We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley Bravin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashley, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
It’s not so much as multiple habits as it has been one singular habit that has helped me succeed, and that has been showing up. So many successful artists and creatives have said it in so many ways; Picasso was quoted saying that “the important thing is to do, and nothing else; be what it may,” Hemmingway said, “Writing is like mass, God gets angry if you don’t show up.” Da Vinci said, “it had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them, they went out and happened to things.” Success rarely happens in a stationary position. It happens in motion. It meets you at work, in the thick of the things, when you are paying your dues, and under less than ideal circumstances. Every single creative hits blocks in their lives that stop them at their tracks, that make their brushes run dry, and their instruments go quiet. Be it times of creative difficulty, financial strain, medical or familial issues, or cultural tensions. When these challenges arise, it is more important than ever to show up. Our work may not be good. But doing the work, grinding through, doing chords, running drills, the monotony of bad work – that builds up to good work, and the discipline of showing up – that what defines a creative as a professional and not an amateur, and what opens a creative for success. Personally, I’ve been faced with tremendous medical hurdles, many of which have lured me into quitting all of my pursuits, creative and otherwise. No one would blame me (as many have told me). But showing up has had a two-fold effect. It’s given me a purpose outside of my identity as a person who is constantly fighting for a stable quality of life, but it has also built tremendous discipline in myself and my career that has opened so many opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have if I hadn’t continually pushed myself to go into the studio every morning.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a mixed media artist working in multiple facets. I’m influenced by my background in scientific illustration and natural history collection with extensive sketchbook journaling, as well as my interest in research and politics, which results in a wide body of socially conscious work. For example, during my undergraduate education at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, I had two research grants and a fellowship investigating blood sports and their relation to economic decline that resulted in life-size 6’x6′ paintings of Depression-era boxers that were hung in the Los Angeles Athletic Club. I also investigated the ecological impact of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) on the population of deer in Wisconsin during an outbreak with a series of large ink and watercolor layered drawings, and highlighted the animals of the the World Wildlife Fund’s critically endangered list. I also do larger scale pieces of my sketchbook drawings, which document the world as it actively unfolds around me. These pieces have become intensely personal as my medical situation has become more serious and complicated. Sharing these pieces with the world has become a gesture of vulnerability and activism/awareness (especially for my particular illnesses), and easily has become the hardest gesture of my artistic career.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Given that COVID wasn’t a problem, for a week long visit, some of the must-see places for me would be the Natural History Museum, the LA Arboretum, the California Science Center, Griffith Park (and the Griffith Observatory at night), Two Bit Circus, Grand Central Market, Olvera Street, Venice, and Universal Studios. For eating, I’d hit up Creamy Spoon, the Farmer’s Market at the Grove, In-n-Out (a SoCal classic), Gam Tu Bop, and Wood Ranch. For entertainment, I would go to the Comedy and Magic Club, the Studio Movie Grill, and Big Foot Lodge.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Without a doubt, artist Frank Minuto would absolutely be deserving of my shoutout. I met Frank in high school at an adult painting class at our local art center. I was way too young for the class, but they begrudgingly let me in. The minute I met him in his paint stained overalls, I knew that he knew the real stuff about art. Not just the color wheels and the typical facts about shading and Picasso. This guy was the real deal, and he really loved art. I signed up for every single class he taught for years. I asked him to help me with my portfolio for applying for art schools, he tutored me privately, he invited me to his studio, and we became fast friends. In exchange for unsweetened ice teas, he taught me everything I know. We spent hours listening to Thelonious Monk and pouring over art books. I learned to live and breathe art. I started drawing and I never stopped drawing. I tore through sketchbooks, I breathed charcoal dust. I became an artist before I ever set foot in art school thanks to that man. To this day, his hearty laugh rings in my head. Every time I set up a new studio, I always bring one of his drawings with me and pin it to my cork board – a reminder of everything he has taught me.
Dave Naz, Eric Swenson