Hi! I am Ashlee Stewack. I was born in Chicago, raised in McHenry, IL and have been back in the city for 9 years. My profession is always unfolding. On paper, I come from a graphic design and lettering background. Currently, I am furthering my education in sign painting, environmental design, and systems theory, in hopes to expand the impact my visuals have in promoting social change.
When did you first start getting involved with art?
I suppose I consider being born a pretty incredible creation! As a toddler, I was always singing or getting my hands into something creative. In college, it became more prevalent in my life through design school and meeting others to collaborate and learn with. Since needing to apply more focus on one form of art for an income, I’ve committed more time to sign painting. It gives me the freedom, agency, and solitude that I crave that traditional design firms can lack.
For the past two years you’ve been freelancing, how has it been?
It’s been spiritual warfare. Haha, seriously though. It can be challenging. For me, a lot of my success from freelancing comes from self-belief, commitment to growth and ownership and accountability. Not only for how I work but also the work I am producing. For the first year, I stumbled a lot and faced some harsh lessons on managing my time, knowing my value and how I was showing up. The lessons are always coming but my calluses are a bit stronger.
Would you suggest people becoming freelance artists?
Absolutely. I think the option to become freelance is a really awesome development happening in our economy. Old structures and ways of working are changing to allow artist more flexibility and creativity in how they share their strengths. Freelance gives the rare opportunity to bring your whole self to work and not just the parts that are encouraged in a hierarchy.
One of my favorite projects you worked on was with John Zabawa for Intelligentsia. How was this project and working with John?
Working with John has always been rewarding. We’ve been friends since college and established a great rapport. It’s been incredible watching him blossom in his medium. I was happy to paint his first mural of an original. We spoke about the subtle nuances of his work and the piece. This was the first time I was going to be painting with matte paint on such a large scale which allowed me to explore new techniques. In addition to the challenge of a collaborative mural, I enjoyed sharing my expertise in hand painting by adding their logo to the new lobby and two outdoor signs to their entrance door.
Where do you draw Inspiration from?
Imagination, albeit an obvious answer is my most important tool. I draw a lot from meditation, intuitive arts. I like making connections and systems thinking. Dreams, consciousness, shamanism, and evolution. I love radicals who hold space for visions that disrupt the status quo. Scientist Buckminster Fuller and his work in design and synergy give me life. Thought leaders Terri Irwin and Fritjof Capra and their work towards design evolutions and systems theory; also activists such as Angela Davis, Emma Goldman, Lucy Parsons and their life’s work is always inspiring.
With freelancing and taking on a ton of different projects, how do you deal with creative burnout?
I prioritize self-care and attending to my metaphorical garden. Freelance is a lot of juggling and if I’m not watering my physical, emotional or spiritual roots, a lot can start to wither. I’m a big fan of the abundance mentality. When a fear of scarcity comes up, it usually results in poor choices, overextending myself and compromising my worth or values, thus burnout. I try to check in regularly with myself to assess what is needed to achieve balance.
Right now you are currently working on a passion project of yours, Entelekee. Talk about this project
Entelekee is a network that I began two years ago. We use design to help recondition the way we organize and operate as a collective. We use principles from Transition Design and Teal Organizations to view organizations as a whole organism rather than a hierarchy.
Internally, we help members disengage from the old ways of working and perception of self in the world. Similar to becoming a freelancer, we hope to give the tools to empower individuals to be self-governed and to cultivate larger possibilities in their personal potential. Through art, design, language and creating fertile intellectual spaces, our strengths as an organization go towards helping to redesign and normalize the more “feminine” types of values and thinking into communities.
In working with others we look to connect with individuals and organizations who share the same values and desire for change. We hope to serve as a resource for those that need assistance with design, marketing, and communications to further goals towards lasting change. Last year, we spent the year developing our framework and executing a pro-bono campaign for The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. They have been a leading organization since the 1970’s in fighting against police brutality and for economic reform for our communities that are unfairly neglected in our current systems hierarchy.
2018 will include more events, designing, learning and recruiting. You can follow us on Instagram to track our progress @Entelekee