From the ice to the canvas

Award winning artist working way into Victoria scene

Artist Ashlee Comerford works on a painting in her home in Esquimalt.

In order to pursue her true love, Ashlee Comerford is falling back on her trade.

It’s a story all too common with artists. Sticking out a less than desirable day job in order to stay up late making music, put a pen to paper or a brush to canvas.

In Comerford’s case, though, it’s not so bad.

The 29-year-old is an award-winning impressionist-style painter, which she currently does in the second bedroom in her apartment, a stone’s throw from Macaulay Point.

She relocated to Esquimalt four months ago from Colorado, where she lived the past six years. And until she can establish herself as a full-time artist, she’s working a part-time job, and is on the ice nearly every day as a coach with the Oak Bay Figure Skating Club.

“It comes very natural to me. A long time ago, before I had ever painted, I was completely dedicated to skating,” Comerford said of her days growing up in St. John’s, Nfld.

Perhaps not surprisingly, her talents have come in handy, particularly with choreography, said head coach Jamie McGrigor.

“I haven’t seen her art but we’ve heard she’s famous, and I wouldn’t be surprised,” McGrigor said.

“(Comerford) is one of our many excellent coaches. She’s well rounded at it and the bonus is she’s great at choreography, which not everyone can do, believe me.”

Last month, Oak Bay’s skaters won at the Island championships, a team that included Amanda Wright, who was judged best elements skater in her category.

But that’s a day job for Comerford.

As an artist, her plan is to get back on her feet as a working impressionist, which shouldn’t be too hard. Her career is budding and already includes hundreds of impressionist paintings sold in the past few years, many from a gallery she had in Loveland, Col.

“I still get sales from my website but the goal is to become further immersed in the community,” she said. “I’m still just checking it all out.”

And there’s that award.

Judged by jury, her piece Labour of Love won second in its category in the American Impressionists Society show in 2010.

It’s a career that was bound to happen, though it took a suggestion from a friend back in St. John’s.

“I used to sketch with my pencil, and was pretty good at it, and my friend said ‘you’ve got to pursue this if you’re going to pursue anything.’

“I went to Denver for a one-month trial at the Arts Student League, and then submitted my pieces for review. I’d never picked up a brush before but they accepted me by jury. I returned for three years with two of the top master-impressionists in the U.S.A., Quang Ho and Ron Hicks.”

So far, Comerford’s completed some local commission work and next week is kind of a big one, as she’ll tie the knot with her fiance, who is stationed here with the navy.

See her work at ashleecomerford.com.