Little Moments, Big Memories


“I decided to paint a series of still lifes showcasing some carefully chosen items from my late mum’s old wooden sewing box as a way of helping with the grieving process; but more importantly, I felt it would be an appropriate way of keeping her memory alive,” says Michele Ashby.

“My dear mum loved to sew and knit and was always making things for my sister and I to wear. The Singer sewing machine was almost always out on the dining table ready to use at a moment’s notice.

Michele Ashby, “Grandad’s Missing Button,” pastel

“It didn’t occur to me at the time that my little paintings (either 6×6″ or 10×10″) would conjure up such strong emotional responses and such feelings of nostalgia from friends, family, and followers online.

“I have used photo references for all of these paintings, making sure the objects are beautifully lit with a low positioned light casting a strong directional shadow, allowing for the treasured items to be the ‘stars of the show’.

Michele Ashby, “The Big Scissors,” pastel

“As an ex-graphic designer, I believe that composition is key and a fundamental element to making for a great painting – I take time to get just the look I’m after when working out the size, scale, and cropping of my chosen imagery.

“The use of a neutral background tone (either a very light grey or mid grey) allows any areas of colour within the paintings to really pop.

Michele Ashby, “Measured Success,” pastel

“I called my series Little Moments Big Memories, and so far I’ve painted over a dozen. I certainly have more I’d like to explore.

“Still life hasn’t been a subject area that I’ve been excited to explore until I started with this series, but I have tried to stay true to my mantra of ‘telling my own truth’ to depict imagery that has triggered in me similar emotional responses that my portrait paintings have.”

Michele Ashby, “The Royal Button,” pastel

Join dozens of today’s top Realism painters as they share best tips and techniques at Realism Live, November 9-11, 2023, with an Essentials Techniques Day on November 8.

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PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.


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