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Illustration Grad Ashley Johnson West on Combining Interests and Pushing Her Creativity 

Ashley Johnson West will graduate in April 2023 with a BFA in Illustration

Photo by Emma Olson

Ashley Johnson West, a BYU graduate who majored in Illustration, will be presenting at Convocation on Apr 28. West has been drawing, painting and building things ever since she was a young girl.

West’s parents put her into several different types of lessons, and she developed a diverse array of artistic skills. “As I got older, I realized I could not only combine all of my interests, but make them into a career I could enjoy,” she said.

West said that several role models and mentors have influenced her path. Her parents are number one on the list because “they taught me how to work hard and use my passion for good.” She also mentioned art teachers and professors that helped her understand her talent and said, “[they] helped me have the confidence to take opportunities that were out of my comfort zone.”

West finds inspiration in many places and she’s always trying to look further. At the moment, she favors “looking at insects, ready-to-wear shows and going out to feel and look at fabrics or yarns,” for ideas about what to create. “I tend to look at a lot of things to get ideas, but it’s not until I find time to sit and think that I have ideas come to mind.”

When she first entered the program, West struggled with a feeling of disorientation because she came in with so many interests that didn’t seem to blend well. She had “a traditional background in oil painting, a love for clothing and an interest in graphic design.” However, she said that “after a lot of soul searching and realizations, I found I could combine my love for color, texture, graphic shapes, and ability to sew and knit to design and create clothing items.” Her various interests give her more skill and knowledge to draw on when creating.

West found community at BYU in the many friends she made in the illustration program. “Being surrounded by people who care a lot about similar things is really inspiring. It’s helpful to get feedback on your work from people you trust and everyone is always trying to support each other,” she said.

When asked about her favorite project she’s worked on at BYU, West said that it was difficult to pick just one. For example, she enjoyed working on “a pink sweater with metallic magenta flowers. I dyed some of the yarn myself, worked really hard to drape the pattern, and did a lot of math.” She said that she learns a lot from each piece she works on and that, “each project I do seems so much more interesting than the last.”

West sees herself creating her own brand in the future. She said, “I really enjoy making things, but I also get really excited when I see someone wear what I’ve made. I think having my own brand would help push me.” Whatever she does, she plans to continue learning and to “keep experimenting [with] new crafts.”