Ashley White ’09: Modern Aquarian

It started with an ad on Craigslist from a campus-area restaurant that wanted an elaborate and artistic chalkboard menu. Ashley White ’09 responded and spent the next couple of weeks with chalk in her hand. Word of her talent spread — and she’s been busy ever since. 

Of course, the concept for her hand-lettering and illustration company, Modern Aquarian, had been building for years. “I’ve always drawn, since I was a kid,” she says. 

“I love making art for other people.” 

After graduating, White knew she wanted to do something unique and self-directed. Soon that direction became obvious. She was a gifted artist; why not put her gift to work? Now many of her days are spent creating intricate chalkboard menus, painting signs for businesses, or sketching portraits for a family. Her media include chalk and paint, and her work can be found across Tucson.

You might even spot White’s whimsical lettering and clever illustrations on wedding invitations, graduation announcements, or posters for community events. “Anything that someone wants me to draw or paint, I’ll do it for them,” she says. She also plans to branch out into specialties such as custom-designed beer-tap handles.

Meanwhile, the need to expand her business also forced her to expand as person. Shy by nature, she nonetheless researched potential clients “and just started cold-calling,” she says. “That’s just not my personality. So I’ve had to learn to get comfortable with that aspect of it.”

Her timing couldn’t be better. “People are now appreciating hand-done work, appreciating entrepreneurs, and wanting to hire local people,” she says. “I’m kind of riding that wave.”