We had the good fortune of connecting with Kat Ash and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kat, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
In illustration as well as design oriented projects, the one thing about this industry outsiders are probably unaware of is the research behind the scenes. As an outsider, it’s easy to think a beautiful image produced just “happens”. Sometimes that can be the case when it’s my own personal work, but we are trained to understand that going with our very first idea with a client and project is not the best. We are taught to challenge and expand our minds by producing multiple ideas. I do take it as a compliment, however, that people would believe it all comes out of me right when I begin drawing, ha! So, the downside, through my own freelancing experience, is the research being very much a part of the process regarding the invoicing aspect. I learned a very tedious process from my professors in grad school that I still follow to this day. First, I heavily research the topic, the business mission, or article for my own understanding and, too, to make the concept aspect of my work that much more engaging and strong. I then create mind maps, word lists, or quick thumbnails. Then comes more research, whether through my own exploring and photographs, creating a certain playlist, conversation with others, and continuously keeping up with current trends, popular color schemes/branding (like in fashion). Mood boarding is another step and aspect to my creative process, but this happens after solid ideas and concepts are made. This helps with the color scheme. I have to make sure I am setting the right tone for my client and where this image is going as well. The completion and final details of a piece is actually the more therapeutic side.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I am an Atlanta based freelance illustrator, currently working on my thesis from Savannah College of Art and Design to officially obtain an MFA degree in illustration. I aim to create thought-provoking content with interesting texture collages, color theory, mood, and light elements intertwined within my process recipe. My subject matter has been very much inspired by mental health studies, music and pop culture, world happenings, and my saving grace…spirituality and nature. The majority of my portfolio has been geared towards my dream clients like Washington Post, Psychology Today, The New York Times and Scientific American publications. With a background in textile design and fiber arts, a blend of traditional textures, media and digital technique brings a unique style and aspect of storytelling to the illustration and design industry today. With that being said, I have a love for creating crisp and vibrant, fun surface designs, too. These doodles bring a lot of joy to my cluttered mind and allow my head to take a break from the busy aspects of my day to day. I hope to find a way to grow this style in the future when I have more time. Aside from all of this, I created a bridal illustration line at Kat Ash Dress Illustration. This other freelance journey began last Summer when I received my first client due to some dress sketches they saw from a post. Shout out to you, Miss Martha! Since then, the line has thankfully and unexpectedly flourished.
Currently, I am working to grow and expand this line, too. It is difficult but a beautiful experience looking back on all my previous work and portfolios, trial and error pieces, and work that I thought was good at the time. It’s like looking at an old picture of yourself in the most awkward stages of pre-teen life though, ha! I cringe at times, but then it humbles me to know how hard I’ve worked, how many weekends I gave up to work part-time jobs and then go to the studio close to midnight to get to where I am today. My professors and I joke about this one particular illustration that will never see the light of day, I swear to you, haha. It was my first ever digital piece with not much technical/drawing training underneath either. Flash forward to one of my last projects for my MFA degree…it was a recreation from that very first project. I recreated it with the knowledge and experience I gained since then in two-ish short years. It represented a kind of a tribute to them to show how much I (hopefully) grew to them, too! And it won an award!!
Most of my life I’ve dealt with a great deal of anxiety, the invisible burden and obstacle. These last three years have been a true test to my anxious brain, and in those teeth clenching and emotional moments, I learned more about the importance in developing a self-loving dialogue. I kept practicing and drawing what was important to me, learned how to connect on an even deeper level with others, set goals and lots of alarms, sent a great deal of promotional emails to people I thought would never look at my work, and worked harder than I ever had before to be the best I could be. Obstacles in adulthood, whether relating to life stressors or my craft, have shown me that I’m going to do whatever it takes to grow and to be better than I was yesterday. I was meant to do this, and I am so proud of that. With whatever you do, do it the best you can and never give up. You are wonderful!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh, goodness. This is difficult considering one of my favorite things to do is try new food and of course give me all the good red wine. Let’s pretend the pandemic isn’t happening for a second. I got to know Atlanta on a closer level towards the mid-way point of my grad school experience because you’re swamped in the projects, work, and of course thinking about future loans – ha! I lived right in the central location of Midtown, Decatur and now OTP life. I love the hidden gems and supporting smaller businesses. My absolute favorite restaurants and wine come from La Tavola of Highlands, Antico Pizza, Pasta Da Pulcinella of Midtown, Gunshow, and the Consulate of Midtown(fine art hanging EVERYWHERE). I would also probably try to plan a spot to see live music or a concert according to their visit, because that, too, is something I love to do. For examples of those types of spots I would choose for the more intimate shows: Centerstage, Tabernacle, and Eddies Attic. Eddies Attic is an even more intimate hangout spot with up and coming artists and a dine-in experience! I love me some breweries like Monday Night Garage and a place with a good frozen margarita like Superica and wandering around Krog Street. As far as galleries, of course you have the High Museum that’s a staple, wonderful, and inspiring, but I also love the smaller galleries like Jackson Fine Art(I believe in Buckhead), ABV Gallery, Mason Fine Art, etc. Riding bikes or walking the beltline is always fun on a pretty day, and you can’t miss out on seeing the incredible murals throughout. The small town girl loves her trails and walking, so ITP, Atlanta does provide a couple easy trails that overlook the river – like Palisades West Trail. AND you can float down it on the river, too! For breakfast, the Silver Skillet is your typical old diner feel with the best food!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am blessed to be surrounded by such a go “getter” community of friends, family, as well as my wonderful and inspiring partner, Matthew. They all challenge and encourage me to see my unique potential and achieve my ambitions. But, I want to dedicate this shoutout to two particular folks, Tom Burns and Rick Lovell from Savannah College of Art and Design. They have been the most influential mentors this small-town girl could ask for, and they provided me with the best once in a lifetime opportunity interning with renowned illustrator, Bill Mayer. Right as I was entering grad school, I was mentally not in a wonderful place. They, unknowingly, helped kind of pull me out of this unexpected rut. Through my work and under their rigorous, tough-love training, I found myself again. My work is now known on a national level through various illustration competitions, and I am incredibly grateful for this and their time invested in me. They do this for every student, but they will make you feel as if you are the only one when in conversation with them and cater specifically to the dreams you wish to achieve. I’ll never forget the email I received from Professor Lovell after one of my first courses with him during this difficult season. He said, “this is a tough industry, and we are going to push you really hard.” He ended it with the high potential he saw in me. I’ll never forget that, and from then on I pushed pushed pushed myself…probably an ungodly amount at the time(ha!), but I set myself a part and obtained the goals I set for myself at the time. I’m really proud of that. If it weren’t for them, I don’t think I would’ve ever realized this level of potential I had and the amount of growth I have seen since then in myself as a person and in my craft. I learned so much in what seems like a moment now looking back. I was mentored not only by experts in their craft, but actually really great people and leaders, too.
Website: https://www.katashillustration.com/ AND https://www.katdressillustration.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/katash_illustrationart/ AND https://www.instagram.com/katash_dressillustration/?hl=en