An Interview with California Artist Ashley Jessup

An Interview with California Artist Ashley Jessup

CBN04 by Ashley Jessup

CBN04 by Ashley Jessup

We met Ashley Jessup a few months ago at the ValleyCrest Art Show, where she was one of the featured guest artists, and loved her work. Read our Q&A with her below, check out her work, and then keep reading for a bit of her background and to find out where you can view more of her work.


TreeHouse: Your work incorporates great use of rich colors and a lot of fine details, but what really seems to make it stand out is the shadowing built into it. Much of it gives off a dark vibe, regardless of the subject matter. Is that contrast something you strive towards when setting out or is it more an aspect that tends to emerge during the creation process?

Ashley Jessup: I think it’s both, really. Because I feel like the subject matter I work with is often so simple, I take extra care with black paint and titles to help establish the tone. But I also think that contrast derives from how I’ve approached drawing: since with graphite everything is monochromatic, I’ll try to put more distinction between the light and dark values and I’ll push the dark values further to really dramatize the image. So I suppose when I began painting, that characteristic from drawing transferred. Now I usually start a painting with focus on the shadows, and then I’ll work in the detail and color.

TH: Speaking of the creation itself, tell us about yours. Do you have rituals you follow or is every piece different? Why do you choose the mediums you use?

AJ: When it comes to paintings, I usually follow the same process for each work. I prefer to stretch my own canvases, a practice that was instilled in me by my college painting professor/mentor, Ben Bridgers. I think I’ve stuck with canvas for the most part because wood panels are a lot heavier, slicker, and temperamental.

Once I have the canvas ready and my idea finalized, I’ll make a few small final sketches and gather reference materials if necessary. Then I’ll start with a monochromatic underpainting and build up from there. I think I’ve stuck with oil paint because it’s really flexible and easy to layer. It’s such a limitless material. Plus the consistency is great.

I think the only other ritual might be the presence of music—I love music and have to have something playing while I paint that fits my mood.

TH: Most of your work that we’ve seen focuses on inanimate objects. How do you pick your subjects?

AJ: For the most part, it feels like my subjects pick me. I’ll usually have an image, idea, or phrase come into my mind and I’ll quickly sketch it out or write it down. Then if it’s something that I can’t stop thinking about, I’ll give it a space in my head and contemplate the image or idea for a little while more until I think I understand it. My subconscious mind can be very persistent in this way—sometimes relentless.

As for the focus on inanimate objects—there’s probably a few reasons for that. I really found painting to be a way to deal with problems, anxieties, or questions I was working through, so I think I’ve mostly focused on inanimate objects or more suspended still life imagery in the past because it’s easier for me to use objects as symbols to convey an emotion or idea without actually being literal. Personal metaphors, you know? Which has led to certain objects showing up again and again; reinterpreted symbols in a new context. Therefore I don’t have much practice in painting people, which has probably perpetuated their absence.

TH: Tell us about your start in art and where you see yourself as an artist and your work heading.

AJ: I’ve always been interested in creating things. When I was little I took art, sewing, and woodshop classes. My mom bought me calligraphy, origami, hand-lettering, and miniature item books; cross-stitching, painting, and flower-press kits. If there was a craft at school or in clubs, I was the last one working on it. I really cared about them. I was (and still am) really shy, so this was a way for me to express myself. I took drawing classes in high school, and when I got to college I decided I wanted to major in drawing—but painting was also a requirement. I was really nervous about trying a new and unfamiliar medium, but I quickly fell in love with oil painting. I still do graphite and ink drawings, too.

And as for now, I feel like I’m in a transition phase—in life and in my work. I think I put a lot of interests like painting and stuff in my life on hold for a few years when I was dealing with some difficult situations, and I’ve finally decided to stop feeling sorry for myself. I’m getting back to creating things. It’s a big step for me and I’m excited. I want to make larger and more intricate pieces—both paintings and drawings. I might take back everything I said and incorporate figures or portraits, too.

TH: How do you envision a finished product? With design and colors? Or does the work change and evolve during the process of creating it?

AJ: I usually begin a drawing or painting with the finished product in mind. Like I mentioned before, I have to really understand what the final image will look like and mean to me before starting. This involves everything from composition to color. If I don’t have a well-thought out idea, I’ve noticed I’m much more likely to abandon the project. It’s funny though—as I create something I always find that it contains many more layers of meaning for me than I originally thought. So, although the content may remain the same, I really go through a second process of understanding and unveiling.

TH: Some of your works almost remind us of tattoos. Is that intentional or a coincidence? Have you considered turning your work into body art?

AJ: I have actually had a number of people say that to me before—that they could see some of my work being reinterpreted into a tattoo. I don’t have any tattoos personally. I did have one friend ask me to draw a tattoo for them before, but we never got around to it. I’m not opposed to the idea, though.

TH: Any advice to budding artists that you would like to share?

