The workshop I went to was co-taught by Ashley Bryan, who I knew from homeschooling with his children’s books, but it had been Henry Isaacs that had been the draw for me to come to the class. However, I found Ashley to be a total delight and inspiration! He is 93 years young, and is vibrant, sprightly, and animated– full of sparkle and vitality.
He bursts into poetry recitation at the slightest provocation, and remembers with feeling vast passages of Keats, Longfellow, and Langston Hughes. He says, “Poetry is at the heart of everything for me.” I wish I had a video of the vigor of his presentations, but you can get a glimpse of it on Youtube here. He is letting his light shine so brightly, no one can avoid being uplifted by his indomitable spirit.
He has lived on Little Cranberry Island for 60 years. The Island has 400 residents in the summer and only 70 year round; it is a loving and supportive place to be. He was an art professor at Dartmouth College, and has thrived regardless of racism, with interesting stories of how he found a “color blind” art school, and how blacks were treated in the service during World War II. He tells us, “When it looks like you’ve come up against a barrier, you’ve just got to keep going and find a way.”
When someone asked him how he dealt with the anger over racism he said, “I didn’t. That was their business. It’s all about character. My character was clean, and their character deficiencies were none of my business.” He also said, “The negative, you can not use it. Just let it roll off your back.”
He is so beloved, Ashley’s friends and fans already have started building a non-profit museum on the island for his art. Donations for this effort are much appreciated and can be sent here. To see Ashley’s timeline, click here. You can watch him be interviewed on Youtube here. Ashley has published over 50 books to date and is still working on new ones. Click here to see them with links direct to Amazon. That collection of inspirational quotes he has amassed that he carries around with him sharing in bits, I would love to have published someday soon, all in one place as encouragement for artists everywhere.
In the “Storyteller Pavilion” as well as in the church on Little Cranberry Island you can see his amazing stained glass windows depicting Biblical stories that he has fashioned out of found sea glass. This resulted by him “finding utility in that which is not.” His remarkable puppets, also are created out of cast off parts, as you can see below.
I had the privilege not only of having him for my workshop, but also of visiting him in his home and studio, which was an overwhelming place. It was so chock full with every scrap of space utilized! This artist at 93, still climbs his stairs, and works on his art with childlike enthusiasm every day. The watercolors are his form of “centering meditation,” and the large acrylic flower paintings he has been painting out in the garden recently. Someone in our class, shown with him below, bought one of the dahlia paintings.
So check out my many photos below. I will never forget this man’s energy, love of color, excitement for the creative process, his great attitude, and how animated and lucid he is. We all should love jumping out of bed in the morning as much as he does, full of eager anticipation for what the day brings. His youthfulness at 93 is truly the greatest art of all. I’m so grateful to have met you Ashley!