Thursday, August 04, 2011


Ashley Wood's energetic pictures have spawned an entire industry.  He went from drawing comic books to multinational production deals with development partners and global media outlets who produce video games of his characters, toys, collectibles, movies and books.  Wood seems to be everywhere, from art galleries in China to movie studios in Hollywood, and shows no signs of slowing down.

In his talk at Comic-Con, Wood proved to be as energetic and blunt as his art.  He said that not long ago his career "really sucked balls"  but he found the right publisher who believed in him, and teamed with the right people.  Mostly, he worked hard.

Sometimes Wood seems to crank out art like one of the gattling guns on his robots, spewing explosive rounds.
I work every day, it's a compulsion.  People say I'm prolific, but as far as I'm concerned people who say I'm prolific are just fucking lazy."
Wood is not the most refined, cautious artist you'll ever meet.  But despite an occasional misfire, Wood continues to generate large quantities of very good art.  He has a strong sense of design, good color, and he knows how to draw and paint.  Says Wood, "I like what I do, but I can  be better.  I am still trying to boil it down to its essence."

When asked where he found his inspiration, Wood responded,
I'm inspired by the fact that I'm going to die.  The clock is ticking, and time is against me.  You can't just wait for an opportunity to come, you have to go out and chase your dreams.  Some people hang out in cafes and talk about doing something, but I'm out there working every day.  I go out on weekends and take pictures of clouds I like.
He was extremely likeable and quickly won over his audience.  Unlike many commercially successful artists who pull the ladder up after them, Wood displays a healthy lack of pretentiousness:
A lot of the art made in the last 30 years was kind of shit.  The idea-based art gets kind of boring if you need someone to sit next to the art and explain it to you.  I've never seen a "lower class" to art.  When comic art becomes more valuable, that's what makes the fine art world gravitate to it.
But Wood's most endearing comments had to do with his family.  He said, "The best thing about making movies is that my kids will think I'm cool."  And his wife?  "My wife is my muse.  If the hair changes on the women in my paintings, it's because my wife changed her hair."


Unknown said...

Thanks for that Post. Inspirational!

Anonymous said...

I love what he says about his wife. That's so romantic.

He has a really intriguing character and i like his work ethic. I know literally nothing about comic art/books but im really impressed with the standard of artwork hes produced.

António Araújo said...

I like the guy! Glad we moved on to someone who can both draw and curse! :)

>"My wife is my muse. If the hair >changes on the women in my >paintings, it's because my wife >changed her hair."

Lovely. :) I can identify with this.

My girlfriend is my muse too!..

If the hair changes in my pictures, it's usually because I changed girlfriends! ;D

MORAN said...

Finally an artist with healthy lusts!

Laurence John said...

i see much to admire in Ashley Wood's painting and drawing, but the adolescent trappings (robots, big guns, sexy babes, video games, toys, t-shirts, skateboards) and the overall 'AWESOME' tone of voice don't appeal unfortunately.

Garrett Hanna said...

Really inspiring! Thank you!

Alex said...

God save us from this kind of TV/videogame obsessed generation of artists, where something is only good if it can be defined as 'cool'.
He sounds immature to me.
His take on Tank Girl was a disaster, missing the whole point of the character.
The ability to create a slick image should not be confused for having something to say.

Donald Pittenger said...

I agree with Alex that Ash gets juvenile too often. He could dial back the sex content and be better for it.

That said, much of his work is powerful and interesting. I have his War Robot book and leaf through it from time to time trying to figure out what (if any) method he has in his use of warm colors and cool. And he has what seems to be a largely two-color palette -- a warm brownish hue and a cool blue with white and perhaps a little black to heighten values and design.

Max Gon said...

i absolutely LOVE the cool factor pop culture video game nerd coreness of his work. i believe he shows a great understanding of the fundamentals of art. harnessing his technical knowledge into something that inspires young and old artists alike.
haters gonna hate

Alex said...

