Artist presents county in pictures, take two

Local artist, graphic designer and noted historian John Ashton unveiled a new series of his Pictou County inspired tradigital art works last weekend at the New Glasgow Farmers Market.

This year’s series has six entries and Ashton said he opted to focus more on the western side of the county this time around.

“I tried to capture down towards West Pictou more,” Ashton said,  “like Caribou Beach. The Confederation, the Town of Westville, Glasgow Square, the Hector.”

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Ashton said when it comes to locations to feature in his works, he’s spoiled for choice but tackling an image like the Hector meant toeing a hard line in terms of accuracy – historical or otherwise.

“What I tried to capture was her coming through the water in 1773,” Ashton said of his Hector piece. “She was driven back by three weeks because of a storm off Newfoundland. So what I tried to capture was her coming through the storm into the calmer waters of Pictou.”
Ashton’s works are a vibrant, colourful mish-mash of Art Deco meets pop art with a modern spin – a style he refers to as “tradigital” art.

“It’s a combination of traditional drawing, sketching,” Ashton said, “and then you scan the image into a computer and build the image on the computer. Your mouse is your brush.”

He describes his work as “good therapy.”

“If I didn’t keep up with technology,” Ashton said, “you’d might as well fade away. I’m not going to fade away. I’m here for the long haul.”

Ashton said, as they did back in the jazz age when Art Deco came to rise, he’s attempting to create a sense of place with his pieces and also help sell Pictou County as a place to visit.

“Back in the 20s, 30s and 40s, before television, they tried to enhance a place by posters. So what I tried to do was capture a vintage theme,” Ashton said.

“In a small way it’s trying to promote Pictou County as a destination spot. This isn’t generated by any government, this is the private sector stepping up.”

Ashton said he asks his clients when they take ownership of a piece to talk about and be proud of Pictou County. He also likes to keep tabs on where his pieces end up. Saturday’s sale saw at least one piece head for Vancouver and two towards Upper Canada. Last year’s series of nine saw Ashton’s works go to Florida, Texas and California, Scotland, Germany and Japan – which as far away places go is among the farthest away as far can be.

Ashton said that many of the buyers are ex-pats or folks with Pictou County roots and connections.


Artist John Ashton with his most recent collection of Pictou County inspired “tradigital” artworks.   (Cameron photo)

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Aaron Cameron has been a staff reporter with the Advocate since 2011. Aaron Cameron does not "do" bios due to an overwhelming fear of writing in the third person