We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley Shumaker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashley, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Throughout my artistic career, I have had several conversations about fear with people who want to live a creative life but don’t think they can. It is incredibly easy to come up with a ton of excuses as to why something won’t work out for you but it’s much harder to convince yourself that you can do it and it will work out. Learning to think positively about your skills and goals feels like a lifelong process and I still find it challenging. In fact, recently it’s felt harder than ever. When the pandemic closed down my place of work and I become a remote worker, I took the opportunity to finally face one of my biggest, scariest dreams. I wanted to learn how to tattoo. I’d been told by several people that it would come naturally to me because I have all of these foundational skills already, I just need to learn to use a new tool. I had many limiting thoughts swirling around in my head. I was a “serious artist” with an MFA; shouldn’t I be making studio art? The idea of putting my artwork permanently on another human just seemed like something that was far too risky to consider. What if they don’t like my work? What if I can’t create good designs or find my style? What if the person gets hurt or infected? I let these worries hold me back for a long time.
Quarantine gave me the time to learn without pressure. I was at home, I couldn’t actually tattoo on a human, and I could learn at my own pace. So, with the continued support and encouragement of my partner, I started reading books, watching online video tutorials, and reaching out to tattooists who might give me some advice. The community is historically male dominated and closed off to self taught artists, but I could see that things were changing and people, especially in the queer community, were pushing those boundaries and questioning the industry. I found a lot of support and encouragement from my community and after tattooing the entirety of my own upper thigh, I started working on friends. Tattooing still gives me a little anxiety before I start a piece and I have a long way to go but by facing the fear and taking it step by step, I started to see that I could be in this field and I was capable of learning a new medium. My advice to myself and others is, take the risk, start small, and try to stop your negative self talk whenever possible.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
For the past ten years or so, I have primarily focused my practice in drawing and printmaking. I have taught several classes and workshops and have an MFA in Printmaking. I have always steered clear of commercial and digital art until recently, when I decided it was time to expand my range. In the past year, I’ve focused on teaching myself digital illustration, first with the intention of using it for tattoo design, but then expanding to doing some design work for clients. I am still developing my identity as a tattoo artist and learning what styles suit me best. I am interested in working on nature based pieces and things that have a witchy vibe. This is a departure from previous studio work I’ve done that is primarily non representational and I’m really enjoying switching it up! It hasn’t been easy and I’ve had many months at a time where I just didn’t touch my iPad or anything related to tattooing. But each time I had a slump, someone or something in my life would spark some hope and I’d be back at it again. Something I am learning is that creativity begets creativity. Keep making, even if you don’t know what it is or what it’s for yet! It’ll pay off.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love having visitors and once it’s safe again, I hope to have many. I’m from the Pacific Northwest and I usually like to show my guests a combo of the weird and the wonderful in LA. I try to debunk the stereotypes right away. We aren’t going to Disney or the Walk of Fame. We are going hiking, to the beach, to each great food, vintage shopping, and to see a show. If it’s summertime, we would definitely be going to an outdoor concert, a movie at the cemetery, and drinks at a bar with a cool outdoor area. I love taking people to galleries as well. I miss going to museums so much! And how about supporting some of the female and queer tattooers in the city? We’d get some new ink for sure. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The brand new podcast Follow the Woo by Fen Alankus is an LA based podcast by a queer creator that I think everyone should check out. You can listen anywhere you get your podcasts and you can follow on IG a @followthewoo
Other: to book a tattoo or get design quotes: firstname.lastname@example.org
photos are all mine