An avian pet portrait (yours could be next)

Do you know what will give you a sense of invincibility when it comes to painting pet portraits? Nailing a commission to capture 37 dogs on a single canvas. That gig from way back in 2007 required multiple dog handlers and a spreadsheet to track each dog’s distinct markings and relative size. So when a long-time follower of my work recently contacted me about painting his wife’s two Indian Ringneck Parrots as a surprise birthday gift, I reflected back on the 35 Pomeranians, 1 Yorkie and 1 mutt, and thought to myself, “I’ve got this.”

This new commission was especially exciting because it was the first pet-specific commission I had received since delving into my textile pattern-centric style of work – a perfect fit, if you ask me.

The client sent me photos of the interior of their home where the painting would hang, including the wallpaper, decorative plates, and curtains. I wanted the pattern in the background of my painting to “fit” in the space as you would expect in a top-notch William Morris drawing room.


As with all of my commissions, I first sent the client this rough digital mock-up of the painting (hey, no jokes about my awful Photoshopping – I said it was rough).

Once we agreed on a creative direction, I got started painting on the 18″ x 24″ board (for those of you who love all the minute details, here’s a step-by-step explanation of how I create a painting).

Ringneck Parrots on Blue

And here’s the finished piece. I’ve never been so happy with gold leaf in my work – it must be the stark contrast of gold on top of the dark blues in the background (note to self). I also was in love with the red-ish orange African Tulip Tree blooms – they might become a regular in my painted flower repertoire. And, fortunately, my client’s wife was in love with the birds.

Clearly this client has set a high bar for birthday gift-giving. If you want to up your own game, let’s talk about how I can help you score serious brownie points with a commission for your special someone. Get in touch at ashley at

Give love, get (free) art


I have a huge favor to ask you.

Ashlee Swift, a fellow native Louisvillian, inspiring young mother, and former painting subject of mine traveled to Las Vegas last week with her fiancé and their families (including her 11 month old daughter) to get married. Before the wedding, the couple were on their way to a take a helicopter ride when a drunk driver hit their tour bus. As a result of the accident, her left arm had to be amputated. She’s still in a hospital in Las Vegas, nearly 2,000 miles from most of her family back home in Kentucky, including her infant daughter.

What’s the favor? Please give to the GoFundMe campaign her family has set up to raise money for her medical expenses. If you are able to contribute to her recovery, send me a message (ashley at with your address and I’ll mail you a hand-painted card as a thank you.


You can learn more about my painting of Ashlee in my post from 2008 when she participated in my “Women of Mass Construction” project (as a high school student!). I can’t tell you how humbled and inspired I was by the women I met and painted during this project, including Ashlee. Your contribution would mean the world to her, her family and to me. Thank you.

Recent commission, February 14, 2011

There’s no better fitting portrait commission to post on Valentine’s Day than this painting of one of my favorite couples.

I hope it’s been a sweet holiday for you!

“Louisville Counts!” benefiting Art Sparks

24″x30″ oil on canvas

While dropping  off  this portrait to my client (Gill Holland of  the Green Building)  I discovered a connection between the portrait and another project Gill has involved me in.   It turns out the children’s book I have been  asked to contribute another piece of artwork to is dedicated to the subject of this portrait, his daughter Cora.

Louisville Counts cover

The book, “Louisville Counts! A Children’s Counting & Art Book,” is a project that assembled 22 artists to create unique, child-friendly pieces of art to accompany 22 pieces of Louisville trivia. Each piece corresponds with a specific number, from 0-21, encouraging the reader to count their way through the book using everything from Muth’s Candies to baseball bats to Olmsted parks and even disco balls.

All 22 pieces  will be  on display September 4th – 25th at the Green Building Gallery and  sold in a silent auction  that runs for the duration  of the show. All proceeds from all sales of the book, as well as the gallery’s share of the sales of the corresponding artworks, go directly to Art Sparks Interactive Gallery, the children’s gallery at The Speed Art Museum.

