We had the good fortune of connecting with Ash Kleczka and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ash, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I haven’t quite found a space where I can exist solely on my art for income unfortunately, so I currently have a full-time job outside of my creative work. If I’m not careful it totally throws the whole work/life balance thing out the window! It’s taken a lot of trial and error over the years, but for me, I’ve had to fine tune what I can handle in a traditional job setting and still have energy at home to be creative. Then, more fine tuning to spread out what I can do creatively in my free time to allow for life to happen. It’s a balance that’s different for everyone, and it absolutely changes over time. I got extremely lucky finding a job that’s not very mentally demanding, and with very regular schedules, so I’m at a point now where I can depend on my free hours being the same every week. I think that this consistency has been the real saving grace to my own balance, and it’s so important to have that balance to stay healthy and stable. Now, among other things, I limit myself to only answering client emails during the week, and I’m more honest and forgiving about how fast I can work. I’m learning to be kind to myself.
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 character artist, I think, on a fundamental level. I feel my most creative when I can research things like visual inspiration, mythology, animal and plant traits and taxonomy, and really build a design and personality out of that. I have a very strong connection to the characters I create and I feel like I’m very good at making them feel like distinct people. In terms of where I am professionally – it hasn’t been easy overall. Not by a long shot, both in a personal life struggle way, and in a professional exposure way. There’s so much pressure to find success in social media and I find it so, so exhausting and disappointing. Learning to find validation elsewhere has been an important life lesson I think. In that same vein, one of the things I’m most proud of is finding my way into local galleries in just the last couple of years. It’s been such a relief to know that social media isn’t the end-all-be-all of a creative career. Having that be reflected so tangibly means the world.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
OH BOY. Ok, so a few places from around Arizona. Definitely see a show at The Van Buren in Phoenix – it’s the most beautiful concert venue I’ve been to in a very long time. If you go up north to Flagstaff, do some hiking at the lava tubes for a really, really unique experience. And if you head south to Tucson have a drink at 47 Scott for a well made traditional cocktail.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I gotta credit my first serious art teacher, Leo Barthelmess, for pushing me to do better and for seeing my potential despite my high school carelessness . I also have to give a shoutout to my college mentor, Michael Nolan, for telling me to “put some paint on it” and to stop holding things so precious that I stop working out of fear. It’s a maxim I still hold to today. And of course, I also have to give a shout out to my family and my husband for supporting me, and validating this crazy career choice.
&Gallery, Tucson John Henry’s Bar, Tucson