Ashmae Hoiland is a prolific artist, teacher, and writer with a successful website and online shop. She Kickstarted two childrens books and is working on a new series called We Brave Women. She lives in Palo Alto, California with her husband and two kids.
Among your many projects I want to focus on your bird series. It’s funny because I actually started to draw and paint the birds after I graduated with both my BFA and MFA. I was in Portland for a summer and feeling pretty inadequate for the real world and oddly enough, really afraid of drawing. I had learned to paint, do installation work, think critically about art, but somehow, all the way through school, I had avoided much drawing because it terrified me. I just felt no good at it at all and didn’t want everyone to see me fail. I started painting the birds and fish because they felt totally non-intimidating and I knew that I could just have fun with them. They felt joyful and funny and full of good lines. I painted everyday for hours and I genuinely loved it. At that point, I didn’t have a website, or any sort of online presence, so I made the fish and birds with kids I knew in mind.
When you paint birds and animals what do you paint from? What governs your choice for colors? When I look for a subject, I often look for the ugly or outcast animal, in this case, bird. I love the ones that are a little bit awkward and maybe under-represented. I look for ones that seem to be saying something funny. As for colors, I just love color. I can’t say it boldly enough, I just really love love color. It delights me and probably out of the whole art making process, seems the thing that is most natural for me.
What size of paintings do you prefer to work with? I live in a small grad student apartment (my husband is working on his PhD), and I have two children, ages 2 and 4, so I work small. Like the size I can keep in a drawer, or that my kids can pull out and look at. Maybe at some point I’ll work much bigger, but I love to see my work in the hands of people, so I work to that end.
You completed a successful book project on Kickstarter. How was that experience? What would you do differently next time? I did publish my first two children’s books (The Lost Party, Animal Parade) through the funds I received on Kickstarter. It was a wonderful and invigorating process to see people rally around an idea and push to see it come to fruition. I shed a lot of tears of gratitude during that month because, as always, I lacked a lot of confidence and hardly expected to make it to my goal, let alone go $10,000 beyond that. There were definitely times of stress as I took on the entire process of writing, illustrating, designing, printing and marketing both books. Don’t do that. Hire out to people who do specific things well. I learned so much in the process and am glad that I do know how to format a book, design layouts, work with printers across seas, but next time, I’ll just stick to the writing and illustrating.