Ash Norris Says, "What Is Art? Who The Fuck Cares?"

"I think this is proof that with enough determination and passion, anything is possible no matter how far away your goal may seem. Just go for it and don't look back."

Ashley Norris, 20 years old, is from a small town in England, UK called Goole who has been drawing since he was a boy. Without a revolutionary purpose behind his creative process, he does it for a simple and real enough reason: because he loves to. The evolution of his progress is, without a doubt, evident. He proudly displays his work from just 4 years ago that shows inconsistent lines, features without much shape and child-like animation. But today, his drawings are so intricate, detailed and life-like that you will, wholeheartedly, gape in awe. Norris is a true testament of hard work and, most importantly, practice. While many people would have given up when told their work wasn't good enough, Norris ignored the negative voices and hopes he can be a beacon of light for those who are suspended in a cloud of doubt.

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Nina Simone said, “It’s an artist's duty to reflect the times in which we live.” How do you feel you and your work represents the time of our world today?

I'm not really sure how to answer this one, to be honest. It always makes me uncomfortable talking about my work as though it has this deep meaning behind it, when in reality I just draw things that I would like to see myself. If I see a reference photo that I find interesting, I'll draw it. I think sometimes art gets labelled too much, nobody really knows what it means. What is art? Who the fuck cares? That's the main reason I dropped Fine Arts at university. The people on my course were way in over their heads about all this deep meaning to their work. Some of them had never even done a portrait, believe it or not! Then when it came to a studio critique, people were really engaged with my work, but soon to be dissatisfied when I told them that there wasn't a hidden metaphor nor a middle finger to society contained within my drawings. That just isn't me, I simply love to draw.

(Above) This is the image that caught me off guard and made me think about including you in this new series. How does it make you feel to witness such an evolution in your creative process? How often were you practicing?

I'm so glad that this photo grabbed your attention! I remember putting an older drawing of mine side by side with a new one, it's fair to say I was shocked to see my progression! I remember back then being in awe of all these artists that I once looked up to, genuinely believing that I could never play on the same field as them. I was being pressurized by all directions to quit, because let's face it, most people would look at the drawing on the left and think 'how crap, that kids going nowhere'. I think the main thing that surprises people when they see these comparison photos is the fact that I didn't give up. A lot of my followers come to me for my advice and feedback on their drawings. They're being told by their art teachers and parents that they should follow up other paths because their art isn't very strong and will take them nowhere. They remind me so much of myself that I do my very best to help them keep their passion alive! I tell them to never give up on something they love. I have always loved to draw and although I wasn't as good back then as I am now, my love and passion for it hasn't changed a bit. I like to post photos like this once in awhile in hopes that at least one person will be inspired by it. In hopes that at least one person won't give up. Their passion doesn't necessarily have to be sketches, it could be anything. But I think this is proof that with enough determination and passion, anything is possible no matter how far away your goal may seem. Just go for it and don't look back.

Describe to me your earliest memory of work. How old were you? Where were you sitting?

My earliest memory of work would have to be when I was around the ages of 6 or 7. My mum bought me a ‘Super Grafix’ for Christmas. It was a tool that allowed you to view through this patented optical viewer and see an image in front of you and at the same time, this mirror would allow you to see your hands drawing on the sheet of paper below you. It blew my mind as a kid!! In this case, I was drawing the front cover of the Stuart Little 2 DVD. I remember being so proud of it that I even took it into school to show my teacher! There are moments where I remember small fragments of painting and drawing from an even younger age but my memory just isn't strong enough to tell you a story, I'm afraid, haha.

As an artist, what do you want people to feel when they look at your work? Why?

I've come to understand that my work brings a small amount of hope to some people. I get flooded with messages from people who are considering the option of  putting the pencil and paper down. Y'know, they’re feeling so let down by all that they know, that they truly believe they can’t get any better no matter how much they want to improve. I wish that when I felt like giving up, some of the artists I looked up to would have displayed their earlier work so I could relate to them and feel like it was possible to become better at drawing. But that wasn't the case. So I guess I want people to feel like they, too, can rise up and produce things they only dreamed about doing.

"The word ‘impossible’ is only in the mind and not in the heart. If we can remain in the heart, There will be no end to our progress." - Sri Chinmoy

Is creating art your full-time profession? If so, when did you decide to go against the grain to do what you love? Why?

