Every other day Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles took over the living room TV courtesy of my younger brother. Today, my husband’s love of the shelled crime fighters has made them a staple in our home’s decor. The men in my life are more than a little obsessed which is why when I saw one of the famous four done by Ashly Lovett for Gallery 1988’s ’90s Show, my heart did crack a smile.
First inspired by the likes of Mary GrandPré when she was only 12, Ashly Lovett loved her illustrations for the US version of the Harry Potter books just as much as she did J. K. Rowling’s words that surrounded them. Ashly noted, “I was absolutely in love with each cover and always looked forward to the spot illustration accompanying the chapters. That’s when I fell in love with illustration and how it fuels the mind with the written word.”
Today Ashly is working on the illustrations for another classic tale, finishing up work on a solo show at Gallery 1988, and so much more. Like, seriously, she’s busy as can be and we’re so grateful she took the time to sit down and chat with us about her beautiful work.
Kendra: A fan of horror and fantasy, you’ve noted how much you love Stephen King. Was he the first creative person you looked to in terms of inspiring you to make your own artistic mark on the world?
Ashly Lovett: Do love Stephen King, but that started while I was in college. I think what draws me most to his writing and the horror, suspense genre, in general, is the characters. I enjoy getting into their heads as they unravel their situation. With King’s work, the characters will often shrug off the supernatural as a trick of the light or just their imagination. It isn’t until they’re in the mouth of the beast that they realize the nightmare is actually real. Ironically, I don’t like horror movies as much. Especially if there is too much gore. You just can’t get into the characters’ head like you can with a good novel.
Kendra: You wouldn’t have headed off to art school if you hadn’t been into it, but at the same time you didn’t get into your medium of choice, chalk pastels, until college. What’d you start out with and did it instantly click when you started working with what you use now?
Ashly Lovett: I get this question a lot since chalk pastels aren’t a popular media. In college, I tried all media on all surfaces. And I’d suggest that to any student. I eventually realized my brain worked best with dry media on paper. Something did just click. I was able to translate my intentions easiest with chalk pastel on paper. You’ll never know until you try everything.
Kendra: I just saw you were a part of Gallery 1988’s ’90s show and come August you’re going to have a solo one. Congrats! How long have you been working on “The Female Gaze” and how did you go about picking and choosing which iconic characters to feature? I see you have characters like Gamora so far…
Ashly Lovett: I decided on the theme for the show based on the work I had already been doing. I had been working with Gallery 1988 for over a year doing group shows and I had an affinity for women portraits. It came together organically. I knew I wanted to do strong female portraits of characters from sci-fi and fantasy tv and film. Who wouldn’t want to draw a badass Hela from Thor or heartbroken Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy?
I made a list of all the female actors I loved and narrowed that list down by their roles in the film. Not just what they physically did in their respective roles, but what their characters represented. Whether that was a ruler, a villain, a soldier, a victim, a survivor, or a scientist. Each has a different story to tell, and I want to showcase their strength and vulnerability.
Kendra: You are also hard at work on your own illustrated adaptation of the OG Little Mermaid from Hans Christian Andersen. Many don’t even think about that one and only refer to Disney’s. What about Anderson’s made you want to adapt that in your style?
Ashly Lovett: I chose the story of The Little Mermaid because it was the perfect match for my fondness of dark fantasy, romance, and drawing flowing organic shapes. Andersen’s work is melancholy, which fits my aesthetic perfectly.
Kendra: Will you dive into other classic fairy tales in the future?
Ashly Lovett: I’m not sure. I’ve had several suggestions from people who have loved my rendition of The Little Mermaid. It may be something I’ll purse eventually if the story has the right tone. But, I think I want to do an Art of Ashly Lovett book next. I want to break it into different chapters where I explore new techniques, compositions, and media. Another passion project to challenge myself. We will see, though. I still need to finish the two personal projects I’m currently working, “The Female Gaze” solo show and The Little Mermaid book.
Kendra: Looking through your work I was like, why haven’t I seen this girl at conventions. You’re based out in Louisiana and I’m in California. I get it, but do you have any plans to ever head west for cons?
Ashly Lovett: Thus far, I’ve done about three conventions a year. I did Spectrum in Kansas City, KS, and Illuxcon in Reading, PA. Both of which are illustrator and gallery artist conventions. But, I did do Dragon Con in Atlanta last year and even won “Best Black and White” Award. I’ll be attending again this year Aug 29-Sept 2.
2020 will be the big convention year. It’s something I’ve been building up to. I have the experience of running a booth under my belt and a much bigger portfolio now. I feel I’m ready to take on Gen Con, Rose City Comic Con, Monsterpalooza, etc. I’ve applied, so we’ll see what happens. Fingers crossed!
Kendra: I love anyone who is a TV fan, which you are. Westworld, Stranger Things, and The Walking Dead. YES. Really quick, what’s a typical Ashly Lovett TWD Premiere Party like?
Ashly Lovett: I’ll try to paint you a scene from one of my favorite TWD parties. It’s night and you walk up to a door with layers of cardboard taped with a warning of “Undead Inside.” You’re welcomed into a dim apartment lit by candlelight, and each guest is handed a precious mini flashlight. On the floor are more torn pieces of cardboard, black garbage bags (with my washed plastic recycling in it), stacked canned good as the “food stash,” and a mattress with mixed-matched sheets and pillows (compliments of our spare bedroom). The windows are covered as well with scraps of cloth. On the far wall, lit with multiple candles, is a table with finger foods on aluminum foil. And finally, the names of the ones we’ve lost are written on the walls (good ol’ vine charcoal.) It was a fun night in our makeshift safe house. It set the mood. Finger foods included a pecan pie with a zombie hand coming out of it, brain cupcakes with strawberry filling, and lady finger sugar cookies.
Kendra: You have some other shows coming up at Gallery 1988 after your solo one. Can you tell us about those and anything else you have in the works we can be on the lookout for?
Ashly Lovett: I have two group shows later in the year with Gallery1988. One is for Weird Al and the other is called “Cult Classic.” I always look forward to the “Cult Classic” show since it’s very open. I’m considering doing a Battle Angel: Alita piece. I’ve loved the mangas since high school.
Once September hits, I think that’s when I’ll start working on the Art of Ashly Lovett book idea. I know I’ll be exploring that with my patrons on Patreon for sure. All while getting the Kickstarter rewards finished for The Little Mermaid book. It’s been a busy year.