In and around Denver, murals have become nearly as ubiquitous as craft breweries. And while many are immediately arresting—think: the now-iconic “Love This City” piece by artists Remington Robinson, Pat McKinney, Pat Milbery, and Jason T. Graves—we’re drawn to subtler statements made inside buildings, too, like the ethereal sweeps of feminine flowers painted by Denver artist Ashley Joon.
Joon, a self-trained painter known for her abstract-impressionistic style, created her first mural earlier this year, when Infinite Monkey Theorem asked her to paint a wall of its new Fort Collins taproom, which is housed in a repurposed shipping container. That commission quickly led to more, and you can now find Joon’s flower-strewn walls at Denver’s Ramble Hotel, Hazel art bar, and women’s co-working space Charley Co. (Look for smaller-scale, portable works at Improper City, Prosper Oats, and Infinite Monkey Theorem.)
We expect to see more of Joon in the future—starting at the Crush Walls urban-art festival September 2 to 8—so we caught up with the Denver-based artist to talk about her process, her favorite flowers, and if she’ll paint your bedroom’s walls (yes, she will).
Has art always played a significant role in your life?
As a child, I had an attachment to everything I created. I moved to a different state every few years growing up, and I think it says something that, even as a teenager, I kept my childhood coloring books with me for each move. They clearly had value to me. As challenging as moving so often was, I found comfort in art. By the time I was in high school, I considered myself an artist.
And you’ve been creating art ever since?
Eventually I lost that identity and stopped creating to finish my [college] degree in business. I got a job in marketing right after graduating; I had accomplished everything my parents and society told me I should, but I was empty. I found myself daydreaming of being an artist. I decided to listen to my gut and start creating again. That’s when my exploration with paint began.
Tell us more about that.
I spent seven years exploring different types of paint, styles, and subject matter before I found my voice and pursued art as a career. I painted everything from oil portraits to watercolor still-lifes. I learned that I’m process-oriented, meaning that I have to enjoy the act of creating—not just the end result. In learning this, my abstract-impressionistic style emerged. I find freedom in letting go of reality.
How does that sense of freedom inform your work?
I paint ethereal, sensual, abstract florals with a balance of instinctual movement and subtle observations. I dance as I paint, using the rhythm of music to guide my brush, while pulling imagery from my imagination, photography, and live flowers.
I’m drawn to the life cycle of flowers—how they grow through dirt, endure elements they can’t control, bloom gorgeously yet become more interesting as they age and wilt. There’s endless inspiration with florals; I doubt I’ll ever tire of them. I find their color combinations and the movement in their petals fascinating. Tulips, irises, poppies, and peonies are my favorites.
Are there things other than those blossoms that inspire your current work?
Nature, my emotions, music, feminism, and the process all inspire my work. I love indirectly portraying the different parts of myself and femininity, showing both fierceness and softness—for example, pairing strong black stems with soft, delicate blooms. Naming my floral pieces after women, either a character [I’ve created] or someone I’m inspired by, is my way of celebrating feminism.
Tell us about your creative process and about the role that music and movement play in your work.
I start [each piece] with a blurry image in my head. Sometimes I scribble it down on my sketchbook first and other times I just head straight to the canvas. A lyrical energy is translated to my work from the music I listen to [while painting]. Standing on my feet, moving my body to the beat, and channeling certain emotions all contribute to my style. I’d be lost without my playlist.
Are murals a new direction for you?
I started painting murals in February 2019 and have completed five, with two more on the way. I was asked to do my first mural by the owners of the Infinite Monkey Theorem (their winery was one of the first places I showed my work when I left my job as an elementary art teacher five years ago). I was honored that they wanted me to create whatever I wanted in their new Fort Collins location. From there, I’ve received one mural commission after another.
How does creating a mural compare to painting a smaller work?
I love painting on a larger scale! I don’t have to be tight; it feels liberating.
If you could paint a mural for any space in Denver, where would it be?
At Denver International Airport, I would be able to reach the most people from all demographics—and what a great way to welcome people to Denver with local art! I would also love to paint floral murals in cancer-treatment centers. If I could bring a little moment of distraction to patients, that would mean a lot to me.
How about private homes?
Yes! I’m really looking forward to start painting in homes. I can imagine floral murals looking fabulous in just about every room, from an entryway to a master suite.
What’s next for you?
I’m participating in Crush Walls (Sept. 2–8) this year for the first time. I’m beyond excited to be part of such a transformative event for the city. You can watch the process unfold on Instagram @AshleyJoonArt.