Creating art isn't my full time profession, actually. I've been unemployed for a year now, haha, but it's not as depressing as it sounds. I've always been in full time education, right up until I realised I had chosen the wrong path and decided to drop it last year.

I noticed in my work I was trying to create the illusion of movement. I started by making double exposure portraits to try and capture that feeling, didn't work. So I made these miniature head sculptures in plaster that had up to 3 faces. I was failing miserably, but I just couldn't get this idea of moving pictures out of my head! That's when it hit me: I love animation. I've always been surrounded by it. As a really young child I remember having a VHS of Disney's Silly Symphonies and, obviously, all the other movies like Dumbo, Fox and The Hound, Basil the Great Mouse Detective. It's pretty funny actually, a few months back I noticed that in pretty much every childhood photo of me I am holding Woody and Buzz [Lightyear] toys in each hand, hahaha, I was obsessed! So this year I have been learning as much about animation as I possibly can at home. I've been creating a portfolio that I will be submitting real soon to Sheridan College in Canada!

How do you overcome the block of inspirational flow? Many writer’s call this period “Writer’s Block.” 

From time to time I can find it difficult to think of new ideas of what work to produce. I've found that 10 minutes browsing Pinterest can work wonders for inspiration, haha, but I think the best source for material is out there in the real world. I am working on a little story right now, I'd love to share more information but it is part of my animation portfolio and I can't really give much away, yet. But the ideas came flooding to me whilst I spent almost 4 weeks traveling Canada this summer. It's by far the most beautiful place I have ever visited!

What is the hardest thing about following your dream?

The hardest thing about following my dream, I guess, would be money. I come from a small town In England, the area where I'm from doesn't exactly care for anything art related. The education here isn't too bad, I mean it costs £9k a year ($13,800.15) but nobody pays that back. I want to move to a country that can offer me the course I dream of. Sure, some universities offer animation here, but it’s like 'Okay, I've got my degree, now what?' The market for animation is very small. Pretty much every animated movie you see on TV or on the big screen is American. I dream of studying abroad and being employed by an animation company.  Making movies for people of all ages, to inspire generations and create stories that will stay in their hearts forever. But being an international student I will have to pay more money than what I would have to pay here. College doesn't come cheap as I'm sure you all know. If I'm super lucky (fingers crossed) I'll be able to grab myself a scholarship, but who knows!

Where do you see yourself in five years? What are you doing to reach your goal?

In five years’ time, I would honestly like to say I see myself working for an animation studio. But who knows! Five years is a long time. If I told myself 5 years ago that I'd be aiming to move to Canada to study I’d have called bull! I think I'm just gonna ride this one out and see how it goes. I would rather attempt and fail than not attempt at all. I don't want to live a life of 'what if'.

Did you come from an artistic family?

Surprisingly, I don't come from an artistic family. But my biggest inspiration has got to be my grandpa. He grew up in the same town as I did and he knew exactly what he wanted to do in life. He attended night classes in chemistry, and managed to secure a job at Croda (a British speciality chemicals company) cleaning the floors of the labs. In time, he managed to build his way up from sweeping floors to becoming the manager of the company. I love that. Also, my uncle is the same! He studied psychology at Oxford University and moved to Canada where he has lived since before I was born. I visited his home actually for the first time this summer whilst I was over there! My family inspire me greatly.

(Above) This creation caught my attention because of the strong imagery. I can’t help but interpret it in an almost dark, sad way as if the man is suffering. Is he sleeping or dead? Was that the intention? What does this drawing mean? Why did you create it and how do you hope people will interpret it?

The photo on the right was actually a commission piece I did for someone. He was a photographer. This photo, I believe, was from his first photography shoot. Nonetheless, I enjoyed working on this piece so much! I'm not exactly sure what the guy was intending to create with the photo, but I see it as a man that has collapsed due to medical reasons. It was just so different to all the other commissions I had taken on. Usually people come to me asking to draw their babies or dogs, haha. Actually, the strangest order I've had was to draw a sperm dressed in army gear.

Do you plan to or currently conduct any workshops? If so, when, where and how often? Where can people find more information?

Like I said earlier, sadly my area doesn't really care for art. So conducting a workshop could possibly be a great flop! I'd love to be able to set up one, but I guess it all depends on the demand. Maybe someday!