BABE #218: ASHLEY LANNI HOYE - Freelance Illustrator; Co-Host, The Short Box Podcast
Ashley is a freelance illustrator and comic book artist as well as a co-host for The Short Box podcast and an assistant manager at Coastal Dog Daycare. She’s a woman of many talents —and therefore responsibilities— who balances her various hustles while maintaining a strong work ethic to carry out her artistic passions and creative projects. With her work lying smack dab in the middle of a male-dominated industry, she’s one of the many women who support, empower and contribute to the female representation and overall diversity in comics and beyond, and we’re excited to see where her work takes her next!
Hometown: Palm Harbor, Florida
Current city: Neptune Beach, Florida
Alma mater: Ringling College of Art and Design
Degree: B.A., Fine Arts
Very first job: Coral Oaks Retirement Community
Hustle: Freelance Illustrator, Ashley Lanni Art; Assistant Manager, Coastal Dog Daycare; Co-Host, The Short Box Podcast
Babe you admire and why?
Sylvie Schiller, who manages Froggy’s Cat Rescue. She’s turned her home into a haven for animals in need. You can sense an abundant amount of kindness when you meet her. She’s done a lot for animals and continues to pour her time and money into local strays in need.
How do you spend your free time?
I like ridiculously stupid comedy movies, and science fiction books. It’s nice to be able to tune my brain out of the world for a little bit with some Bruce Campbell or Ursula K. Le Guin.
Favorite fictional female character?
Private Roberta Tubb from the comic “Southern Bastards.” She’s tough; tougher than I’ll ever be. She’s a biracial soldier that toured in Afghanistan and had to come back to a backwards, racist Alabama town that hated her.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
Iced black coffee, all day, every day.
Current power anthem?
“Alas,” by Murder By Death. It’s folk rock with a lead singer who sounds like Johnny Cash, and an awesome female cellist.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Mojo’s macaroni and cheese. I’d probably ask for two pounds of it.
What’s something you want to learn or master?
I would love to be able to fight or learn a martial art. I took a year of kung fu, but quit once we started sparring. It turns out I hate being hit in the face!
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Vanesa Del Rey. I get chills when I see her art. She’s completely amazing.
What’s something most don’t know about you?
I took 12 years of tap dance!
Tell us about your hustle.
I’m a freelance illustrator who regularly works for Dorrance Publishing on children’s books. Right now, I’m also coloring a graphic novel coming out through Image, which was drawn by local artist Sarah Delaine. It’s a huge project with including expansive African landscapes, and it’s been consuming a lot of my time lately. I also work at a dog daycare, so it’s mandatory that I leave the house and spend time outside, which has been really good for my overall health and wellbeing. On Sundays I co-host The Short Box podcast, which covers nerd and pop culture goings-on.
What does your typical workday look like?
Typically, I wake up at 5:30 a.m. and get to the dog daycare by 6:15. I play outside with dogs until 2:30 p.m., then I head home. After being on my feet all day, I really appreciate being in my studio. I was having a hard time with it when I was full-time freelance; it felt like a dungeon. Now, I love it. I work on the computer or draw out kids’ books until somewhere around 7:00 or 8:00, depending on how much I have to do. After that, I try to get through a few books in my comic stack and play with my dog, Sandor.
Have you always had a passion for art?
I always drew. I remember my crayon drawing of a horse getting published in the paper when I was 6. I started reading comics when I was young, too. Really old “Fantastic Four’s” from the flea market “25 cents bin,” and things like that. I had an awesome art teacher in high school, and she helped me get into Ringling. I never lost my love for comics and always wanted to get into that, especially after discovering big books like “Watchmen” and “Blankets.” I took a children’s book illustration course in college that ended up being taught by Mary Grandpre, who illustrated the Harry Potter books. Her art told such sweet stories, and she showed me how to add to the text with your illustrations. After that, I wanted to do kids’ books as well as comics.
What mediums do you typically work with?
Watercolor is my favorite, but when I work on kids’ books or comics I have to go digital, because it makes edits a lot easier.
What type of work do you typically take on?
In the beginning I took on anything and everything, which I think is vital when starting out. Now, I mostly stick to comics and children’s books. I never really enjoyed graphic design like some people do, but it definitely paid some bills for me when I started out.
In your opinion, are women well-represented as artists and members in the comic community?
To be honest, it isn’t that great at the moment. There was a great Facebook group of women in comics called The Valkyries, but it recently disbanded. The comics industry is still very much a boys’ club, but I think that’s slowly changing. There’s been a lot of backlash over female superheroes, but I feel like the ones who are upset about it are outnumbered. I’ve seen women artists having to be escorted to their cars at the end of conventions because they’ve gotten unwanted male attention and they’re scared to walk out of the convention center alone. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it’s still present. At the end of the day, I’d say we have a ways to go — but we’re moving in the right direction.
What are some of your go-to resources for artists and illustrators?
Panels at comic book conventions have been very helpful for me. Besides practicing your craft, there’s nothing quite as important as taking advice from people making it in your industry.
Tell us about your time with The Short Box.
I’ve been on “The Short Box” for about two years. [Creator Badr Milligan] did a great job finding a group of people from different backgrounds and ethnicities to come together and talk about nerd culture. I had been on as a guest a few times when I was working on various local comic events and projects. One day after I was on, he asked if I wanted to come back more often and be a co-host. The Christmas episodes have been my favorite so far. I’m not sure how great they are to listen to since we usually tend to start drinking early on in the episode, but I spend most of those sessions laughing.
What’s been your biggest career milestone to date?
This Image Comics project is a dream project for me. Image has always been my goal since I first started getting into comics. They have the best stories and art in the industry, in my opinion. Working on Sarah’s art has been challenging and rewarding, and I’m so happy I get to work on my first Image project with her.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
“The Short Box” has a lot of diversity, as far as hosts go. I’ve felt a lot of positivity and encouragement from the guys, even though I’m the only woman on the show. The comic book industry hasn’t been quite as positive, but overall I’d say women are really starting to step up and show what they can do. I’ve been to my share of comic conventions where men have asked where my boyfriend is or made other sexist comments. I’m still outnumbered in all these fields (comics, illustration, podcasting) but it hasn’t ever affected me that much.
Who are some women in your field you look to for inspiration?
Laura Martin and Elizabeth Breitweiser are both colorist extraordinaires. Tula Lotay and Vanesa Del Rey are both equally talented and fantastic, and when I need a little inspiration I like to look at their websites — especially their sketchbook pages.
What advice would you give to a babe trying to break into your industry?
Jump in and keep going. There were a lot of times I felt in over my head, but I kept at it. If you don’t give up, then something positive will happen eventually. I’ve had some bad gallery experiences and some awful comic book conventions, but even making a single friend in your field can be an important connection. And draw; draw all the time. Especially if it’s in your sketchbook and no one else will ever see it.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
I feel happiest when I’ve had a full day of getting things done. I guess good life advice would be to find that balance of work, self-improvement and down-time that makes you feel at your best. If I have a full day off it feels like a waste if I just lay around. But some people need that once in a while.
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