Participating artists include: Chris Radtke, Nico Jorcino, Jacob Heustis, Cynthia Reynolds, Natasha Sud, Monica Mahoney, Gibbs Rounsavall, Bryce Hudson, Amanda Bishop, J.B. Wilson, McKinley Moore, Julius Friedman, Lloyd Kelly, Russel Hulsey, Billy Hertz, Letitia Quesenberry, Thea Lura, Sarah Lyon, Valerie Fuchs, Skylar Smith, and Stephen Irwin.

I’ll be at the opening reception on Friday, September 4th, which is a First Friday Trolley Hop (for you wine moochers out there).   I hope to see you there.

‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Stephanie & Aaliyah


11″ x 14″ oil on masonite board

Gallery caption:

Project Women (now the Family Scholar House) provides housing to single mothers who are experiencing homelessness and supports them in obtaining a baccalaureate degree, thereby enabling them to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their children.


Although Aaliyah coming into this world is the best thing that ever happened to Stephanie, being a committed single mother left her unable to give adequate attention to her own needs, specifically her education.   Without her college degree, Stephanie knew finding employment that would afford them stable, sufficient income was not a reality.   Project Women has provided them with housing and given Stephanie the support she needs to pursue her degree full-time.

Stephanie’s quote in the painting:

I began to believe that this was a blessing designed specifically for me.   I am now in an environment that understands the importance of education and does everything possible to help keep me on track while I pursue my dreams.

‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Joi Boyd

11″ x 14″ oil on masonite board.
See all artwork available for sale.

Gallery caption:

Women 4 Women envisions our community as one of the best places for girls, women and their families to live and work.   This vision guides our mission, which is to dedicate ourselves to improving the health and economic well-being of women and girls by increasing awareness, expanding resources and creating solutions to strengthen our community.

Joi’s experience with Women 4 Women has been specific to their “Finance 4 Her” financial education program.   Joi started as a student, learning to more effectively manage her budget and save.   She now serves as an instructor/volunteer financial coach for the program.   Joi teaches other women how to gain the same financial independence she has established by securing their own finances.   She’s seen improvement in their quality life, as well as her own, by getting out of financial ruts, even while on the tightest budget.

Joi’s quote in the painting:

I’m going to start with this much and end with this much more.   When you write all of it down, it makes you realize what you can really do.

‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Hannah Lamppin

11″ x 14″ oil on masonite board.
Email me at ashley.cecil at for purchasing inquiries.
A donation from sold painting will be made to the Women’s Second Chance Scholarship Fund.

Gallery caption:

Girl Scouting provides a place where today’s girls can become tomorrow’s leaders. Most girls join a local troop for fun and friendship, but they also find out about building character and self-esteem and serving their communities. In Girl Scouts, girls find a safe place to discover, connect, and take action.

Hannah has experienced the fun and games most of us associate with Girls Scouts, but the organization has also helped shape this shy young woman into budding, confident public speaker.   Her experiences with Girl Scouts have provided her with safe and supportive opportunities to tackle her Central Auditory Processing Disorder.   With encouragement and coaching from her troop leaders, Hannah’s language challenges have taken a backseat when she has given speeches across the country and even in Japan.

Hannah’s quote in the painting:

My world was certainly made a better place which has enabled me, by extension, to make the world a better place for others.   It was a very empowering feeling to think I what I said, or what I did, really mattered to these younger girls.

‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Anonymous

11″ x 14″ oil on masonite board.
Email me at ashley.cecil at for purchasing inquiries.
A donation from sold painting will be made to the Women’s Second Chance Scholarship Fund.

Gallery caption:

The Center for Women and Families engages individuals and community in the elimination of domestic violence, sexual violence and economic hardship through service, education and advocacy.

This domestic violence survivor endured unspeakable abuse and hardships inflicted by her husband, which took her years to escape.   She described walking through the doors of the Center for Women and Families as one of the scariest days of her life.   I would say, given the beautiful woman she showed herself to be in our interview, it was also one of the most pivotal days in her life, as well for her two children.

