Once an avid anime watcher and final fantasy fan, Ashley Dangtran is now creating inspired art of her own here in Austin. Ashley began drawing in middle school in the 6th grade specifically. She found inspiration in the works of Toonami, Gundam Wing, and character designer Tetsuya Nomura’s art style.

“It was colorful and bold and I wanted to design characters just like him one day,” Dangtran said. “I love characters from companies like Sanrio and San-X, with the characters from Sumikko Gurashi being one of my absolute favorites. I’m also heavily inspired by Japanese manga and Doujinshi especially the ‘chibi’ art styles.”

Dangtran now runs her own small business making art inspired by her life and four cats. She creates washi tape, buttons, shirts that show a very distinct style all her own. She also has a rather large following on Instagram with 10.5k followers.

“I work from home, so I don’t have coworkers or classmates/teachers to help give me feedback on what I’m doing. Even though I don’t get much criticism on Instagram, it helps me to see when something I’m doing is well received or not.”

Dangtran said in regards of social media: “It’s been a great way for me to track my growth and to feel like I am a part of an art community. In my experience, Instagram is a great place for artists to share their work and has a very supportive community.”

Social Media is shown to be an effective platform for many artists trying to spread their art to a wider audience. Creating her own small business may not have always been Ashley’s plan, but she found lots of support from her family and Instagram community.

“I was more interested in teaching art than I was in running my own small business, but life led me to where I am today and I’m happy with how things turned out,” Dangtran said.

Of course, there were some things that have caused her art career to take some steps backwards.

“In college I was happy with doing whatever needed to be done to achieve high grades, but this was setting me up for failure because my style would change based on the professor I was trying to please. It took me years to relearn how to draw for myself and find my passion in art again,” Dangtran said. “I find it to be very damaging to young artists when people they look up to (teachers, parents, etc…) tell them that something they are doing ‘isn’t art.’ I was told at a young age that the Japanese art style I was very fond of ‘wasn’t art’ and it lead me down a very unhappy road, and I wasted many years of my life that could have been spent doing what I love.”

Dangtran’s passion for art won over her doubt, and she now is doing what she loves and has big plans for the future for her business and art.

“I’m currently really into experimenting with more comic-like storytelling. I’m starting by making my own art zines that I hope to compile into a book some day. Smaller projects include making my own washi tape, stickers and stationery. I get very excited about the thought of making new products. Making an enamel pin is on the list of ‘to do’s’ as well.”

Her project list for the future may be “endless” but I know fans are excited to see whatever she comes up with in this new year.

“The biggest regret I have as an artist is letting other people tell me how/what to draw,” Dangtran said. “My advice is to always draw for yourself because at the end of the day that’s all that matters.”

Written by Jade Howe