describe the work you do.
Currently I am a freelance portrait artist from New York City. Somedays I sell my pieces on Prince and Broadway in Soho, NY. When I am in my “street studio” I am always encountering different kinds of people. The networking I do when I’m out there sometimes is equally as rewarding as when I sell a painting.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
Growing up as an only child to a single mother, I would always love being around other kids and just people in general. Once I realized my love for art I would always practice capturing or recreating human features. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I found my passion for art was targeting towards portraiture. In my works I want to evoke a sense of relevancy through the emotions of my subject matter.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio varies. I can literally set up anywhere that makes me feel most comfortable. My living room space doubles as a studio as well. I usually paint my larger pieces there. However I mostly paint when I am outside selling my 9×12 celebrity portrait pieces. Sometimes traffic can be slow so I rather make sure I am working, while I am working.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Lately I see myself playing the role of the teacher and the student. Younger artists I know come to me for advice or tips on how to paint or draw faces usually. Its always gratifying knowing that I inspire others with my artwork. I draw my own inspiration from my peers and elders who have cultivated successful lives by doing what I am striving to do. I have been making art since I can remember so my progress has depended upon my own personal dedication towards my creative process. Over the past few years I have played the role of the student and I have learned that discipline is the only way to flourish in my craft. Everyday has become a lesson in elevating my discipline. I’ve also learned that as long as you live you’ll never stop assuming the role of the student.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
When creating my pieces I tend to use my spare time while I am selling art on Prince and Broadway in Soho, NY.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
The direction of my portraits weren’t derived from any particular place previously. I have made it a necessity to start narrowing in on my own style or theme when creating. Having talent is one thing but depicting a message through painting using symbolizing is another. I had a professor at Hampton University that would often harshly criticize my works and would push me to draw from my own originality. I didn’t understand at the time why everything had to have a meaning or message, but now I do. I am currently focusing on practicing my skills in painting emotion and feature through painting famous faces. In turn I am selling these pieces as well because of the popularity of the subjects I use. Recently I have developed a series of dead celebrities to execute my positive/negative theme which includes a divided image with inverted colors typically on the right side. Through this almost surrealistic view I want to create a afterlife feeling as if the audience were wearing goggles to see into “the other side”.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
Everyone that is around me has made an impact on my work in some way or another however my first supporter has always been my mother. She has provided a way for me to pursue art since an early age. Without her believing in my talent I would not be as far along in art as I am now in skill or in passion. Before entering college at Hampton University my mother helped me get my first art show at the Langston Hughes library in Corona, Queens. It was there that I made the decision to choose fine art as a major when I arrived on Hampton University’s campus in 2008.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
Other interest I have is in film (polaroid) photography inspired by my mentor and partner Jean Andre Antoine, street photographer. I have developed a love for visual story telling through my photos and would like to use them as models for my next series of paintings where I will be creating a story including photography and paintings.
Ashleigh Alexandria was born in Washington Heights, NY and currently resides in Jersey City, NJ since 2014. She received her BA in Fine Arts from Hampton University in Hampton Virginia. She recently exhibited at the critically acclaimed group art show entitled “RESPOND”, an exhibition that featured art in response to the recent police brutality on young black men. She was one of the 200 artists selected out 600 entries.From a very young age Ashleigh has been surrounded by the arts. She fell in love with portraiture at a very young age. Her passion for capturing human features has motivated her to manipulate different mediums to portray messages through
the emotions of her subjects.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.