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How I made that + Summer Updates

millions of lines! detail of oil painting by Ashley Cassens

working on details of "Deanna" oil on canvas 20" x 24"

What's new?

Me here, the lady who is really bad about updating her blog! Also me, the person pretty decent at updating her Instagram this summer. So if you're a person who is constantly refreshing or truly PINING away for an e-mail from me in your inbox, go on over there and follow me. :)

Since you last heard from me I was making gains at getting little people to understand perspective, the color wheel, and how to be kind. i.e. teaching art to elementary students. I'm blessed to have most of my summer to focus on taking some continuing education courses and pushing around lots of beautifully delicious paint in my home studio.

Oh, and I've done all these rad things!:

  • sold a watercolor painting

  • delivered a commission **more on that below! keep scrolling!**

  • learned how to finger knit (thank you to my public library and Vickie Howell)

  • bought my first pair of high-waisted shorts, ahem Target

  • lost an inch or two of fat on my body - mom win!

  • read several books on the subject of murder

It's been a great month!


Tiny Art Collection: coming soon!

a few in progress miniature oil paintings [scale 2.5" diameter]

I'm MOST excited about a future business endeavor with my best friend and creative Interior Designer, Amanda Dillon. She's roped me into the world of miniatures and I'm hard at work creating the most insanely lovely miniature oil paintings for The Designer Dollhouse. Things are still very much budding but if you'd like to jump in to her tiny world you can visit her here. I'll let everyone know as SOON as the shop is up so you can get in on the tiny, beautiful, curated collection. EEK!


How I Made This Painting : Deanna's Story

Deanna and "Deanna" at home

In 2018, Deanna contacted me about commissioning a self portrait in the style of my Projection Series. And as fate would have it both of us had a small window of time to get the project underway.

See, Deanna is a breast cancer survivor and would soon be undergoing reconstructive surgery after having a mastectomy on her right breast. She had only a couple of weeks to shoot reference photos before her body changed. It was important for her to commemorate her journey, her fight and to celebrate her scars with a nude portrait. I had a very different urgency. I was 9 months pregnant and my due date was only a couple of weeks away. So, just like the brave woman she is, Deanna disrobed in front of an enormously pregnant stranger (hi, me!) and posed for reference photos that would become this beautiful work of art.

The Process

work in progress images for "Deanna"

I used a projector that transposes digital images of light and color onto her skin. We tried out a lot of poses and projected images before we found the winner. The 3D body does a lot of wonderful things when you project 2D images onto it! The possibilities are endless. Deanna was really patient holding the poses. You never know how hard it is until you are the model!

I started out with a base color of acrylic paint, napthol red light and then gridded out the image using charcoal and copy paper. Because this image is so incredibly detailed I used my own DIY carbon copy method. If you're interested in how that works you can check out my you tube tutorial on that here.

I then built up areas slowly, blocking in colors, rows and body parts. I did this with many layers until I added the most information I could muster. It was painstaking, it made my eyes go crazy, and it was the best. Tiny little brushes, the most outrageous colors. I rarely used a brown, if ever. If certain hues weren't bright enough for me I would glaze in areas, particularly the arm on the left and the background. I use Solvent-Free Fluid by Gamblin since my studio is next to my daughter's room. Finally, after the painting was dry, I varnished it with Gamvar Picture Varnish in semi-gloss.


"It was a journey that took longer than expected. It surpassed my daughter's first birthday and saw me through surviving my first year of teaching in public school. But just like the project began, it arrived right on time. As the old cliche goes, everything happens for a reason. When I delivered the finished painting to Deanna, she was preparing for her final corrective surgery next week. Her painting will hang next to her bed as she heals."


Thank you so much Deanna for allowing me to be a part of this slice of your life. It was a challenge - SO! MANY! LINES! IN! THIS! PAINTING - but nothing worth it ever comes easy.

"Deanna" oil on canvas in white frame 20" x 24" 2019

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