For as long as she can remember, Ashley Dunham has had a love for drawing and painting. She spent a lot of time as a child making art, and now she shares that passion with the students she teaches at Simmons Elementary School.
“I was always drawing something when I was at my brother’s sporting events. I brought a pencil and paper to everything.” Ashley said. “There wasn’t a lot of room in my middle school or high school schedules for art classes, so I was mostly self-taught until I went to college. Even if I wasn’t doing stuff in school, my love for art was still there.”
Ashley grew up on a farm south of the Aberdeen Regional Airport, and the sights of the farm are often the subjects of her art. Along with drawing, Ashley loved crafts like crochet and knitting. She learned how to do these things from her grandmothers and mother, and she hopes to continue those legacies with her art.
“Growing up on the farm really made me acknowledge the little things. Insects like bees and butterflies, plants, people, and animals are some of my favorite things to draw,” Ashley said. “I developed a great appreciation for pollinators, plant life, and flowers. Farms are dirty, but I want to make these things feel pretty. When I stopped and really took the time to observe these things, I was in awe of how beautiful they were.”
When she was younger, Ashley worked for the daycare that she used to attend. Working with young children at the daycare helped her decide to turn her passion for art into a career that also helps others.
“I always loved being around kids and their creativity and energy,” Ashley said. “As a teacher, I hope that I can continue to pass down a love for art with my students. I want to help them develop the skills to create and be able to connect with others through their art. A lot of kids think that they’re not good enough, but I try to expose them to many types of art to show that there is something for everyone.”
Ashley works with a variety of mediums, and these mediums change as her subject matter changes. She is always trying new things with her students and her personal artwork. The medium of her art is carefully chosen to convey the right emotions.
“My art is very eclectic,” she said. “For buffalo and cattle, I use black and white colored pencils. I like to make prints for bugs, and I use oil paints for people. I dabble with a lot of mediums, though, which really works out well for an art teacher.”
Working with students to achieve their fullest potential is important to Ashley, and so is making an emotional impact with her art in people of all ages. She hopes that her art can help other people notice things that they don’t normally focus on and appreciate the beauty in the seemingly mundane things in life.
“It’s important to slow down and notice the beauty in these small things,” Ashley said. “I strive to capture emotion in my pieces. Sometimes, a piece starts from a place of anxiety or nervousness. Making art helps me work through those feelings, eventually reaching a feeling of peace and calmness. Since creating a piece helps me with my emotions, I hope that looking at a piece evokes those same feelings.”
Now that school is out for the summer, Ashley is focused on her personal work. She participates in several art festivals in the summer and fall in Aberdeen, Spearfish, Groton, and Custer, including Arts in the Park.
“I went every year growing up, just admiring the art. Now I attend as an artist, and it’s like I’ve come full circle.” //
Ashley’s work can be found on her website, www.artbyacdunham.com, or on Instagram at @acdunhamart.