You've lived in Vermont, Paris, and now New York ... Where is your favorite place to doodle in each of those places? What about favorite place to eat? What about favorite place to sit AND eat AND doodle?
What a challenging question. Eating (/drinking) and doodling are my favorite things to do, especially when traveling, and they usually go hand in a fork in hand. I grew up in Vermont and don’t spend too much time there anymore, but when I’m back visiting my parents, I enjoy doodling outdoors. My hometown is located right on the Connecticut river, so I’ll usually walk over and pick a bench along the water to sit and sketch. The sound of the river helps me to clear my mind and allows me to draw from my imagination.
Paris is one of my biggest inspirations and one of my favorite places to draw. I love how any brasserie or cafe will let you sit for hours over a single drink without rushing you out. When I’m there, I’ll order a glass of wine with some peanuts or olives and sketch cafe dwellers all day. There are always a wealth of local characters that arouse my imagined narrations.
In New York, relaxed eateries with enough room to draw are harder to come by but I often enjoy sitting at bars alone with my sketchbook and seeing what comes of it. I find I often get into interesting conversations by doing something so personal in public. Someone will usually ask me what I’m drawing, or the bartender will look curiously over and I’ll end up asking him about one of the eye catching labels behind the bar. I’ve often ended up spending hours over drinks and doodles at a bar when my intention was to stop in for a quick drink. I have a few bartender portraits on napkins hanging around the city as proof.
In terms of food, I have a really long list of favorite restaurants. I just finished a project illustrating a wine list for a new restaurant opening in Palais de Tokyo so I’m quite anxious to check that out on my next trip to Paris. Some of my favorites there are Mary Celeste, Square Gardette, and Derriere. Vermont is pretty minimal when it comes to dining options, but there is one farm to table restaurant/chocolate shop nearby called Burdick’s, with consistently incredible dishes. They also have crayons and paper covering the table which always gets extra points from me. Since I’m currently living in New York, my list of favorites is always expanding but some standbys are La Contenta, Mimi, Fedora, and Hakata Tonton. I could go on but I’ll stop myself there...
You seem to be an ambitious young woman. How old are you and what advice would you give aspiring designers, doodlers, and delinquents?
I turned 25 in June. The best advice I can give to other young artists is to keep experimenting and creating without worrying too much about where your work will end up. Follow your instincts and let your process take over without questioning the outcome. Living a life of creativity often doesn’t make sense or have a concrete goal or outline, but every new experience is a step forward even when it may not seem that way. Also be nice, it makes a big difference.
Did you like school? What drew you to menswear design at Parsons?
I moved to Paris to study straight after high school which was the best decision I’ve ever made. The course there was very experimental and taught me ways to connect artistic practices which was extremely significant in shaping my aesthetic. I sort of happened into menswear by chance as all the other fashion classes were full when I moved back to New York to finish my degree. I’ve always been drawn to more tailored designs though, and ended up falling in love with the extreme attention to detail that menswear required. In constructing a classic suit for example, not much is varied in silhouette or fabric, but each pocket, lining and button tells a story that makes the wearer connect to the garment beyond any trend.
What would your dream job be? I mean, is there an assignment that you secretly desire would drop out of the sky?
My ultimate dream job would be a commission to travel around the world, doodling my way through restaurants, hotels and local spots to create illustrated travel features and guides. I do this now on a local level but having everything sponsored would be amazing. Another idea I’ve recently been obsessing over is to collaborate with a vineyard for a series of custom wine labels. As I mentioned, food and drink is a great passion for me so any chance I have to work in this realm is extremely exciting.
Have you had any special commissions to draw portraits?
I’ve had quite a few people reach out to me asking for custom portraits. One of my first commissions was from a modeling agency, asking me to illustrate each of their models for their seasonal show package. The strangest request I’ve gotten was from a woman asking me to illustrate an image of her while she was pregnant instead of a traditional pregnancy photo. After I sent her the drawing, she also had me draw her with her husband and baby after the birth. I felt quite honored to have my work Be part of such a personal milestone in their lives.
I like the captions on all of your IG posts..is it a chicken and egg thing? Or do you always do the drawing first and then make something up to accompany it?
The drawing typically comes first and then I decide who the character I’ve drawn is. I work in a very stream of conscious manner though, and sometimes a name or word will pop into my head for no reason and I’ll be inspired to draw something around that. With the comparison doodles, I’m always trying to come up with new ones to illustrate. It’s kind of an OCD tendency I have to analyze and compare words. I have a lot of fun with those but they only pop into my head every so often
What is it like to be a young artist in the USA after having spent a couple of really impactful, I’m assuming, years in Paris?
I’m really thankful that I had the opportunity to spend some of my most formative years creatively outside of the US. Europe is such an inspiring place. The way you can travel from country to country in a matter of hours is amazing and so different than here. The Parisian concept of combining work with leisure is also really important to me and something I’ve kept since moving back. I’ve never been a 9-5 kind of person and often find my best ideas come from being out and doing things unrelated to sitting at a desk. I think it’s the follow through on my initial ideas where my American drive for success comes in.
What are your plans for the future as a creative?
I have no long term life plan to speak of, but I suppose my ongoing intention is to take my own advice and just keep creating, taking every opportunity along the way. I have a few exciting new projects in the works involving textile design, interiors, and app design, which are not traditionally connected to illustration. I’d like to keep pushing the boundaries of connecting traditional 2D work to other fields and see where I can take that. I’d love to learn more about animation as well to further the storytelling aspect of my work.
If you could only use 3 of the following items for 24 hours of art making, which of the following would you choose: highlighter, ball point pen, pencil, water, paper, canvas, fabric, sewing machine, fountain pen, charcoal, paint brush, sponge, potato, scissors, glitter, watercolours, oil pastels, clay, glue.
Definitely a ballpoint pen. .005. I’d be fine with just that and paper but a red Sharpie would also be nice. That or watercolors depending on the number of paper types I’m allowed in this scenario.
Images courtesy of Cerise Zelenetz
interview ASHLEY MUNNS
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