“When I was growing up, art was always around me,” says Ash Holmes, seated in her sundrenched Curl Curl studio on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. The fourth-generation artist attributes the beginnings of her creative journey, in part, to early days spent with her grandmother, a traditional landscape painter. “She showed me how to create compositions and from a very early age, I was always playing around with her paints and brushes.”  

Ash’s mother and great-grandmother were also multidisciplinary artists, the latter even serving as a camoufleur, designing camouflage prints to adorn military vehicles. With so much creativity and artistic exploration in one family, her path to painting seems more like destiny than a career choice.

“My first few paintings were created with ink and water, which is a very light way of applying paint. Then once I started working with acrylic and oil and I was layering and removing, I started to find the texture, and that’s when it started to remind me more of things that I’d see in nature.”  

The landscape has since become an endless source of inspiration for Ash, informing not just the composition of her works, but their distinctive use of colour: “I like to explore the muted, earthy palette that it offers, especially when viewed from an aerial perspective. Whether it’s open fields or the ocean, I love those more abstract ways of looking at the environment.” 

The majority of Ash’s pieces begin with a photograph taken on her 35mm camera, which she develops and exposes to light leaks, before taking them into the studio to begin the work. Her studies in colour psychology guide the next stage of this process, allowing Ash to subtly imbue a sense of emotion and connection through her work. “I find the way that colour affects us in a sensory way really interesting. Especially with my pieces being abstract, it helps me to understand what people see in them.” 

Next comes the journey of layering up colours and strokes. Though she admits she’s “not too precious” with the base layers of any piece, it’s a meticulous process, and brings on a new sense of creative freedom that Ash credits as her most focused time. “When I’m painting is when I feel the biggest spark, the most inspired to continue going. It’s quite a chaotic impulsiveness, but that for me is the flow state and that’s when I’m at my best, not overthinking the works and just going off my gut feeling.” 

Ash’s studio set up in the coastal suburb of Curl Curl, Ku-ring-gai Land, is equally intuitive and often left in a state of organised chaos while she works through a piece, only being fully packed down when she’s content with the final work. Each day begins early, before the rest of the world wakes up. She enjoys a tea or a coffee, gets into the flow with some gentle sketching and slips on a signature look of jeans and a vintage T-shirt – an outfit that she now considers her uniform. “I have a set of vintage lockers at the studio where I keep all of my jeans and tops, so I know that when I get to the studio and put on those pieces of clothing, it’s a shift in energy.”

“For me, the denim jeans that I paint in become items that I collect over time, because they’ve got so much paint on them and tell such a story of the practice of painting. Each pair ends up looking like their own artwork.”

Today, she’s working in a pair of Maren Jeans from our new seasonal collection. Already brandishing errant swipes of acrylic, she’s confident they’ll follow the same path. “They fit well, feel amazing and I know that they’re going to age really well over time.” 

For now, Ash is looking forward to her showcase at our global flagship store throughout April and May and has been applying her recently acquired wood carving techniques (learned whilst on residency in Japan) to a special pair of R.M.Williams boots that will accompany her paintings. 

“I wanted the boot to feel like an extension of my work. The mark makings and the placement also represent the boots once they’ve been worn in and scuffed. I wanted them to feel like a pair of really old, worn in, passed-down R.M.Williams boots that’s stood the test of time, and that showcases how amazing the quality is.”

Visit R.M.Williams at 345 George Street to view a selection of Ash Holmes’s works, available to purchase as part of our partnership with Curatorial+Co. 

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