Sunday, December 2, 2012

Horses in Watercolor

© Ashley Halsey 2012

This painting has a very touching story behind it. It is to be a gift to commemorate one woman's loss of her horse, Lucy, who she owned for 25 years. I worked from a photo taken in 1994, and the woman still owns the foal, Sarah, today.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Chasing Ice

This past weekend I saw one of the most moving documentaries I've seen in a long time. I had anticipated Chasing Ice to be a beautiful movie about glaciers. What I didn't anticipate was how incredibly jaw dropping it would be to see glaciers receding vast distances over a few short months in stunning stop frame video. Of course I have always believed in climate change, but to actually see all of this ice—more ice than I can comprehend—just disappearing, well, it was astounding.

What I really hope for is that maybe this time, with evidence this irrefutable, people will come together to solve the issue of climate change. This isn't about one party or the other, it's about the future of life. There are a number of organizations involved with the making of Chasing Ice that I think are worth mentioning:, Earth Vision Trust and Extreme Ice Survey.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Boat House

© Ashley Halsey 2012

I just finished this painting that will be a wedding gift for the couple who lives here. It's a beautiful old boathouse. I love the old maple trees out front!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Elephants Are Dying

Photo by Nick Brandt

I have been so saddened and outraged by the recent news coverage on the elephant slaughter  taking place right now that felt I had to at least write about it, if there's nothing else I can do.

I first learned about the dramatic increase in elephant poaching a few weeks ago when I read Elephants Dying in Epic Frenzy as Ivory Fuels Wars and Profits in the New York Times. It is heart wrenching to think that such an iconic, majestic and truly incredible animal is being threatened so severely. After reading this month's feature National Geographic article, Blood Ivory, it is even more unbelievable to me that this cruel fate has come to the elephant, a creature we all know and love. It seems that the only solution to this problem, and the only way to save the elephants remaining, is to re-instate a 100% ivory ban. I realize this is easier said than done, but the global community has the power to do it if everyone acts together. I hope that the common, small-time, ivory buyer would not want to purchase ivory if he knew of the dire situation elephants face today. More than anything I hope for the survival of elephants and all large African mammals as more and more forces work against them. In the long run, preserving these wild lives is worth more than any price tag.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


At the Exploratorium in San Francisco

The science behind color is something that was never taught to me in all my years as an artist, and recently I have been thinking more about it after listening to this RadioLab podcast on color and visiting the Exploratorium, an awesome interactive science museum, in San Francisco this past June.

 I've spent my whole life as an artist, observing the world and trying to translate what I see in front of me into a two-dimensional expression, working within the constraints of the medium I choose. And yet I have given very little thought about what it really means to see. "The colors we see are tricks of the imagination. There is no perfectly objective view of color." It's easy to fool the eye - we all know that. But the fact that light is responsible for how we view color is something that is both obvious and mysterious. What I see is not necessarily what you see, so what is the real color? There isn't really an answer to that, is there?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Beauty of the Book

"What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic."
- Carl Sagan from the 11th episode of his legendary 1980s Cosmos series, titled "The Persistence of Memory"

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Sketchbook Project 2012 Complete!

My whole sketchbook is finally all scanned! It was such a fun project to do, and now it is here for you to enjoy! If you are a member of the Brooklyn Art Library / Art House Co-op you can also go here to see it.

My original sketchbook is now traveling with 7,000+ other sketchbooks on a world tour! Currently they are in Vancouver, Canada. The New York Times recently wrote a nice article about the project too.

© 2012 Ashley Halsey

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Braddock, PA 15104

Recently, I took a trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to visit some friends of mine. To help me get a better sense of the area, they took me on a drive through some of the depressed towns of Alleghany County, including Braddock and Wilkinsburg, where there has been a severe population decline since the steel mills in the area starting closing. I was particularly intrigued by Braddock, when I realized it was the same town that had received a lot publicity after Levis decided to do an ad campaign in Braddock and invest in the town. I remembered reading this New York Times article last year. Above is one of a number of short documentary films that Levis produced, highlighting the people who are living and working in Braddock now, and the change they hope to bring to the nearly abandoned town.

From an environmental and practical perspective, it seems that maybe it would be best just to demolish Braddock totally and move its remaining residents else where, letting nature reclaim the land. On the other hand, when I look at everything that's happening in Braddock, it makes me think of what an amazing opportunity the town has to reinvent itself and begin again. How often does that situation present itself? Rarely. Here is a town that could employ sustainable practices in development and living, while preserving history. The Braddock Carnegie library is particularly stunning and holds great historical significance. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for this struggling town.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Carry Your Home

© 2012 Ashley Halsey

I recently finished this assignment for my illustration class. The prompt was "home". We could create a piece that related to home in some way and I thought of all the animals that carry their home with them! As a result I created a group of 4 small paintings (4 x 4" each) showing (clockwise) a nautilus, a hermit crab, a snail and a turtle. Wouldn't it be great if you had your home with you where ever you are?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Undaunted Courage

Portraits of William Clark (left) and Meriwether Lewis (right) by Chales Willson Peale
For many years I've been wanting to read Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose, and now I finally have! It was a stunning read in many ways. Although I knew some about the Corps of Discovery's journey through Ken Burn's Documentary for PBS - I now know much more about it than before; especially about who Meriwether Lewis was as a person and what this expedition really meant for America at the turn of the 19th century. It is just an astonishing story that deserves every bit of the attention it gets. It's hard to imagine what it would take to commit to a trip into the unknown. I imagine Lewis, Clark and the first astronauts would have some things in common. It's also marvelous to imagine what they would have seen.

