By Bethanie Hestermann
Color and movement in paintings by Ashley Knaeble express emotions, capture memories, and tell stories. In fact, words, poems, and phrases often inspire Ashley’s abstract pieces, which weave pastels and neutrals with brighter hues in the most playful way. In art and in life, Ashley encourages herself to try and try again—try a new experience, a new visual input, or even a new workflow to avoid creative ruts.
As an artist in a new season of life (oh hi, baby girl!), Ashley says she’s learning to cherish growth, even when it’s small. We dig this life lesson so much, because it not only applies to precious babes but also to new talents and blossoming creative businesses. Cherish that growth, friends, even when it’s small.
Check out our full Q&A with Ashley!
How would you describe your artwork to others?
My work is abstract and relies on movement and unformulated pattern to create shape. Often it explores a marriage of bright and muted colors, to weave the overall flowing composition. Textured paint is applied densely in parts of the canvas, while other parts are lightly touched. The color and movements express emotions, capture memories, and tell stories.
What made you decide to start painting?
I always loved and needed to create. Photography was my first outlet (and I still love it today). I found myself being pulled to the shapes and colors around me, often making this the subject of my photos. I started painting to create the colors, shapes, and movement I was so drawn to. I loved the way painting allowed me to get my hands immersed in the process.
What painting was the most challenging for you + why?
Love this question. Honestly, the most challenging piece for me has been a piece for my husband. So funny. He has graciously waited for a piece. I really think the pressure of wanting it to be “just, perfectly right” has made a piece for him challenging. It feels like one of the most important pieces when it is for your best human friend.
What is the best part about what you create?
I am passionate about creating work that tells stories and pieces that act as markers for life’s precious memories and seasons. My work reveals the storyline going on behind the scenes. Often, this story is something I am learning or exploring and an area of growth in my life. For my commission pieces, this storyline is impacted by the journey or values of my clients. I seek to reflect in the piece what is important to them and what the piece means to them as they see it in their home or space.
What is your creation process like?
My creation process usually starts with a color palette. Lately, I have been living in pastels and neutral tones and exposing the interplay with these tones overtop bright colors of burnt orange and reddish hues. Often there are words in different seasons that inspire and drive the feeling and meaning of the piece.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your pieces?
I am often inspired by words—phrases or poems. I often work on a piece holding a word or phrase for the piece in my head and heart.
How do you stay inspired + avoid creative ruts?
Input dictates the best output for me. I try to create space to take things in—the colors around me, fellow artists’ work (all kinds of work, not just painters). I read and try to slow down to observe my heart and surroundings. To avoid ruts, I tell myself to “try, try again.” Try a new experience, try to find new visual input, or try a new workflow process.
Have you ever considered throwing in the towel? What stopped you?
Yes, certainly. I have thought about stopping or questioned if this is really what I should be doing. It can be easy for me to make this about momentum. It is easy to allow a season of momentum to make me feel confident and a slower season to cause me to question. At the end of the day, I paint because I love to paint and create. I need to do it. It becomes not about the momentum but about releasing what’s inside of me and being faithful to the work of showing up. Of course, we want to follow momentum from a business standpoint, but momentum is not where I can find my meaning.
How do you feel after finishing a painting?
Finishing a painting feels like a beautiful release. It’s like I get to release this painting, in this season, to tell this story.
Has your motherhood journey inspired any new colors, techniques, etc.?
We just welcomed our first baby girl. Pregnancy and giving birth have expanded my heart in so many ways. One way in particular is that it has impressed deeply into my heart the truth of “not despising the day of small beginnings.” To cherish growth even when it is small. We celebrate little babies as they grow, during pregnancy and into life. My husband and I were so excited with each step (“She’s the size of strawberry!”). Parents and caretakers of growing babies aren’t upset with their size; they celebrate all the growth at each new step. This is the same for me with my work and business. I’m learning to take joy in each stage of growth, not despising what is small but truly celebrating the growth along the way.
Find Ashley at @ashleyknaeble on Instagram!