Foreshadowing is real, and completely anecdotal studies show that our kid selves might actually know a lot more about who we’re going to be than we realize. In this case, artist Ashley Lukashevksy’s 5th grade self knew what was up. Back then, she was Photoshopping anti-Bush stickers and covering notebooks with her designs. Now, she’s illustrating pieces that shed light on issues around immigration, race, and the patriarchy and posting them on Instagram. And while the output has become quite a bit more elegant, the rawness and simplicity of the message remains. Make art. Take action. Be the CHANGE.
When I first saw Lukashevsky’s work, I instantly connected with her unique juxtaposition of soft, hand-drawn lines, and strong, political messaging. The humanity of her work, the urgency of it — it was immediately clear to me that the artist behind the marker/pen/stylus is passionate about every single illustration she creates, and has an active community who shares her point of view. So I did what any art creeper would do — I regrammed the illustration below, then DM’ed her on Instagram and, voila, a Q&A was born ;)
Anjelika Temple here, Founding Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Brit + Co. For today’s edition of Creative Crushin’, I’m honored to share this artist Ashley Lukashevsky’s story so far — it’s pretty dang clear that this prolific creator is just getting started.
Brit + Co: First off, tell us a little more about your background.
Ashley Lukashevsky: I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. I left Hawaii in 2011 to pursue a degree in International Relations at USC, and when I graduated from college, I decided to stay in LA. I’m currently based in Echo Park and hope to stay here for a while.
B+C: Did you always know that you wanted to be a professional artist and activist?
AL: No, definitely not! When I was younger, I was always creating things and playing around with artistic mediums — but I had no idea that there were actual career opportunities in visual arts. I had no exposure to what an artistic career looked like and didn’t see any artists around me, so I didn’t even know that people could create art for their careers. I’ve always been pretty politically active — starting from the 5th grade, I was Photoshopping my own anti-Bush stickers, but I certainly didn’t foresee how I would merge two of my passions.
B+C: Why do you love to make things? What’s your north star?
AL: Creating things gives me a rush. It is both meditative and stimulating to put pen to paper and create something out of nothing. Nowadays, I create often out of necessity — whether for my mental health or to speak out about an issue that I feel the need to express my opinion on. My north star is justice — it guides my work and is the intention behind everything that I create.
B+C: I am personally such a huge fan of your work, both the subject matter and aesthetic. How did you hone in on your particular style?
AL: Thank you so much! I’ve been drawing for a long time, but only in these past couple of years have I found a style that I think resonates with what I want to express. It’s also still totally evolving. So much of the style I think comes from the linework, and I started to move away from micron, typical felt tip pens and toward brush style pens. I was in Seoul, staying in the Hongdae area and exploring all of the art shops around there when I came across Kuretake clean color pens. I love how dynamic the lines come out when using brush-like pens. I’m always experimenting though, and am sure that my style will change as I learn more about new mediums.
B+C: What artists and designers do you turn to most often for inspiration?
AL: Wow, there are so so many. I look to my fellow illustrators on Instagram for a lot of inspiration, as well as the incredible political artists whose passion inspires me to do better. I love that I can follow my favorite artists and see work as they create it. Some of my favorite illustrators are Lisa Congdon, Subin Yang, Bijou Karman, Kristen Liu Wong, Kati Szilagyi, Sophia Zarders, Celia Jacobs, Loveis Wise. There are too many to name! In terms of fine art/political work, I love Nina Chanel Abney, Kehinde Wiley, Favianna Rodriguez, Monica Kim Garza, and Toyin Ojih Odutola, to name a few.
B+C: When you get creatively blocked or burnt out, how do you reset? Do you have tips you can share?
AL: I love to visit art museums, or scroll through Pinterest when I’m feeling blocked. Seeing what other people are creating/have created is always such a good way to get your wheels turning. When I’m feeling burnt out, I need to go to yoga and then have a solid night in with some tea + candles + music. And spend some time with the people who help to ground me. Getting my endorphins flowing and having some time to recuperate typically does the trick.
B+C: People need people, especially those of us in the creative field. It can be easy to hole up in the work. Tell us more about what your support system and creative community looks like.
AL: This is so real. I used to really struggle with working alone, and it definitely took time to adjust to a freelance lifestyle. Now I know that there is only so long that I can spend in my home working; I’ll leave to work at a cafe mid-way through the day to make sure that I’m getting outside.
