by Dick Lutz
Autumn Ashley has the kind of personality that makes you forget everything you’ve ever heard about the dour nature of the year’s third season. Yes, she was born late one fall some 25 years ago, and yes, her mother liked the season, but those may be her only connections with the time of year when light gives way to creeping darkness. She’s as bright-eyed and enthusiastic as a gardenful of spring daisies.
What’s more, Autumn’s art is true to her lively personality, and people walking past Coach Scot’s Main Street Sweets have been stopping to admire it – even going inside to thank the artist for the gaiety on the glass. “youthful and whimsical and happy” are the words she chooses, and though she’s describing the intent of her art, she knows how to deliver it.
She’s a relatively new Roosevelt Islander, here for just about a year, handy to her work as a Junior Image Editor at Bloomingdale’s, where she’s worked since last May. While she’s lived in Brooklyn, Queens, and out on Long Island, she’s also a Texan, though her diminutive frame doesn’t shout Texas. She was born in Tennessee, and her family moved to Austin, Texas. There, she studied English and radio-TV-film at the University of Texas, Austin, graduating in 2011.
Autumn pitched the windows idea to proprietor Scot Bobo back in the summer, and she’s done a new family of cartoony characters every week since. “I just approached him and said, ‘I’m an illustrator and I’d be interested in doing your window,’ and he said, ‘I think that’d be a great idea.’ So I started doing it every Saturday, and now, it’s every Sunday for about an hour or so.” The work is hard to photograph because of the inevitable reflections and lights in the background. In person, it’s easier to focus on the art and ignore the background, even while being tempted by the built-in pitch for hot cocoa or a toasted muffin. As The WIRE goes to press, the current illustration includes the Oscar statuette.
She likes Roosevelt Island. “I fell in love with it,” she says. There were three years of visiting (a boyfriend) before the year of living here. “It’s just absolutely beautiful, and peaceful – kind of like a resort – but a neighborhood vibe, which I really like. You start to recognize people, and they’ll say hello to you on the street, and if you run into them in a store. You don’t really expect to find that in New York City. There’s the park at each end...”
She brightens and interrupts herself. “And in the summer, it’s 10 degrees cooler!”
Autumn clearly has ambition that extends into a future beyond entertaining Islanders with her window art. She’d like to publish children’s books, and spends “almost every lunch break” at Barnes & Noble looking at children’s books, checking out the art. “That’s pretty much what I do in my spare time.” She finds it hard to name a favorite artist-author, but likes Mo Willems’ pigeon series, typified by The Pigeon Needs a Bath or The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too! She speaks of using technology to make publishing easier – a possibility for people who, without that boost, might never get into print.
For now, her work appears on Instagram at pony_3 and, soon, on a website, Autumn-Illustration.squarespace.com.