Brett Ashby wears many hats — artist, illustrator, animator, TV producer, filmmaker, web designer — so it would be fair to assume that the dude’s multitude of artistic outlets makes him one of those rare talents we know as The Everyman: the guy who can—and does—it all. Ashby’s undying thirst for creativity is both inspiring and enviable. We caught up with the artist on the eve of his appearance at next week’s ART MELBOURNE 2012.
First up, your aesthetic is quite unique. Can you tell us how you’ve developed your style?
The development has taken years, the style is a photographic documentation of my travel and/or experiences to date. I love the interaction and the exciting connection people create around the world, this then transcribes into the visual art I create. I have a very large photo database documenting every possible angle and content in which I hope to cover in my final art. These are all placed carefully within the artwork, illustrating my experiences during my visit or stay.
You seem to constantly explore different forms, mediums and techniques, whether it’s web, digital, painting or film. Why is this important to you as an artist?
Trained as an animator, previously employed as a professional television producer, it isn’t that I jump mediums [but rather], I prefer to surround myself 110% with creative endeavours in varying styles and mediums.
My new creations through different media are a collection of my creative development to date or the digital journey to date: graphic design, animation, lighting effects, stage performance, live music, TV production, advertising, news and travel. During my travels, I’m constantly exposed to the peak movements in fashion, food, advertising and cultural diversity, meaning that I’m always in line with the new or the latest, making me constantly generate thoughts, plans and solutions.
Was there a turning point in your life that made you want to become an artist? What drew you to the creative path?
I haven’t really experienced a major turning point, rather, I have always felt that if I didn’t go hard and risk it all on what I see daily, then I’d never know my full creative expression.
I feel trapped when I am within one specific professional specialist title, which guided me towards the opening of my own multimedia business. I am confident in my diverse skill set and it would be the people who experience my art, animation or expression that have enhanced my development.
I’ve had some amazing comments from well-reputed people, who come straight out and tell me how much they appreciate my art and that it is a style and technique that will only really be admired much further down the track due to its unique nature. A comment like that is really humbling and exciting, it encourages me to push on and utilise my digital tools and document the present, past and future.
Your work spans across design, photography, and art. Is there a practice you enjoy more over the other? Do you consider yourself more an artist, designer, or photographer?
I build my foundation in art, but I am a creator, builder, inventor, call me whatever you wish. I haven’t got any personal favorite over any one facet of my life or creative ventures. Each and every proposal, commission or public idea I receive on my desk I build, invent, and generate artistic answers. A good creative form is based on the idea, it’s the idea that I enjoy more than the execution or process.
‘Artist’ is your most recent title. What prompted you to branch out into this area?
I feel I’ve always been an artist. I showcased drawings, paintings and sketches, from an early age to the present. I gained much encouragement and a self-satisfaction to hang, broadcast or show my personal creations from varying audiences. I’ve always trusted my decisions to allow more and more people to experience my artistic endeavours. Friends, family and others have felt comfortable in describing me as an artist.
What has been your favorite project thus far? Can you tell us about any project you’ve been dying to do, but haven’t gotten around to yet?
My favorite projects are always the ones I’m involved with currently. I don’t really have any one favorite project; each work is treated individually and required as part of my development or expression. I don’t discuss my up-coming works but I can only say, think exhibitions on cruise ships, large scale works in Asia and my own bus to come, in time.
You have worked abroad extensively, how has this influenced your work?
I have spent many years researching my art abroad and have been involved in some very exciting artistic endeavours. From walking the streets around many parts of the world, my personal experiences and photographs become my paint palette in which I select colors, building tone, detailing and outlining the construction of my work. The key word ‘abroad’, as an Australian, is what has affected my personal development and introduced my mind to various elements of normality, experienced as soon as you set foot in a new country.
You are an exhibitor at Art Melbourne. What’s your involvement? Why are events like this important to you as an artist, and to the public?
Brett Ashby, Ashby Arts and Ashby’s Place is constantly being seen as an international pop up gallery showcasing like-minded artists, recently across England, Europe and America. As an Australian artist, Melbourne is my home and across the world, people link my work back to Melbourne and say it has a distinct Melbourne or Australian edge.
Art Melbourne has been a great tool for my art development in Australia and the Royal Exhibition showcase is always my favorite place to setup. I’m proud to live in Melbourne and being home with family and friends makes for a great exhibition. Business-wise, Art Melbourne is a fantastic outlet since my stock room is in Melbourne. So when it comes to exhibiting, I can select the most suitable current works for public viewing and provide direct prices, no commission, no freight charges.
Any hints on what we can expect from you at Art Melbourne?
Original works showcased within Ashby’s Place, limited edition works by Minoli James and Co. and a few show secrets, I’ll be making the flight back from London, so come by for a chat.
You’re also pretty well travelled – how have these experiences shaped you as an artist? What do you take away from each country you visit?
I’m always surprised by what I take away from each trip. I never know what I’m going to get, I like to walk into a country/ town without any expectations or plans and see where it takes me. This in turn shapes my whole art process. The way art integrates my life is a process, a development that can only be enhanced by direct experience. I set out to travel to gain these experiences; I’m a firm believer that you can’t comment on what you don’t know.
Right now you’re Melbourne-based. What are your thoughts on the creative community in Melbourne? Is it easier to live and work here as opposed to somewhere like London? How does Melbourne differ to other cities?
Melbourne is a super exciting place to grow, work and live I always have travelled on one-year visas to ensure I always come back home, I do not see myself living abroad longer than one year. Melbourne is growing and very exciting compared to various cities around the world. Large cities like London have their own vibe, genre and tradition, but Melbourne is more modern and free of many historical boundaries. Melbourne is home, a base to all of my art.
What is a typical day in your studio like?
Forever changing. My recent studios in and around Europe or England have included back of panel vans, Old English pubs, Starbucks sites to gain internet and I recently completed a live art installation in East London. The building had 7m x 9m glass windows running along the front building façade. This studio space provided a platform where over 100 commuters watched the artwork evolve over many late nights painting in London. I have many studios and the word ‘studio’ to me simply means enough space to create what is required at that point in time. So a typical day is really very much dependant on the studio itself!
You’ve had a very busy schedule recently. What’s next on your agenda? Any big projects lined up?
The most recent and first event after Art Melbourne is the grand opening for the Ashby Arts event in line with the London Olympics on the 8th of June.
This event runs until the close of the 2012 Games in London. Moving ahead from August 2012, my studio will be based in Liechtenstein, where I’ll be exploring, showing and touring more extensively across Europe. Returning to Melbourne full time in December 2012 with many more photos and data for future artworks.
Brett Ashby online: