Interview: Ash Kleczka

Today we’re joined by Ash Kleczka, who also goes by Umber online. Ash is a phenomenal visual artist, an all-around fantasy enthusiast. They love using visual art to tell a story and highlight beauty. Their images show a unique style and a very vivid imagination. It’s clear Ash loves to create, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about
your art.

I’m a fantasy illustrator, a painter, concept artist, and
all around enthusiast… I was going to add more to that statement, but
honestly I think ‘enthusiast’ about covers it. I get really excited about
concepts that are self-reflective in some way, or that highlight an unexpected
beauty.

I really try to create art that tells a story.  

What inspires you?

Nature, mythology, the occult. Things that are taboo or
archaic. I’m also deeply inspired by role-playing games like D&D and the
character building process.

What got you
interested in your field?  Have you
always wanted to be an artist?

The simple, inelegant answer is that I got into visual arts
because I was dissatisfied with the attractiveness of some characters from a
video game I was into at the time – and I wanted to make characters that would
appeal to me.

It’s an ongoing struggle haha.

Do you have any kind
of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work
that you’d be willing to reveal?

My super-secret naming convention for pretty much any
character I’ve ever created ever is to try to match their
personality/appearance/some interesting feature to a bird or other natural
flora or fauna and then I build their name around the scientific binomial of
that thing.

So for example, one character named Cyril Alcyon is based
around the belted kingfisher megaceryle
alcyon
. Another is named Melia Edarach which is taken from the chinaberry
tree, or Melia azedarach.

What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

My advice is to just keep going. It’s OK for things to not
look exactly as they do in your head, or to be dissatisfied with where you are
with your art. It means that you have room to grow! Stay open to new ideas and
roll with the punches. Art, like life, is full of happy accidents.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

Grey-Ace/Pansexual

Have you encountered
any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I’m not particularly open about my sexuality in the
workplace, but the few times it’s come up typically end with the person I’m
talking to feeling sorry for me. It’s not hateful – just a lack of
understanding. So I try my best to explain that it’s not a negative part of my
life experience. It’s just an orientation in the same way that being gay, or
bisexual is.

I have encountered prejudice
in my personal life however. One instance was in my last D&D
campaign. I played an ace/aro character, and was met with some questionably in-character commentary from
another player. That was really the first time I’d encountered something like
that in the wild before, and honestly…I’m open to advice myself.

What’s the most
common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That it’s something to be fixed.

What advice would you
give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their
orientation?

Find people you trust that you can talk to, and be patient
with yourself. Sometimes it’s not as simple as just being one piece of the big
sex/gender pie. Sometimes you’re a triple decker slice of pie with whipped
cream and cherries.

I’ve found it really helpful to talk to my husband (who’s
allo) to see where we differ. Sometimes the answers you’re looking for are in
the empty spaces between two truths.

Finally, where can
people find out more about your work?

I have a website umbertheprussianblue.com!

You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter at ThePrussianBlue

Thank you, Ash, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.