Louis, wake up. By virtue of its obviousness its not cool. Just cliche after cliche, do yourself a favor and look beyond the end of your nose.

Max Gon said...

hey alex. how bout you go do something constructive with your life instead of trolling an artist thats way more amazing then you will ever be? iunno maybe.. start a blog even? so something.

David Apatoff said...

camhasnonickname-- I agree. Wood stepped out of a long line of artists drawing comic book pages and became a phenomenon.

Lianne-- You're right, it was romantic. It was also something of a surprise to see an artist who specializes in painting nymphettes in garter belts tell a large audience about about how proud he is to work to support his wife and children.

Antonio-- I agree!

David Apatoff said...

Laurence-- for me, the "adolescent trappings" raise the same questions posed by the pulp magazine covers discussed on this blog last month. It's hard to achieve such pure, open hearted strength without tapping into an adolescent reservoir.

Garrett Hanna-- Thanks for writing. I agree.

Alex-- Can you tell me the whole point of the tank girl character?

Alex said...

You would have to know English fashion and social culture to 'get it'. Even better if you were to live in Worthing (by the sea).

Laurence John said...

i don't think youthful energy (in the not so youthful anymore) necessarily equates to immature content.

António Araújo said...

>I agree with Alex that Ash gets >juvenile too often. He could dial >back the sex content and be better >for it.
>That said, much of his work is >powerful and interesting. I have his >War Robot book and leaf through it >from time to time

Wait... what?

So, he is too juvenile, and that would be solved by more Giant War Robots and less Sex Content? So:

Sex = juvenile
Giant War Robots = ?

Sex is a real part of our adult lives (hopefuly). Giant War robots are childish fantasies.

There's something very wrong when sexual fantasies are targets of derision while violent fantasies are valid, standard subjects. Frankly, sex is a very positive thing in my life, and I like to see things that celebrate it ; War and violence is something I'd rather avoid in my life; and as for Giant Robots...they don't really figure much either way, I never really met a Transformer :p...

Now, if you meant Giant Sex Robots!......:D

António Araújo said...

David, if I remember well (I'm not sure, long time ago) Tank Girl was a very agressive Punk Girl who was very dominant (or is "independent" more accurate?) in every way (for instance, sexually). She wouldn't be striking a pose like a playboy bunny, it's out of character. Also, the body type is wrong.

Actually, are you sure that is supposed to be Tank Girl? It didn't occur to me at all.

Robin Cave said...

Hey guys,

I really love Ashley Woods work....sometimes.

I have met him a few times and he does do a good talk. I get really enthusiastic about his work and buy the books, but then I go home and really look at them and wonder why? why was I so excited? What do I get from it? It looks so easy, as ever with a master...

He loves his wife, but you would have to have pretty good understanding with your wife to be constantly painting nearly naked hot chicks riding around on Robot's shoulders every day. Why don't the girls ever get carried by the robots? they seem to always be excited by wrapping their legs around the vibrations of the robots head and shoulder area. There aren't many paintings with young men in them,

The amount of work is quite daunting, he puts out books like "Grande Fanta V.2" and then ongoing smaller masterpieces like "Swallow"

The guy lives near Perth, Western Australia, there is practically no where else on the planet that is further away from anywhere that might be a market for this stuff...What about online?

It is confusing, as Ashley has several websites going on simultaneously.

I was at an event (Semi-Permanent-Sydney) where Ashley met, for the first time, the guy who was setting up his websites overseas. They met onstage, and it was a trifle weird for us, as it was for them.

Ashley powered on, as is his way.

Keeping an eye on his blog is interesting, all this stuff going on and he is constanltly setting up the next big thing.

This guy is doing the work and has been talking lately about a major feature film happening under his complete control. Can this really be true, can anyone else claim this...?

Just imagine an illustrator having sign-off for the specific outcomes of a major motion picture...

Wow, crazy times!

Li-An said...

