Artist Spotlight: Ashley Sullivan

Ashley SullivanAshley Sullivan grew up in northeast Ohio where the rust belt smokestacks and old industry give way to leaning barns and fields of soy. Depending on the season, or the temperament of the weather that day, the landscape outside her windows changed. Light ebbed and flowed against a field that boomed green and whispered in summer breezes and went all cracked brown and sharp when whorls of snow came tumbling out of the iron skies in winter. She chased cats through barns born a century before her and she watched how the dust lit up like fireworks when the sun slipped in through the slats and cracks of the room where cows used to mingle. There was beauty in everything, and she kept it all safe in the deepest pockets of her brain.

She’s lived in Chicago among swaying towers of metal and glass that poked at the sky. It was in Chicago that she learned to appreciate how dynamic a city can be; how the jagged lines and gentle curves of railroad trusses can spark memories of barn beams. Now, she’s boomeranged back home to Ohio to set down some roots in Cleveland Heights. Most days she can be found in her studio, chasing down moments and putting them onto canvas. She’s only just begun.

“Ashley Sullivan’s work is incredibly stimulating and interesting.,” enthused Mary Neff Stewart, Senior Wall Art Designer for John-Richard. “Her use of movement and color result in an industrial feel while remaining versatile enough for the most sophisticated spaces.”

We had a chance to ask Ashley about her background and what inspires her art.

You grew up in the country among fields and barns. How did the landscape effect or inspire you?
There are quiet, still, and restful places out in the country. Which is not to say the country is boring or dull. I love the repetition of lines in a field — freshly seeded rows of turned earth, or corn stalk bases that remain after the fall harvest. There is texture and pattern in a dense arrangement when viewed up close, and yet taking in the field as a whole, there is a calming uniformity. With more open space, you can take in a wider expanse of a field or sky. I love the feeling of being a part of and connected to nature, but also feeling a very small creature in a vast space.

Conversely, in the city of Chicago, did you find it infused you with a different type of artistic energy?
A city certainly has life and energy. At times I am completely starry-eyed enchanted, but can also find myself overwhelmed by the inexhaustibleness of a city. I would love to bottle the vibrancy and spark of a city lit up at night, but I don’t think it has a long shelf life. Part of what makes a city so appealing to me is its constantly changing nature. You could paint a city street forever and never paint it the same way twice.

GBG-1406Do you have any favorite color palettes?
I am always drawn to a layered neutral palette, pulling from both warm and cool tones to give depth and interest to the calm areas of a canvas. For the focal point I bring in more saturated neutrals and bolder colors. I’ll use various colors from the same color family — instead of the accent color being only “red”, I will use orange, rust, pink, cranberry, salmon, coral, burgundy, and so on.

Are there artists, past or present, whom you particularly admire?
Narrowed down to top ten: Alphonse Mucha, George Hendrik Breitner, Franz Kline, Sol LeWitt, Eva Hess, Gerhard Richter, Nick Cave, Kai Samuels-Davis, Jeremy Mann, Robert Szot.

When did you start producing art with John-Richard?
November of 2016.

What new art are you working on right now?
I came home from a vacation on Lake Erie with a collection of stones (agate, quartz, slate, etc.) and plan to do a series of paintings using their color palettes.


Artist Spotlight: Austin Allen James

austin bay shirt hrAustin A. James was born in Putnam, CT but has lived most of his life since 1973 in Houston, TX. Austin began his art career in 1994 as a poet. His love for playing with words and phrases and his love for color naturally led him to experimenting with paint and motion. He started painting in 1996 and exhibiting as a professional artist in 1997. Austin believes that art is energy. Each human being has his or her own unique form of energy. An artist is the one who is capable of translating this energy into art.

gbg-1497.jpgAustin’s pieces focus on organic shapes, color and the natural flow of matter and motion. His MFA from Naropa University in Poetry has infused a lyrical sensibility into Austin’s work. Austin’s formal education also includes a BA from Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX, and an MBA from the University of Dallas. Austin lives in Houston, Texas with his children Granger and Baylies.