A good number of my friends are also freelancers, so we’ll arrange to have co-work dates and share some AC and coffee. I’m also really lucky to live close to a lot of my non-nine-to-five friends — today while painting, two of my friends stopped by to chat for a little — it’s always nice to take a break. I’ve also been putting forth an effort to grow the community of creative women I know who I can bounce ideas, pricing, client woes, and experiences off of. It’s beautiful to have people who can relate to your experience and who you can lean on and support when needed.
B+C: Favorite quote?
AL: “Unwise selfish people think only of themselves, the result is confusion and pain. Wise selfish people know that the best thing they can do for themselves is to be there for others. As a result, they experience joy.” - Pema Chodron
Trivia About You: I don’t know how to drive. I don’t even have a license!
Go-To Karaoke Song: “Moneymaker” by Ludacris
Favorite Art Tool: Kuretake Clean Color Pen
Late Night Snack: Raspberry Dark Chocolate Bar
Currently Reading: If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar
B+C: Do you have a day job? Or are you a full-time artist?
AL: I do not! For the past year and a half, illustration has been my full-time job. Whenever I get overwhelmed or stressed with my project at hand, I call myself back to gratitude to remind myself of how lucky I am to get paid to do what I love.
B+C: What types of day jobs did you have before you were able to focus fully on art? Tell us about your career path.
AL: After college graduation, I decided that I wanted to pursue something more creative — but at the time, this looked like graphic design. I spent the summer job searching, couch surfing, and creating a portfolio on my own. I worked as a graphic designer for about two years before feeling comfortable with switching to illustration. During the beginning of my freelance career, I was still taking on a lot of assorted design work to support myself.
B+C: What was the turning point like when you realized you could dedicate your time wholly to your artwork? Was it scary taking that chance on yourself?
AL: While I was at my full-time graphic design jobs, I had begun to take on editorial illustration gigs, and those projects excited me so much. The rush that I got with every new client made me realize how much more I loved illustration than graphic design. At this point, I was so tired of a strict schedule and nine-to-five that I planned to save up to go backpacking around East/ Southeast Asia and figure out what I wanted to change about my career, because I was unsatisfied with what I was doing. It was definitely a risk with a small margin for error, but I took it anyway because I wanted a change and was determined to experience solo-traveling. I believed in my ability to make things work.
B+C: What is your workspace like?
AL: I work out of my home but work out of coffee shops at least half of the time! Usually, when I am just starting the creative process of a project, I like to sketch in my room in private. There is just so much more space and less pressure there. When I need to be productive and get that project done, I like to pump myself full of iced coffee at a local cafe with my headphones in. I like the buzz of coffee shops, and I have my favorite spots in Echo Park.
B+C: What are some of your favorite recent projects/clients you’ve worked on? What made them special?
AL: I’m actually just wrapping up a project with Girls Who Code to illustrate the experiences of young women in coding — and it's been inspiring to give life to their stories. One of my favorite projects in the past was “Letter to Myself” where I worked with Red Bull Music to illustrate advice that some of my favorite female musical artists wish they had told their younger selves. I got to draw some of my favorite artists like Ibeyi, Ravyn Lenae, and Jorja Smith. Another was for Resource Generation, which organizes its members to redistribute their wealth to grassroots POC-led racial justice organizations. I got to create images about wealth distribution and equity, which is honestly what I’d do in my free time! The work that feels like something I would create on my own is my favorite.
B+C: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
AL: I’m not sure if this is advice as much as an observation that stuck. There is more to life than avoiding pain. My favorite college professor, Abby, said this to me once. We put so much effort into avoiding negative emotions — but the human experience is full of curves and highs and lows. To embrace all of our experience is to really live.
B+C: If you could give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?
AL: I would tell her to trust in herself. I would tell her to stop trying to fit the mold of what she thinks she needs to be, but to embrace the creative energy and passion flowing inside of her. I’d tell her to stop the negative self-talk and the insecurity — and to fully realize how unique she is.
B+C: In five years, where do you see yourself? What should we be on the lookout for?
AL: Oof, I’m always bad with this question. I live so much in the present and the day-to-day that I don’t think about it much! Since my career path has been so non-linear, it’s hard for me to see pre-meditated next steps. I do know that I want to create more work by hand (non-digital), especially in public spaces. I want to be at a point where I feel like my work has made a difference in changing perceptions for the better around issues of immigration, race, and the patriarchy.
I don’t know about you, but woke artists like this make me certain that the future is bright. Check out more of Lukashevsky’s work at @ashlukadraws on Instagram, and buy some of her prints and cards to send to enlightened people you love ;)