We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley Padilla and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashley, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
When I went to art school, I had no idea how to manage my work life balance at all. I was so involved in my projects that I barely had a social life. I was always just holed up in my room, doing homework late into the night. I had roommates, but they never saw me because I was always in my room like a hermit. I didn’t make many friends in school because I didn’t seem to have the time to go out and socialize. It was exhausting and really depressing. That was honestly my biggest regret in school.
I faced burnout so hard that after I graduated, I got a job as an animator at a studio, but I had to quit a few months later because I was too exhausted. I lived two hours out of the city, so I was making that commute five days a week, and I only had about two hours after work to eat and relax before I went to bed and did it all over again. It took a huge toll on my mental and physical health, so I decided that I was financially stable enough to quit that job and become a barista at my local coffee shop.
I spent a year just making coffee for people, not thinking about art at all. I’d do some commissions here and there, but it was a year to just turn my brain off and be happy. I think taking a step back to breathe was extremely important. I started noticing little things around me like how the sun felt on summer afternoon walks and the joy I brought my regular customers when I learned their names and favorite drinks. That was one of the best years of my life. I’m back into animation now, but I feel like I have fresh eyes after taking a year off. If you’re facing severe burnout, I highly recommend taking a gap year if you’re able to. It makes a world of a difference.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a 2D animator with a passion for character design and illustration. I’m a sucker for a very cutesy design with a dark edge to it. The epitome of my style lies within my short film, “Ouija,” about two little kids who play with a spirit board and accidentally release the evil demon, Zozo. Those little dummies were inspired by me and my best friend growing up. I spent about a year working on the film and did everything from start to finish with the help of a few of my fellow students. We made it into some festivals and won a few awards for it, and I think that’s my greatest accomplishment so far.
I knew, as soon as I watched Adventure Time in high school, that I was going to be an animator, so I strapped my boots on and went to art school. I came out 4 years later like some kind of war veteran, but I learned so much and was able to get a job in my field immediately after graduation. Dealing with burnout and depression was a real struggle though, and I don’t know what I would’ve done if I didn’t have my family and friends for support. After taking a year off from art as a career, I was able to come back with a fresh new perspective, and now I enjoy making art again.
As for my brand, I like to keep it cute and simple. I love a good animal in some human clothes, I love drawing skeletons, and little pentagram here and there never hurt anybody. As my favorite drag queen, Sharon Needles, would say, “When in doubt, freak ‘em out.”
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oooh I wish I had more to say on this, but I JUST moved to Atlanta, so I’m still getting familiar with the area! However, every single weekend, I treat myself to a coffee milk tea over at Sweet Hut in Midtown. That is the cutest little shop, and their pastries are so good! I’m also a big fan of the Vortex, but my favorite location is in Little Five Points. Little Five Points is my go-to-spot for a good time with friends. It’s such a strange little part of town, but I feel like I fit right in. The Junkman’s Daughter is one of the coolest stores I’ve ever been to, and thrift shopping at Rag-O-Rama is always a must. My film was shown at the Buried Alive Film Fest at Little Five one year, and that was so cool. However, my favorite Atlanta experience is Dragon Con. That is one of the wildest weekends in Atlanta, and I AM SO HERE FOR IT!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shoutout to my parents for always being by my side through thick and thin! The never question my abilities and have my back at every bump in the road. They always get me back on my feet and push me to keep going when the world feels like it’s crashing down on me. I’m so grateful for their love for me.
Also shoutout to my dogs, Boba and Kiwi, for being the loves of my life and letting me hug them as much as I want!