Meet Mixed Media Artist Will Ashford

Artist Statement and Artistic Process: Will Ashford, featured in The Mixed Media Artist by Seth Apter.

(This interview and artistic process was previously published in The Mixed Media Artist copyright 2013 by Seth Apter. It is republished here courtesy of and North Light Books.)

I rescue, salvage and recycle other people’s words. I search for interesting, preferably discarded, old books. Like an archeologist, I hunt for the words that speak to me with new meaning. Intuitively, one word at a time, they turn into a kind of haiku or philosophical poetry that I can call my own. At some unpredictable point along the way, in my mind, the images start to invent themselves.


Artist photo by Meher Siegle

3 Things I’m Inspired By
– The Venice Biennale
– Very long bicycle rides
– A great espresso drink

4 Things on My Studio Table
– Old books
– Pencils
– Computer
– Postcards

A motto I live my artistic life by
“Look for art and it will appear.”


The Face I Show the World: In a Portrait or The Likeness of a Man

This image began with a single page from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on art, chosen because of the words “In a portrait” at the top of the page. I had to find the rest of the words, and this took several tries over many days. The silhouette image was an obvious choice. I removed all of the poem’s words that had been printed on the right side of the main text and at the same time carefully left behind all of the letter o’s as well as all of the dots and periods. From this I created a new visual poem that helped maintain the visual composition of the original page.

Artistic Process: Will Ashford
Creating In a Portrait or The Likeness of a Man

I’m always experimenting with new methods and/or materials. Normally I remove the page I’m working on from the book and do the final drawings directly on the actual document. But last year I started a project with a book that I was uncomfortable with disassembling. I solved that problem by digitally scanning each page and creating the final work on my computer and printing the final images. I usually finish each piece with some additional pencil work, but for the most part, these new pieces were created digitally.

It’s wonderful how improvements seem to present themselves when you are ready to see them and how one idea can lead to the next. While working on the final piece, I noticed the serendipitous location on the face of the words “the artist.” I couldn’t just let that go. I highlighted those words in red.

You can download this image for free and print it for yourself at:
(At the same URL, you will find Will’s address, and he will happily sign and return your print if you follow the instructions there.)


1. I chose to work with this page in particular because of the words I found at the top: “In a portrait.” The process started with looking at all the text for the words that might tell another story. I began by printing several black-and-white copies of the scanned page. Then, using a pencil to underline or outline whatever caught my imagination, I started hunting for the rest of my words.


2. I call these pencil lines “notes,” as in “notes to myself.” Notice that the outlined words are not the same words used in the final piece. That’s because the words are always changing until I can no longer find better words.


3. I normally go through several pages of sketches, or notes, before I am satisfied. Here I am a step closer but not there yet. The words have changed yet these are still not the words that are used in the final piece. I began experimenting more with the background images and thought about what to do with the words in the poem running along the right side of the page.

Visit Will Ashford’s website at

Visit Seth Apter’s website, The Altered Page.

(This interview and artistic process was originally published in the North Light book, The Mixed-Media Artist by Seth Apter, copyright 2013; republished here courtesy of

Cover_U2959.inddClick here for more information about The Mixed-Media Artist by Seth Apter.


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