By Kelly Richman
Taken from our current issue ROOMS 15 Breakable
Ash Thorp is, undeniably, a man of many talents. As an artist, illustrator, graphic designer, creative director, and, according to his Twitter bio, a “fan of all things COOOOOL,” his success and charismatic attitude are no surprise. With a wealth of experience and an extremely exciting resume—who doesn’t love Sherlock Holmes and The Walking Dead?—Ash has made a name for himself in the realm of various media, including feature films, commercial enterprises, and print. In this interview, we chat with Ash about his creative background. Namely, we unravel the ways in which his childhood experiences—which he classifies as “the muse of it all”—have influenced and inspired his successful, well-deserved career.
I’ve found that I am most interested in your artistic background, so rather than focusing on any specific projects or your technical processes, I’d like to talk to you more about your creative background.
So, first of all, I’ve noticed that you’re often described as an “artist, illustrator, and graphic designer.” I’m wondering if, to you, there is an inherent difference between art and design, and art and illustration.
For me, personally, I try not to put barriers up when it comes to being creative. I look at each to be different in their own way, but, when I create, I see them all the same. That’s my approach, at least. I don’t like to categorise. I find that the best things are created through cross-pollination. I think otherwise it’s just people trying to sort everything out so they can explain and teach them. And, I get it, I get why people do that, but I don’t personally believe in it when I create.
I’M TRYING TO GET BACK TO THAT CHILD SELF. THAT’S THE MUSE OF IT ALL. THAT’S THE INSPIRATION, THE WONDER, THE CURIOSITY.
Clearly, your career is very multifaceted. Can you tell me about your childhood and any early experiences with art that led up to where you are now?
My mom is a vagabond; we moved around a lot. I experienced a lot of travelling, and my mom is also a really talented artist. So, I was always involved in art one way or another, and we were pretty poor so I don’t really have anything besides our relationship. My mom and I are really close. I have an older brother too, and he drew a lot. But we didn’t have Nintendos and stuff—I grew up in Hawaii, so it was all about your imagination and going outside and I would just draw a lot. So, creativity was really encouraged, and my mom understood what it was to be creative, so it was always reinforced and everybody was really positive about me doing art; it kind of built upon itself really. I was super lucky. We didn’t have a lot of material stuff but what we didn’t have, we made up for in love and strong bonds in our relationships.
And that ultimately gets you further anyway.
I would think so. It’s challenging because I didn’t come from wealth so I have to earn everything, and it takes a lot of work every day to put in the time and fulfil these different destinations, but you can’t put a price on a bond with your parents.
And you have a daughter, right? So has this influenced your relationship with her? Both in terms of raising her in general and presenting art to her in any way?
Yeah, it’s a life-changing thing. When I first started dating my wife, Monica, she had already had her; she was three years old. So, I kind of had an instant family and I agreed to take on the responsibility. I think it changed me internally instantly so that’s when I really started stepping things up and taking my art seriously and that’s when I started to commit myself 100%. As far as getting her into art, I don’t force anything on her because I’d rather art come naturally to her. She definitely enjoys it, and we spend some time here and there drawing and stuff. She’s really into dance, so there’s not a lot of time in the day to sit down and draw, unfortunately. But, there’s definitely an interest there. She sees me doing it and she understands that I help support the household with it.
Definitely. So, she’s into dance, and I am curious if, aside from film, you were influenced by any other platforms, like books or illustrations or anything along that route?
Everything really. I remember sitting and reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit and blasting Metallica and Led Zeppelin. I mean, that’s just a little sliver of influence. I try to be like a sponge. I let everything influence me. I’ve been asked what inspires me now and I think it changes every week, based on the person, the film, the book that I’m reading, whatever it is. I try to take it all in, take the bits that I like, and then leave the rest and keep going.
I understand you’re swamped with deadlines and have a lot going on. Given your background, do you ever find yourself reverting back to the ways you approached art as a child?
That’s really funny that you bring that up, because I’m really trying to revert back to being a kid again. There were maybe 3-4 years of really intense “adult” work when I had to set up my career and make a name for myself and I feel that that somewhat solidified it enough for me to feel comfortable. So, what I’m doing now is trying to cut my time up to go back to that playful child self. And that’s what the whole Lost Boy thing and all these silly adolescent drawings are really, deep down, about; they’re a culmination of all these funny things that I enjoy. I’ve been trying to find that young, youthful, fun self because that’s the spirit of it all; that’s the person that got me here in the first place and I lost track of that person through the hard work of setting up a career and building a family. But I never want to lose that person, because it’s my core and I felt it slipping a little bit during some of the time. It’s challenging, you know, as an artist to wear all the different hats. Doing art for a living is like prostitution in a way—like mental prostitution. And that’s a really gross way of putting it, and I try to class it up, but deep down that’s what I feel like. If I could just sit around and draw what I want to draw all day—which I’m trying to do—that would be the life. And I’m trying slowly every day to put at least an hour or two toward that goal. It’s going to take a little bit longer, but you just gotta be patient.
I’m trying to get back to that child self. That’s the muse of it all. That’s the inspiration, the wonder, the curiosity. Those are all very important ingredients to being creative. They keep you fresh.