Interview: Ashley Longshore
Ashley Longshore is a Louisiana-based painter, gallery owner and entrepreneur. She is the owner of the Longshore Studio Gallery, located on Magazine Street in New Orleans. Longshore's art focuses on pop culture, Hollywood glamour, and American consumerism and has been compared to the artwork of Andy Warhol. She has been recognized as a "modern Andrea Warhol" by the New York Post, and was on Brit + Co’s list of "16 Female Artists You Should Know."www.ashleylongshore.com
Briefly describe your artistic background. When did you know you wanted to become a painter?
Honestly, I was such a wild, dramatic, hyper-energetic child. My mother had me in every extracurricular activity you can imagine, except for painting because I don't think she thought I could be still enough to do it. So, funny enough, when I was 18 years old I went and got a paint set and a drum kit. I sat down and immersed myself in painting and drumming. I have to tell you, seven hours went by before I even knew it. It was very meditative.
I guess the answer is that I was born an artist and it just took me two decades of my life to realize that this was the craft I wanted to pursue. And now I love it, and it is my most favorite thing I do. My time on my easel is sacred.
What was your early work like? How is it similar and/or different than what you are doing now?
Right out of the gate, my work was very colorful, figurative. Of course, you are talking about a difference between an 18-year-old girl and a 40-year-old woman. Now I have a much better definition of who I am, of where I stand in society, the country that I live in. I am much better traveled. I have a much better hold on what I am saying with my artwork than I did in the beginning.
But if you go back to the start, my work was still very colorful and bold. My art is not what you get to match the throw pillows on your sofa. I have collectors who buy my art, and then they build a whole damn house around it!
When would you say you experienced a breakthrough in your art career? What was that like?
I knew from a very young age that I did not want to work with galleries and did not want to go the traditional route with my career. I had so many galleries tell me I was not marketable. At this time the internet was coming about, and all the sudden we had social media.
Very early in my career, I was using Mailchimp and Constant Contact. I would have art shows in people's houses, people who were friends of my family. I would start to build up my email list. I knew if I began to build my foundation this way that I could make a lot more noise. I think it's been the same amount of hard work and not giving up as it has been opportunities coming in my direction because I wanted them. I've gone out seeking them. I've been this hunter out in the art world trying to find my way in an industry that is quite fickle.
When I first got the opportunity for Anthropologie to use my artwork as a collaboration, that was very exciting for me, and I knew these opportunities would only validate the current clients I had. Meaning that if somebody had bought a painting from me that cost $150, how excited would they be to know I was chosen by the brand for this collaboration? I've worked every day in my career making sure that these people who are spending their hard-earned money feel really good about the investment they made and about living in their homes with my thoughts painted on their walls. It's a very intimate thing.
We are inspired by your positivity and incredible sense of humor. How do you handle bad days and motivate yourself?
We all have bad days. I have been moving very quickly lately and had a lot of opportunities, and an artist gets tired! When you have all of this inertia built up, you just have to find a way to motivate yourself. I find now, in this world of social media, that sometimes I post things and am talking to myself. I'm giving myself a fire-up. To see people's reaction, it gets me even more motivated to get my ass out there and make something happen!
The other thing is, I travel all over the world. There isn't another country in the world where a female artist has as much opportunity as I do in the United States of America. It would be very much of injustice to sit around crying, scratching a broke ass, being upset when there is so much to do and so little time to do it in. It ain't hard for me to get motivated. There is too much for me to be positive about, so I have to pick my ass up and work! Work changes everything. Action solves a lot of issues. You were featured in prominent publications such as Forbes, Elle Decor, and InStyle. In your opinion what initially got you noticed by these brands? How has this experience changed your perspective or approach?
I think that being true to myself and unique, using every opportunity I had and not going the traditional route got me noticed by these brands. Also, what you have to know is that I live in New Orleans, which is a great city where I feel very comfortable being creative. The past fifteen years, I have been marketing myself throughout the entire world. I knew I didn't want to live in New York City, but I knew I could get there, get noticed, hustle my way around and get people talking. I could do it by doing things my way.
Now I have a book coming out in February with Judith Regan, who is such a powerhouse, a New York staple. This woman made Howard Stern, and she sued Rupert Murdock and won.
This is a time when women in business are helping each other out, and it's not just the good old boys club anymore. All this stems from having an opportunity and being an entrepreneur. Knowing that if I can create a brand and make a name for myself, there is no reason why I should ever be the starving artist. I should be able to make enough money to create any idea I ever think of. Along with that, I am very gracious and very joyous and maybe being Southern makes me stand out when I get into bigger cities. I am not the jaded, bitchy American girl. I used to price shop for tortilla chips and now I am buying Chanel. It's an exciting time to be in business.
If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
People ask me this a lot. When I look back on my career, there is no way I could work harder than I have worked. There is no way I could have gone after more opportunities that I have gone after. Ever. Maybe, I would tell myself to be less worried. But I also feel that the fear of missing out on opportunities is very motivating and propelling. My best advice to myself would be to listen to my gut. The same way I look at a painting and know that it is finished because I know that gut feeling is the same way I know if a business deal is going to be ok. It's the same way I know if a client is a buyer or not. It's the same way I know between right and wrong, and it's this little voice inside of me, and you have to make sure you keep your ears open to that intuition. That feeling you have will make sure to lead you the right way not only in your art but also in your business. Do you believe our current world is a better place for artists than it once was? If so, explain.
Huh! Abso-fucking-lutely and I'll tell you why. This is going to be my greatest legacy, to hopefully encourage artists to self-represent and to use all of this amazing technology to keep 100% of their profit margin, to know who their clients are, to understand the intimate relationship between the buyer and artist. When someone pays money to live with your thoughts, that's a very intoxicating, exciting, intimate relationship.
I don't believe in having a gallerist that is going to rob me not only 50% of my money but also in most situations I would never know who my collector was. I want artists to use this incredible technology in this age of images. It is the best, most powerful time to be an artist. Also, social media makes the world a tiny place. Someone in Australia could be loving my work the same as someone who lives two blocks from my studio. It is remarkable. There is no other time in history when artists had these opportunities to get their images out there the way we do now. What are you most proud of in your art career so far?
That would have to be the countless e-mails and messages I'm getting from other artists who are inspired to put themselves out there and be brave enough to go for it, put their images on social media, and try to make it full time as an artist. It's a scary thing to be brave enough to do that. For anyone to tell me that I inspired them to do that, is such an honor. For all the artists that I mentor, the artists that I collect, for all the energy that's coming and going in the universe, I am most grateful for that more than anything in the world.
All images courtesy of Ashley Longshore