Women In Spotlight Series: Brianna Ashby
For those of us who are obsessed with and dissect films, you've probably heard of Bright Wall/Dark Room. I eventually wrote an essay for the magazine on the film What Maise Knew, but years before that I stumbled across this publication that is, as Brianna says, "a digital film magazine that offers a fresher, more personal, eclectic take on film criticism". I was not only pulled in by the essay's, so personal in nature by the authors, but the art work that supported it. When the recent essay on Moonlight was featured, it brought back the emotional impression left on me from the film. All good art is nostalgia, bringing to light what you know to be true. It is no small exaggeration when I say that I try and share her work with anyone who will listen, because I believe that beautiful art that captures feeling is never meant to be kept in solitude. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Brianna about her life, work and inspiration over coffee in Williamsburg.
Tell me about BW/DR- how did you become involved/create the publication and what is your role within it?
Years ago we started as a tumblr account, and I was brought into the fold as a writer by my friend Tess Lynch. The site continued to grow, to the point where we had several hundred thousand followers, and we thought well, we obviously have a good thing going here, what’s our next step? Our editor in chief Chad Perman started talking about starting a magazine, which would essentially be a highly polished, and more curated version of what we were currently doing, and he wanted someone to illustrate. Much to his surprise (since he had only known me as a writer), I volunteered, and I’ve been the art director and primary illustrator for the past 4 years.
What was the inspiration for pursuing a career in Illustration?
Honestly, because it’s what I was good at. I went into RISD thinking I was going to major in painting and end up in art restoration, and as I worked through my foundation year classes, I realized that’s not what I wanted at all, so I played to my strengths.
What is a typical day like for you?
Boring! haha Really though, I’m probably not as structured about my work life as I should be, so the content of my days varies pretty wildly, especially since I also do occasional food styling work, which is a completely different animal altogether. That said, on my most run-of-the-mill day, it’s wake up, make coffee, answer emails, take care of household chores, and then paint until my daughter comes home from school.
Describe your style in 3 words.
Not quite realism.
Where did you study?
I graduated from RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) with a BFA in Illustration in 2004.
What is the process like for you when you are creating a new piece?
The first step is always research, whether it be reading the article or essay that I’m illustrating, or general knowledge gathering about a person, or an animal, or a movie, or whatever. If I’m including flowers or plants or other objects, more often than not, they have a symbolic significance and help tell the subject’s story. The allusions can be subtle, but I like making people think a little bit about what they’re seeing, otherwise it’s really of no consequence. After that I gather tons of reference photos, then it’s sketch, draw, and paint.
Who has been a positive female influence in your life that contributes to your own personal and professional evolution?
I consider myself unbelievably fortunate to count a number of strong, successful, creative women as friends, and getting to see, and read, and taste the things that they put out into the world drives me to continue making my own work.