“I don’t believe in talent or that I received skills through some family member before me. I’ve just loved drawing ever since I was a child, and I kept practicing for all these years. So that’s where my, if you want to call it, “talent,” came from. I feel really uncomfortable when people call me talented because I know how much that “talent” cost me.”
If you’ve ever seen Ashiya’s work, you’re probably surprised by her perspective on talent. One look at the Russian watercolor artist’s work immediately draws you in. The soft colors and beautiful characters provide a gentle and calming viewing experience that clearly show a depth of talent.
But if nothing else, Ashiya is a living embodiment of the fact that there is no such thing an overnight sensation. And that instead, hard work, dedication, and a little bit of risk taking are the most important elements in turning a passion into a career.
Early Days: “I guess I was a weird kid”
Ashiya was raised “in a small city near a big city” in Russia. Constantly floating between the two scenes, Ashiya enjoyed the relative peace of a quiet, simple town as well as the hustle and bustle of city life. You’ll notice this contrast in many of her illustrations:
At school, though she received good marks, Ashiya wasn’t your average student. She wore gothic clothes and enjoyed subcultures not common for most kids.
“I guess I was a weird kid. I loved anime (especially Sailor Moon) from a very young age, and it was not as common as it is now, so sometimes that could be a reason to be bullied for. Not that much bullying and nothing serious – people just laughed at me sometimes.”
Being different is not easy, especially at such a young age. But Ashiya didn’t let what others say bother her and made her own decisions (a theme that would prevalent throughout her life). Though she often got into arguments with teachers for standing out too much, she stood up for herself, sometimes even gaining support and respect from her classmates.
Taking a Leap of Faith
Ashiya started drawing passionately at the age of 8 and decided to pursue art at university. However, she says she could never have imagined becoming the illustrator she is today, simply because back then, the profession didn’t exist. Instead, she thought she would become a graphic designer.
She eventually earned a position at a great, well-known studio with big projects and a big salary. On the outside looking in, Ashiya’s life was nearly perfect and the stage was set for a successful steady career.
But even still, something didn’t feel right.
“I felt like I couldn’t breathe there. There was almost no creativity in projects, very short deadlines, and a lot of pressure from the Art Director to figure out what was in his mind. I suffered from severe depression during this time.”
It was during this experience that Ashiya realized how much creating interesting things and pursuing her own ideas meant to her. Though working at a top tier studio would be a dream many artists would cling onto, to Ashiya, nothing was more important than meaningful work.
So, after only 2 months, she took a leap of faith to bet on herself, and quit.
(Photo of Ashiya's work station)
The Days Ahead
Since pursuing her own freelance career, Ashiya’s work has been showcased by Michael Kors, she has garnered more than half a million followers on Instagram, and her YouTube videos have garnered almost 9 million views.
But perhaps what’s most astonishing is Ashiya’s commitment to her craft. When asked when the first time she figured out she was good at art, she replied:
“When I realized I was good at art…huh. Sometimes even now I don’t think I’m good. I’m not good ENOUGH, and I still have a lot of work to do to be able to call myself good enough. You always can grow and become better, right?"
Ashiya starts off each year by writing down 100 goals for the year. These goals can be professional or personal, big or small – they can be as small as cooking a new meal or as ambitious as creating an artbook. However, even while being so goal-oriented, Ashiya says she doesn’t look to much into the future, because so much can change so quickly.
But what we can be sure of is this: Ashiya will stay true to her own vision. And even if that takes her down the off-beaten path, it’s clear she’ll be all the better for it.