This months featured artist is the lovely Zoe Ashbrook.
Your name: Zoe Ashbrook
Where do you live? Gloucestershire, UK.
What is your background? I have always been creative and had a love for wild, rugged, worn landscapes. At school I loved art, pottery, and textiles but in terms of a career path I opted for what was, then, the new world of Business Information Systems. After graduating with a degree in Computer Information systems I worked in local government for seven years and then when the opportunity arose to start a business with my father, I leapt at it.
The thought of creating a business from scratch was really exciting. The company works with flying schools across the UK to develop and support information systems to suit their specific needs. It’s been great fun and of course so many of the business and administration skills have been transferrable to my art business.
When the world of websites appeared, it was like a dream come true and I immediately took courses in website development so I could incorporate my love of colour and design into my I.T. skills. I moved away from creating systems and started to create websites instead and that worked beautifully alongside the growing needs of a busy family life.
All the time my passion for creativity and love of all things “arty” continued. I would draw and paint regularly and discovered photography. I loved being out and about in nature and taking photographs provided me with an almost instant fix of creativity. Wild landscapes, along with the textures and marks of natural forms like old stone walls, lichen and tree bark have always been like a magnet to me.
About two years ago I made a very conscious decision to switch the emphasis to make my art the main focus of my life and it is now very much full-time.
How did you learn your craft i.e. college, self-taught and what did that entail? I consider myself to be primarily self-taught. My formal art education came to an end after I left Secondary school but painting and drawing has always been a part of who I am and how I would spend my free time.
About three years ago, I decided I wanted to get more of a solid foundational knowledge behind me. I did a couple of short online painting courses and them I came across a 12-week course called the Creative Visionary Program, run by Californian artist Nicholas Wilton. The course provides a fantastic foundation of core principles and techniques. I completed the program in 2018 and that for me was the turning point. It gave me the confidence and desire to continue learning and to make art a full-time occupation.
Which media do you prefer to work with? Acrylic
Do you work in multiple media? If so, which and why? Mostly acrylic but I also like to add elements of oil, pastel, charcoal and occasionally collage. I like to incorporate differences into my work to bring interest through a range of textures and visual effects.
What does your work aim to say? I want the viewer to connect with my work in a way which stirs the emotions; to make them want to stay a while and look closer at the textures, marks and details; to take them on a visual journey and feel a sense of the environment from which I draw my inspiration. It might be a wonderful hilltop view that takes your breath away or the weathered, aged surface of an old stone wall. I want my paintings to capture a sense of the energy of those places.
Who are your biggest influences? Turner for the timeless, sensitive, emotive landscapes that draw the viewer in. Alberto Burri and Antoni Tapies for the pure depth of emotion and meaning captured in their work and the sense of history. Sam Lock for his use of space and depth of sensitivity on the canvas he achieves. Deborah Tarr for the subtle, muted colour palettes and beautifully natural organic feel to her work.
How do you navigate the art world? This has been a huge learning curve. A couple of years ago I had no experience of how the art world works. I’ve taken it slowly, one step at a time. To get to know other artists initially my contacts began through social media. Gradually those connections have developed, and I now have a network of fellow artists around the world. Over the last 12 months I’ve worked on developing more of a local network by joining groups closer to home.
I made sure I visited plenty of art fairs before I took the plunge to exhibit at one myself. Looking at the stands, observing the interactions and listening to how artists navigated the dialogue with potential buyers etc., I learned so much and felt much more prepared for when I did my first show.
I’ve begun to research the types of gallery I would love my work to be in. Again, visiting art fairs has been a great way to identify which ones have the right feel. Online research through social media works well for this, too.
I’m part of a few groups of artists. We are all at different stages in our careers with different backgrounds and skills. We help each other out with queries and dilemmas. I think it is important to remember that no matter where you are in your career there is always someone ahead of you and always someone behind you. If everyone is prepared to offer words of wisdom behind them it makes the journey much easier to navigate.
How have you developed your career? It’s important to me to become the best painter I possibly can be. I love learning and pushing the boundaries of my ability, exploring different styles and techniques. I make sure I spend time in my studio almost every day. I also plan time to experiment and play or attend courses. Even when I’m prioritising the administrative side of the business, I still like to spend even just a small amount of time in the studio, just to help keep me connected to my creativity.
But the administrative side of things is important to get right too. I do a lot of planning. A big plan at the start of the year which then gets broken down into smaller goals and tasks, month by month and week by week. These include tasks such as website development, social media posting and engaging, networking, planning for shows and competitions etc.
The artist groups I’m part of offer stimulus for improving and a sense of accountability and structure which has kept me moving forward, both creatively and with the business side of things.
How do you seek out opportunities? Social media is wonderful for discovering opportunities along with details of things from other artists in the groups I am part of.
How do you cultivate a collector base? I am still very new to selling my work. It takes time to develop a collector base and I am working on getting my art seen regularly, both online and at shows and events. I spend time researching the right sort of events, competitions, and art fairs to show my work and on developing a schedule of events for the year ahead.
My social media pages and website give places for potential buyers to connect and see my work. I have a newsletter which goes out to subscribers on my mailing list.
How do you price your work? My prices are calculated using the average linear method.
Do you know where you are heading career wise? I do have a long-term goal, but I wouldn’t say it was fixed in stone. So long as I’m painting and my art is developing and improving, in many ways I’m happy to let fate take its course.
Do you have any tips for young artists just starting out? Focus on making your art the best it possible can be, make time to learn and understand the business side of things. Remember the life of an artist is as much about the journey as the destination, take time to enjoy the little wins along the way.
Where can people see your art? Do you have any exhibitions coming up?
My plans for the immediate future are set out below, though in these uncertain times they may be subject to change. I’m also very excited to be part of a new project, Ginger Cactus Art, so an easy way to see examples of my work and/or to contact me directly is via the GCA website: https://www.gingercactusart.com
https://broadwayartsfestival.com/ 29th May – 31st December
https://www.sitefestival.org.uk/ Open Studios 12-13th & 19th-20th September 2020
https://contemporaryartfairs.co.uk/windsor/ 13th – 15th November 2020
https://www.freshartfair.net/ 27 – 29 November 2020
How can readers find out more about you e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc?