Creating Memories For Others With Her Paintbrush
Sometimes, life presents an opportunity to combine our favorite things. Golf and beer, baseball and hot dogs, a good movie and popcorn.
And even some things outside the food vein, such as Ashley Derrick being able to combine her love of animals and her artistic talents.
“Animals are my thing. I’ve always loved them. It’s no surprise that they play a huge role in my art,” the Cedar Hill artist said.
So, she decided to begin painting pet portraits. It’s an opportunity to do something she loves with creatures she loves, along with creating some great memories for their loving owners.
“I got the crazy idea one day to paint a series featuring my Great Dane, Bucky Barnes, in some of his weird poses,” she said. “When I shared the art on my personal Facebook page, I had a handful of friends ask for commissions for their own pets, and when I shared that art in a local Facebook group to see if I could get any commissions from ‘the outside world’ I did!”
Derrick is mostly a self-taught artist with no art school or professional training, with the exception of a week of corporate training for her job at Painting with a Twist in Cedar Hill, which offers easy to follow painting classes for patrons. She didn’t even take an art class in high school.
But she does have an artistic family connection
“When I was a teenager, my mom and her friend helped each other paint fun murals in different rooms of their houses, and I got to help,” she said. “I was always a creative, artistic kid, but painting those murals was the thing I remember as inspiration for taking the hobby of painting more seriously.
“My cousin, who is around 10 years older than me, is a professional artist and used to own her own studio in Georgetown. She also paints a lot of animals, and has always been someone I look up to, even though our styles are very different. I recently discovered that my grandfather went through a season of painting, so it’s safe to say, ‘Yeah, I do come from an artistic family.’”
When she was a stay-at-home mom by day and Painting with A Twist instructor by night, roughly five years ago, she painted a collection of art for a holiday trade show. She said her favorite piece was a purple Cavalier King Charles Spaniel wearing big retro yellow cat-eye glasses on a blue background.
“She was adorable!” Derrick exclaimed. “In 2020, when I got the idea to paint my Great Dane, it was because I was reminiscing about that one special painting. It all kind of catapulted from there.”
And judging from the reaction of her customers, it’s going to continue to grow.
“I have purchased drawings of my cat, my son’s dog as a memorial, and have commissioned one more for my daughter’s dogs,” said Betsy Taylor. “This talented young lady is worth every penny and more.”
Stephanie Shuster added, “I asked Ashley to paint a portrait of my mom’s special little dog Taz as a Christmas present for her. I love Ashley’s style of painting and her eye for details. She included yellow daisies, my mom’s favorite flowers. I’m pretty sure this is one of the most meaningful gifts I’ve given my mother. We both cried when she opened it.”
Derrick calls her style “whimsical.”
“I really like to have fun, and it often comes through in my paintings. Lots of bright colors, contrasts, splatter, and what can be described as ‘pop art inspired elements,” she said. “Of course, this references more of my personal works, as I strive to produce what the client wants, even if that’s not how I would have designed the piece. It’s about the clients seeing their beloved pet captured on a canvas, and that means something different for every piece.”
Dantia Tate exclaimed, “We cannot tell you how much our paintings meant to us that Ashley painted for us. They look exactly like my baby. She truly has a gift.”
Her most challenging project?
“I think I cried the most over a painting of an adorable pit bull with a huge cheeseburger in her mouth. The cheeseburger was easy and looked phenomenal but getting the fur color right on the dog was a huge challenge,” she said. “It really stressed me out, but I got through it, and all the negativity washed away when the client saw the finished piece.”
Among her other works are a mural of local wildlife at a park, two very large canvases featuring a lion on one and a bear on another, and several other fun animal projects. She even gave an old concrete lion statue a fresh new look.
“Currently, my greatest art-related dream is to make a road trip out of painting murals and imagery of sea life in aquariums all across the country. I could spend hours, if not days, in aquariums, so it would be an overwhelming joy to travel and paint at some of my favorite places to be,” she said.
But there’s one project that is her dream above all others – and it also involves animals, albeit not anything like she’s done before.
“One of my favorite movies of all time is Jurassic Park. I love the whole series and have seen every movie in theaters so far. I have a JP tattoo, and I even painted a ‘Santa Claws’ mini canvas ornament featuring the iconic T-rex,” she said. “In late 2021, while at my sister’s restaurant in Waxahachie where my large black and white lion painting is displayed, I ran into an artist that did work on the original Jurassic Park movie. He liked my artwork! We spent an hour chatting, and he gave me wisdom and advice that I have held onto and implemented in my own art career.”
Interested in having Ashley paint a portrait of your pet? Her website is https://ashley2696.wixsite.com/vigilanteartbyashley or she’s on Facebook at vigilante art by Ashley D.