“God replaced my tears with laughter.

He replaced my fears with faith.

Now, my soul overflows with joy, peace, and thanks.”

Quote in the painting:

We were like broken winged birds when we first came through these doors.   For my safety and sanity, I had to leave everything I knew.   With the love of God, we have been loved and nurtured.

‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Virginia Durrance

11″ x 14″ oil on masonite board.
See all artwork available for sale.

Gallery caption:

Women In Transition is a grassroots organization run by and for poor people working on four primary campaigns: 1. Dismantling Classism, 2. CORROC (Claiming our Rights, Reclaiming our Children), 3. Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and 4. Louisville Living Wage Campaign & Raise the Wage.

Virginia’s involvement with WIT began after years of struggling to keep custody of her two daughters.   Poverty was most often the obstacle that stood between her and her children.   Although she worked two jobs, it didn’t provide her family with their basic needs.

WIT ‘s services would have been a tremendous asset during those challenging times, but Virginia has benefited greatly from the amazing social justice advocates she has since met.   She now volunteers as a parent advocate, helping others living below the poverty level navigate the legal system as they work to maintain custody of their children.

Quote in the painting:

If I had known of an organization like this then, I wouldn’t have lost my girls.   They motivate me and inspire me.

‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Arla O’Neil

11″ x 14″’ oil on masonite board.
Email me at ashley.cecil at for purchasing inquiries.
A donation from sold painting will be made to the Women’s Second Chance Scholarship Fund.

Gallery caption:

Because art nourishes the human spirit, the Louisville Visual Art Association enriches community life by educating people about the value and meaning of today’s visual arts and by championing artists and the creative process.

When Arla moved from Las Vegas with her mother in the 4th grade, she expected her school experience to be the same as it was in Neveda.   The transition was short of ideal, and Arla faced a rough adjustment to her new home.

Arla’s mother got her involved in the LVAA’s Children’s Free Art Classes to reconnect her with a familiar creative outlet, visual art.   Expressing her ideas on inviting sheets of empty white paper helped Arla gain control of her emotions, open up to others, and express herself creatively.

Arla’s quote in the painting:

We had just made a major move. It helped me learn to interact with others as well as to express myself. I would just forget what was going on in the crazy world or what made me angry, and create.

Building People Power

Barack and Michelle Obama
8″ x 10″ oil on canvas, $350 ($50 donated to Kentucky Jobs With Justice)

By guest writer, Attica Scott, Kentucky Jobs With Justice Coordinator

I’m in DC this inaugural weekend and thinking about what this moment in history means. For two days, I sat in meetings of the National Organizers Alliance thinking about how Obama’s election is helping to advance our movements for human rights and social justice. When I see the future first family, I see community and culture. But then I walk outside and I see overwhelming amounts of fanaticism and I get concerned about what we are building power for.

Are we creating an environment that will set up Obama for failure? Will we turn our backs on him when he cannot solve all of our problems like toxins from nuclear weapon waste being dumped into the water supply of towns in New Mexico and causing cancer to its residents? Or are we building a new kind of power that demands that those of us who consider ourselves organizers hold Mr. Obama just as accountable as we do all other elected officials?

As a non-profit organization, we at Kentucky Jobs With Justice cannot engage in partisan politics. But that means we need to intensify our electoral organizing year-round in a way that says to folks that we need you involved on the regular. That we are moving from this “moment” to building “movements.”

I think that what this moment means is that we are called to rebuild and redefine community organizing. Rebuild in a way that maintains the enthusiasm that was created during the Obama campaign and acknowledges that organizing takes many different forms. Redefine in a way that recognizes the complementary nature of new forms of on-line organizing and deep-rooted ways of building relationships. It is up to us to do the hopeful work that leads to change in our communities every single day.

