Lisel Jane Ashlock grew up in Northern California, but her move to New York City made her even more determined to explore the natural world in her illustration work. She meticulously renders foliage, animals, and landscapes, so that she can then carve the small studies into building blocks for a larger subject. Every single natural element strains to tell the story behind the painting, and her portraits feel all the more human for it.
Lisel is one of our featured illustrators for Paper Darts Volume 4. An excerpt from her interview from the magazine can be found below. Make sure to visit her gorgeous new website for context for the illustrations and to drown yourself in more of her insanely beautiful work. Also, do not miss her delightful answers to our contributor questions.
Paper Darts: Why is paint your chosen medium for illustration?
Lisel Jane Ashlock: I paint with acrylic on birch panel, and I have been for many years now. Honestly it took me a really long time to find my stride; I was always a late-bloomer! Not sure how I landed on this form, but I rarely stray. Every time I try another surface, I always go back to unfinished wood. I love how the wood grain absorbs the acrylic pain, and the combination of acrylic, which can be thinned out considerably with water, on a nice porous surface like wood gives me so much room to play. Since acrylic dries so fast, there is so much opportunity for layering the paint and color. I used to use a ton of glazing mediums, but I’m really just down to paint, water, and wood at this point.
PD: Describe the state of your studio.
LJA: As of this morning it is CLEAN! New desk and a bag full of trash make the world of difference! I’m one of those clutter-y people cursed with loving and flourishing in a clean studio. I’m terrible at keeping it clean, but am SO happy when it is! BEFORE this morning though, it was covered in piles of scraps, dull x-acto blades, blobs of acrylic goop, stacks of cast off sketches from old jobs…you get the idea.
PD: What made you follow a career in illustration instead of the fine arts?
LJA: OH! I like this question. Being a “Fine Artist” was never appealing to me, because what I love about what I do is the problem solving aspect of each individual assignments. My personal work is often an “assignment” I’ve made up for myself. I love working within a structure that I have no control of changing.
I always loved to draw and paint, but I also did photography too. When I was finishing high school, knowing I was going to go to Art School (California College of the Arts (and CRAFTS!), I was trying to figure out a way to combine all of these things. I knew I didn’t want to just be a fine arts major, I was leaning towards photography because I liked the more commercial aspect of it, but I still wanted to explore painting and drawing. I knew someone already going to CCA so she offered to lend some advice. When I told her all of the things I wanted to do she said, “OH! Why don’t you major in illustration?” I had no idea what that meant. Turns out, it meant that I could draw, paint, collage my own photography, use my photography to set up great photo references, and play with design elements, all while creating and telling stories through imagery.
PD: How do you do conduct research for your illustrations?
LJA: This is tough to answer because each job is very different. I love going beyond what the art director has given me. If I’m making a portrait, I’ll find out who their parents are, what their signature article of clothing is, where they immigrated from—gathering as much as I can, so I really feel like I know the person making the image conceptually dimensional. I spend hours Googling things on my computer before I even start thinking about sketches…initial ideas start to form in this stage but it’s this very nice place where the pressure is off to know exactly what I’m going to do for the piece.
All Rights Reserved to Lisel Jane Ashlock.