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Art Talk with Ashley Robin Franklin

Blog and Interview by: Maryssa Chavez
Photography by: Jinni J

Ashley Robin Franklin is an illustrator, cartoonist, and artist who is local to the Austin area where she creates all of her art alongside her girlfriend and her dog. She was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley where she also attended the University of Texas Pan-American, and calls Texas her home. Ashley has had several short comics in the New Yorker and many other popular publications.
Ashley started printing with Raw Paw using Raw Paw Drop Ship in March of 2020, with the launch of her shirt, "Queer Comics Club" and we have been printing together since!

To me, a lot of Ashley's work is something out of a fairytale, where everything is lovely and made of magic. In a lot of her more recent work we see depictions of cottages, mushrooms, and snails under the moonlight, sometimes accompanied by humans in the frame too. These pieces feel like a safe and comforting space, and I am excited for you all to learn more about her and her creative journey.

Maryssa:
When did you begin drawing and illustrating? Would you say it was something that came naturally to you?

Ashley:
I’ve loved drawing for as long as I can remember, so yeah, it came pretty naturally. I was definitely always an art kid, always the one scribbling away with whatever materials I could get my hands on. My dad’s a high school art teacher, so my interest in art was always encouraged. As a kid I was also really interested in making up stories and creating little illustrated books and things like that, so it makes perfect sense that I fell into doing comics.

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Maryssa:
A lot of the work you get printed with us feels like a fairy wonderland, and it's really so beautiful. Where does that inspiration come from, especially in your recent work with drawing homes/whittle cottages, etc.?

Ashley:
Thank you! I think I've been extra on a whimsical fairyish kick lately, mostly just as a way to comfort myself and relax. Drawing cozy and lush scenes with little houses, mushrooms and moss are just so fun and soothing, like coming up with little worlds I’d like to escape to. I think the inspiration comes from a bunch of places-- playing with scale is really fun and I love collecting little tiny knick knacks and things, I’m also really interested in terrariums, insects, and moss, basically nature at a really small scale. 

Maryssa:
If you could, in one word describe your reason for creating, and why?
Ashley:
Compulsion!

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Maryssa:
Who are your favorite artists in any medium, at the moment?

Ashley:
That’s a really hard question!!! I have too many favorites, so I’ll just list a few that pop into my head first.
Umm… I’ll pick a musician, and two cartoonists:
Mal Blum - they’re one of my favorite musicians and I’ve been playing their rerelease/full band version of San Cristóbal over and over since they put it out earlier this year.
Caroline “Benji” Sweater / Benji Nate (of Catboy fame) - She’s got an ongoing horror comic called Blood Root that I can’t wait to read more of!
Charlot Kristensen--- read her graphic novel, What We Don’t Talk About (Avery Hill, 2020). Seriously, do it! One of my favorite books of 2020.

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Maryssa:
When you see people out in public rocking your shirts, how does it make you feel?

Ashley:
It’s thrilling! It’s only happened a couple of times, but usually I won’t say anything to them. I’ll just text one of my friends or my girlfriend like, "Heck yeah! Guess what I just saw, IRL.”

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Maryssa: Top 3 shout outs, to your top 3 fav people go-- !

Do you mean, just like general shout outs to people I like?
Hi Morgan Thomas (Morg Florg) and Quimvaa and Shelby Crisswell!!! They’re my buds and also all very talented artists! If folks aren’t following them, they should be, GOOD CONTENT!

Maryssa:
Why is it important to you to have your work printed on garments?

Ashley:
I really love wearing shirts that have art from my favorite illustrators and cartoonists. I think it’s a really cool way to support someone’s art practice, and also can be a good conversation starter-- I’ve had someone recognize a shirt I’m wearing before (pre-covid when I met strangers), and then we’ve gone on to talk about comics and art and stuff. And, if I’m making a shirt or other garment, it’s because it’s something that I actually want to wear. I just got some long sleeve shirts printed with y’all because I only had one long sleeve shirt that I really liked and I wanted more, so I designed something I thought would be really fun to wear.

I also just really like having a variety of products or ways to engage with my work available to folks-- like hey, comics aren’t your thing, maybe you’d like a shirt, or maybe you don’t have room on your walls or the funds to buy a print, but you want a sticker for your water bottle. I like surrounding myself with art that I love when I can. It makes me happy.

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Maryssa:
With Austin's intensive growth as a city, how do you feel it will affect Austin’s current art scene?

Ashley:
I really don’t know. These pandemic times have me feeling so distant from any local art scene, outside of following folks on the internet, that I don’t know how to answer that question. I hope what venues and spaces we have left, and local art events, can bounce back & survive going forward. 

Maryssa:
Top three fictional characters? --- go!

Ashley:
Way too hard to pick a top three, but I’ll list some characters from recent media I’ve consumed that I really liked. Gideon Nav from the Locked Tomb series (wisecracking butch with a sword!!!), Moroha from Yasha-hime (Inuyasha’s daughter! She’s an adorable fool!), and ummm… Pearl from Steven Universe will have a special place in my heart forever.

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Maryssa:
To the fans/friends/family who love your work, what are the best ways to support you? Are there any projects you are really passionately pursuing that they should be looking out for?

Ashley:
I’ve got a book coming out with Silver Sprocket-- i’ts a queer rom com comic called That Full Moon Feeling, about a witch and a werewolf who go on three disastrous dates. It’s available for pre-order through them right now, and comes out February 3rd. You can also request it from your favorite local comic shop or indie bookstore.

I’m currently working on a YA graphic novel called The Hills of Estrella Roja, that’ll be coming out with HMH/ETCH in 2023. I know that’s a while from now, but I can’t wait to share it with everyone, so keep an eye out for that. It’s the longest project I’ve ever worked on, and I’m just so excited. All I can really say about it now is: Texas, spooky mysteries, & queer teen romance!

Thanks for asking me to do this!!!

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We want to thank Ashley for allowing us to interview her, and chat about all the beautiful work she is making. We look forward to all that Ashley creates in the future, especially excited for her YA graphic novel!

You can find Ashley on her website and on Instagram. ❤️