Kentucky Jobs With Justice
1800 W Muhammad Ali Blvd, Suite 2E
Louisville KY 40203
Check us out on MySpace

DONATE NOW at to support economic justice & workers’ rights

Help two local families coping with tragedy

Yesterday, I learned about a horrific accident in Louisville involving four teens who are members of Youth Alive (where I have been doing community art programming through the Louisville Visual Art Association since this summer). After leaving a holiday party at the Presbyterian Community Center on Thursday night, Arron Shields, Jemar, Demar, and Marc Claybrooks were killed in a car accident. You can read the full story here.

Three of the boys were brothers (two of them twins). The fourth boy was also a twin. I cannot image how their parents are coping. Clearly, this will be a tremendous loss for the families and everyone at Youth Alive to cope with. The families are surely also struggling to pay to bury their children. If you would like to make a contribution to the families, please make it to the Youth Alive Fund for the Benefit of the Claybrooks and Shields families at any Republic Bank.

The funeral for Arron Shields will be at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Stephen Church, 1008 S. 15th St., with visitation from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Rogers-Awkard & Lyons Funeral Home, 951 S. Preston St. Visitation for the Claybrooks brothers will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday at G.C. Williams Funeral Home, 1935 W. Broadway. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Lampton Baptist Church, 850 S. Fourth St.

‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Sherry Spanyer

11″ x 14″ oil on masonite board.
A donation from sold painting will be made to the Women’s Second Chance Scholarship Fund.

Gallery caption:

The mission of Family and Children First is to “strengthen our community by helping families with children maximize their emotional, social and physical well being through behavioral health and social services, advocacy, and prevention efforts.”

Sherry was 40 years old when her sister convinced her to press charges against the man who sexually abused her, and several of her family members, for years as a child. Although she calls the experience “’empowering,” she also found it very frightening. Therapy at FCF helped Sherry navigate her way through a stockpile of feelings keeping her from fully moving on with her life. The shame she felt left her silent during early group therapy sessions. Now she openly shares her story with new clients of FCF to help them through the same process of recovery.

Sherry’s quote in the painting:

I always thought I was the only one. I blamed myself for years. I was able to let go of the shame. It was the most nurturing place to tell my story.

‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Whitten Montgomery

11″ x 14″’ oil on masonite board.
A donation from sold painting will be made to the Women’s Second Chance Scholarship Fund.

Gallery caption:

Kids Acting Against Cancer (KAAC) raises money to help the fight against cancer primarily through ticket sales to youth musical performances.

Whitten, and her sister Jaclyn, founded KAAC out of their dream to help kids and their families suffering from cancer. Inspired by their mother, Sandy (an 11 year cancer survivor), their mission is to literally act to help find the cure. The girls, along with countless other children of all ages, have put on musical productions to raise money for the charity. In addition to entertaining, they have distributed backpacks and gift packs to sick children locally as well as made generous donations to several cancer charities.

Whitten’s quote in the painting:

I wanted to find a way to use acting to help my mom. It started as something to keep our minds of it. For the first performance 30 people came and paid $3 to see us perform ‘Annie’ in my basement. To date we’ve raised $250,000 (she’s 18 years old).

‘Women of Mass Construction,’ Diana & Madison

11″ x 14″’ oil on masonite board.
Email me at ashley.cecil at for purchasing inquiries.
A donation from sold painting will be made to the Women’s Second Chance Scholarship Fund.

Gallery caption:

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kentuckiana helps children reach their potential through professionally supported one-to-one relationships between youth and adult mentors.

When Diana’s daughter left for college, she set out to fill her empty nest with a child in need of her time. BBBS paired Diana with Madison, a Katrina evacuee. Diana has helped Madison through the transition to a new city under less than ideal circumstance. Aside from recreational outings, they’ve also delved into Madison’s social challenges at school. The two journal together about what makes Madison angry. Then, they shift the focus to positive thoughts about the people in Madison’s life. Although these experiences are meant for Madison’s wellbeing, Diana admits they’ve equally benefited her.

Quote in the painting:

‘She’s here! She’s here!’ I’ve never had someone so excited to see me. It’s wonderful to make a difference in her life.