AJ: I’m a very budding young artist myself! So I guess the advice I have to offer is the advice I give myself: stop over-thinking and just work. I know not everyone has an issue with this, but I don’t think I’m alone in it. I tend to dwell on a lot of things, especially the concept or role of “art” in general, but if you’re going to be productive you have to just keep moving forward and creating work you’re passionate about. As people, I think we get in our own way too much. Don’t let your love of creating get overshadowed by your fear of failing. Maybe you won’t be proud of everything you make, but don’t stop.


Ashley Jessup

Ashley Jessup


Ashley Jessup grew up in northern Orange County, CA. She graduated from the University of Redlands with a degree in both Studio Art: Painting and Drawing and Managerial Studies, and a Spanish minor (although her Spanish is completely out of practice). She currently resides in Costa Mesa where she paints and works for Trellis Works (

Some of her portfolio can be found online at, and you can follow her various escapades on Instagram @ayenjay. She also has a painting in the Irvine All Media 2015 juried show that runs August 22-October 24, 2015.


Where the Wild Things Are: The Creatures of Costa Rica

Where the Wild Things Are: The Creatures of Costa Rica

Looking for a great destination? Read on! 

Travel Tips By Natasha Ganes


If you’re a fan of watching wildlife play around in all of their cage-free, natural glory, you will fall in love with Costa Rica. After my visit, I’m convinced the country contains at least one of every bird and lizard on the planet. Had I known I would see so many creatures I would have invested in a better camera and taken it with me on every adventure. I’m still bugged I missed getting a shot of the red poisonous tree frog who tagged along with us on our zip lining tour. Or a decent image of the colorful crane that walked right up to me, bobbed his head into my face, and then sidestepped his way through my open hotel room door. Ah well – it’s just another good excuse to go back again. In the meantime, here are a few shots of some of the wildlife I encountered on my trip. Pura Vida!



According to the local tico who pointed it out to us, spotting a wild Scarlet Macaw is a rare event, in part because we were nowhere near where they normally hang out and also as they’re now an endangered species. I’ll tell you this much: seeing one of these beauties in flight is a spectacular, rainbow-colored event that I will be forever grateful I was lucky enough to witness.


croc4 - Copy

Turns out a resting crocodile looks fake—still as a garden statue made of rock that’s been placed on the ground between the flowering petunias and rose bushes. Until your boat driver decides to tease the tourists and make the sleeping prehistoric beast move by ramming the riverboat into shore a few times. Then you change your observation real quick because nothing looks more alive than a ticked off croc diving into the water and chasing down your boat.


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The iguanas seemed to be constantly asking the question, “Where’s Waldo?” And the answer was “everywhere.” Seriously, there were hiding everywhere: in the middle of the road, hanging from tree limbs, napping along the coastline, creeping around your hotel room, chilling on the sidewalk, everywhere. Some of them were almost larger than me. It’s a good thing I really like lizards.


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Ever heard two hogs mating? Me neither, but if you crossed that imagined creepy noise with whatever sound the monster who lives under your bed makes right before he eats your face in the middle of the night, you would come pretty close to the terrifying, echoing commotion of howler monkeys.


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Related to the raccoon, coatis are friendly, curious, and look like if you spoke their language they would have something intelligent to tell you. Or maybe they would just say, “give me your mango, macha.” Either way, one thing I know for sure is that they travel in packs and cause traffic jams. Ah, to live in a place where the morning commute is stalled not by other drivers, but wild animals standing in the middle of the road looking for food handouts and posing for pictures.


It turns out sleeping long-nosed bats will let you climb right up to them and snap a bunch of pictures. Probably because they’re really vampires and if they left the shade of the tree the sunlight would kill them. In any case, unlike crocodiles, these furry little guys don’t wake up regardless of how much noise you make, which is probably a good thing considering there were a few dozen of them per tree. I love bats, I just don’t want them in my hair.



If you’re with a tour company owner who tells you he’s going to sneak bananas onto your boat and bribe the driver to let you try and feed wild monkeys with them, just go with it and say “okay.” Believe me on this one: there is almost nothing more amazing than having a wild animal trust you enough to climb in your lap, dance on your shoulder, scamper down your back, and eat out of your palm. Don’t blame me if you end up with head lice or fleas though.


Sharing secrets with my new buddy.

Sharing secrets with my new buddy.

Free back massage with every banana.

Free back massage with every banana.

A Call to Arms by Peter Nez

Author Peter NezRead: A Call to Arms by Peter Nez

Peter Nez is a writer living in the Southwestern United States. His words are his prayers. His hopes are few. His angels are his two children and his savior his wife. He has published many works of poetry in such distinguished journals as ‘The Hudson Review’ and ‘The Southern Journal’ as well as short works such as ‘The Smiling Man’ and ‘The Indelible Stamina of Mason Muslevitch.’
He writes for sanity, is often misunderstood, and is rarely brilliant. If there is a simple line out there amongst the towering madness littered across the collective psyche he aims to find it. And more importantly, he aims to share his findings.

Visit Peter Nez’s Amazon Page: http://www


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