Centerville native launches virtual art show from her European home

Ashley Stuart, a UK-based Centerville native, is showcasing her new landscape painting in “Just Beyond,” a virtual exhibition launching at ashley-stuart.com on Sunday, Sept. 6.
Ashley Stuart, a UK-based Centerville native, is showcasing her new landscape painting in “Just Beyond,” a virtual exhibition launching at ashley-stuart.com on Sunday, Sept. 6.

Ashley Stuart’s landscape paintings featured in exhibition “Just Beyond.”

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United Kingdom in March, everything changed for landscape artist Ashley Stuart. Before COVID-19, the Centerville native’s days were spent rushing about her adoptive home of Peterborough, going to and from school and sports or running errands with her young daughters, Emerson, 4, and Lorelei, 2. When possible, she and her husband explored their passion for European travel and marathon running.

After the lockdown, Stuart found a way to balance co-parenting her girls with short jaunts through her neighborhood or out into the English countryside to paint. She was also motivated to create her first art show.

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Ashley Stuart, a UK-based Centerville native, is showcasing her new landscape painting in “Just Beyond,” a virtual exhibition launching at ashley-stuart.com on Sunday, Sept. 6.
Ashley Stuart, a UK-based Centerville native, is showcasing her new landscape painting in “Just Beyond,” a virtual exhibition launching at ashley-stuart.com on Sunday, Sept. 6.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“Just Beyond,” an exhibition of landscape paintings, is available virtually at ashley-stuart.com. Sign up to get the access code.

Stuart recently answered some questions about her new paintings and UK life during the pandemic.

Q: What has it been like balancing your art with being a wife and mother during the shutdowns?

A: My husband is supportive of anything I pursue, which made my transition into full-time artist easier. He was a huge help during lockdown months, picking up additional housework and enjoyed being more involved in everyday life with the kids. Because I was a stay-at-home mom previous to lockdown, I actually found “lockdown motherhood” more relaxing in some ways as there was no preschool or sport practices. But I also found it completely restrictive as I had used nursery and preschool days as personal time. But this restriction was a major factor in my initial art surge during lockdown, leading to this exhibition.

“Hunstanton Beach Huts” is among the new paintings featured in “Just Beyond,” an exhibition of landscape paintings by Ashley Stuart. The UK-based Centerville native is launching the show virtually at ashley-stuart.com on Sunday, Sept. 6.
“Hunstanton Beach Huts” is among the new paintings featured in “Just Beyond,” an exhibition of landscape paintings by Ashley Stuart. The UK-based Centerville native is launching the show virtually at ashley-stuart.com on Sunday, Sept. 6.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Q: I’ve talked to some musicians and artists that have struggled with creativity since COVID-19 hit. Others have been the opposite. How has your creativity been during these uncertain times?

A: I have always used my creativity as an outlet for ideas and emotions. When the stress and fear of COVID-19 presented itself, I withdrew to draw or paint more often. The need to create was greater than ever. I’m also not one to dwell on the negative and stressful, so I would be in the latter group you’ve mentioned. Sharing my art publicly and selling pieces has been on my mind for a long, long time. But I have lacked direction and bravery in the past. When faced with this a huge unknown in the pandemic, I couldn’t shake the thought, “If not now, then when?”

Q: What prompted you to make the leap?

A: It was my husband who encouraged me to sell my art. I have always been a little shy and have fought to be extroverted in my career. His support and encouragement to literally — “Go for it, what do we have to lose?” — was a nice silencer to the self-criticism artists so often battle. I also joined two support groups geared towards female artists and entrepreneurs. The relationships formed from these groups has been incredible.

Q: As a travel artist, what have you learned from documenting the area around Peterborough?

A: Peterborough is situated in the East Midlands. The beautiful aspects of the city can often be overlooked by the sight of our industrial parks. For example, we host a portion of a large country park, Ferry Meadows at Nene Park, which is equivalent to a privately-owned National Park in the States. The amount of wildlife and greenspace surrounding us is lovely. Locally, our neighborhood has a resident vixen who births pups every year and they play with our children’s toys. At times, we catch them in the act. How magical is that? Our cathedral, along with the Ely Cathedral, is a jaw-dropping 12th-century building. The downtown promenade is always filled with markets and vendors, while the rivers are filled with paddle boarders. This exploration has solidified my love for this area. But, to be truthful, Cambridgeshire also reminds me a lot of home. Growing up, I often visited my grandfather, who lived on a working farm in Centerville. Seeing the farming hillsides or walking the paths full of blackberry brambles here in England brings me back to childhood time and time again. Neighbors have often asked about what my home looks like. And if I said, “Just like here,” it wouldn’t be far from the truth as Dayton and Peterborough are and will always be home.

Q: What was it like preparing for the virtual exhibition?

A: With the closure of various businesses and social distancing rules in place, finding a space to showcase my collection was a battle I wasn’t willing to fight. There is always another way. A virtual exhibition was the answer. While I haven’t created this particular sort of scene before, in my graphic design career, I would work with web developers to create digital interactive spaces for clients or would create exhibitions for high profile client events where thousands of guests would experience and interact with the design. As this is my premier launch, there has been a steep learning curve, but I really thrive in creative challenges. When something doesn’t go to plan, I simply state, “It’s all part of the process,” and move on to what will work.

“Ashton Cottage” is among the new paintings featured in “Just Beyond,” an exhibition of landscape paintings by Ashley Stuart. The UK-based Centerville native is launching the show virtually at ashley-stuart.com on Sunday, Sept. 6.
“Ashton Cottage” is among the new paintings featured in “Just Beyond,” an exhibition of landscape paintings by Ashley Stuart. The UK-based Centerville native is launching the show virtually at ashley-stuart.com on Sunday, Sept. 6.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Q: What’s next for you?

A: This is what I’ve always done and who I’ve always been. Only now, I’ve built a platform to share with the world and to hopefully inspire others. I suppose I’ll just keep going.

Artist info: ashley-stuart.com.

Contact contributing arts and music writer Don Thrasher at donthrasher100@gmail.com.