We asked Mary Neff Stewart, Senior Wall Art Designer for John-Richard, her thoughts about the artist. “Austin’s work has this amazing fluidity to it. The end result is incredibly peaceful – though when he talks about the creative process, it sounds so energetic!,” she adds, “His aesthetic suits so many spaces and styles. I am thrilled we are working with him, and I look forward to building our collection.”

You are a poet as well as an artist, are there commonalities between both forms of creative expression? Yes, it is not uncommon to find a poet and a visual artist in the same person. A poet loves to play with words. Words are pigments that define space. A visual artist enjoys the use of color and shapes to create a sense of feeling.

Art is most successful when it strikes two feeling chords at once. The piece that makes one feel happy and sad, angry and joyful. That is art.

Are there any places or settings that are inspiring you right now?

I love the Gulf Coast.

How has your time in Texas molded you into the artist you are today? I discovered I was a rascal in Texas. I am a child of the 1970’s. Children did as they pleased, and so did our parents; these parents were raised in the 1950’s and became young adults during the Vietnam war. No one was minding the store or the rules.

Do you have a personal favorite color palette?GBG-1501

Neutral: whites, soft grays, robin’s egg blues, celadons. I believe it is easier to feel through the subtleties of a soft, tranquil palete.

What are you currently working on?

A new series called “Carpe Grace”. It is a gentle piece with this faint touch of gold blending through the center of the piece. The gold appears as a fog. Carpe Grace involves a solid 10-15 layers in order to accomplish the feeling of “floating in grace”.

Can you speak about your new relationship with John-Richard?

I wanted to work with John-Richard because their aesthetic and scope compliment and represent the south. The company has a keen eye for strength mixed with subtleties. I see myself in a similar fashion. I look forward to a steady relationship with John-Richard that develops step-by-step through the years.


For more details on the Austin Allen James art carried by John-Richard, click on the link below:

Spotlight on Wall Art Designer Mary Neff Stewart

Mary Neff Portrait
Mary Neff Stewart

Mary Neff Stewart has been defining her career for 15 years as a designer and art teacher and now as the Senior Wall Art Designer at John-Richard. Her appreciation of fine art and love of creating mixed media pieces at the University of Mississippi and the University of Memphis has been parlayed into sourcing and creating art for John-Richard.

Mary Neff has lived in various places across the Mid-South and now resides in Greenwood with her husband and their son. She finds inspiration through color and home design. She also serves as the Homes Editor for Mississippi Magazine, writing on the spectacular homes and art throughout the state. We were able to spend some time with the designer to hear her view on trends and the current collections.

We were able to spend some time with the designer and hear her thoughts on trends and the new John-Richard introductions.

What trends are you seeing in the market right now?GBG-1358A

I’m seeing a lot of unique objects being used in framed art. People love a curated look in their homes, and we are trying to source and create unique styles. With our genuine butterfly collections and our framed botanicals, we are really creating one of a kind art for a distinctive home. Color is still extremely important, as that is sometimes the only “pop” in an otherwise neutral space. We have some really stunning canvases that would work in a variety of designs.

What unique techniques are being used this season?GBG-1313A-D

Obviously, I was feeling very floral this collection! I loved playing with the John Richard botanical department and using their new and exciting pieces. They are creating some really fabulous things by preserving and dying real blooms and greenery. We also hand painted and applied resin to a variety of silk stems.

What inspires you with this season?

Violet Hurricane by William Goodman

All of our artists inspire me each and every season. I am in love with William Goodman’s vibrant color as well as Jason Lott’s moody hues. Mary Hong completely went outside her box for this collection with Intergalactic.

What appeals to you personally and professionally in the art offerings?

Personally, I am drawn to loud, brilliant colors. Professionally, I seem to focus more on subdued hues and classic whites, creams and grays. The April collection has a great mix of both. We are still seeing a lot of cool aqua. It truly seems to be a color that is sticking around in the design world. Yellow seems to be a new hue that we are showing off in our original oil collection also.

Ladies in Aqua I -IV by Kiah Denson
Intergalactic I -II by Mary Hong


Is there a buzz word that reflects what is new and interesting in John-Richard wall art?

Texture is always important! Especially with our use of lots of natural objects this past market, texture- whether real or implied- helps to make a piece more exciting. I’m a very tactile person. I always like to touch the art!

To see more offering in art and wall decor, click here.