VISTA — Vista resident Ashley Gallagher said she became an artist the moment she held a crayon as a child growing up in Escondido. Now, at 36, Gallagher has come a long way since the days of coloring books and Crayola.
Gallagher is the artist behind the growing collection of “Potheads,” a popular assortment of pots featuring the faces of everyone from Frida Kahlo to pop culture sensations to someone’s grandchildren. The artistic compilation has gained such a following in San Diego County that Gallagher has been commissioned to create more than 200 potheads over the last couple of years.
Gallagher said the concept of “Potheads” came about more than two years ago when she met with a friend to paint.
“We were feeling crafty, so I brought over some paint and terra cotta pots,” Gallagher said. “I painted a very simple Mexican artist Frida Kahlo pothead that day and shared it on Instagram. People really reacted to it and I started getting orders for Frida Kahlo pots.”
Gallagher said she next painted Egyptian ruler Cleopatra on a pot and posted a photo of the creation on Instagram, which also found raving fans. Since those summer days in 2017, Gallagher said she has created hundreds of “Potheads” and has hosted art shows as well.
“Some of my favorite ‘Potheads’ I’ve done are of Rick Moranis’ character Seymour from ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ and I planted a Venus fly trap in his head,” Gallagher said. “I’m also quite fond of my ‘Best Buds’ collection, which are ‘Potheads’ of Cheech, Chong, Snoop and Willie Nelson all with cannabis planted in each of their heads.”
Gallagher isn’t limited to painting people on pots though. She’s also been asked to paint animals.
“A lot of the commissioned potheads I get are of people’s pets as well,” Gallagher said. “Those are always really special because sometimes, the pets are no longer here with us. I’ve gotten very heartfelt messages from collectors regarding their pet ‘Potheads’ and it really brings tears to my eyes. It’s an awesome thing to grow life out of the pet tribute potheads.”
Inspired by her mother, a seamstress, Gallagher said becoming an artist didn’t happen overnight. In fact, one of her biggest challenges is learning to embrace her own strengths as a creator.
“One of the biggest things besides getting technically better with all of the years of practice, is that I’ve really made a conscious effort to stop comparing myself to other artists,” said Gallagher, who also works as a server at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido. “This is something I really had to battle. I finally told myself ‘Your art is yours. No one can paint like you and you can’t paint like anyone else.’”
But Gallagher’s artwork is truly one of a kind, said Kristina Moriarty, senior event sales manager for Stone Brewing Co., who chose to display Gallagher’s work at the brewery.
“Not only is Ashley and amazing team member she is an amazingly talented artist,” Moriarty said. “She is able to capture not only the likeness but the identity of her subjects. Her style works so well with our style. There is an authenticity to her talent. You can tell she pours herself into each work and it is a labor of love. When people see her art ,you can tell that it warms their heart and brings a smile to their face.”
Moriarty said guests often ask about Gallagher’s artwork when patronizing the trendy eatery and brewery.
“At her last showing it was elbow to elbow with support from fans, community and team Stone,” Moriarty said. “The staff is so proud to have Ashley on the team that as soon as a guest asks about the artwork the staff runs down Ashley to introduce her.”
Gallagher said she hopes to continue to grow her “Potheads” collection and eventually become a full-time artist.
“In five years, I hope to solely be making a great living at my craft alone,” Gallagher said. “I hope to become a better businesswoman and really take this thing to the next level.”
For now, Gallagher said she’s having the “time of her life” creating art and making people smile with the pots, she said.
Gallagher’s work will be displayed at the “Home Grown” event at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 1.
For more information or to contact Ashley Gallagher, send her an email at [email protected].