Wood should be an artist I love (and a lot of my friends love his work) but I find it... distant. I just cannot enter in his world. For me, it's more an energy in drawing/painting than a real emotion/world.
Something very actual: the energy is more valuable than the soul... But I may be wrong. He looks like an artist working hard and inspired.

David Apatoff said...

Alex, Laurence John and Donald Pittenger-- I think a lot of sophisticated artists grapple with the problem we seem to be discussing-- how to convey raw power undiminished by all the complexity, subjectivity, psychology and nuance that burdens the modern mind.

Phil Hale-- another smart, thoughtful artist-- achieved the same effect by painting a man bashing robots with a club (one huge, satisfying primordial thrust, depicted in vibrant colors that pop off the canvas). Pulp magazine covers strived for a similarly virile effect. In response to Laurence John, I don't think it has much to do with the age of the artist. A lot of those pulp artists were grizzled old timers who smoked and drank and were world weary, but they knew how to put aside what they know in order to create maximum impact.

I suspect the power of pornography comes from the same place. It is sex without the brain engaged, in a gravity-free, psychological vacuum. Copulation undiluted by doubt or guilt or second thoughts; it may be an immature notion, but who can deny its appeal?

The new movie, Cowboys & Aliens was explicitly written because we have outgrown the classic "cowboys and Indians" model, but people still yearned for satisfying Manichean simplicity, so the writers had to come up with a new villain that did not slow us down with ambivalence or thoughtfulness.

I agree with those of you who have suggested that this type of work has "juvenile" characteristics. It is simplified, but simplicity can be very sophisticated.

I like Wood's pictures of guns blazing, robots exploding, pretty girls bending over. The incredible strength of such subjects derives from the very weakness you've described, and I for one think the trade off is worth it. Keep in mind that we see such trade offs throughout the field of art.

Alex said...

In fairness to A.W, following Jamie Hewlett was a no-win situation as Hewlett is a brilliant stylist with a unique take on the world. For me, Wood's version is as one-note as the 'surfer dude' characters that always crop up in U.S animated tv shows.

Donald Pittenger said...

David and Antonio, Let me elaborate on the dial back the sex statement I made.

It's not those leggy gals in bikinis or thongs. It is the "spread shots" where their sex organ zone is shown.

Wood can do as he pleases in this matter, and maybe lots of his fans love it.

But I find explicitly depicted sex-related stuff not nearly as sexy as the hinted-at variety. I'll chalk this up to generational differences with other commenters.

And as for the war stuff ... I am an Army veteran and it doesn't trouble me at all.

Laurence John said...

Robin: "...then I go home and really look at them and wonder why? why was I so excited? What do I get from it?"

Li-An: "Wood should be an artist I love (and a lot of my friends love his work) but I find it... distant"

i feel the same way. the exciting, sexy surface draws you in... but there's no substance behind it (however well drawn or painted).

Li-An said...

You can compare him with Moebius or Serge Clerc in his debut (well, not known outside France I suppose): pretty girls, robots and aliens but with something different. Not only a game with symbols but some funny stuff to build something really different, creating new worlds.

D.Martin said...

Super... God Blesss U

Alex said...

Mention of Serge Clerc must inevitably lead to acknowledgement of Yves Chaland. Yves was an inspiration to Serge but died tragically young.His work was the epitome of Deco inspired ligne claire.RIP.

Anonymous said...

Ash Wood is brilliant. Thanks for reporting on his interesting talk.


G O D said...

cool blog! could you add me to your blog roll? your'e on mine!

António Araújo said...

Pittenger: Point taken. My turn to clarify, I am ok with the war robot stuff too, all I mean is that the war robot stuff seems to me *more* and not *less* adolescent than the sex stuff. But I am fine with adolescent, and I find the war robots pretty cool! One doesn't have to be elevated and adult the whole time :)

As for personal taste, to each his own! :)

I hadn't seen the "spreads" you mention. I agree that usually the more discrete stuff is sexier than the in-your-face stuff, but I have to say that, at least for my own eyes, Wood seems to pull it off quite nicely even when he is that blunt, which is hard to do and I give him credit for trying - I am sure it would have been easier, even in commercial terms, not to tickle that wasp's nest. Maybe indeed he is perceptively aiming at a generational-specific switch (or maybe he just really, really likes pussy :D).

