Emerging Artists | Rett Ashby

Rett Ashby, Hinkley Homestead, oil, 9 x 17.

Rett Ashby, Hinkley Homestead, oil, 9 x 17.

This story was featured in the January 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art January 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Under the tutelage of his mother, Sandra, a professional watercolorist, Rett Ashby enjoyed his first lessons in fine art at a relatively young age. The Provo, UT, artist copied everything she did. “She was mainly doing landscapes with structures in them, similar to what I do now,” he says. “She would also set up still lifes and teach me about basic values and design.”

Throughout his university-level studies in art, and well into his career as a fine artist, Ashby continued to paint with watercolors. The medium, in fact, helped cultivate his “reactive” approach to painting. “Things happen with watercolors, and you have to react with less control,” he explains. Ashby transitioned to oils about 15 years ago, and while he still considers himself a reactionary painter, his style profoundly changed after the “big switch,” he says. “I stepped away from just re-creating an image, and I started realizing that simplifying textures and applying pure color with a palette knife were things I really enjoy. Before that, I was caught up in a big copy machine. Now, the focus is on creating an abstract representation of a realistic image.”

The self-described homebody never tires of depicting the rural landscapes, agrarian structures, and towns around northern Utah. Yet, these days, his finished paintings rarely resemble his preliminary plein-air studies, drawings, and photographs, says Ashby. Wielding a palette knife as his main tool, the artist lavishes his surfaces with color and texture, and he modifies, moves, and even redesigns scenic elements in his work. “When I’m working with students, they say, ‘You can do that?’ and I say, of course you can. You’re the artist. It’s your world.”

Find Ashby’s work at Legacy Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ; Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA; and Authentique Gallery of Art & Design, St. George, UT.

This story was featured in the January 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art January 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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