Dan’s Papers Cover Artist Aubrey Ashburn on Composing Music & Art

Aubrey Ashburn's art on the cover of the March 5, 2021 Dan's Papers issue.
Aubrey Ashburn’s art on the cover of the March 5, 2021 Dan’s Papers issue.

First-time cover artist Aubrey Ashburn talks about her inspiration, her work as a video game singer-songwriter and more.

What was the inspiration for this piece?
This original piece came about when I was asked by Adelman Fine Art in San Diego to paint live during the Mission Federal Art Walk in 2019, which is an enormous art fair on the streets of Little Italy. I wanted to highlight critically endangered lions and present an intense composition that would be intriguing for people to witness. I really enjoy painting live and conspiring with the energies of the public, and each time I do, my work inspires a freedom and liveliness in the brushwork and a stream of consciousness in color palette selections as you see in this reverent lion figure. Once finished, I felt that his eyes made me feel stripped of any superficiality and gazed right into my being, hence the title “Soul Seeker.”

Talk about your art style.
I call myself an “Artivist,” combining art with activism, a conservation-focused mission. My contemporary style walks the bridge between realism and expressionism and is centered around powerful and emotional color combinations that work to manifest a high impact response to the endangered and regional wildlife I paint. By employing secondary and tertiary colors and visible brushwork, it makes for a hyperreal effect.

Tell us about your artistic process.
In choosing a subject matter and concept, I run my fingers through countless scenarios until I find a combination that really excites me. Then I know, it is worth painting. Sometimes I do a small study sketch, then grid the canvas if it’s a more complicated piece, and other times, I just hand sketch directly onto canvas. Next is making up the palette and carefully premixing the hues. Then I like to put a wash down to get rid of any white that might show through on the finished product. After that, the gloves are off, using darker colors and broad strokes at first, I paint wet on wet, overlaying unblended contrasting brushwork to create depth within a softened mosaic-like design. People often ask how I translate color from black and white images. I simply use tonality as a map for choosing color values.

Aubrey Ashburn
Aubrey Ashburn

If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing?
Being an artist really derives from the fulcrum of creativity, which I think most people have the capacity for. To envision something that doesn’t yet exist and step into the flow of unfolding. With that said, I would probably be an architect or an interior designer or design and build furniture. I have so many interests and areas that inspire me, it’s a bit of a mad disease. In my former career, I was an award winning singer/songwriter on many video game scores and collaborated with composers to create songs and soundscapes within story-driven games, such as Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II, Lord of The Rings: Battle for Middle Earth and Devil May Cry 4 to name a handful.

What inspires you the most?
Enjoying and protecting animals and the wild beauty of the natural world. I also get inspired when I see people persevere and rise to their potential, it literally brings me to tears, you know, those goosebumps moments. It energizes me for sure.

Where else can your work be seen?
I feel lucky, in the five years I’ve worked as a full-time contemporary wildlife artist, my work has shown in galleries and art fairs in Jackson Hole, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, and the Santa Ynez Valley. Currently, I am represented by Hannaford Studios (jenniferhannaford.com) in Port Jefferson, which is owned by acclaimed underwater figurative and finger painting artist Jennifer Hannaford, who is also a former forensic scientist. Not only am I incredibly honored to hang alongside such a wildly talented artist but she and I met in San Diego at the art walk where “Soul Seeker” was created, we were represented by the same gallery at the time. I love when things unfold organically. We have since become artistic cohorts and dear friends.


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