Mark said...

Wood is doing what he likes, supporting his family with the art that he creates and doesn't care what the rest of us think about it. Those of us who are artists should be so lucky.

A.P. said...

You sound like a desperate man, Mark.

MORAN said...

AP, Most people here would agree with Mark. Wood has accomplished something admirable. What's wrong with you?

A.P. said...

Something is wrong with me if I don't agree with most people? That's idiotic.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes a bunch of people talking about art and being critical of artists instead of actually creating art themselves. The best thing about Ashley is his approach and attitude. He honestly doesn't give a shit what anyone thinks of what he's doing. He does whatever he wants and does it all himself. Few people and probably fewer artists can claim that. Here is a link to a video of his complete spotlight panel from SDCC if anyone is interested.

Li-An said...

I have a pal of mine who is saying: "No need to be a chicken to appreciate an omelet".
If you need to be an artist to appreciate or give your advice about art, I suppose artists will be dying poor. As I cannot sing, I suppose I don't have to have some advice about singers or music and the same for movies (as I'm not an actor and no director). This is the worst think to say to defend an artist.

Anonymous said...

I find some of the negative comments from Alex and AP highly amusing, in that they seem only interested in showing off their own supposed store of knowledge and seem to enjoy denigrating the views of others who find joy in Ash's work.

I've followed Ash's work since I first met him in 1994 and have watched him develop into an incredibly talented artist. He cares about his work, his fans and most of all his family. Yes, he expresses his views strongly but I prefer to know where he stands than not and his views are refreshing and humourous.

For those who enjoy Ash's work and who might like to check out his very early pieces through to more modern work like his latest Rocketeer painting for the IDW book, please visit my CAF gallery -

Thanks for posting the engaging post regarding Ash's work! Best,

Perth, Australia

Anonymous said...

For those interested and not already aware, when Ash isn't painting, he's involved (as CEO and co-owner) with his award winning action figure company, 3AToys based in Hong Kong.

He also has 3 of his creator owned books being developed as movie properties including - World War Robot by Disney with Jerry Bruckheimer producing, Lore optioned by Screen Gems and Popbot currently being filmed by Resolution Independent.

davIRE said...

Frank Frazetta was doing the same sort of thing back in the 70's with a similar style. This isn't new territory nor is it unique to "this" generation of artists. The subject matter does not detract from the painterly qualities of the work either. Some people don't like other people painting nudes but that is hardly going to stop artists looking at form and texture. You don't need to like the subject matter to appreciate the actual artistic enterprise of the studies (in form, texture and whatever else)

davIRE said...

Frank Frazetta, of whom Ashley Wood reminds me greatly, painted much more sexualised women but they were also a tribute to the one love of his life. Its hardly a surprise that romantics lust after women (or men) and the bodies they posess

Anonymous said...

I don't know Ashley Wood to comment on his maturity. He's a graphic artist who works on comics and games and such and seems to enjoy his life, I think. I like the WWR story line and don't think its immature. I think that the WWR vehicle is kind of a "what if" scenario from Kim Stanley Robinson's sci-fi trilogy in regards to Mars settlement and the life and times of its new inhabitants. Further, robots are, remain and will always be cool. Transformers, Aliens (Bishop), Star Wars, I Robot, Moon, 2001, etc. all feature robots and I'm sure you think of many more. We like robots. Ashley Wood is no more immature than Isaac Asimov was. This Ashley appears to be a guy who retains a wonderful, untethered imagination and is a fantastic graphic artist. His paintings convey high energy and a stark reality with few colors, few strokes of the knife or brush, and nearly always draws the viewer in/raises their curiosity. Further, he's a great business man. Maturity issue, maybe, but I think he somehow missed the crappy jading life throws at most of us as we get older. Wish i knew his secret.