Interview with bat artist Ashley Anne Clark
Bats are misunderstood animals. They live in the darkness and not many people get to see them up close, or if they do, they are afraid of them because of the many misconceptions people have of bats. However, the more than 1300 bat species worldwide play vital roles in our ecosystem and there is much beauty to be found with these peculiar flying mammals. Bats are not very popular animals and this may be the reason why you don’t see a lot of artwork featuring bats. Fortunately, there are a few artists out there that show bats’ good side. Jordi Segers, bat white-nose syndrome program coordinator with the CWHC, had the pleasure of meeting Ashley Anne Clark, a local Prince Edward Island artist. Ashley has a unique style and specializes in drawing and painting wildlife, including iconic island foxes, owls, and she even has an entire series dedicated to bats.
On a sunny afternoon Jordi sat down with Ashley at the Local 343 Restaurant in Charlottetown to hear all about her bat paintings.
What motivated you to do a series on bats?
“I started off being really scared of bats as a child. I had a show up at ‘The Guild’ [a local centre for culture and arts in Charlottetown] that was based around childhood fears, dreams, and nostalgia. I did a series of ten bats then, because I wanted to work with something I wasn’t comfortable with. As I went through the process of researching them, I realized how important they are and got a new appreciation and admiration for them. As I continued making art I learned about white-nose syndrome. Whenever I hear animals are in trouble or aren’t receiving enough love and attention I want to draw a focus towards them.
When I learned about flying foxes and saw how amazing they were, I wanted to take on the challenge of portraying them not as a vicious or scary animal but as a peaceful and loving one. People don’t get to see that side of them often.”
What experiences have you had with bats?
“I remember seeing a couple outside of my bedroom in Thailand as a child. I was able to go to the rooftop there and saw some swooping down around dusk. Initially I thought they were birds, like lots of people do, but then I realized they were bats and that kind of freaked me out. My brother told me once that bats get stuck in your hair and bite you and although those stories aren’t often true it still spooked me out as a child.
I’ve also seen them in captivity at the Biodome in Montreal, in a display cave. They make it dark in there during the day to trick them into thinking that it’s nighttime so they are actually quite active.”
What species are your bats inspired by?
“They were all inspired by flying foxes. The first few that I did were inspired by the Grey-headed flying fox from Australia.”
What makes your style so special?
“I work with different layers of material and ink washes to create mixed media drawings. The style in which I draw the figures is unique in the way that I try to deconstruct the image of the animal down to basic lines giving them a more playful and illustrative quality. Viewers have an easy time recognizing my works because of the similar backgrounds and the specific 3D elements used, such as pieces of driftwood, seaweed, twigs and sand.
I like putting multiple bats together in one piece; it triggers the idea of friendship and family, which evokes different emotions from viewers. I like that people can relate to them and have the same feelings when they see other animals, realizing that they are just like us in a lot of ways.”
How do people react to your bat art?
“It’s actually pretty funny. I have had some reactions where people will see it and go: “Eww, I don’t like bats, get that away from me”, but I’ve never heard an actual story that anything physically happened to people. Sometimes I work with spiders and the responses to them are similar. A lot of people have told me weird stories about their experiences with bats.
I find it intriguing to hear about people’s relationships to their spirit animals and see which one they relate to and why. Some people feel very connected to their spirit animal, seeing them as a representation of themselves.
For some buyers who are actually interested in bats, finding a piece of art with bats in it is very rare and special to them. I’ve even made a couple of sales from people seeing them in this restaurant.”
You also feature a lot of foxes in your art. Do they sell well on the island?
“It’s an island icon, even if you don’t make it to beach you’ll see a fox in town, on the road, or in the park. When visitors to the island see a fox it’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment for them. The fact that there is also seaweed integrated into the work reminds people of the island’s natural beauty. I know lots of people who have sent them to islanders living away or have taken them with them when moving to a new place. I like how people who buy my art have their own personal bond with it. It finds it’s way into their home and becomes a part of their daily life. That’s another reason why I use the materials I do, because I want to bring the wilderness into people’s dwellings and remind them that there are things going on in different ecosystems every day.”
What is your favourite subject to paint?
“Lately I’ve been very fascinated by creatures that live among us at night. I’m actually working on a show right now that is based on all nocturnal animals. It will be up at ‘The Guild Gallery’ this coming December. There are so many types of animals that I didn’t even know existed because they live in different countries, are more rare, and are only out at night. They are not the typical animals that you hear about every day. I like to use my art as a way to inform people and bring their attention to animals that they wouldn’t normally think of. At the show in December there will be close to 60 different species that I’m going to portray. It’s a challenge to myself to research and represent all of these animals in their own unique way.”
Where can people buy your art?
“My work is in a few different locations around the island including My Little Stash, Moonsnail, The Makers, The Dunes Gallery, and Village Pottery. I am also online: I have an Etsy store and an Instagram page that I’m trying to promote more as a platform to sell off of. I do a lot of custom orders by email as well if somebody is interested in something more specific.
I’ve sold to people all over the world. Most of my sales are in Canada and a couple in the United States, but some of my creatures have gone as far as to live in different countries in Europe and Asia as well. It’s hard to keep track of them all.”
Are you a bat artist too?
Be part of the Bat Week Art Exhibition! Go to the Bat Week Facebook page to upload images of your own bat art. Showcase your artistic talents and help promote bats at the same time. Use the hashtag #batweekart!
Ashley Anne Clark has generously donated a piece of her bat art to help us celebrate Bat Week. The piece is a 5″x5″ mixed media drawing of a flying fox created with ink, watercolour, wood glue, paper, twig, fixative and polyurethane on wooden canvas.
Official Contest Rules:
- To be eligible to win the prize, you must like the Facebook post about the interview with artist Ashley Anne Clark on the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/
- The winner will be chosen at random by all those who liked the post by 9am (CST) on October 31st, 2016.
- The winner will be announced on Facebook and contacted privately to collect mailing address for the purposes of delivering the prize.
- Staff of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative are not eligible to win.
- This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, and Facebook is in no way responsible.