When the Land Belonged to God by Charles M. Russell
Lewis, Clark and their party saw things they had never seen before on a daily basis, from grizzly bears, to coyotes, to prairie dogs.

Fall 1804: 
A page from Lewis's journal
The great mammals of the Plains were gathering into herds. Many of them, including elk, pronghorn, and buffalo, began their mass migration to their wintering grounds. Sooner or later on their trek, most of the herds had to cross the river, thereby creating one of nature's greatest scenes. Overhead, Canadian geese, snow geese, brants, swans, mallards, and a variety of other ducks were on the move...
     For Meriwether Lewis it was a magical time. He spent most of it exploring, walking on shore, venturing out into the interior, catching up with the boat at night...He was a great walker, with long legs and a purposeful stride, capable of covering thirty miles in a day on the Plains. As he walked, he was constantly at full alert, his eyes sweeping across the horizon, then coming down with complete concentration on a stone or a plant or an animal den at his feet. He carried his field journal so that he could note down new plants, animals, minerals, the general lay of the land, the apparent fertility of the soil, the types and numbers of game animals around him, and more.

But more than just the land was new - the people who knew it well, were new too. The various Indian tribes throughout the Louisiana Territory were both a help and a hindrance to the exploration party. But of course, the help of those Indians is certainly priceless. The party would probably not have returned to St. Louis intact if it weren't for many Indians who provided them with goods, food and guidance along the way.

The Lewis & Clark Expedition, 1918  Charles M. Russell
From today's perspective this journey seems like the ultimate adventure, and a quest that would be difficult to match in what it did for the advancement of America. However, at the time, there was much left to be desired after the mission was completed. One of the main goals of the party was to find the fabled "northwest passage", and when this proved a myth, it seemed that maybe the Corps of Discovery wasn't as successful as it should have been.

What impressed me most of all was Lewis himself during the journey. What a man of the enlightenment! He seemed to know everything—medicine, botany, astrology, hunting, fishing, and—the most important thing—leadership. His ability to hold together a group of 31 men through the most difficult times of their lives and still have them trust him completely is astounding.

This quote I find particularly compelling and I relate to it:

He concluded his August 18 [1805] journal entry with an oft-quoted passage of introspection and self-criticism. "this day I completed my thirty first year. I reflected that I had as yet done but little, very little indeed, to further the hapiness of the human race, or to advance the information of the succeeding generation. I feel the want of that information which those hours would have given me had they been judiciously expended."
     He shook the mood, writing that, since the past could not be recalled, " dash from me the gloomy thought and resolved in future, to redouble my exertions and at least indeavor to promote those two primary objects of human existence, by giving them the aid of that portion of talents which nature and fortune have bestoed on me . . . in future, to live for mankind, as I have heretofore lived for myself.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Universe Is In Us

The Most Astounding Fact from Max Schlickenmeyer on Vimeo.

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be inadvertently introduced to the inspiration that is Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and since that day he has become my hero. The other night I had a chance to see him speak in person again, it just made me even more of a fan. Here is a man who is not only an accomplished academic, but also someone with charisma. He has the gift of being a captivating public speaker, and as a result, can make even the most average person (myself) excited about science and space exploration. He makes me want to jump out of my seat and go study physics, or go to a classroom and inspire kids; at the very least, he gives me hope for the future.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ma petite souris

© 2012 Ashley Halsey

My first assignment for my illustration class is complete! The object was to depict the Tooth Fairy. I hadn't heard the tail of the tooth mouse before, and I loved the idea. I decided to make my tooth fairy a little mouse, on his way to collect a tooth! In Europe and South America the tooth mouse is a much more common figure than the human fairy we know in the United States. Written by Madame D'Aulnoy,  "La Bonne Petite Souris," depicts a mouse who changes into a fairy to help a good Queen defeat an evil King hiding under his pillow to torment him and knocking out all his teeth. It is a much more gruesome tale than what we know today. Nevertheless, it establishes the mouse as a form of fairy, taking away children's baby teeth.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Murmuration of Starlings

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

I had to share this video, which was all over the web a few months ago, because I find it so beautiful and almost other-worldly at times. On Vimeo the description under the video reads: "A chance encounter and shared moment with one of the greatest and most fleeting phenomena." What is most compelling to me is first, that this video drew 4.5 million views during a two-week period, and second why that is. Clearly, this amazing natural wonder captivates and moves people. We should cherish the delicate balance of life on earth and what it provides.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sketchbook Project 2012

Happy New Year! The deadline for submitting my sketchbook to the Sketchbook Project is fast approaching! I've been working hard on it, but there is still a lot to come. My theme is Treehouse, so I've decided to focus on the tree itself and take a closer look at all parts of trees in general. I've mostly been working in pen & ink, but I've also done some watercolor (see the first photo) where I glued the watercolor paper into my book. I'm looking forward to having it all filled up soon! This has been such a fun project to take on. I've tried some different mediums that I don't normally work in and focusing on one theme has been a great challenge. I signed up to have my book scanned so you'll be able to see the whole thing digitally when it's done. You'll be able to see the scanned pages here and the physical book will be available at the Brooklyn Art Library!