Friends of the RBSA: Jo Ashby

Jo is a born and bred ‘Brummie’ with her artwork focusing on the land and sea. She told Jessica Rees, ART BLOG volunteer, more about her life and work…

What are your links with Birmingham?

I was born and bred in Birmingham and I am proud to call myself a ‘Brummie’ even though I have not lived in the city for over thirty years. I now divide my life between South East London and a small island off the West coast of Ireland. However, I will always consider Birmingham to be my home.

How and when did you know that you would become a fine artist?

Both my parents are artists. My father has been involved with and a member of the RBSA for as long as I can remember. My mum is an Associate too and many of our family friends are Members or Associates, so the RBSA has always been a feature of my life. Although my parents were involved in the arts, I was always determined to do anything other than art. However, after making several false starts, I finally succumbed to the genetic influence!

Jo Ashby in her studio

Did you train formally or are you self-taught?

I started at Bournville School of Art in 1979 undertaking a one year foundation course. I then went on to study at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, which had been subsumed as a department within the University of Oxford. Finally, I studied at Goldsmith’s College at the University of London in 1985.

What does being an artist mean to you?

Drawing and painting are hugely important to me. I get very scratchy and irritable if I’ve not been able to get in to the studio for a few days and I always have a tiny notebook and pencil in my bag, so I can scribble away or write down my thoughts and ideas.

What is your inspiration for your work?

Much of my childhood was spent around Devon and Cornwall and therefore the sea is one of my key inspirations. My work has always been focused on the land, sea and my relationship with those environments. Within my work, I also enjoy exploring the effects of the elements upon the land and sea and the meeting of the sea and sky or shore.

sea scape
Sea scape

How would you describe your work and your methods?

I often use acrylic paints yet drawing is always evident in my work. I work in series which allows me to explore a certain idea or image. I frequently work on several pieces at the same time, building up layers of thin acrylic glazes which is a slow and time consuming process. At the moment I am playing with some very different ways of working and I am thinking of re-visiting mixed media, so watch this space!

What is your relationship with the RBSA?

I was elected as an Associate Member of the RBSA in May 2004. I have had two exhibitions at the gallery over the years and intend to make this a regular commitment as one way to maintain a connection. I recently exhibited this summer with Majella O’Neill Collins at the RBSA; our exhibition was named ‘Two Distant Views’. We both share a love of and gain inspiration from a small island off the West coast of Ireland called Sherkin Island.

By Jessica Rees, Archive Volunteer 2017

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